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Grandpa's Spells

Jelly Roll Morton


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'Jelly' on Pianola


This is a recording made from a piano roll of the Jelly Roll Morton composition "Grandpa's Spells". This particular version was put on roll in early June of 1924 for the Vocalstyle Company. However this roll was not hand played by Morton as is believed by many, but painstaking hand cut by Mary Allison one of two such artisans employed by Vocalstyle at the time.

Morton may have produced some rolls himself prior to this, but we can't be sure.

It is indeed very difficult to separate piano roll fact from myth, so I am including further explanation kindly provided by L. Douglas Henderson of the ARTCRAFT Music Rolls Company.

In America the short-lived "hand played" roll era began with Melvile Clark (QRS) and Aeolian, primarily. It lasted for about four or five years, ending when jazz music arrived since the ratty rhythm being patched up from irregular 'recordings' was very difficult to achieve and required a tremendous amount of handwork. Thus, from 1920 on rolls were arranged - - either from scratch with a real or pseudonym name on the box label and roll ... or being arranged "from" a phonograph record or by looking at the hand played material and then making a new roll from scratch "based" on it, but keyed to the duplicating perforator stepping, which varied in sundry factories.

This means that Max Kortlander (and his aides - some committee work was involved in the larger companies) did Zez Confrey, J. P. Johnson, Charley Straight (for QRS), Pete Wendling and Thomas Waller, among others.

The only company which kept up the hand-played myth was Welte-Mignon in Frieberg Germany from 1906-1930 but the American branch (seized as alien property during WW1) made some of the finest arranged rolls, often in the name of jazz artists. These were done by Howard Lutter under his name along with others plus pseudonyms and the best were the 'brown box' rolls from 1923-1931. The box and roll leaders said "The Master's Fingers on your Piano" when - as with my rolls - no piano keyboard was involved in making the roll for the catalogues.
-L. Douglas Henderson (ARTCRAFT Music Rolls)

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