ADAM CARROLL'S FIRST BAND
Ampico Magazine-April 1928 From the collection of Dick Howe
Adam Carroll, the young pianist, was fired with an ambition to be a musical director at a very early age. His ambitions have been realized, for he is now director of his own orchestra, in spite of the discouragement which squelched his earliest attempt to attain distinction as a conductor.
One rainy day, confined to the house with several young companions, aged like himself, from five to six years, he contrived a 'band" concert with himself as director. Invading the kitchen, a suitable number of resonant pots and pans were borrowed from the amiable and sympathetic cook, the family washboiler assuming the role of the bass drum. Adam, perched on a chair, beat time and his band of musicians beat the kitchen ware. The ensuing din can be imagined, and, needless to say, the "concert" was suddenly terminated by intervention from higher powers.
Adam Carroll's Recollections
Edited by Richard J. Howe, appeared as a serial in several 1988 AMICA Bulletins
Adam Carroll, the most prolific Ampico artist by far, was born March 19,1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died February 28, 1974 in New York City. In 1965, he jotted down recollections of his professional career at the urging of Bill Knorp of Sausalito. He gave the 72-page manuscript to his good friend Larry Givens, of Wexford, Pennsylvania, who was kind enough to give it to me recently for my Ampico literature collection.
What follows is Carroll's complete text with very minor rearranging and editing. Although several incidents related below were contained in Carroll's taped interview with Nelson Barden of Boston about five years later (see The Ampico Reproducing Piano, edited by Richard J. Howe, Musical Box Society International, 1987), most of the information has not been previously published. It is an absolutely delightful account of Adam Carroll's enthusiasm for and dedication to The Ampico
"LONG LIVE `THE AMPICO KID'!" (Court Scene: "Ode to A Career") Court Clerk: "Your name, please"
A.C.: "Adam Carroll"
Court Clerk: "Do you swear to write the truth and nothing but the truth?"
A.C.: "I do, so help me. `AMPICO'!!!" (How's that for an opener? Ha!)
This is a resume' of the career of The Ampico Kid, depicting his participation in recording the famous Ampico reproducing piano rolls and others plus his experiences, joy and sadness during his professional life. His proper name is Adam Carroll, who hopes you'll lend an "eye" and read it.
I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began playing piano a the age of seven years. I played "by ear" until I was nine and then studied three years with Mrs. E. Barden who was a graduate of the Coombs Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia. Later with Professor A. Von Stobbi, I studied piano and theory for several years. He was a graduate of the Leipzig Conservatory of Music, Leipzig, Germany.
My first professional engagement was playing piano accompanying silent motion picture films. Following that, I played in Vaudeville. During this time I accepted an offer to play piano at Ford's Republican Club in Philadelphia on Sundays from 4 till 8 p.m. The club, for men only, was very popular as it was a good spot for the boys to come, drink and gamble. One Sunday while performing, I heard a shot with the bullet lodging in the upright piano upon which I was playing. It missed my head by about a quarter of an inch. The man who fired the shot was intoxicated and had attempted to kill another man for some unknown reason. The intended victim was seated at a table which was in a direct line from where the shot was fired and where the piano was situated. It was a `close call' and I'm fortunate that the would-be assassin scored a near-miss, Thank God! Luckily, my pending career got a "green-light" instead of a "red-light'.
(Duck 'em, Kid!)
In 1916, in Philadelphia I recorded my first piano roll for the DeLuxe Player Roll Co., and later for "Unisolo' Rolls which were released by the same outfit. This company was owned by Mr. Frank Moran who in 1918, sold outright to the Auto Piano Co., located at 51st Street and 12th Avenue, New York City.
J. Milton Delcamp, who also recorded DeLuxe and Unisolo Rolls, and I accepted an offer to go to New York City and record for our new owners. This company was headed by Mr. Paul Klugh, President.
The Auto Piano Co. changed the label and named their rolls Republic (hand-played recordings). The (original) Welte-Mignon reproducing piano (invented in Germany) and roll concern was owned and controlled by the same company. Delcamp managed the recording division and I was his assistant. 'Del' (as we knew him) and I, plus several other pianists, made the recordings. Some of the Republic masters were edited for the Welte Mignon Dynamic System and released under our proper names.
With Del and myself at the Republic Studio was Professor Mettler Davis, a music authority who was in charge of the Welte Mignon classical recording division. He had a staff of five who were adept at editing for the Welte dynamic system. The concert pianists recording for Welte were mostly artists who were well known during that period. Davis, himself an excellent pianist, had wide experience teaching piano and theory and was excellent at his job. He had a special safe in which were kept piano scores, most of them classics, including foreign-published piano scores which could not be purchased in the United States. He valued and took great pride in his collection which often came in handy, especially when pianists would request a piano score of the selection they were about to record. One day at lunch, Davis said, "Adam, I'm afraid we've got a thief amongst us!" "What?" I asked, "What do you mean?" He answered, "Somebody is pilfering important piano scores from our safe, especially the European publications."
I was dumbfounded as I could not imagine that any of his Welte or our Republic staff would be capable of doing such a horrible thing as they seemed beyond reproach. "I think you're wrong Mettler;" I said, "You're surely mistaken!" "Well," he replied, "I'm worried that we've got an important recording soon to be made of a Rachmaninoff prelude which is rare and published only in Europe. The pianist has requested a copy of the prelude and I told him that we had it. Upon opening the safe, I looked for the score and checked the entire file but with no success as the copy was missing. Not only the prelude but in rechecking I also found that other important scores had been removed." I suggested that he privately question his staff and, perhaps, would find an explanation as to the whereabouts of the missing copies. He accepted my advice and, returning to the studio, privately spoke to his crew endeavoring to gain some information which would lead to the recovery of the music. But unfortunately, the idea failed to shed any light on the situation.
The following morning I found Davis, bewildered as he was, nowhere near a solution to his problem. "Adam, what else can I do?" he morbidly asked. I then suggested his informing Mr. Neff, general manager of the Auto Piano Co., of the theft as now something had to be done. Again, taking my advice, he consulted Neff who after hearing this bad news was shocked. He said, "Davis, are you positive the copies are gone?" He replied, "Mr. Neff, I'm doubly sure. I've checked and rechecked our file in the safe and the prelude and other piano copies are gone!!" Neff then stated that he would give the situation his serious attention. With the recording date set for just a week later, Davis was quite distressed.
That night I got another idea. The next morning I invited Davis to my room and said: "Mettler, I have one final idea." "What's that?" he asked. "First of all," I continued, "am I right that only you and your five editors know the combination to open your safe?" His reply was, "Yes! I'm positive! Why?" "If that's the case," I responded, "I think the police department should be notified, and arrangements made to have a detective take over." Thanking me, he concluded, "I think you're right."
Del until now was unaware of the theft as our own Republic staff kept him pretty busy. Therefore, Davis and I had previously agreed not to worry him about the matter. Now it was essential that we tell him. Davis brought Del up to date on the theft and he was stunned! Finally, Davis told him of my idea regarding the police and he agreed that such action should be taken immediately.
Thus, Davis and I went to the 49th Street precinct and Davis explained the situation to the captain who pushed a buzzer and in came a man about 30 years of age. "Gentlemen meet Detective John Byrd," said the captain. After our introduction Davis was asked by the captain to reiterate the theft story to Byrd who, stoically, listened to Davis as he poured out the details of the missing music. When Davis finished, Byrd turned to the captain and said, "OK chief, am I assigned?" Getting the "yes" nod, Byrd went into action. The following morning Byrd, Del, Davis and I were assembled in Neff's office. Neff, addressing the detective, said, "Mr. Byrd, we're prepared to cooperate with you in every way possible to recover the missing music." He replied, "Thank you. First of all, I don't want any of the employees to know my identity. If asked, you can inform them that I am Mr. Jones who's a piano dealer from Chicago Illinois, interested in how your music rolls are made. This will explain my presence and all I'll need is a chair placed near the entrance to your studio, where presumably I'll be taking notes."
The next morning at 9:00 a.m. found Detective Byrd (alias Mr. John Jones) being shown the recording room, etc., by Professor Davis. Of course, the editing staffs of both Welte and Republic were curious to know who the stranger was and Davis, when asked said. "He's Mr. Jones, a piano dealer from Chicago also interested in how we make our rolls." Thus, the detective cased the employees and would occasionally sit in his chair near the door and jot down notes. He remained until the 5:00 p.m. closing time, then departed.
The second day Byrd arrived at 8:45 a.m., sat down in his chaff neat the door and said "Good morning" to the studio
employees as they entered. During the day he lolled about seemingly interested in the Welte editors and their work. At 5:00 p.m. he sat in his chair and watched them as they departed.
This procedure continued daily for three days. Finally, on the fourth day at 5:00 p.m. as the employees were departing Byrd stopped one of them, an attractive young lady. He said, "I beg your pardon, Miss, open your hand bag!" "What?" cried the girl, "This is ridiculous," and she attempted to rush out to the street. The detective grabbed her and, taking the bag, opened it and found several piano scores. Byrd immediately took her to Neffs office where Davis, Del and I were summoned. Neff, addressing the girl said, "Miss Smith (not her real name), why did you steal the music?" Crying, she replied, "I could not resist it, I just had to have that rare music which you can't buy anywhere. I'm sorry!" Mr. Neff, an understanding man, then asked, "Do you have the missing Rachmaninoff prelude and other music that has been taken from the safe?" She replied, "Oh, yes! It's my prized possession!" Neff then concluded by saying, "Miss Smith, if tomorrow morning you promise to return the prelude and all other music that you've taken you can retain your position. I'll drop the matter completely, if you'll promise never again to take music from the safe:" "I promise, I promise:' she happily shouted and all of us departed from the room.
The next morning Miss Smith arrived at the studio on schedule and, after saying "Good morning Professor Davis," she said, "Professor, here is the prelude and all other piano copies that I borrowed from the safe. I know you'll need them!" Handing the copies to Davis she resumed her editing chores.
Of course, all of us in the studio were curious to learn how Byrd, the detective, solved the case of the missing music. Finally, later in the day he arrived and went into Neffs office. Del, Davis and I were called in and Neff, addressing the detective said, "Mr. Byrd, we want to thank you for helping us. You've done a magnificent job in solving our problem. Will you please tell us how you did it?" He responded, "Simple my friends, just plain common sense." He then explained, "When your employees arrived in the morning I checked on what they were wearing and carrying, especially a purse, handbag or anything that seemed suspicious. I followed this procedure until yesterday morning when I noticed a young lady, one of your Welte editors, carrying a rather large purse, which looked quite empty and took note of it. Last night, as usual, I sat in my chair and watched the employees as they were departing. When the girl, whom I slightly suspected, was approaching the exit I noticed that her purse was bulging with something. I accosted her demanding that she open her purse. She refused and tried to rush to the street when I grabbed her and, opening the purse, found the music." Neff said, "Well, I'll be d !" Thus ended the mystery. Result: Professor Davis was happy again, the music was returned to the safe, the pianist got the prelude piano score, Miss Smith retained her job and everybody concerned was smiling again. (Note: The girl who had confessed to the theft eventually became one of the better editors.)
In 1920 Republic moved to its new quarters at 75th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York City. I believe that the Auto Piano Company was sold outright to Klugh who paid the expenses until we closed our doors in 1922. The Auto Piano Company retained control of the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano and recordings which unfortunately gradually faded.
Del and I weren't out of a job very long as Mr. C.A. Wagner, then President of the American Piano Company in New York City, came along. Yes! "A-M-PI-C-O," (I want to SALUTE whenever I think of this magic name.) I sometimes cry when reminiscing about those golden days, which they truly were.
Mr. Wagner engaged Del to manage the Ampico recording studio which, in turn, offered me a contract to arrange and record. Thus started colorful careers for both Del and me.
(The score thus far: DeLuxe, Unisolo and Republic player rolls plus the Welte-Mignon and Ampico reproducing piano recordings.)
(Getting up in the world, huh!)
They speak of "Notre Dame," Go! Go! Go! etc., but LET ME STATE that we, in our Ampico studio located then at 38th Street and 5th Avenue, New York City, had a spirit that was hard to surpass.
Like magic our rolls became extremely popular with Ampico owners and I was very enthusiastic about my work in arranging the music and recording it. Del, besides his executive chores, found time to do his share of recording. At all times his rolls were very well received.
In 1923, as pianist, I joined the famous Paul Whiteman Orchestra which played at the Palais Royale (cafe deluxe!) in New York City. For several months, I handled my Ampico chores during the day and appeared nightly with Whiteman. I made several Victor Phonograph recordings with Ferde Grofe' (two pianos) and the Whiteman crew. I remained with Whiteman until after George Gershwin wrote his "Rhapsody in Blue" and Whiteman went on tour.
On our recording and editing staff we had a chap whose name is Milton Suskind (what a terrific pianist!!). He could play popular music as well as the classics and in my opinion was and still is, an authority on the "Ampico System of Dynamics." Honestly, this system is the finest in the world BARRING NONE. Milton Suskind recorded classical music under his proper name and popular music under the name of Edgar Fairchild.
Every day seemed a holiday in our studio as the world's greatest pianists would come to record. Rachmanioff, Godowsky, Levitski, Lhevinne and many others. Incidentally, these classical pianists were enthused over our American popular music and often would listen to and enjoy, our recordings.
We had a charming host, Miss Antoinette Tiffin, who greeted the great artists when they came to record and who also took charge of their recording sessions. She was possessed with a pleasing personality, was congenial and had the "knack" of making our artists feel at ease.
There was a spirit of good fellowship and good will prevalent in our studio and -I must confess that I always regretted having to leave. Believe me, it was just TOO wonderful for mere words to express.
As they say in the theatre, we were headed for the "BIGTIME." In 1925, we moved to our new Ampico studio at 29 W. 57th Street, New York City. The new building was known as Chickering Hall. It was named in honor of the Chickering Piano Company (a subsidiary of the American Piano Company). Chickering pianos were sold on the first three floors. Our Ampico studio occupied the ninth floor. Charles Fuller Stoddard, the inventor of the Ampico, and his staff of scientists occupied the tenth floor which was known as "The Lab."
Berthold Neuer headed the Chickering, Knabe and Marshall and Wendell Piano Departments and, later, the Mason and Hamlin which was bought by the A.P.C. With his staff he did a brilliant job of selling the many "Ampicos" which were built into these pianos.
From 1925 until after the Wall Street crash in 1929 the Ampico and its rolls made history. The enthusiasm shown by our recording and editing staff was simply magnificent. It included staff pianists, editors, plus Tom Smith who was superintendent of a group of young women who assisted in preparing our "masters:" When completed, these "masters" were sent to Rochester, New York, where our factories were located. On our editing staff were: Milton Suskind, Angelico Valerio, Margaret Dawson, Margaret Volavy and Mortimer Browning, all capable pianists.
Our popular music recording staff began to grow in 1925. We engaged Zez Confrey, an excellent pianist who wrote "Kitten on the Keys" and "Stumbling;" two terrific hits. Zez, a nice fellow, was unique with his "different" syncopated rhythms and, of course, his recordings were very popular, indeed!
Another chap I personally recommended was Richard Rodgers, the famous composer (Rodgers and Hart) who'd rather play piano than compose. He was a youngster who with Lorenz Hart, had written a BIG song hit, "Manhattan;' which was featured in his first musical, "The Garrick Gaieties" `Dick' made a few recordings for us, as I recall.
There was Ralph Reichenthal, a young aspiring pianist and composer whose name was changed to "Ralph Rainger" for our Ampico label. He was extremely successful but unfortunately, he was killed in 1941 in a plane accident en route to New York from Hollywood, California. Ralph wrote nothing but hits, such as, "Love in Bloom;" "Thanks for the Memory" and many others. He had become very wealthy prior to his untimely death which was a severe blow to me, his friend.
We also lured Victor Arden, famous Q.R.S. roll recording artist to Ampico. He was a member of the very popular piano team of Ohman & Arden which pioneered the two piano teams in Broadway shows. Shortly thereafter, we engaged Phil Ohman, Vic's partner, who also recorded for us. Victor Arden's name was Lewis Fuiks. About 1926 we formed a piano trio, Ohman, Arden & Carroll, which played at many special functions and on the radio. May God rest the souls of Vic and Phil who gave so much joy to their fortunate listeners whenever they performed.
As aforementioned, I could cry, and do at times, when an inescapable fond memory of those Ampico days overcomes me and I'm not too proud to admit it.
There are two interesting tales regarding a couple of European concert pianists whom our `piano scouts' in Europe recommended and sent here to record for Ampico. One was Ivheiragatsi (Erwin Nyiregyhazi) (don't let the name scare you, as even I can't spell it correctly). Anyway, when this pianist was brought to our studio he frightened us as he resembled "Frankenstein!" He could not utter a word but he mastered the piano with a technique that was unsurpassable! However, he lacked feeling and heart in his playing and performed like a proverbial robot. We at the studio inquired about him and found that he was born in Russia. His mother, during pregnancy, had a dream that the "Messiah" of music was to be born unto her. After his birth and infancy he lived in a tree and only when being instructed to play piano, did he descend. When his mother later had him play for friends and critics, they named him a genius! I believe he recorded a couple of the classics for us and gave one concert in Carnegie Hall. The critics said that his technique was superb, but he lacked emotion and soul in his performance. That ended his career in the United States.
(Weird, eh? ! ! !)
The other tale deals with a German pianist who was also found by the scouts, and sent here to record for Ampico and give concerts. His strange last name evades me but I recall that his first name was Otto. When he arrived in New York he was met and brought to our studio. A real Nordic type He was handsome, had a pleasant smile and played piano beautifully. Berthold arranged to have him perform on radio station WEAF (now WNBC). The idea was to publicize him and the press did give him some nice advance publicity. He played the radio concert and the critics raved about his performance. The following day we at the studio awaited Otto to congratulate him. We waited and waited but Otto failed to appear. In fact, he never did return nor did we ever hear what happened to him.
(The title? "Lost in the Shuffle")
Yes! There never was a dull moment at our Ampico studio.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was superb! It was he who played the first Ampico classical recordings. In the early days when Charles Fuller Stoddard, inventor of the Ampico was ready to experiment it was Rachmaninoff who was asked to record a simple composition, one of his own preludes. Stoddard had claimed that his Ampico recording system of dynamics could duplicate the performance of any pianist. Not only would it record the pianissimo but also a triple-forte passage when played. He stated to Rachmaninoff before he recorded: "Sergei, your performance of the `Minuet' and `Prelude' which you are about to record will make piano-recording history." He continued, "Our dynamic recording system will record every passage at exactly whatever intensity you play. Whether pianissimo or forte the result will be that when edited and completed, your recordings will be an exact replica of your most artistic performance." Stoddard later requested Rachmaninoff to return two weeks hence to hear his recordings and accept or reject them.
Rachmaninoff returned to hear his recordings and Stoddard, as promised, had the rolls ready. In the room, besides Stoddard, no doubt were a few officials of the American Piano Company and everything was set.
Rachmaninoff was in a chair and Stoddard played the recordings. When the playing concluded, the tense moment arrived. With all eyes on Rachmaninoff as, for several seconds, he mused then rose from his seat and exclaimed: "Gentlemen, I have just heard myself play!" That did it! Word spread throughout the piano industry and the American Piano Company stock rose higher and higher. As a result, our queen "Ampico' was on her way to triumph!
(Note: The above incident happened years prior to my joining Ampico but it is a factual report of what occurred.)
I must state that of all our concert recording artists, he, Sergei Rachmaninoff, towered over most of them. When Rachmaninoff would come to the studio to record his arrival would be the signal for our recording staff, editors and assistants to practically stand at attention. You could hear them saying: "Rachmaninoff is here!" "He's going to record." And I, myself, was excited, for I knew what always happened whenever Rachmaninoff performed. That was that. When he recorded all of us would stop in our tracks and listen as he spellbound us with his superb artistry.
(Note: The recording room was adjacent to our editing rooms.)
Sometimes after recording, Rachmaninoff would come to my room whereupon I'd ask him to be seated. He'd smoke one of his favorite Russian cigarettes and, in silence, would listen to the `pop' recording I'd be correcting. Then he would ask me to rewind the roll so that he could again hear a particular rhythmical passage He'd say, "Very interesting indeed, thank you." I, of course, thanked him for listening. I'll always remember him, the great Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Another buddy of mine was Mischa Levitski, a brilliant pianist who also was extremely interested in our popular music. An interesting tale is that one day, after recording, Mischa came to my room and said "Adam, I want you to teach me how to play your style of popular music." I readily consented. He continued saying, "Thanks, and to repay you for your kindness I'll instruct you how to perfect the use of the fourth finger of your right hand when performing upon the piano." I then instructed the famous concert pianist how to play various rhythms in tempo. In turn, I was very grateful for Mischa's having taught me how to correctly manipulate the fourth finger of my right hand. Tit for tat! Mischa, the "velvet fingered" exponent of Chopin's music, had a marvelous career. In the late years after a concert tour in Japan, he returned home and died. I was deeply saddened when I learned of his passing.
What wonderful people these geniuses of the piano world were and the great artists of today still are, no doubt. An immortal composer, conductor and cellist who also played piano was the late Victor Herbert, America's finest composer. When I was a boy I'd occasionally "skip" Sunday school to go to Willow Grove Park, a suburb of Philadelphia. During the summer the great orchestras and bands gave concerts at this park. My favorite orchestra was Victor Herbert's and my favorite band was John Philip Sousa's. Let me state that Herbert's music will live on and on. I've often been asked what my favorite of all songs was and I've always answered "I'm, Falling in Love with Someone;' one of Herbert's most beautiful melodies. To this day it is still my favorite.
You can imagine my elation when Del informed me that the great Victor Herbert was going to record for us. A few days later he came to our studio and I was thrilled to shake his hand. I was nearly in tears for at long last I finally met my idol, Victor Herbert. He was Irish born though educated in Germany and spoke with a thick German accent. He was a fine cellist but played little piano. The result was that he recorded only a couple of his famous melodies, but we had Victor Herbert's own recording of his never-to-be-forgotten music.
In 1924, I felt honored when Paul Whiteman asked me to appear with Victor Herbert and his orchestra in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the famous summer resort. I accepted and played under the baton of my idol, Victor Herbert, directing a potpourri of his famous music. I was thrilled beyond words. One week later Victor Herbert died. Thus, I was fated to be the last pianist to play under his direction. I was honored again when I played the first and second Victor Herbert Memorial Concerts.
I accompanied Fritzi Schaff, famous operetta star, when she sang "Kiss Me Again." I also played a two-piano arrangement with Werner Janssen, the famous symphony conductor. In the second concert I played a two-piano arrangement of "Indian Summer" with my partner Edgar Fairchild. These selections were Victor Herbert's own `pet' compositions. May the memory of Victor Herbert and his unforgettable music linger on and on. I would be surprised if he wasn't entertaining the angels in paradise with his heavenly, divine music. In my time, America's best composer was Victor Herbert.
A year or so later, Del, always with new ideas and surprises, told me that he'd arranged with John Philip Sousa to direct Fairchild and Carroll's Ampico recording of "Stars and Stripes Forever;" Sousa's favorite march. Naturally, I was overwhelmed since I was actually going to meet the march king. A week later, Sousa entered our studio and I was most happy to meet my favorite band leader. After our rehearsal Fairchild and I recorded the march with Sousa conducting. I never dreamed that, one day, I'd be playing piano with the great Sousa conducting, but it actually occurred and I was thrilled with a capital "T".
Shortly thereafter, Sousa became ill with an unusual disease which made him decrepit. Within a short time, the great John Philip Sousa was dead. With his passing, America lost its march king. May God bless him. With his spirited march music he gave America something to be proud of.
There's a story told that Sousa's real name was So (he was Spanish). When he arrived in the United States the tag on his trunk read, "So-U.S.A." Yes, you guessed it, he kept it as his name They claimed this story to be true and I, for one, believe it.
Yes, these memories are something that money can never buy and I am grateful and thankful to God for my career which has included so much happiness, and sorrow too.
Another episode, never to be forgotten by those of us who witnessed the incident, was the Rudolph Friml tale, which follows. One day Del asked me into his office and said, "Sit down Adam, and hear this. I just put over a nice deal. I got Rudolph Friml, the great composer, to consent to record for us." I answered, "Great, Del. He'll be a good addition to the long list of auspicious names already appearing on our Ampico label." He continued, "I want you and Miss Tiffin to take care of him when he arrives, and see to it that we get at least two or three recordings of his famous music." I told Del that we'd handle everything. A few days later into our studio came Friml. After Del introduced us, Miss Tiffin and I escorted him to the recording room. Once inside, Friml said, "Call me Rudy, everybody else does." And we proceeded to make him feel at ease. Friml, who was Slovakian, was a terrific pianist as well as a composer. I thought it would be a good idea to have him meet Miss Margaret Volavy, a pianist and one of our editors who was also the same nationality as Friml. Pursuing my thoughts, I excused myself, left the room, and finding Miss Volavy, brought her back to the recording room. I was about to introduce her when she rushed to the piano where Friml was seated and shouting "Rudy!!!" Friml excitedly yelled "Margaret" and they proceeded to hug and kiss and give forth in Slovakian lingo, a mile a minute, while Miss Tiffin and I stood there, aghast!
After things calmed down, I briefed Rudy on how we recorded. Miss Tiffin was all set to start the recording machine when Friml suddenly leaped from the piano bench and shouted, `Oh! I forgot! My tailor! I must leave at once. Tonight I must have my tails." whereupon I said to him, "Rudy, if you must leave, let us take care of your effects, jewelry, etc." (to assure his returning). But ignoring me, he rushed out of the room and departed from the building. Miss Tiffin, Del, I and the other assistants were flabbergasted that he never came back.
Del had some fine advance publicity for Friml and had arranged to feature his photo on the cover of our Ampico Bulletin, a monthly catalog which was quite expensive. Naturally, all of us were deeply disappointed.
(Next Scene: "Two Years Later")
Yes! Two years later, Friml returned to our studio and, without any explanation, said to Del "How are you, how have you been?" Del turned to me and said "OK, Adam, record him!" (a studio phrase). And Rudolph Friml finally played his recordings.
(The Title: "The Long Wait")
Another Ampico classic involves the aforementioned Margaret Volavy who was tall, weighed about 190 pounds and had a terrific sense of humor plus a hearty laugh. Being Slovakian, she spoke with an accent. Her classical recordings were excellent and she was also adept at playing Ampico "comparison" concerts. At one point in the concert, an announcer would state that one of our leading pianists, Miss Margaret Volavy, would play a Franz Liszt composition and that, immediately following the performance, her recording of the same selection would be played by the famous reproducing piano the Ampico There were two pianos on stage, one an Ampico. She'd perform on the regular piano and then the Ampico would faithfully duplicate her flawless performance. The result was that she'd stop the show! She, truly, was expert in composition and our company utilized her, quite frequently, in that role.
I, too, did a fairly good job of performing comparison concerts. One day Del said to me, "Adam, I want you and Margaret Volavy to play a joint comparison concert sponsored by the Maitland Piano Company who are dealers in Cleveland, Ohio." Miss Volavy agreed and a few days later Margaret and I were in Cleveland. We went to the concert hall, arranged the pianos on stage and prepared for our concert. The night of the performance the hall was "jammed." We had agreed, Margaret and I, that she would open the recital and I would follow. The announcer recognized Margaret and finally said, "I now have the honor to present one of our foremost pianist, Miss Margaret Volavy." He exited and Miss Volavy, amid applause, entered and approached the piano. Then it happened!!! As she was about to be seated, the bench with Margaret Volavy, all 190 pounds of her, went crashing to the floor. Well!! I The audience roared, thinking that it was a"gag," and continued to howl. After composing herself, and with another bench supplied, the true artistry in Margaret asserted itself. When she performed the comparison selection, followed by the Ampico's faithful reproduction, the house "came down." She really stopped the show. I had a tough time following her, but managed to "score" with a `pop' medley and my own comparison of the "Rhapsody in Blue" recording.
(The Titles: "The Big Drop", or "Don't follow Volavy!")
Here's a tall tale. (Sh! Sh!) In line with keeping our beloved Ampico before the public "bar" so to speak, we would have the favorite home town pianists of some of our dealers come to New York and record a "special" roll, as we termed it. And then we would manufacture a hundred or so of each roll and ship them to the pianist's dealer. These special rolls were never catalogued. One time Del assigned me to arrange for the recording of a female pianist recommended by a dealer in Washington, D.C. We'll call the girl Miss Ruth Jones. When she came in Del introduced us. If I said that Miss Jones was extremely attractive, that would be an understatement because she was beautiful! She was about 20 years of age with blond hair and blue eyes and she was curvaceous! Hmmm!
Well, anyway, after taking her to lunch and getting acquainted we returned to the studio. I asked Ruth to play her arrangement of the pop number she wanted to have recorded. Unfortunately, I could not accept her rendition so I left the room and went to see Del. I said, "I'm sorry, but we can't record Miss Jones. She just doesn't play that well." Del answered angrily, "Adam, come hell or high water we have to record her. She is a favorite of one of our biggest dealers in Washington." "OK," I muttered, "but Del, what can I do?" He answered, "Record what she plays, then I want you to doctor her recording so, at least, it will be presentable for listeners." "Got you, Del," I replied and went back to the recording room. After making a few suggestions to Ruth, we recorded her arrangement.
I practically tore her recording apart, changing harmonies, etc. Then I had the roll edited and, after completion, we sent a batch of her rolls to the dealer in Washington. Several days later Del received a letter from the dealer, thanking him for the recording, which he liked a lot. The dealer then suggested that perhaps Miss Ruth Jones might be a good prospect to make regular recordings for the Ampico, etc. After Del had me read the letter we both laughed heartily as we knew what had been done. Finally, Del wrote the dealer and explained "We're sorry but our recording staff is at capacity."
The finale of this "saga" came when, weeks later, Miss Jones returned to New York and paid us a visit and asked to see me. I politely escorted her to my room and asked her to be seated. Then I said. 'Miss Jones, how do you like your recording?" She replied. 'Oh, it's so wonderful! I never in my life ever played as well as I did for Ampico. In fact, the arrangement you made of my playing is simply magnificent! Come on, Adam darling, the lunch is on me!"
Q.R.S., the famous player piano roll manufacturers, were terrific. Their recording staff was unique with such names as Pete Wendling, Max Kortlander, Lee S. Roberts, Victor Arden, Phil Ohman, and Zez Confrey. You'll note the last three mentioned joined the Ampico team and we were proud to have them with us. Lee S. Roberts, besides being a good recording pianist, was a fine composer. His song, "There Are Smiles That Make Us Happy," was number one in the early 1920s. I personally always enjoyed Mr. Roberts' Q.R.S. rolls. His ability gained my respect, and on one occasion, he made me feel quite elated. Del had assigned me to record for Ampico, " The Sawmill River Road;' a different sort of melody. I would term it of novelette quality and, when setting my arrangement, I found that I could use "Listen to the Mockingbird" as a counter melody. Del, hearing me as I was arranging "Sawmill" entered my room and said: "Adam, that's a good idea you have using `Mockingbird' as a counter. Don't change it! As a matter of fact I want you to record `Sawmill' today!" Thus, I did like the boss said and recorded it that very day. After my note correcting, my buddy, Milton Suskind, edited the dynamics and the "master" was sent to Rochester to be printed, issued and released. Meanwhile, Suskind had informed me that, in his opinion, "Sawmill" would prove a good seller as, dynamically and musically the roll was far better than the average Ampico pop recording. Having respect for Milton's opinion, I was optimistic and eagerly awaited the results. Shortly thereafter "Sawmill River Road" was released and Suskind was right, the roll became very popular and, of course, I was elated.
A couple of months later, Del called me into his office and said: "Adam, I have a letter from Lee S. Roberts and want you to read it." I read it and all but cried. First of all, Lee S. Roberts was my idea of an excellent piano recording artist. Frankly, I respected the fine taste that was always to be found in his Q.R.S. recordings. Let me quote a passage or two from his letter which went something like this. "Dear Mr. Delcamp, I have just heard Adam Carroll's Ampico recording of `Sawmill River Road' and liked it immensely. The arrangement and dynamic phrasing make for a splendid recording worthy of mention. I considered it one of the finest piano rolls I've ever heard." This was, to me, like being knighted by a king. After reading the letter I said to Del, "Please thank Mr. Roberts for me for praising my work. I feel like I've just been given a million dollars." "Del," I continued, "Lee S. Roberts has always been one of my top favorites of the Q.R.S. recording staff and I am very grateful to hear that he approves of my Ampico efforts." "OK;' said Del, "I'll write Lee and convey your thanks to him. By the way, Adam, keep up the good work for our Alma Mater, Ampico." And we both laughed.
Another Ampico recording that I played was "Yes, We Have No Bananas." As a matter of fact Del had asked several of our pop artists to record the number but they turned down the offers. No doubt they thought the tune to be just "so so." Finally, Del asked if I'd record it which I did. In arranging "Bananas" I went overboard in my attempt to try to present a favorable recording. I employed some piano effects which, when recorded, proved satisfactory. The result was that "Bananas" became a popular roll.
For several years Del assigned me to play the "Christmas Recording" which, while not for sale, would be sent to our dealers throughout the world for their customers. Sigmund Spaeth and I collaborated in originating ideas which depicted the Christmas spirit. Spaeth wrote the story for which I would compose original music as well as employing some standard Christmas carols and when completed, I'd record the roll. A couple of the titles were "The Story of Christmas" and "Grandma's Christmas." Sigmund Spaeth was a brilliant, intelligent man with a fine sense of humor and with whom it was always my pleasure to collaborate. I always looked forward to Chirstmas time as it was so much fun to work with "Sig" in preparing these Christmas spirit recordings. For years he was connected with the Knabe piano outfit, and would later become famous as "The Tune Detective" on radio. He also wrote several books such as "Songs you Forgot to Remember."
Thus it was that each successive day at our beloved Ampico studio would bring with it new thrills meeting new artists and enjoying their various piano interpretations. All of our staff was always seeking new ideas for recording Ampico rolls which they constantly tried to improve upon. Del was urging us on and on to make the best recordings possible. Miss Tiffin always offered us her most valuable assistance and the editors always were saying, "Hear this recording, it sounds good." Yes, all told, every day was a holiday as the spirit ran high and music was in the air. This very day, you'll hear in those Ampico recordings of yesteryear, the reflection of the good will that most certainly prevailed in those magnificent days when our queen, Ampicq was in all her glory.
Invariably, when I'd make an arrangement of my forthcoming recording, it would take about four or five hours to complete. But, on occasion something unusual happened. Del informed me that Rudolph Friml had written a new ballad "Toujours - Love Everlasting" and that he'd like to beat our competition and be the first to record it. He wanted me to play the recording. Elated with Del's confidence in me I took the piano copy and, finding the recording room unoccupied, entered and proceeded to the piano While playing the ballad, suddenly my fingers flew across the keyboard as I had found a natural treatment for this beautiful Friml composition. Then came a knock on the door and in came Miss Tiffin, who said "Adam, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I've never heard you perform as well. The ballad you're playing is so beautiful. As she was talking, Del entered the room, shouting, "Record that immediately, Adam! I've been listening and like your arrangement." "But Del, " I replied, "I've just been arranging." "Forget it," he interrupted, "record it, now" Miss Tiffin rushed from the room, set the recording machine and I recorded my "ad-lib" arrangement. What is interesting is the fact that from the time Del gave me the piano copy until I finished the recording took but twenty minutes. I couldn't believe it, the roll became a big favorite with Ampico owners and I recieved lots of mail requesting the piano score. Schirmer, the famous music publisher, offered to publish my special treatment of the ballad, but Mr. Rudolph Friml would not permit it to be done. (Rudy Friml again!) It was the best seller in our catalog. Also, many dealers throughout our nation demonstrated this recording to close sales with Ampico piano prospects. The dynamics applied in this recording provided terrific contrast between the pianissimo and forte passages. This effect when heard, often put the "OK" on a pending sale
Another fine artist from Paris, France, was Maurice Dumesnil famous concert pianist, who would come to the U.S.A. to appear in concert and record for us. He was a brother of Dumesnil the French flying ace who was a member of the French Escadrilk Air Squadron. They became famous in World War I for engaging and defeating Baron Manfred von Richtofen's "Flying Circus.' Germany's great air force.
I became friendly with Maurice and found that he was most keen about our American "pop" music! In fact, after hearing some of my Ampico recordings, he asked if I'd compose something very technical, for him to use as an encore to his performance of Chopin, Bach, Brahms, Liszt, DeBussy and Ravel, whose compositions he played in his concerts. Thrilled at the request, I consented and wrote two compositions, endeavoring to make them really technical and tough to play. Their titles were, "Synco Petude" and "Racing Down the Blacks and Whites" (schnazi titles, huh!). Both numbers were melodic and in rhythm. Just before Dumesnil was to return to France, I played the compositions for him and he "flipped" saying, "Wonderful!!! Adam, will you please help me play these compositions?" I consented, wrote the piano scores and presented them to him, saying, "Maurice, it'll be an honor to have you play my compositions on the same program with the 'masters'" He replied: "I am honored." We shook hands and I bid him "bon voyage." Weeks later, from Paris, I received a beautiful letter from him, and enclosed was a programme and press reviews. Sure enough, on the programme following his concert selections were listed my compositions. There were superlative adjectives in the press review from a Parisian newspaper. I read it and was elated by its content. To quote (not verbatim but pretty close to the facts) "Maurice Dumesnil was superior in his recital, etc. A highlight was his performance of two modern American compositions, 'Synco Petude' and `Racing Down the Blacks and Whites' written by an American composer whose name is Adam Carroll. These compositions required excellent piano technique and are melodic. The ovation Dumesnil received at the conclusion of these new works was immense. Let's hear more of this type music along with Chopin, Bach, etc. Carroll shows promise of becoming a modern Franz Liszt."
The above is written with no thought of egotism, but solely to give my forthright recollections of the actual review.
After reading the letter I showed it to Del, who after reading it, smiled at me, saying, "Bravo! -`Franz' Carroll!" and then he laughed.
(Watch it, Ampico Kid, your ego is showing! Ha! Ha!)
The Johnson Agency in London, England, made me an offer to tour Europe with Dumesnil, but my contract with the Ampico Piano Company forbade me to accept it. AMEN!
("Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, DeBussy and Ravel, hummm! 'Tis nice to be associated with them. What-da-ya-say!")
During those magnificent days we had prohibition which meant that most people entertained at home rather than chance being at night clubs, etc., and drinking wood alcohol. This quickly resulted in the social set giving afternoon cocktail parties. It proved a bonanza for me as most of the New York society group in the Park Avenue area possessed Ampicos and I was often engaged to play their many luscious cocktail parties.
Known to this social group as the "The Ampico Kid" I proceeded to commercialize on the moniker and prepared a special roll to my "Tea for Two' Ampico recording to use as a comparison stunt. For example, I'd arrive at the cocktail party about 4:30 p.m. and unnoticed, would place the roll in the Ampico and leave the drawer slightly ajar. At about 5:30, the party would be in full swing and our host would call for attention and announce, "Our pianist, Mr. Adam Carroll, is now going to perform the `Rhapsody in Blue' Please listen." I then would play an abbreviated rendition of the rhapsody. At its conclusion, I would, invariably, receive quite a bit of applause with the guests clamoring for "More!, More!," I'd bow and gesture with my hands to have them quiet down. Then I would announce that I'd play my version of "Tea for Two;" written by my friend Vincent Youmans.
I'd play a vigorous chorus of the song and then with my right hand alone, would play a cadenza and would trill a couple of notes at the high end of the keyboard. All eyes and ears would be concentrated on my right hand as I played the prolonged trill and, while thus doing, I'd slowly with my left hand reach down and push the lever starting the Ampico which would play my recording. There'd be a gasp from the guests as I'd stand and smoke a cigarette whilst, my friend, Miss Ampico was giving forth with "Tea for Two." I'd allow about forty-five seconds to elapse then, smiling, would sit at the piano as some of the guests shouted, "What am I drinking?" or "Good heavens, what is this?" While they were thus intrigued, I'd reach my left hand down and stop the Ampico. Then, I'd finish with a terrific flourish. The result was that I received many offers to perform "the act" at these fabulous cocktail parties. On practically every occasion, when performing "the act" I'd be asked to illustrate how the trick was done and would oblige by demonstrating.
Of course, after my performance the host at these parties would inform the guests that I was Mr. Adam Carroll, recording artist for the famous Ampico reproducing piano rolls which we love to hear. I'd politely bow, remove the roll and gracefully make my exit.
Businesswise, the result was lucrative, as many guests would request my card and state: "Would you please perform this wonderful exhibition at my cocktail party? We have an Ampico!" "I'd be very happy to attend, if possible, " would be my answer. My phone at the Ampico studio kept quite busy. Eventually I had to have Miss Mary McAteer, one of our stenographers, handle the calls and take care of the "What are you drinking?" details. Through the success of these parties, I was personally responsible for the sale of many Ampicos and believe me, most of these wealthy people preferred the Ampico over our competition. I should know, having found that the majority of the Park, Madison, and Fifth Avenue social groups had Ampicos which proved one thing: class is demanded by class!!!
(You get around don'cha Kid?)
During the Whiteman days a close runner-up for top popularity was Vincent Lopez and his orchestra. His piano playing, most of which consisted of his terrific right-hand manipulation of scales up and down the keyboard which, while utilizing -the orchestra as an accompaniment, gained him nationwide favor. I knew "Vince," as he was dubbed by his friends and, after Whiteman went on tour, was associated with him playing radio dates and various other engagements. On one occasion, Lopez, knowing I recorded for Ampico, asked me if there was a possiblity he could record for us. I told him that our recording staff was at full capacity but I'd ask Del about it. I suggested to Del the following day that, perhaps, it would be a good idea to have Lopez record for us as his popularity was vast and also his name would prove an asset to the roster of pop artists presently recording for us. Del, after listening to my suggestion, quickly responded, saying "OK bring him in, we'll offer him a contract."
To brevify events, Vince signed with us. Lo and behold, when he came to the studio to play his first recording he brought his entire orchestra along. I was assigned to handle the session and had to plow my way through musicians and instruments to gain entrance to our recording room. The editors, etc. were stupefied at the unusual procedure with the result that little or no work was done whilst Lopez and his men remained. I asked Vince, "Why the band?" He replied, "I play better when playing with the boys and thought it was a good idea to bring them along." After hearing Lopez and his orchestra play, I immediately suggested to Vince that he play the arrangement of his upcoming recording with the piano alone. He did, and as I thought, there was little melody played but instead a series of brilliant runs up and down the keyboard which were nicely executed. I knew that the orchestra featured the melody which afforded Vince the opportunity to sally forth with his terrific arpeggios and runs. I also knew that our recording system could only capture the artistic performance by the pianist alone. I suggested to the boys in the band to "take five" (a well known phrase for time out) during which time I advised Vince as to what had to be done. I said, "Play alone, Vince, and play, with your left hand as much melody as possible as you feature your `best punch; the brilliant runs with your right hand!" He thanked me and subsequently, accepting my advice, he recorded the pop number.
Vince, besides being featured with his orchestra in the grill at the, then, Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City, also played at the Palace, the famous vaudeville theatre, located here. He also made phonograph records, played "top" social events and occasionally would find time to tour, playing theatres, etc. His initial roll went over big with Ampico owners who requested more of his recordings. Since Vince, always on the move, was terribly busy, he rarely was available to record for us. With his Ampico fans writing and requesting more Lopez rolls something had to be done.
Del, after reading some of the requests, approached me, saying, "Adam, we've got to do something about Lopez making more recordings. Since so many requests are being made, what can we do?" "I don't know Del:' I answered, "But wait a minute." Suddenly the answer came to me and I said, "Del, Lopez has his orchestral arranger, Dominic Savinq under exclusive contract. He is an excellent arranger who is with Lopez constantly. I have an idea that may prove beneficial to us." "And what's that?" Del interjected. I continued, "Why not send Vince the number you want him to record and suggest that he look it over. When he has his ideas set for the recording, play them for Savino who could'writeout' the arrangement and mail it to us." "Fine:' said Del, "but whdll play it for Lopez?" My answer was, "Fairchild and I will gladly cooperate." Del rushed from my room. Knowing him I wasn't surprised later in the day to find that Del had mailed the piano score to Lopez, who was on tour, together with a letter explaining everything. Days later Del received from Vince a manuscript arrangement scored with ideas for recording the selection together with his consent for us to record it. Fairchild and I quickly rehearsed the Lopez version and recorded it. When released, the label read: "Played by Vincent Lopez, assisted." Thus, Lopez's Ampico fans were satisfied as was Del, so we did it this way whenever necessary.
PS.: I have a high regard for my friend Vincent Lopez, a man dedicated to his profession who still demands respect from his audiences. "Time and tide" haven't stopped him. At present, he still thrills his listeners with his orchestra playing in the grill of the Taft Hotel, here in New York City. "Long Live Lopez."
Our queen, the Ampico, pleased all comers in any profession: bankers, lawyers, doctors, and sportsmen. In 1927, at the height of his baseball career I was introduced by Zez Confrey to the famous Babe Ruth and his wife, Claire. They resided on Riverside Drive in New York City and owned an Ampico. Zez and I became frequent visitors to their attractive abode and soon found that Babe, besides baseball, was very fond of music, especially piano. Needless to say, they had all of Zez's and my Ampico recordings and often gave parties during which Zez and I would alternate on the keys.
Claire had four younger brothers and three sisters who also lived at the Ruth home. During these many parties which were usually attended by affluent people they would sneak from their rooms into the kitchen and steal a drink of liquor. Then they would saunter back to their lairs. Occasionally "The Babe" would catch one of the rascals and admonishing the brat would say, "Listen, kid, if I catch you doing that again, I'll break your a--!" and the guests would roar.
On one occasion the Ruths gave a midnight party for Fred Allen and his wife, Portland Hoffa. I was appearing with her at the time in "The Little Show" on Broadway. Prior to that party, I had introduced her to Claire and Babe. The guests included many famous ball players, actors, etc. Zez and I kept the piano keys "wet" from our constant playing. The party proved to be a huge success. However, the highlight of the evening was not Zez, not me, but an incident that occurred. Claire's brothers and sisters were having a field day flitting in and out of the kitchen, stealing drinks. Fred Allen, who was sitting close by an entrance to the kitchen, had been noticing the kids rushing in and out. He finally approached "The Babe" and asked "Babe, how much do you have to pay to have this house haunted?" The Babe was dumbfounded, as the guests howled! After hearing the story Walter Winchell, the famous columnist, wrote in the N. Y Mirror about the incident terming Allen's quip "The Line of the Year." The late Babe Ruth, idol of millions, will long be remembered as "The Sultan of Swat," and to the kids, of America as their hero! He was a "one." Babe Ruth!
Vincent Youmans, truly one of America's finest composers, recorded for Ampico. The composer of "Without a Song"; "Tea for Two"; "I Want to be Happy"; "Oh Me, Oh My!" and so many other songs was a diffident young man in those happy days who played the piano in one key only, G flat. While playing, Youmans always whistled the tune and his piano accompaniments were superb! He had the knack of employing gorgeous harmonies and the result was "out of this world!" Naturally, when recording for Ampico he had to "stick to the melody" which he did, and you'll find that all of his rolls were magnificent.
Vince, may God have mercy upon him, was to die young after suffering from a tubercular disease. It was my good fortune to meet him about three years before his demise. He was most interesting and played piano just gorgeously. Before his death, Vinnie, as he was known, came to our studio to play what was to be his last recording. I was in the recording room as he played and never have I heard such beautiful harmonies and dynamic phrasing as he displayed that afternoon. We had become chummy and after recording, he'd always come to my room where we'd have a chat. This day I noticed that Vinnie looked pale and I said to him, "Vinnie, don't you feel well?" He replied, "Adam, I just am not up to snuff and don't feel good." "Too bad;" I said, "Here's hoping that you'll feel better real soon." After our chat, Vinnie departed saying, "I'll be seein' you, Adam, so long;'
A few weeks later I heard that he was drinking, something which I knew was unusual for him. One night shortly thereafter I saw Vinnie at the St. Regis Hotel roof garden, where Vincent Lopez was performing with his orchestra. I hardly recognized him. He was intoxicated and morbid. Approaching him I asked, "Vinnie, what are you doing to yourself - you can't win drinking your head off!" He mumbled, "OK Adam, don't worry about me, I'll be all right." I told Lopez that we'd have to see to it Vinnie got home safely to Yonkers. We arranged to send him home in a taxi. That was the last time I was to see this talented lad alive. Several weeks later, I learned of his death. He died in a hospital in Denver, Colorado, where he had been taking treatments for tuberculosis. Yes, Vincent Youmans, like Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Sigmund Romberg and George Gershwin, will be remembered by the splendid music he left behind him which, in our beloved America, shall always be cherished.
George Gershwin wrote his "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1924. One day, Del summoned me to his office and said: "Adam, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is a national sensation and we must record it. I'd like to have Gershwin himself play it for us. I know you're acquainted with him and I want you to make contact and `feel him out' about the idea." "OK Del;" I responded, "I know George, his sis, his brothers Ira and Arthur and Rosie, his mother. Sure, Del, I'll contact him." I arranged a luncheon date with George, who was always smiling and smoking a cigar. During lunch I congratulated him upon the success of his marvelous "Rhapsody in Blue." Then, finally, I popped the question saying, "George, we at Ampico would like very much to have you record your "Rhapsody in Blue" for us, I'm sure proper arrangements can be made if we can have your consent. How about it?" He replied, "Adam, I would like to play my rhapsody for your Ampico organization but I'm committed, and more or less indebted to the Duo-Art outfit since I've played a few recordings for them and they've been so kind to me. Frankly, I've already consented to record my rhapsody for them." I dejectedly replied, "I understand, George, here's wishing you continued success." After thanking me for the luncheon, he said goodbye and departed.
The next day I broke the sad news to Del, who said, "Too bad, but that's that!" After a moment of silence he shouted, "Wait a minute, Adam! How about you recording the rhapsody? After all, you were with Whiteman and that makes you my next logical choice since we can't have Gershwin. Get `up' on it just as soon as you can, and record it!" Happy at what I had just heard, I immediately scanned the piano and orchestra scores. I found that most of the piano passages required orchestral background which, if used in the Ampico recording, would prove rather mechanical. This was something I always endeavored to avoid. Finally, after carefully examining various possible methods of presenting an effective recording, I decided to feature the "E major theme;' which is now world-famous, and "sell" the melody (a credo with me). Hence, into rehearsal I went. After a day or so, I told Del that I would like to have him hear what I had arranged. He said, "Come on, let's hear it." I played my version of the rhapsody and Del flipped, saying "OK by me, record it." I did and was gratified at the amazing success the recording achieved.
(NOTE: Most people throughout the United States, after hearing the Whiteman orchestra perform the "Rhapsody in Blue;' said "the E-major theme!")
The late Victor Herbert was right when he said, "I like Americans because they enjoy and appreciate melody and I'm happy to write it for them."
I was asked to appear as soloist at the Allen Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, with Angelo Spitalny directing the pit orchestra. After consulting with Del, and getting his permission, I consented with the provision that I could perform `Rhapsody in Blue" in conjunction with my Ampico recording. Their answer was "Yes!" Thus, the sponsors, the Maitland Piano Company, provided a beautiful Knabe Ampico Grand which was to be used on stage. I had with me, upon arrival in Cleveland, a `special-cut' of my Ampico rhapsody recording, and proceeded to rehearse with Spitalny and the orchestra. The Ampico was placed on stage center. I had an assistant off stage who would push one button to start the Ampico and another to stop it. I also got permission from Ferde Grofe' to use the same orchestration that Gershwin used in his debut of the rhapsody with Whiteman at Aeolian Hall in New York City. Thus, fully equipped I was prepared for my week's stay at the Allen Theatre.
The "act," as presented, was as follows. The orchestra opened with a clarinet solo and I'd make my entrance from stage-right. wearing tails, high hat and a carnation. Removing my hat, I'd hang it on a costumer which was downstage-right. Nearby was a beautiful table with a phone placed upon it. On stage, I'd play the introduction to the "E major" theme and then add a long arpeggio. This was the cue for my man to push the "on" button. I could hear the "click" as the Ampico started and played my "E major" section of the recording. Immediately I'd stand up from the piano and the audience applauded as I walked down stage near the footlights. I would take from my coat pocket a beautiful silver cigarette case, remove from it a cigarette, light it with a handsome silver lighter, and smoke the cigarette as the Ampico continued. About fifteen seconds later I would move toward the table, which was the cue for the telephone to ring, douse the cigarette and answer the phone, "Sotto Voca!" Hanging up the receiver, I'd proceed back to the piano in time for my next passage. Meanwhile, when my man off stage spotted me seated, he knew that this was the cue to push the "stop" button. Then I'd resume playing with the orchestra to the conclusion of the rhapsody. The spontaneous applause was most gratifying and I would have to take several bows.
As aforestated, I played a week at the Allen Theatre, a picture house. As a result the Maitland Piano dealers received many inquiries about the Ampico that eventually resulted in sales. Thus, my stint at the Allen proved successful. Following this engagement, I received many offers to play the "act." There was one really fine offer to play one of the "top" picture houses in our largest cities. Financially, it was too good an offer to not at least consider. After mulling over the situation I deemed it best to wire Del in New York and inform him of the offer and ask his advice. I sent him a night letter which included the details, and the next day I waited impatiently for the answer. A telegram finally came and nervously, I opened it and read it. I'll never forget the contents of that wire which contained but one word - "NO!" Naturally, I was disappointed but in a flash I could commend his decision! The Ampico and the respect he had for it was all explained in just one single word, "No!" No doubt his decision was not meant to prevent me from earning a neat sum, but rather the more logical fact that I'd probably lose interest in my recording for Ampico and enter show business. I believe it to be the shortest wire ever sent. A couple of days later I was back on the job at the studio, eager, avid and ready to resume the work I really loved, recording for Ampico.
This next story involves Jerome Kern, who in the musical comedy and operetta field was just about the "top." Prior to the opening of his smash hit, "Sonny" on Broadway, Kern had complained that the orchestral arrangements of his music, as played by recording orchestras, were vastly over-arranged, played in a different tempo and lacked the flavor of his songs as presented in the stage productions. His complaint was published in a New York newspaper, with other papers also "playing up" his beef. Kern, who owned an Ampico, occasionally would write a letter to either the Ampico officials or Del and praise our recordings of his music. The fact was that Del, himself a showman, would insist that we on the Ampico recording staff, before recording a show tune, see the show, remember the tempo, and get the general feel of the music. Then, we'd find the result would be a better-played recording. Among the letters that Kern sent was one to Del in which he wrote that, with his "Sonny" score, he was putting a stop-gap on all recording bands, singers, etc., thus preventing them from recording any of the music until six months after the show had run on Broadway. However, Kern also wrote that he liked my Ampico renditions of his music and that he would give us special permission at any time to record whichever "Sonny" songs we selected. Shortly after "Sonny" opened in New York, everybody was humming "Who", the sensational hit from the show. Del assigned me to record it. Knowing that Ampico had the jump on all competition, I faithfully put my best efforts to work and carefully arranged the tune and recorded it. The "Who" recording proved popular with Ampico owners and I was gratified and happy over the fact that we were the first to record Kern's fine song.
I was fortunate to personally meet "Jerry," as the profession knew him, about a year before his demise. Through a mutual friend, Kern invited me to his lovely home in "Hanbeck(?) Acres," Long Island, where I spent a most delightful afternoon. Jerry asked me to play some of my arrangements of his music and he, in return, played his new "Music in the Air" score.
(Herbert, Sousa, Youmans, Gershwin, Romberg and Jerome Kern are gone but not forgotten by all America!)
One of our Ampico artists was Harry Shipman, who specialized in recording Hawaiian music. His rolls were popular and he received quite a bit of fan mail. One day, into our studio came a very wealthy woman named Mrs. Campbell, who possessed an Ampico and who wished to meet Mr. Harry Shipman. She was introduced to Del, who politely asked her to his office. "What can we do for you Mrs. Campbell?" asked Del. She replied, "Mr. Delcamp, I must confess that my favorite Ampico artist is Mr. Harry Shipman who plays the Hawaiian recordings and I'd love to meet him." "You see," she continued, "I've often been to Hawaii and have heard the natives play and sing their exotic songs and must say that Mr. Shipman has caught the spirit and the mood of the Hawaiians which is reflected in his recordings."
While Mrs. Campbell was talking, Del pushed a button under his desk which buzzed in my room and I, of course, went to his office. "Mr. Carroll," Del said, "meet Mrs. Campbell, who owns an Ampico and is a real admirer of Harry Shipman's recordings. She would like to meet him. Is he in the studio?" Replying, I stated that, "Unfortunately, Mr. Shipman hadn't come in to the studio today but most assuredly would be delighted to meet Mrs. Campbell." "Oh! Thank you, Mr. Carroll, I'm looking forward to meeting him. By the way, here is my card. Will you please phone me when Mr. Shipman is available?" Nodding that I would, I took her card and left the room. Several minutes later Mrs. Campbell made her exit and I returned to Del's office where we both roared with laughter. Why? Simply because Harry Shipman, you see, is a gentleman who has never been in Hawaii - Me! (A.C.)
To complete our Ampico studio personnel, there was Miss Kathryn Hutchison, Del's private secretary, and Ethel Johnson, Miss Kelly and Mary McAter, also stenos. Miss Tiffin's assistants were Gertrude Hanson and Miss Neillsen. Thus you have the entire complement on the Ampico staff which collectively was very efficient.
Del was partial to playing ballads and created the idea of the Ampico dinner music recordings. Milton Suskind was equally at home playing classical music, ballads and popular music. Victor Arden favored show music but also was effective in recording rhythm numbers. Phil Ohman, a terrific technician, was like Victor Arden. He was adept at recording show music, especially the rhythm type. Zez Confrey was a great exponent of intricate, rhythmical piano passages and excelled in his performance in this category. Vincent Lopez was the "Arpeggio Kid" and was spectacular with his `right-hand' manipulations. Ralph Rainger was the "blues" exponent and favored this type of music. Lee Sims and Henry Lange were great keyboard performers of all types of popular numbers. I, Adam Carroll, "played the field" ballads, operettas, rhythm numbers, novelties, Hawaiian and show music.
Milton Suskind recorded pop music under the name of Edgar Fairchild and ballads under the name of Corrine DeBert. J. Milton Delcamp recorded under his proper name, Ralph Reichenthal, under the name of Ralph Rainger. Adam Carroll also recorded under the names of Victor Lane, Cal Adams and Harry Shipman. Victor Arden was occasionally Victor Lane; his proper name was Lew Fuiks. Zez Confrey used his proper name.
Del, ill for a year or so, died. We, in our beloved studio where so many famous artists came and there was so much enthusiasm, were stunned and saddened beyond words. I personally lost a buddy and friend whom I was deeply fond of and for whom I had so much respect.
His death shocked the entire music world. With his wellknown wonderful personality, musical ability, executive prowess and kindness he had set an example that many of us might wisely follow and emulate!
Following Del's demise all of us - recording artists, editors and assistants alike - in due respect to J. Milton Delcamp were determined to make better and better Ampico recordings. I, for one, noticed the renewed vigor that was displayed by our wonderful Ampico staff. And most assuredly, I'll never forget those saddened days with the hope and determination that followed, enabling us to carry on without Del.
Mr. F.H.B. Byrne, a fine executive, became our manager, whom we liked and respected. He proved a worthy successor to fill the capable shoes worn by Del. We in the studio lost no time in cooperating with and encouraging Mr. Byrne with the result that soon our work returned to its normal status.
("By their works ye shall know them." I'll always remember Del.)
After the Wall Street crash in 1929, needless to state, most people went broke with the result that the piano business fell flat. It meant that piano manufacturers had to do something drastic in order to remain in business and they did. The grand reproducing pianos - Ampico & Duo-Art - which were expensive, were not selling. Mr. and Mrs. America demanded a cheaper piano which resulted in the birth of the spinet and console types. Also, as a result of the crash, the American Piano Company merged with Aeolian and, from 1930 till the end, our Ampico rolls were also re-edited for the Duo-Art mechanism. I played quite a few recordings bearing both labels. My very last roll was recorded in the middle 1930's. Its title was "Porgy & Bess-Medley." It was composed by my friend, the late George Gershwin, a fitting finale, believe me. My hope and prayer has been and always shall be that our Queen -"Ampico' - again will ascend her throne for years in the years to come.
Sincerely, Adam Carroll, Alias "The Ampico Kid"
SUMMARY OF PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
Accompanied silent movies and played piano in vaudeville.
Featured pianist with orchestra for Arthur M. Fraus, top agent who wrote the first fox trot, which was titled "Meadowbrook Fox Trot:'
Joined Paul Whiteman's original orchestra playing at the "Palais Royale:' New York City.
"Adam Carroll and his Orchestra," presented by Paul Whiteman. Played important social functions, college proms, etc.
I was pianist for the Gold Dust Twins radio show which was the second commercial show to be presented in the United States. The 'Twins' were actually four people-Harvey Hindermeyer, (Goldy) Ear1 Tuckerman. (Dusty) David Beriad(?), and Adam Carrot pianist- The Twins radio show. a weekly program, continued for sew" years- I also played with our orchestra with James A. N. Caroso (?) (Whiteman's manager), directing.
Besides the Gold Dust Twins radio show, I continues club date appearances.
Appeared with Ralph Rainger in "Angela" a Shubert operetta production on Broadway starring Jeanette MacDonald
Rainger and Carroll were featured at two pianos in "The LA tie Show" presented by Dwight D. Wimen and another show starring Clifton Webb, Fred Allen and Libby Holman.
Since Rainger was being filmed by Paramount Pictures. I appeared alone and was featured at the piano with orchestra in, spectacular musical "Three's a Crowd" which also starred Webb, Allen and Holman. Also made phonograph recordings for vocal and with other orchestras.
Toured with "Three's a Crowd." Incidentally, Fred MacMurray, also a famous motion picture star, was a sax player who played in the show with "The California Californians;" a band of seven who were featured on stage. After that tour, I resumed play
ing with my orchestra and performed at many college proms, etc.- N.Y.U., Fordham, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, etc.
Became personal pianist for Fred Astaire. Accompanied him while rehearsing for "Gay Divorced' a Universal production, which starred Fred and Claire Luce (Monty Wooly and Eric Blake were featured). Also accompanied Astaire for his movie test for Paramount Pictures which, eventually, after being dubbed "OK for sound" (a picture phrase) made Fred a millionaire.
Due to crash in 1929, the American Piano Company had merged in 1930 with the Aeolian Company and by then the reproducing piano and its recordings had become all but defunct. Our Ampico rolls were also edited for the Duo-Art system and believe me, the `honeymoon' was over. Truthfully, I was very much saddened to find our `champ' Ampico, on the floor. Thereafter. I concentrated on my band dates, performed for Lopez and Meyer Davis and arranged for and accompanied singers' recordings.
Things picked up again as I was engaged by the Shuberts to be featured at the piano in the first posthumous production of "The Ziegfeld Follies," starring Fannie Brice, Bob Hope, Judy Canova, Gertrude Neissen, and Josephine Baker. Edgar Bergen with his Charlie McCarthy did a small bit in this production after appearing with Rudy Vallee who later became famous on radio. John Murray Anderson, famous production director, who directed the Follies had a knack for dubbing everybody he met with a nickname. He called me `Arpeggio' by which name I was known by all members of the "Follies" cast.
I quit the "Follies" shortly after opening at the famous Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway and rejoined my `sidekick' Edgar Fairchild. We signed with Dwight Wiman to be featured in his forthcoming musical "On Your Toes," which starred Ray Bolger and featured Doris Carson, Monty Wooly and Louella Gear. We, Fairchild and Carroll, recorded phonograph albums for Liberty, a well known outfit in New York City. Also appeared on the Rudy Vallee radio show, The Magic Key Hour, a "top" radio program. We also had our own Cocktail Time radio show featuring Fairchild and Carroll and their orchestra. We signed Elsa Maxwell to perform with our orchestra. Society's most famous host, she arranged parties which included royalty and the "top" social figures in the country. Also made a phonograph recording with Ethel Merman (Fairchild and Carroll and orchestra) of the `Red, Hot and Blue" medley.
Having been extremely successful in 1936, Fairchild and I were again signed by Mr. Dwight Wiman to appear in his musical "Babes in Arms" starring Mitzi Green and Ray Heatherton. In this lazy youthful show was Ralph Drake, who later was to score heavily in "Kiss Me Kate." Between this show and playing dates at the Maxwell, Fairchild and Carroll were kept very busy, indeed.
Eddie Cantor, who heard Fairchild and Carroll's whole performance in "Babes in Arms," signed us as Fairchild and Carroll and their Orchestra, to a two-year contract to appear on his weekly Camel Hour, the famous radio show. We were the first radio show to open at the "C.B.S. Studio' at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street in Hollywood. We alternated between Hollywood and New York every four weeks. Our guest stars included ninety percent of the great film artists. This radio show with Cantor proved a bonanza for "F&C." I personally got a kick out of traveling across country on the Santa Fe Chief and the New York Central's Twentieth Century trains. We traveled with about fifteen people in a special car added to the train. In addition to the Cantor radio show, Fairchild and Carroll played many other important engagements.
This, our second year with Eddie Cantor, was also exciting and lucrative moneywise for Cookie and me. The Cantor radio show, which ran second only to the Jack Benny Show in the Hooper ratings, was extremely popular. As the war clouds were hovering over Europe, Cantor, unwisely, after his program would address the live audiences and give his political views, which the Camel Company (American Tobacco Company) didn't approve of. Thus, they did not re-sign Cantor for a third year. However, Cantor got the OK to use the name Cantor's Camel Caravan and Fairchild and Carroll toured the country from coast to coast with Cantor from September through December in 1939. On this trek, we appeared and played at the California Auditorium on Treasure Island during the World's Fair. One of our dancers in the show was Ann Miller, who was already well known then. Later she was engaged by George White to appear in his "George White Scandals" which proved to be her springboard to Hollywood fame and fortune.
Back home in New York City, I was also engaged to assist Johnny Green, the composer, to prepare the cast (songwise) for his musical "Hi-Yo Gentlemen" which was to star Syd Silver and Audrey Christie and feature Max Baer, the former fighter.
The show failed before arriving on Broadway on account of that horrible disease "money trouble." "Hi-Yo Gentlemen" called it a day in Boston. Fairchild and his family moved to Hollywood, where they still reside. I forged on alone and resumed my old standby, the club dates. I had a fairly successful year.
With Germany and England at war, Broadway was offering shows with war themes. One such musical production was "Let Freedom Ring" which starred Mitzi Green. Poorly casted, the show had a short run. In November I was engaged by George Hale, former dancer also turned producer, to appear in his musical "The Lady Comes Back." I was to be featured at the piano Solovox, a small electronic organ which played all orchestral effects including strings, saxes, brass, etc. I recall rehearsing on a Sunday afternoon at the Forty-Fourth Street Theatre in New York City and hearing a lot of shouting. I rushed out to the street and saw and heard newsboys shouting, "Extra, extra, Japs bomb Pearl Harbor." The show was to star Jessie Mathews, a great British beauty, singer, dancer and brilliant actress. Also to be featured was Mischa Auer the famous movie actor.
After rehearsing four weeks we opened in Boston at the Colonial Theatre. The press notices were better than fair and it seemed that, with a little fixing, the show would soon be ready for the big town, New York City. However, Jessie Mathews, who personally got "raves" from the critics, was suffering from slight shell shock caused by the German bombardment of London. London was Jessie's home town where she was residing before the Royal Air Force flew her over to the United States to appear in the show.
(Note: The British government gave Miss Mathews the OK to come home and appear in the show with the promise that half of her salary ($1,500 weekly) be given to help the disastrous war effort during those sad days. After our first Saturday matinee in Boston, Jessie "blew her top" and went into hysterics shouting, "You horrible Americans, you're letting my people die, while you sit here enjoying yourselves." Well! That proved fatal for Jessie Mathews who disappeared as the press all over the country headlined the facts. The result was that our show "The Lady Comes Across" opened in New York with a talented young lady named Evelyn Wyckoff who replaced Miss Mathews. It closed after one week. Six weeks later Miss Mathews was found in the medical center uptown New York City, suffering from amnesia and shock. Shortly after her recovery, she flew back to England to rejoin her husband, Sonny Hale, a famous British actor.)
(True is the saying, "There's no Business Like Show
In all my theatrical career never have I met anyone who had so much on the ball as Frank Fay. Theaterwise, he was the "top." I met Frank in 1942 and appeared with him on stage in the terrific review "Laugh Time" which starred him with Bert Wheeler and Ethel Waters. The show was well received and one critic wrote "Frank Fay is a one man show, by himself." Yes, Frank early in his career was also the headliner at the No. 1 Vaudeville Theatre, The Palace in New York City. He held the all time record of being held over for seventeen weeks. During that time he married Barbara Stanwyck, famous movie star, and it was Frank who was responsible for her film career.
Following "Laugh Time" I toured with Frank billed as "Frank Fay with Adam Carroll" and played practically every top night club in the country. While playing the Copacabana, one of the famous New York spots, Fay read the script of "The White Rabbit." He liked the theme but not the title, which he changed to "Harvey." The rest is theatrical history as Frank played "Harvey" on Broadway for nearly five years. He starred as Elwood P. Dowd and Josephine Hull played his sister. When "Harvey" opened at the 48th St. Theatre on November 1st, 1944, the critics, to a man, "super-raved." One week later all New York papers ran this headline on their respective theatrical pages: "Harvey!" The box score was 9 to 0 in his favor. The film rights to "Harvey" were sold for one million dollars, the largest sum ever paid, with Universal Pictures picking up the tab.
During the long run of "Harvey," several stars replaced Frank for a couple of weeks while he vacationed. Among these were Jimmie Stewart, the famous picture star, who eventually starred in the film. As for me, we had a string orchestra which played "entracte" music between scenes as I played poker with the stage hands. (Ha!) The record shows that in 1944 "Harvey" won the famous "political prize" for the best show of the season, with Frank Fay and Josephine Hull being named the best actor and actress. During the "Harvey" run I was extremely busy with Frank, appearing on radio, early TV and other engagements that didn't interfere with Fay's performance in the show. As an overall result of "Harvey" Frank again became an extremely wealthy man whq when the show closed, decided to take it easy for a while in his fabulous estate in Brentwood, California.
Frank, nearing the end of the "Harvey" run, wrote an act for Bart Wharlou, George Hagerty, Harriet Lockwood and me. It was designed to play theaters, night clubs, etc. After the act was written and rehearsed I quit "Harvey" and toured the country with it. Returning to New York, after making the tour, I rejoined Fay and appeared on several TV. shows with him (Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle) and also played many other engagements with him. Among these dates was a benefit for the New York police commissioner. After this appearance Frank was made an honorary colonel in the U.S. Army and I, his honorary captain. I also appeared with concert orchestra in the stage production "Goodbye My Family;' starring Madeline Canoll and Conrad Nagel.
Frank extended an invitation for me to visit him in Brentwood, California, which I accepted and stayed with him a few months getting a good rest which I badly needed. I returned to New York and resided at The Lambs Club, where I've been a member since 1935. The Lambs is the foremost actors' club in the country. It is also affiliated with The Masquers Club in Hollywood, California. Late in 1949, I received a phone call from Jack Daniels, top agent in New York who managed Fay, telling me that Frank, Jane Froman, whom Davis also managed, and I were booked to play at the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Detroit Athletic Club, famed as one of the finest private clubs in the country.
With the orchestra, I played and directed both for Jane Froman and Frank who tore the place apart. With the sumptuous dinner and our entertainment, this proved to be a night for all those attending to remember. Charles Hughes, the founder of the club, made Miss Froman a fabulous offer to appear in the D.A.C. room where members and their guests dined and danced. Jane asked if Pd appear with her and, after consulting Frank about it, he said, "OK kid, help Jane, she needs you." Jane always left her audiences clamoring for more. I had arranged with Frank that I'd rejoin him after the Froman engagement but something interfered!
As a result of the D.A.C. appearances, Jane, through her manager Davis, received fabulous offers to appear at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, and also at the Mocambo on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. After wiring Frank about Jane's offer, I received his telegram in which he "OKed" my appearance with her. Jane was pleased. Her appearance at the Flamingo was sensational! During the engagement Mr. Abe Vastvogel, top representative of the William Morris Agency, New York City, flew to Las Vegas to catch Jane's performance. He was knocked over by the tremendous applause that followed her performance. Abe invited Jane and me to dinner and afterwards he said, "Jane, I have wonderful news for you. Twentieth Century Fox wants to film a picture depicting your life, and they want you to star in the production." I'll never forget the startled expression on Jane's face for it contained "happiness" to its first degree. "Oh Abe! Nq it can't be," Jane exclaimed, as she sat there dumbfounded. "Yes, Jane, it's true," answered Abe.
(Note: During the last world war Jane, if you'll recall, was in a plane accident near Lisbon, Portugal in which she nearly lost her leg. The story was headlined by the press throughout the United States. Through many operations, Jane saved her leg, thank God!, but she remained crippled. By a special act of Congress she was awarded over three hundred thousand dollars to help her defray the enormous expenses she incurred as the result of the tragedy.)
Jane, considering her self portrayal in the filming of the movie, said "Abe, I'm afraid that my physical condition would not permit me to play myself, but I can sing the songs that will be used in the film.° "I und2rstand;' replied Abe, "but Jane could you recommend someone who could portray you in the film?" A moment later Jane answered, "There's one film star, my favorite, whom if I could perform in pictures, I'd try to emulate." "Who's that?" cried Abe. Jane quickly answered, "Susan Hayward." Abe, excited, said, "Great! If we can arrange it, Susan will portray you and you can sing the songs which can be dubbed into the film. That's it!"
Abe Vastvogel, looking at his watch, said, "Fine Jane, I must leave you as I'm flying back to New York tonight. I'll be in touch with you." After bidding Jane and me adieu, he departed.
Jane was fabulous in her performances at the Flamingo. Following our appearance there we went to Hollywood, where we were to open at the famous Mocambo. Charles Mornessao, proprietor of this fine room, had a flood of singing birds which were in cages in the rear. In every performance, when Jane sang these birds would chime in and chirp the most beautiful obbligatos you could possibly hear. One time a club critic wrote, "Last night at the Mocambo Jane Froman was sensational with her audience asking for more. Even the birds loved Jane and sang with her. their obbligatos sounding like angels singing. The Jammer Room. to a person, thrilled at the innovation."
During the Mocambo engagement I resided with Frank Fay in his beautiful estate in Brentwood. While there, Frank told me about a revue which he had written and that he needed me, which would necessitate my leaving Jane. "Frank;' I said, "I can't do that as I'm booked with Jane at the Persian Room in the Plaza Hotel in New York." "Lr~ok kid;' said Frank, "there are a lot of good musicians in New York. Engage some good pianist to `cover' for you and everything will be OK."
My decision to leave Jane came one night while in her dressing room at the Mocambo when she confided to me, saying. "Adam, my husband, Johnny, who was the pilot of the ill-fated plane and who saved my life, and I have been thinking things over. What with the film about to be shot and considering my physical condition, our financial future is solvent and pretty soon Johnny and I will be settling down and enjoying life." This was my cue to warn Jane that I, possibly, would have to remain in Hollywood and help Fay in his revue "Theatre, If You Please!" The result was that I left Jane who returned to New York and "showed 'em" at the Persian Room ably supported by a worthy orchestra. One year later, Twentieth Century Fox released a musical film, titled, "With a Song in my Heart." Its star, Susan Hayward. Its singing star. off camera, was Jane Froman. It was a tremendous film success. Jane, a wonderful person, has tasted success, tragedy, happiness. and sorrow. Within a year after "With a Song in my Heart" was released, Jane divorced her husband. I, for one, will always remember her bravery and the physical discomfort she suffered while traveling in order that somewhere, someplace, she could sing her songs to gladden the hearts of those fortunate enough to be within range of her voice. Americans! I salute your most worthy advocate, Jane Froman. (A.C.)
Thus, I assisted Frank in preparing his forthcoming revue, "Theatre, If You Please:" Sketches and songs comprised the offering which, while in rehearsal, seemed to lack the class and quality of Frank himself. However, Frank casted unknowns and after several weeks in rehearsal we opened in Santa Barbara on Thanksgiving Day in 1951. The local critic had a "corking line" which I'll never forget: "Frank Fay and his `turkey' have arrived." And it was a turkey, believe me. Fay, with his well known sense of humor, and I really laughed at the `turkey' line but Frank was mad, saying, "Adam, this is a one horse town, wait till we play the Curran(?) in my home town, San Francisco. Then you'll read something!" So we packed the show and with our cast arrived in San Francisco with high hopes that all would be OK.
(Note: Frank was a terrific "commie" fighter. In fact, he was widely known as such. Thus, San Francisco surely had no love for Frank with the result that on opening night strange things happened onstage and backstage. In fact, from the "flys" things were dropping on the cast onstage.)
In truth, although the show had some excellent sketches and a pretty good score, it never had a chance. After the opening Eddie Head, our musical director, said to me, "Adam, the show never even got started. It's a pity for Frank and you to have suffered this lousy interference with your production." With no alibi, we closed after three performances.
After our failure with "Theatre, If You Please" Frank and I returned to Brentwood to recoup our health which, for both of us had been greatly overtaxed! Later, Frank remained in Brentwood and I returned to New York to reside at the Lambs Club. I wrote the musical score for "Things to Remember" which was based on the early life of Hans Christian Andersen. Libretto and lyrics were written by Clyde North, a brother Lamb. The production was presented at the Lamb's Theatre, New York City, and it proved successful.
Later that year I was named general musical director for Westinghouse, the manufacturers located in Mansfield and Columbus, Ohio. We pioneered the now famous industrial shows which were presented for dealers and distributors only. Beginning in 1951, through 1955, I wrote theme songs, played piano and conducted orchestras for all their stage productions. The president was Warren Higgins; front man, C. Ragkin Bingham; stage director, Frank Warrington; and general stage manager, J. Warren Smith. James Sheriden, with whom I reside, is a fine actor with a splendid tenor voice. He starred in many of these fine shows which, frankly, were the caliber of a Broadway musical. And with each show, we traveled thousands of miles throughout the country. Dramaturgy was the producer for these shows. He also handled the Hotpoint, Skelgas, and Gibson industrial shows. Dramaturgy was hailed by Variety, the noted theatrical magazine as the "forerunner of the new show business, the industrial shows." I wrote the commercial theme (lyric music) for Westinghouse, which was featured on The Football Game of the Week TV. program sponsored by them.
These were `banner' years for me as I continued with Dramaturgy writing, playing piano and directing orchestras. The "apex" was hit in 1953 when Westinghouse sponsored the industrial show, "All For You" which comprised four units of the same production playing simultaneously throughout the United States-north, south, east and west. I was general musical director and directed the western unit which culminated in San Francisco.
As aforementioned, our audiences were solely Westinghouse distributors and dealers. The aggregate cost of production was $2,225,000, which Westinghouse spent to improve their strategy in distribution and sales. In these shows all the sketches were written to illustrate the vulnerability of the distribution system and how to correct it. Also sketches were presented illustrating the faults of a lay dealer and how to correct his bad habits.
The songs, all of which were written lyrically, either praised or raised hell with both distributors and dealers. Musically they were very tuneful. To cite one song, for instance, the title was "Refrigerator No. 764, I Love You." Never, in all of the Westinghouse shows, was the make of any competitor's product ever mentioned. But it was often implied in the songs such as "Don't Mention That Nasty Name." Of course our audiences howled and screamed at the "point" of the sketches and the `intent' of the songs.
X.F. Sutton, a pioneer in the industrial show era, produced and directed shows for Jam Handy, General Electric and Vision Incorp. After the success of Westinghouse's All for You" production, he approached me and said, "Mr. Carroll, were you the general musical director for All for You'? If so, you and I are in business. If not, we're not!" I told him that he was talking with the right man and concluded, "Yes, we're in business." "OK, Mr. Carroll," he replied, "Let's have a cup of coffee!" I invited him for lunch at the Lambs Club at which he "opened u15' with, "I'm known as `X' and let's call you, Adam, OK?" Yes, I liked him from the start. Here was a very capable man, well experienced in motion picture production and a keen executive.
Continuing, he said "Adam, I want you to assist me in producing an industrial movie for Easy Washing Machine Company, Syracuse, New York." Easy received an "E" for excellence and was awarded a medal of honor by Uncle Sam for producing vital material for our country during World War II. He continued, "They want me to produce a show for their employees, along the same lines as 'All for You.' How about it, OK?" (Like a Daniel Boone, he was "quick" on the draw.) Knowing that I had time open I readily said, "Yes, X you're on!" Then he said, "Good, here's the deal. I'll provide the Easy data explaining the various points they want to get over to their employees. I want you to write the score and help with the sketch scenes." With all details completed, X thanked me for lunch and departed.
After he left the Lambs Club, I felt like a whirlwind had struck me. For some, X. Sutton was dynamic and he left a very good impression on me. The following day I received the Easy Washing Machine Co. data and began to work and compose songs, etc., for the upcoming show. In brief, I titled the show "Easy Does It" and wrote a song bearing the title which, eventually, was to make history in Syracuse.
X. Sutton, who was adept at casting and, wisely, had casted some talented Easy employees soon had the show in rehearsal. Within two weeks our rehearsals were completed and the show was presented at the Easy plant in Syracuse.
"Easy Does It" scored a tremendous success and when the final curtain rang down everybody was humming "Easy Does It." Lo and behold the president of Easy came on stage and addressing the spellbound audience of employees said, "My friends and associates, I never dreamed that such a wonderful stage production, such as we have just witnessed, could ever be presented. I must state that I'm very proud of all our faithful employees. This production cannot end here, therefore, I want this show to be seen by all of Syracuse. We'll arrange to present `Easy Does It' at the Syracuse Stadium on every Saturday night during the coming summer. I thank you." Well! Pandemonium broke out as the employees went wild with glee.
The result was that the song "Easy Does It" was recorded by Victor, and over 50,000 records were ordered with every employee receiving a copy. The remainder of the records were distributed among the people of Syracuse. Keeping his word, the president of Easy had the show presented every Saturday night through the summer of 1954 at the famous Syracuse Stadium. Since then, I've done quite a bit of work with X. Currently, in association with him, am writing the musical score for "Elfan" a musical that is being presented by The Cancer Cytological Foundation, headed by Dr. Ayres, cancer specialist. Mr. X is quite a man, I'd say. (A.C.)
I consider these shows a highlight of my career. Frankly, next to my first love, "Ampico," these industrial shows have left a soft spot in my heart. I was eager to perform in them and the laughs and fun we all had while touring are something I'll always cherish and remember.
The honeymoon for industrial shows was over in 1956 as by this time everybody wanted to get into the act. The result was that the industrial show lost its luster and gradually disappeared. Yes, Cadillac, Ford, Chevrolet, etc., occasionally still present a show but the run of this type production had ended. Upon doctor's advice, I eased up" after a solid four years of traveling hundreds of thousands of miles for Dramaturgy. For most of the time following these jaunts, I concentrated on composition and making appearances with Frank Fay, William Gaxton and Bert Wheeler.
Resided with Frank Fay on Park Avenue, New York City, where Frank had a beautiful apartment. I made quite a few TV. appearances with him, wrote material for acts and participated in Lambs Theater activities, writing songs and directing shows.
Met up with a wealthy socialite, Miss Eleanor Etherington who, during the'30s, was an ardent fan of mine who loved piano and had also had an Ampico. She invited me to her home in the Camelback section of Phoenix. Naturally I played piano for her friends who apparently liked me and, lo and behold, Eleanor asked me to marry her! I did and what a wedding it was! Later, due to my New York interests, I made several treks back and forth from Phoenix and finally couldn't keep up with the pace. My wife and I agreed to have our marriage annulled. Today, we're the best of friends and I often play a disc recording and send it to her.
(Music! With your charms, where do we go now?) 1960
After returning home to New York I resided with Clyde North and his wife on Central Park West. North is a fine author who's written a couple of Broadway plays which had lengthy runs. Soon, I was reacclimatizing myself to composing and local musical activities. Then tragedy occurred. My dear friend, Frank Fay, took ill and died at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His passing left a big gap in the theatrical profession and I, of course, had lost a great friend. Yes, a career such as mine carries with it many pleasant times yet many, many tears. Like the glorious Ampico years, for me the memory of this truly fine man and great artist will liriger on and on, believe me.
Frank Fay's death had posthumous repercussions as he had failed to sign his will and testament. I was pursued by lawyers
endeavoring to get information regarding Frank's last few years while alive, but they got little from me. With all said and done, Frank's adopted son received the bulk of his estate I was informed that Frank remembered me in his unsigned will but the California courts decreed that will null and void-period. Frank's estate was up in the high figure bracket. Thus the adopted son really collected a huge sum. I should have received a tidy financial figure plus his expensive Steinway grand piano which I had selected for him. The New York press wrote a lot of "copy" on Frank's demise. Linnenhell's New York Mirror wrote, to quote: "Adam Carroll, long time friend and associate of the late Frank Fay, was willed an expensive Steinway grand piano; however, should he receive it he won't find room enough as he is residing in a small room hardly big enough for him, alone to enter." The fact was, I was residing at the Lambs Club. But the publicity didn't hurt as most people thought it was a gag. Knowing Linnenhell's sense of humor, it wasn't. During 1961, I pursued the composition angle and wrote songs for singers and occasionally appeared with James A. Caruso and his fine orchestra playing top social engagements. I also devoted my time to the Lambs Gambols.
Early in 1962 I wrote the musical score for "The Saga of Louis Corbin" with libretto and lyrics by Clyde North. It was presented in February at the Lambs Theatre and it got over nicely. I made appearances with Lou Nova, former heavy-weight fighter, who turned actor and who also liked to recite poetry. In fact, I accompanied Lou at Little Carnegie Hall, downstairs from the famous Carnegie Hall, as he gave a poetry recital. The local critics in reviewing his appearance really played his recital up. For instance, one critic wrote: "Lou Nova battled Shakespeare." What a combination. Lou Nova who fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship loved to recite poetry. I think I'll take on polo. (Ha!) Nova, like the late heavyweight Max Baer, was a fairly good actor. He had been instructed by Frank Fay on stage presentations, timing, etc. He appeared in several "C" movies and was also featured in a Broadway show "The Happiest Millionaire" which starred Walter Pidgeon. Nova's bit was to fight Pidgeon, with Pidgeon winning. But, as Lou told me, "Pidgeon can't high-hat me." Thus, one night during the fight session, Lou clipped Pidgeon and down he went. Nova left the show, Yep!, there's no business like, etc. Lou was and still is, a handsome guy and I'm very fond of him. Thus, 1962 found me quite busy.
This year found me writing special material for singers and playing social functions. Toward the end of the year I felt ill but could not explain the trouble. I was advised to take it easy and endeavored to do so. I confined myself to composition and keeping in trim pianowise.
This year I'll never forget. In February my illness was described as malnutrition. I stopped eating completely and was ordered to go to Bellevue Hospital, New York City. My weight normally was 165 pounds, but with my illness it dwindled to less than 90 pounds. Frankly, the doctors had given up hope and expected the worst. Then, a miracle happened. In a final attempt to save my life the doctors ordered me to take "shock" treatment-thank God! I responded to this and was eventually cured. Now Pm eating normally and have regained my normal weight. My plight was not over as I had to have a cataract operation on my left eye. Dr. Bonacolto, famous eye surgeon, performed it in St. Claire's Hospital, New York City. Ten days later I was released. Thus in 1964 my career was curbed but it actually gave me a new lease on life.
At present, I'm regaining my normal good health and can see, thank God! Am writing the music for two musical productions, "Susie" and "Elfan" and am completing my biography which was suggested by William Knorp, Sausalitq California, who God bless him, has the future of Ampico so much at heart.
A couple of years ago I visited Larry Givens in Wexford, Pennsylvania. Larry, a fine gentlemen, has a beautiful wife Suzanne, and a new son, whose name is Adam Lawrence Givens. Yep! You're right, he's named after yours truly, The Ampico Kid. Larry and his associate, John Gourley, a likeable chap, are the forerunners in the field of those men who are endeavoring to bring back to popularity the piano roll and reproducing recordings. Larry also has a rare collection of antique musical gadgets which contain miniature trumpets and all kinds of small orchestra instruments which, through the mechanism of a recorded roll, actually play. He has a recording piano and other roll perforating equipment. At present, he is releasing Melodee piano rolls. I believe, he'll also be releasing Ampico recordings as well.
I have received various letters, and phone calls, about the Ampico, etc. I find there is little doubt that, soon, the player and reproducing piano rolls will be very popular again.
Important names with whom I've been associated, musically speaking:
SINGERS: Jeanette MacDonald, Fanny Brice, Libby Holman, Mitzi Greene, William Gaxton and Jane Froman.
DANCERS: Fred Astaire, Clifton Webb, Ray Bolger, Tamere Geva, Jack Whiting, Harriet Hector and Ed Sinclair.
MOTION PICTURE STARS: Mischa Auer, Victor Jory and Fred MacMurray, who made the picture "Letters from Home" during World War II with Helen O'Connell and the Joe Venotti Orchestra-Ampico was used in this movie.
COLLEGES (proms, etc.): Fordham, Yale, Cornell, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Rutgers.
MILITARY: General Dwight D. Eisenhower. I played a command performance at West Point Military Academy, arranged by Bary Lytell, Shepherd of the Lambs.
ROYALTY: Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, and many Princes and Princesses, Dukes and Duchesses, etc. I performed for these at the various affairs given in their honor by Elsa Maxwell.
MAYORS: James Walker, New York City, and Robert Wagner, present mayor of New York City.
PRIZE FIGHTERS: Lou Nova, Tommy Louchran and Max Baer.
ACTORS, COMICS, ETC.: Frank Fay, Bart Wheeler, Fred Allen, William Gaxton and Jack Haley.
CREDITS: Honorary member of American Federation of Musicians, Local No. 802, New York City; Member of A.S.C.A.P; Member of The Lambs; Member of The Character Club, New York City; Honorary deputy sheriff, New York City; Honorary captain, U.S. Army; Honorary member of Boys Town, Nebraska.
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