• Say, Pine Top,
    We don’t want to hear that.
    What do you think this is ?
    We don’t want to hear
    that sentimental stuff !

    Georgia Tom Dorsey
  • He had a left hand like God. He didn’t even know what key he was playing in, but he played them all. He would play the ragtime stride bass, but it bothered him because his stomach got in the way of his arm, so he used a walking bass instead. I can remember when I was thirteen – this was 1896 – how Turk would play one note with his right hand and at the same time four with his left. We called it “sixteen” – they call it boogie-woogie now.

    Eubie Blake on William Turk
  • Beat it out, boy! Say, Bob!
    Ain’t you gettin’ your bonus?
    Sure, baby!
    You’ll go up when the wagon comes
    Come up and see me sometime
    Sure, baby, when I get my bonus!

    Lil Johnson
  • Jimmy Blythe was an off-and-on piano player,
    but when he was good he was good.
    His Mecca Flat is a very nice tune – about the best he ever wrote.

    Jesse Crump - from Record Changer, March 1952


Clarence M. Jones Player Piano Rolls Part 2 – Jazz and Blues

Posted in - Biography & Clarence Jelly Johnson & Historical & Piano Roll
on May 11th 2017

Clarence M. Jones was one of those rare musicians able to adapt both his playing and compositional styles to new musical trends.  As Jones’ piano roll recordings are the only known examples of his playing prior to 1923, these provide valuable insight into his adaptability and innovative ideas.  Moreover, they clearly demonstrate how …

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Clarence M. Jones Player Piano Rolls Part 1 – Ragtime and Other Instrumental Music

Posted in - Biography & Clarence M. Jones & Historical & Piano Roll
on May 11th 2017

Clearly, the development of Chicago style jazz and blues piano had its roots in ragtime, and with the itinerant, now forgotten early gospel pianists who incorporated syncopation into their playing.  With his immensely successful “Memphis Blues” of 1912, W.C. Handy formalized blues music as a distinct piano style. While still purely ragtime, Handy …

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Clarence “Jelly” Johnson Player Piano Rolls Part 2 – Popular Songs

Posted in - Biography & Clarence Jelly Johnson & Historical & Piano Roll
on April 27th 2017

“Hawaiian Nightingale.”  A very simple although lovely waltz by Vaughn DeLeath.  Hardly to be considered within any discussion of jazz/blues or hot music.  And yet, Clarence Johnson’s performance is a salient reminder that great talent produces great music. Johnson’s playing of this otherwise commonplace, sentimental tune is uniquely his own; containing his jazz …

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Clarence “Jelly” Johnson Player Piano Rolls Part 1 – Jazz and Blues

Posted in - Biography & Clarence Jelly Johnson & Historical & Piano Roll
on April 27th 2017

Although Clarence Johnson left us no piano solo disc recordings, no band recordings, and only about two dozen vocal accompaniment sides, he still remains one of the most influential artists in the history of Chicago South Side Piano.  Unlike Blythe, who was prolific in all forms of recordings, Johnson’s personal playing style is …

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James “Jimmy” Blythe – Player Piano Rolls Part 2 – Popular Songs

Posted in - Biography & Historical & James Jimmy Blythe & Piano Roll
on April 22nd 2017

This section will present Blythe’s piano roll recordings of popular songs, such as fox trots and waltzes of the day.  Frequently, these performances are highly jazz-tinged (even the waltzes) and exhibit Blythe’s characteristic keyboard trademarks.  On some, Blythe added hot South Side coda sections to otherwise commonplace tunes, and these are special for …

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James “Jimmy” Blythe – Player Piano Rolls Part 1 – Jazz and Blues

Posted in - Biography & Historical & James Jimmy Blythe & Piano Roll
on April 22nd 2017

Collectors interested in the jazz and blues history of Chicago’s South Side of the 1920s have most certainly heard of this enormously gifted and prolific artist.  On the merits of his disc recordings alone, he stands as one of the founding fathers of that particular pianistic style known to us as “South Side …

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Jimmy Blythe with Eloise Bennett

Posted in - Discography
on February 3rd 2015

Dear All,
I’ve just figured out Jimmy Blythe on piano on these two recordings with Eloise Bennett on vocals :

Love Me Mr. Strange Man  (2745-2 Paramount 12412)
Effervescent Daddy              (2746-1 Paramount 12412)

Both sides recorded in Chicago, October 1926.
B&GR suggests Irene Eadie on piano , but this is clearly Jimmy Blythe. No doubt …

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The Hokum Boys

Posted in - Biography & Transcriptions
on April 17th 2014

“Hokum”, as musical term, seems to have come into being (or onto record labels, at least) in the late ‘20s, with recordings by Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band, and “Hokum Blues” by the Dallas String Band. From 1929 to 1931 it was something of a craze, with name artists in their own right …

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Buster Pickens

Posted in - Biography
on March 15th 2014

Blind Lemon Jefferson famously sang that “the blues came to Texas loping like a mule” but a better metaphor might have been the freight train. It was the railroad that linked the far flung Texas towns where the bluesman, particularly the piano players, plied their trade. In one of the greatest train blues, …

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House Rent Scuffle – Early Chicago Piano

Posted in - Biography
on November 8th 2013

During the period of today’s recordings , there was a mass migration of blacks from the southern states looking for regular employment and the chance to start a new life. Thousands headed to Chicago. They, together with the emerging school of pianists, took jobs as taxi drivers, hotel porters, dish washers and other …

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Aletha Dickerson Sessionography

Posted in - Discography
on August 12th 2013

From Daniel Gugolz a complete Aletha Dickerson Sessionography as session musician on piano.
Special thanks to Daniel for provide his personal list.


21 June 1926

17 August 1929

November 1929

22 December 1936
4 May 1937

5 August 1936
13 January 1937

12 August 1936
11 October 1937

13 January 1937
10 March 1937


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What About Black Bob ?

Posted in - Biography
on August 12th 2013

Out of all the enigmas that one might encounter while wandering around the Blues Universe, chief amongst them is, “Who, exactly, was Black Bob?” As it turns out, that’s a good question — and we’ll cut to the chase here — the answer is that no one is really certain.

In a …

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Clarence Jones The Sultan of Syncopation

Posted in - Biography
on July 9th 2013

Clarence Jones The Sultan of Syncopation
by Alex van der Tuuk

Pianist, songwriter, orchestra leader and piano teacher Clarence M. Jones (1889-1949) had a prolific career, which started in the first decade of the 20th century, but began to eclipse in the 1910s and 1920s, after he had left his hometown of Wilmington, Ohio and …

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The Music Of Black Bob Hudson

Posted in - Biography
on June 8th 2013

The Music of Black Bob Hudson, legendary Chicago pianist during the 30’s, and his amazing piano style, analyzed and discussed by English pianist James Goodwin, a great musician and a good friend.
Black Bob Hudson was a prolific sideman musician, working with major artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Washboard Sam and Tampa Red. …

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About Us

This site is our own tribute to all those fellas who were radiating the 88's during the 20s and 30s in the Wind City.

Frank Himpsl

Born in West Orange, NJ, Frank discovered blues and hot jazz music in the early 1960s, through nickelodeon rolls featuring Chicago pianists such as Blythe, Johnson, Hill and many others.  He met Mike Montgomery and Trebor Tichenor at that time, and their extensive knowledge and dedication to solid research became his lifelong inspiration and model.  Although he aspired to be a classical concert pianist, Frank holds a PhD in inorganic chemistry and spent his working career as a professional research chemist and educator, with 9 US Patents to his credit.  But jazz, blues and ragtime piano have always been his passion.  His collecting interests led him to build what is probably the largest archive of original piano rolls in blues/jazz/ragtime/hot music genres in existence. Frank has always adhered to the philosophy that what is left of this music must be preserved for future generations; and that “what we keep to ourselves is forever lost.”  Now retired, Frank lives with his three beloved daughters and devotes his spare time to musical research and sharing his life’s work with others through this website.

Nathan Scott Bello

Became interested in piano at an early age and began piano studies with his father at the age of six. He has won numerous awards in both composition and piano competitions. He has performed internationally with major symphony orchestras around the world and has appeared in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Boston and Seattle. He has played in Carnegie Hall in the International Festival of Young Virtuosos and has appeared on NPR’s hit radio show From the Top. He has transcribed hundreds of player rolls for piano solo, which were not originally published or notated. He is a graduate from Boston University with a double major in piano and composition, and studied under Lukas Foss. Nathan has recorded six solo piano CDs and three ensemble albums. He is an active member of ASCAP and is available for concert engagements and festivals.

Alan Balfour

Born in London, discovered blues music in 1962 via the Alan Lomax documentary record, Blues In The Mississippi Night (Pye-Nixa, 1957), Paul Oliver's Blues Fell This Morning (1960) and the columns of UK blues aficionados Derrick Stewart-Baxter (Jazz Journal) and Albert McCarthy (Jazz Monthly). Began writing and reviewing blues related material in 1966 for a variety of specialist and non-specialist UK magazines. Formerly a co-editor of Blues-Link (1973-75), news editor of Black Echoes Weekly (1976) and consultant to Talking Blues (1976-78). Have advised companies such as Polydor (1972-3), DJM (1975-79) and Charly (1980-1) on their blues catalogues as well as compiling and programming releases for others as EMI, Pye and Flyright. Authored LP notes & CD booklets (1976-2006). Knowledge and taste span the whole range of black folk music and folklore: worksong, jugbands, gospel, rural blues, urban blues and R&B. Own an extensive library of books and magazines covering these disciplines, together with a record collection started in 1963. Today known for my involvement with major research or discographical projects, especially Stefan Wirz's ever-growing web-based American Music enterprise. Main areas of expertise are the life and music of Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James and Otis Spann about whom have written extensively.

Michael Hortig

Born in 1958, he started playing and collecting piano blues in 1973 after attending a concert with Roosevelt Sykes. In 1980 and 1981 , He spent one month each in the south of the US searching and interviewing old blues musicians, pianists had been Mose Vinson, Memphis Piano Red, Alex Moore, Robert Shaw, Lavada Durst, Tuts Washington and Trenton Cooper. In the early 2000`s He discovered members of the Meade Lux Lewis family, with one of his grand-nieces had been visiting him in 2002. Active, He performs sporadically, having a small boogie woogie festival in Austria since 2002 in autumn, with musicians like Lila Ammons or Axel Zwingenberger performing there.

Bob Hall

Blues pianist/accompanist to a host of blues legends. Played on around 120 albums including eight solo albums. Singer/songwriter. Over fifty published and recorded songs. Performed at festivals in UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Scandinavia. Radio presenter, weekly programme of rare blues and more on Sheffield Live 93.2FM. Contributor to blues magazines and textbooks including The Routledge Encyclopaedia of the Blues. Gives workshops on blues history and blues piano. Formerly featured tutor at the European Blues Association Blues Week at Exeter University and sleeve-note writer for Yazoo Records piano blues series. Website :

Daniel Gugolz

He was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1963 and got his interest for jazz at an early stage through his father's record collection. Later He decided to learn to play the piano partially on a self-taught basis, and met people knowledgeable with the classic blues piano styles. More instruments got his attention (guitar, bass, drums), and at the age of 23 he moved from Zurich to Vienna, Austria to become a professional musician. Every since, upright bass and piano are his favorite instruments, and with the years he was able to found various bands in his preferred style: Blues/Swing/R&B, touring around the world.

Bob Eagle

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1945, his first inspiration listening to piano was the classic rock 'n' roll of Little Richard. By 1963, He was immersed in blues and jazz, and had discovered the boogie woogie greats such as Albert Ammons. He started a magazine called "Alley Music" in which he began a series of articles about Alabama blues, which seemed to be otherwise ignored. As a result He discovered the magnificent recordings of Walter Roland, including his accompaniments to Lucille Bogan (as Bessie Jackson). He first visited the United States in 1972, staying 7 months, and returned in 1975, interviewing many performers, including pianists such as Nat Dove, Bob Jeffery, Amos Milburn, Blind John Davis, Romeo Nelson, Sunnyland Slim, Detroit Jr., Baby Doo (Caston), Jimmy Walker, Oliver Sain, Robert McCoy, Oddis Turner, Connie Mack Booker, Tommy Ridgley, Roosevelt Sykes, Henry Townsend, Jimmie Lax, and Candy Man McGuirt. He has written numerous articles for magazines. Spent much time in the United States in the 1990s, again interviewing performers. With Eric S. LeBlanc, wrote "Blues - A Regional Experience", examining regional styles. Preparing the exhaustive "Blues and Gospel Encyclopedia" for publication around 2015.

Get in touch

  • Feel free to contact us by email for booking inquiries, transcriptions or private lessons.