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Seger Ellis

Seger Pillot Ellis (July 4, 1904 in Houston, Texas – 1995 in Houston, Texas) was a jazz pianist and vocalist. He also made a few brief film appearances, most notably in collaboration with director Ida Lupino.

Ellis began his career as pianist playing live for a local Houston radio station (later known as KPRC) in the early 1920s. In 1925 he was added to the orchestra of Lloyd Finlay for a "field trip" recording session for Victor Records and was also allowed to cut two piano solos. Although unissued for technical reasons, these solo efforts led to Ellis being invited to Victor's regular recording studio in Camden, New Jersey to cut a number of piano solos, all or most of them compositions of his own. These were among the earliest records Victor made using the new electric microphone and recording equipment, a technique that was yet not perfected which probably explains why only four of the titles were eventually issued. Of these the coupling Prairie Blues and Sentimental Blues became a minor hit.

After his first recording experiences Ellis returned to Houston and radio work as well as playing in vaudeville theaters. During this period Ellis, mainly on request of his employers at the radio station, began adding singing to his piano playing. His pleasant voice went well with the audiences and in 1927 he was invited to New York City to make vocal test recordings. His first issued vocal record was Sunday on the Columbia label. This was followed by a string of records for Okeh Records where Ellis was usually backed by small studio groups that he was allowed to pick himself. Ellis used the opportunity to select many of the best jazz musicians of the time including Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Andy Sannella and - on two occasions - even Louis Armstrong. On these records Ellis sang in a bittersweet alto, with which he was uncomfortable early in his career, believing his voice to be too high. Ellis was popular enough during the time he was on OKeh for them to create a special silver colored custom label for his records.

Ellis's first recording career ended in 1931. In the late 1930s however, he returned with a big band of his own, known as his "Choirs of Brass Orchestra" with himself conducting and taking occasional vocals. The band also featured his wife, Irene Taylor as a vocalist. Later in his career, Ellis focused more on songwriting, although he continued to record sporadically as well as playing the piano.

In 1939 Ellis reorganized and his new band featured the conventional four-man reed section. He disbanded in 1941 and enlisted in the Army-Air Force in 1942.

After moving back to Texas he began to be less active as a performer and more involved in songwriting. Among his many compositions are "My Beloved Is Rugged" and "11:60PM" (both recorded by Harry James), "Gene's Boogie" (recorded by Gene Krupa), and "Little Jack Frost, Get Lost" and "You're All I Want for Christmas" (both recorded by Bing Crosby). "December" was recorded by Count Basie with a Mills Brothers vocal. The Seger Ellis songwriting catalog also includes "No Baby, Nobody But You" and "You Be You but Let Me Be Me". - Seger Ellis gradually retired and took up residence in Houston where he died in a retirement home on September 29, 1995.

Birth and Death Data: Born 1906 (Houston), Died Houston

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1925 - 1937

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist, piano, composer, arranger, speaker, leader, songwriter

Notes: The pseudonym, Arthur Terry, was used by both Seger Ellis and Smith Ballew.

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 229 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-32100 10-in. 3/17/1925 You'll want me back someday Lloyd Finlay ; Lloyd Finlay Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor B-32101 10-in. 3/17/1925 Mysterious blues Lloyd Finlay ; Lloyd Finlay Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, piano  
Victor B-32104 10-in. 3/18/1925 Fiddlin' blues Lloyd Finlay ; Lloyd Finlay Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, piano  
Victor B-32105 10-in. 3/18/1925 Mamma (Won't you come and ma-ma me) Lloyd Finlay ; Lloyd Finlay Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor B-32106 10-in. 3/18/1925 Prairie blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-32106 10-in. 8/10/1925 Prairie blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor B-32107 10-in. 3/18/1925 Sweet lovable you Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33214 10-in. 8/10/1925 Sentimental blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33215 10-in. 8/10/1925 Freight yard blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33216 10-in. 8/10/1925 Ash can blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33217 10-in. 8/11/1925 Sleepy blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33218 10-in. 8/11/1925 Discarded blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33219 10-in. 8/11/1925 Black and blue blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33220 10-in. 8/11/1925 High valued mamma, papa's gonna low rate you blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33221 10-in. 8/11/1925 Bally hoo blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-33222 10-in. 8/12/1925 Poke along blues Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, arranger  
Victor BVE-34550 10-in. 8/12/1925 You'll want me back someday Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Victor BVE-49635 10-in. 1/11/1929 O! What a night to love George Olsen and his Music Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor BVE-[Unnumbered 1925-08-12-01] 10-in. 8/12/1925 Mamma! Won't you come and ma-ma me? Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano, composer  
Columbia W140584 10-in. 5/5/1925 Mamma (Won't you come and ma-ma me) Fletcher Henderson’s Hot Six ; Maggie Jones Female vocal solo ("blues singer"), with jazz/dance band composer  
Columbia W142891 10-in. 10/29/1926 Take it easy blues Seger Ellis Piano solo composer, instrumentalist, piano  
Columbia W142892 10-in. 10/29/1926 Brainstorm blues Seger Ellis Piano solo composer, instrumentalist, piano  
Columbia W142893 10-in. 10/29/1926 Oh boy and how! Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with piano composer, vocalist, instrumentalist, piano  
Columbia W142894 10-in. 10/29/1926 Don't you know? Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with piano composer, vocalist, instrumentalist, piano  
Columbia W142910 10-in. 11/4/1926 Sunday Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with piano vocalist, instrumentalist, piano  
(Results 1-25 of 229 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Ellis, Seger," accessed October 20, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108317.

Ellis, Seger. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108317.

"Ellis, Seger." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 20 October 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108317

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