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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 September 29, 1995 (Houston)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1925 - 1948

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 are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 101-125 of 245 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
OKeh W400605 10-in. 4/11/1928 If I can't have you (I want to be lonesome, I want to be blue) Seger Ellis ; Okeh Novelty Orchestra Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance ensemble vocalist  
OKeh W400606 10-in. 4/11/1928 Coquette Seger Ellis ; Okeh Novelty Orchestra Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance ensemble vocalist  
OKeh W400607 10-in. 4/11/1928 I must be dreaming Seger Ellis ; Okeh Novelty Orchestra Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance ensemble vocalist  
OKeh W400633 10-in. 4/24/1928 Indian cradle song Dorsey Brothers Orchestra ; Seger Ellis Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W400634 10-in. 4/24/1928 My melancholy baby Dorsey Brothers Orchestra ; Seger Ellis Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W400670 10-in. 5/15/1928 Sweet Sue—just you Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
OKeh W400671 10-in. 5/15/1928 Chloe Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
OKeh W400672 10-in. 5/15/1928 Beloved Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
OKeh W400769 10-in. 6/8/1928 I can't give you anything but love Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble vocalist  
OKeh W400770 10-in. 6/8/1928 Don't keep me in the dark, bright eyes Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble vocalist  
OKeh W400830 10-in. 6/26/1928 I wonder The Royal Music Makers Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W400831 10-in. 6/26/1928 Beloved Seger Ellis ; Joe Green ; Royal Music Makers Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401051 10-in. 8/2/1928 Drizzle, drizzle, the party's a fizzle (Oh! What a night to love) Dick Robertson ; Ed Smalle Male vocal duet, with piano composer  
OKeh W401067 10-in. 8/17/1928 Out of the dawn Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance quintet vocalist  
OKeh W401068 10-in. 8/17/1928 Come back, Chiquita Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance quintet vocalist  
OKeh W401094 10-in. 8/31/1928 A blind mother's prayer Bud Blue Male vocal solo, with instrumental trio vocalist  
OKeh W401095 10-in. 8/31/1928 Wreck of the Chicago-New Orleans Special No. 3 Bud Blue Male vocal solo, with instrumental trio vocalist  
OKeh W401126 10-in. 9/17/1928 Angela mia Emil Velazco Pipe organ, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401127 10-in. 9/17/1928 Jeannine, I dream of lilac time Richard Jordon Pipe organ solo, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401128 10-in. 9/19/1928 Revenge Seger Ellis ; Justin Ring Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401129 10-in. 9/19/1928 Dolores Seger Ellis ; Justin Ring Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401130 10-in. 9/19/1928 Twelve o'clock waltz Seger Ellis ; Justin Ring Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
OKeh W401143 10-in. 9/18/1928 Sentimental baby Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with violin and piano vocalist  
OKeh W401144 10-in. 9/25/1928 Beggars of life Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist  
OKeh W401163 10-in. 9/28/1928 My window of dreams Seger Ellis ; Southern Melody Artists [Lou Gold Orchestra] Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
(Results 101-125 of 245 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Ellis, Seger," accessed January 27, 2023, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108317.

Ellis, Seger. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108317.

"Ellis, Seger." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 27 January 2023.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

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

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