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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 201-225 of 245 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
OKeh W403886 10-in. 3/28/1930 Exactly like you Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404235 10-in. 6/24/1930 Swingin' in a hammock Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404236 10-in. 6/26/1930 Old New England moon Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404270 10-in. 7/23/1930 Good evenin' Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404271 10-in. 7/23/1930 I wonder how it feels (To be head over heels in love) Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404272 10-in. 7/23/1930 Little white lies Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404273 10-in. 7/23/1930 Confessin' that I love you Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404443 10-in. 9/16/1930 Sleepy-time gal Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404452 10-in. 9/16/1930 What's the use? Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404453 10-in. 9/16/1930 If I could be with you (One hour tonight) Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404516 10-in. 10/30/1930 Body and soul Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404517 10-in. 10/30/1930 Somebody loves me Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404518 10-in. 10/30/1930 Sweet Jennie Lee! Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404525 10-in. 11/3/1930 Sunday Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano  
OKeh W404526 10-in. 11/3/1930 My buddy Seger Ellis Piano solo instrumentalist, piano  
OKeh W404562 10-in. 11/26/1930 Three little words Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404563 10-in. 11/26/1930 You're driving me crazy! (What did I do?) Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404581 10-in. 12/20/1930 Cheerful little earful Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404582 10-in. 12/20/1930 Tears Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404583 10-in. 12/20/1930 You're the one I care for Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
OKeh W404584 10-in. 12/20/1930 I miss a little miss Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band vocalist  
Brunswick E35761 10-in. 12/18/1930 (You’re always sure of) My love for you Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental quintet vocalist  
Brunswick E35762 10-in. 12/18/1930 The little things in life Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental quintet vocalist  
Brunswick E35773 10-in. 12/22/1930 It’s a lonesome old town (When you’re not around) Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental quintet vocalist  
Brunswick E35774 10-in. 12/22/1930 To whom it may concern Seger Ellis Male vocal solo, with instrumental quintet vocalist  
(Results 201-225 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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