J. Lawrence Cook

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Jean Lawrence Cook (July 14, 1899 – April 2, 1976) was the most prolific piano roll artist in history. His output has been estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000 different roll recordings.

Cook was born in Athens, Tennessee, the son of a preacher. He was orphaned before his fourth birthday, and raised by relatives who introduced him to music. He went on to become the most famous name in the history of the music roll industry.

Cook arrived in New York in March 1920 and recorded some rolls for the US Music Roll Company. In May 1923, he was engaged by the QRS Music Roll Company (QRS Records), where he remained for nearly 50 years.

As a result of his prolific output, he also used pseudonyms and some rolls were released under names such as Sid Laney, "Pep" Doyle, and Walter Redding. He also produced some rolls that were marketed as being played by Fats Waller.

Cook was known to produce over two piano rolls each day, along with his other jobs, such as at the B.A.B Organ Company.

J. Lawrence Cook's arranging piano is on display at the American Treasure Tour in Oaks, Pennsylvania.

Work at B.A.B Organ Company[edit]

Cook, along with his piano rolls, also produced band organ rolls for the B.A.B Organ Company. In an interview with Cook in the 1970s, he was the sole arranger for B.A.B, which had produced over 800 master rolls at the time of its closure. Some of Cook's arranging for B.A.B was never released, and is in storage in Virginia City, Montana.

The organ scales that Cook arranged for included, but are not limited to:

  • 46 Key Scale
  • 61 Key Scale (for Artizan D band organs)
  • 66 Key Scale
  • 82 Key Scale
  • 87 Key Scale

Cook's work is identifiable by its switching between the counter melody (trumpet) and melody sections to play the melody, and is also known for 'borrowing' notes from other sections to create a more chromatic scale.

His work has also been transcribed to the Wurlitzer 165 band organ scale by the Play-Rite Music Co. and along with being heard on Artizan and converted band organs, can also be commonly heard on Wurlitzer band organs, such as the Wurlitzer 165 at Glen Echo Park.


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