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Offered here is a fabulous 1920s era sepia toned 8x10 promotional photo of early jazz vocalist, pianist, and composer from Houston, Texas, Seger Ellis.
The photo has been signed by Mr. Ellis in white fountain pen ink, "To My Friend Charles Morgan, with my best wishes, Seger Ellis."
The photo is in very good condition, showing minor wear and small thumb tack holes in the margins. It is printed on a heavy grade paper.
Although a marginal figure in early jazz history, Seger Ellis' associations with bonafide legends and originators of the artform are undeniable. Here are a few examples:
Seger Ellis' 1929 78rpm single for Okeh "S'posin"/"To Be In Love" featured an all star jazz band that included Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey & Jimmy Dorsey.
Seger Ellis was an early member of the Frankie Trumbauer Orchestra, singing with the various legends of that band including Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti and Pee Wee Russell.
Seger Ellis' composition SHIVERY STOMP is considered a rare classic by the Trumbauer Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke as a soloist.
Seger Ellis was also a vocalist for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (1930s), Paul Ash and His Orchestra (1920s), Paul Whiteman Orchestra (1930s) and he wrote arrangements for Whitey Kaufman's Original Pennsylvania Serenaders (1920s). His wife, Irene Taylor, was the first female vocalist hired by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
The compositions of Seger Ellis were recorded by Maggie Jones with Fletcher Henderson (1925), Harry James, Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Gene Krupa, The Trumbauer Orchestra, and many others.
From American Big Band Biographies:
Seger Ellis' career began in 1921 when radio station KPRC (Houston) hired him to broadcast a weekly show of solo piano music. In 1925, Victor Records came to Houston to record the Lloyd Finlay Orchestra. They wanted to record eight sides however Finlay had only four original songs. The Victor representative had brought two new songs with him and to fill in the remaining sides Finlay suggested Seger Ellis be brought in to record with the band. These two songs, "Mama" and "You'll Want Me Back Some Day" so impressed Victor management they brought Ellis to their Camden (NJ) recording studios in August 1925 to record fourteen more songs. They were among the first Victor recordings done using an electric microphone. Although only four were ever released, two became hit records ("Prairie Blues" and "Sentimental Blues").
Shortly after returning to Texas, Columbia asked Ellis to make his first vocal recording. He eventually became OKeh records most popular male vocalist. Many of his Okeh recordings feature jazz arrangements with studio groups that in- cluded Eddie Lang, Mugsy Spanier, Tommy Dorsey, Mannie Klein, Joe Venuti and Louis Armstrong.
In 1930 he was hired to do a nightly show on radio station WLW in Cincinnati. While there he discovered the Mills Brothers and became their first manager.
He went to Hollywood in 1934 to make a few movie shorts and while there was a frequent guest on Paul Whiteman's radio show. In late 1935 he formed his first big band. Instead of the usual reed section the band featured eight brass instuments and one clarinetist. The band became known as "The Choir Of Brass". Spud Murphy did most of the arrangements. Nate Kaziber, who like Murphy would later work with Benny Goodman, was one of the original brass section. Irving Fazola joined as clarinetist in 1937. The band made a series of recordings for Decca and appeared at Hollywood's First Swing Concert (May 1937) along with the Jimmy Dorsey, Earl Hines, Jimmie Grier, Ray Noble and Louis Prima bands. 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. Irene Taylor, his wife, was his female vocalist. She had previously sung with Paul Whitman's band, being the first woman hired by Whiteman.
Ellis devoted the remainder of his music career to 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.
From the All Music Guide:
"You're All I Want for Christmas" is one of the standard songs associated with Seger Ellis, an artist whose striking career also included jazz piano playing, a film appearances alongside the fascinating Ida Lupino and leading an eccentric brass choir. He began tinkling on the keyboard as a boy and was first engaged professionally as a radio performer in Texas in the mid '20s. This is where a roving talent scout from the Victor label heard him, resulting in Seger's first recordings. He was inspired to try a move to New York City, making out quite well there with a new series of sides spotlighting his vocal talents. He toured England in 1928 as a soloist. Ellis revealed yet another talent following a meeting with the popular vocal group the Mills Brothers in Cincinatti. He became the manager of this group for a few years, continuing to perform as a soloist through the '30s. Highlights of this period in which Ellis was in great demand include guest shots with the Paul Whiteman orchestra and the aforementioned film appearance, the 1934 One Rainy Afternoon. Beginning in 1936, Seger spent nearly a year creating music with a group he called the Brass Choir, then assembled something of a more normal instrumental big-band line-up for another group under his leadership. In the early '40s he was briefly in the Army, followed by a stint working in a defence plant. After moving back to Texas he began to be less active as a performer and more involved in the songwriting craft. His Christmas ditty was recorded by the likes of Al Martino, Frankie Laine and Bing Crosby. The Seger Ellis songwriting catalog also includes "No Baby, Nobody But You" and "You Be You but Let Me Be Me".