Sunday, 2 December 2018

Jesse Crawford born 2 December 1895

Jesse Crawford (December 2, 1895 – May 28, 1962), known as "The Poet of the Organ" was an American pianist and organist. He was well known in the 1920s as a theatre organist for silent films 
and as a popular recording artist. In the 1930s, he switched to the Hammond organ and became a freelancer. In the 1940s, he authored instruction books on organ and taught organ lessons.

Crawford's father died when Jesse was one year old, leaving an impoverished wife and mother. She placed the baby in an orphanage asylum near Woodland, California where Jesse taught himself music. By age nine, he was playing a cornet in the orphanage band. At age 14 he left the orphanage to play piano in a small dance band, and then took a job playing piano in a ten-cent-admission silent film house.

His early theatre organ experience was at Washington's Spokane Gem Theater in 1911 and at the Clemmer-owned Casino Theatre (on an eight-rank Estey organ). He next played briefly at theatres in Billings, Montana, Spokane, Washington and Seattle. When he met Oliver Wallace, Crawford learned about the then-new types of theatre organ sounds. Crawford’s next jobs were playing at the Strand in San Francisco and the Mission Theatre in Los Angeles.

In the 1920s, Crawford began forming a fan base and was dubbed the "Poet of the Organ" for his style of playing ballads in Chicago. In 1921, he was employed by the Balaban and Katz theatre chain playing its 29-rank Wurlitzer in the Chicago Theatre. Likewise, Crawford was hired to play a large Wurlitzer organ in Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles.

During the greatest years of his career, Jesse was married to Helen Crawford, herself a fine theatre organist in 1923. The organs in Chicago and New York were equipped with twin consoles so that they could play duets - the New York recording studio also had twin consoles, and a few records feature the husband and wife team playing duets. Helen died after being injured in a road accident in 1943.
After some recordings for the small local Autograph Records label, Crawford made a series of gramophone records for the Victor Records label which proved very popular with record buyers. He had hits such as "Rose Marie", "Valencia", and "Russian Lullaby". Other popular songs included "At Dawning" and "Roses of Picardy".

              Here's "La Estrellita" from above 1950 recording.


With the end of the silent film era, work for theatre organists in movie houses dried up. Crawford played a Kilgen organ at Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair in 1934, and in 1936 he got a job as staff organist in NBC Radio studios in Chicago.

In the 1930s, Crawford switched to the Hammond organ, and began playing engagements across the United States. In addition to his numerous sound recordings, Crawford recorded player organ rolls on the Wurlitzer "R Rolls" system. His own compositions included "Vienna Violins", "Louisiana Nocturn", "Harlem Holiday", and "Hawaiian Honeymoon". Between 1937 and 1940, he appeared with his wife Helen in several Vitaphone short films released by Warner Brothers

In 1940, the self-taught Crawford undertook his first formal music study with Joseph Schillinger, whose other students included George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and movie score composers Leith Stevens and Nathan Van Cleave.

Crawford recorded Hammond organ LPs for Decca Records and worked and began writing, producing sheet music song arrangements for Hammond organ and instruction books. He also taught organ students, both in one-on-one lessons and in class style lessons, where he mostly lectured.

He made many hundreds of 78s on theatre pipe organs, plus many more on Hammond; made several theatre pipe organ LPs in the 1950s using the Lorin Whitney Studio Robert Morton organ in Glendale California. His final LP recordings were made at Richard Simonton's residence organ in Toluca Lake, California.

He died on May 27, 1962 in Los Angeles, California from a cerebral hemorrhage.    (Edited mainly from Wikipedia)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Jesse Crawford – All The Best” go here:

1. Amapola 3:04
2. Until Tomorrow 3:05
3. When Day is Done 3:19
4. You're the Cream In My Coffee 3:05
5. A Precious Little Thing Called Love 3:13
6. After We Kiss 3:11
7. At Dawning 2:36
8. Baby Feet Go Pitter Patter 3:22
9. Confessin' (That I Love You) 3:19
10. Estrellita 3:34
11. Just A Memory 3:01
12. Just a Night for Meditation 3:15
13. Kiss Me Again 3:19
14. La Paloma 3:12
15. Nesting Time 3:22
16. Secreto Eterno 3:15
17. Ting-A-Ling 2:55
18. The Dance Of The Blue Danube 3:08
19. Blue Skies 2:41
20. A Broken Rosary 3:01