[JPL] The mystery of Jelly Roll Pete

Tom Bingham mason2042 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 18 13:23:17 EST 2005

I'm sending this out to multiple lists, thinking that perhaps someone in the
media or other musicians or just plain music lovers - not necessarily
ragtime fans - might be able to shed light on what has become a surprisingly
hot-topic mystery among many ragtime lovers.
Like many others trying to figure out who this fellow is, I've only recently
become aware of Jelly Roll Pete. Apparently, he issued a promo-only CD (or
perhaps it was a demo?) on the Hilarity label about 20 years ago. This CD
has caused a stir of late, what with the upsurge of interest in Jelly Roll
Morton, because JRP (as we'll call him) is (was?) a superb solo pianist in a
style very much like that of Jelly Roll Morton. Even when doing songs not
recorded by Morton (a few of which may be originals), he plays them in a
very Morton-esque style.
The problem is, no one can find out who JRP is. It was speculated he might
be a well-known ragtimer using a pseudonym, but those intimately familiar
with the ragtime world say his style resembles that of no one else on the
scene. Many of the major ragtime pianists have heard the tape, and they
don't know him. My personal theory is that JRP was just some guy, most
likely a non-professional, who played Morton-esque piano incredibly well,
and was hoping to use this promo CD to further his career. But it cannot be
ascertained whether the promo was ever officially released or whether the
Hilarity label existed beyond this one topic.
Has anyone out there in radio land or in the music audience ever encountered
Jelly Roll Pete, know who he is, where he is, how he can be contacted, etc.
There are a lot of people wanting to know.

Tom Bingham
"General Eclectic"
115 McEwen Hall
SUNY Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063

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