(July 4, 1904 in Houston
in Houston, Texas) was a jazz pianist
. 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 KRPC
) 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
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......