Ragtime · Blues · Hot Piano
“Kansas City Frank” Melrose

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 played by “Kansas City Frank” Melrose


Early in 2000 I had the great pleasure of corresponding with Ida Melrose Shoufler, Frank Melrose’s surviving daughter. The link and friendship with her continues and she is keen to provide detailed information about her father. Although Ida was only two years of age when Frank tragically died, both she and Frank’s wife, Frances Sacerich constantly reminisced about him. With the assistance of Ida and noted California drummer Hal Smith, together with archived documents of the late Dr. John Steiner and Pete Daily — here is the Frank Melrose chronicle.

Franklyn Taft Melrose was born in Sumner, Illinois, on 26th November 1907. He was the third son born to Frank H. and Mollie Melrose. He also had a younger brother Lee and sisters Muriel, Mamie, and Belle. In 1918 his two elder brothers, Walter and Lester went into partnership with M. L. Blumenthal, better known as Marty Bloom, to form The Melrose Brothers Music Company. There is no evidence that Frank had any business connections with the company.

Frank attended Bridgeport Township High School where he attained high academic marks in all subjects. Classes attended included, English 1 and 2, Latin 1 and 2, algebra, geometry, ancient history, medieval history, modern history and orchestra. Frank’s first instrument was the violin, which he took up at the age of six or seven. He received formal tutelage from a music teacher and he quickly became very proficient on this instrument. So much so, that when he was about ten years old he represented his district at a violin contest in St. Louis. At sixteen, he was class President of his school.

© 2000 Mike Meddings


click to enlarge photograph of Ida Melrose Shoufler

Personal Recollections

by Ida Melrose Shoufler

Mom said that in the early 1930s when there was work, my Dad would stay anywhere there was access to a piano. When there wasn’t work he would go to his parent’s home in Hazelcrest for a while. In 1933 and 1934 he and my mother both lived at the same rooming house in South Chicago. It was on Greenbay Avenue, next to Sam’s Roadhouse, where they both worked. The lady that owned the rooming house was Rose Marsky. She had a piano that she let my dad use for practice. According to my mother, Rose went the extra mile for my Dad many times because she thought him a special person.

In 1935, after some really nasty apartments, they found a place at 4403 Wabash Avenue in Hammond, Indiana. Mom described this as another dump. But they cleaned it up and made it home. It was a house, not an apartment, where they had more room and privacy. A place where other musicians could come and have their “jam sessions” without worrying about disturbing the neighbors.

My sister Francene, my brother Franklin and myself, were all born in that house. One of the reasons my dad went to work as a machinist was to make more money so they could improve their home and have a better life style. They did in fact order several things for the home from a catalog to make the house a “home”. The items they ordered came one week after my father died. It always made my mother tear up when she spoke of this.

She also told me that when my father wasn’t working and there weren’t musicians at the house, my dad would give piano and violin lessons to any kid that really showed interest, whether they had the money to pay him or not. I also remember seeing an article that my mother had for years about my dad giving free lessons to the under-privileged kids in the Hammond and Gary area. Unfortunately I have no idea where that article is now.

My mother told me about my dad and Jelly Roll Morton going to check out pianos, and records together. Also Jelly had visited their home in Hammond and that my dad considered him a good friend.

How nice it is to be able to share what knowledge I do have about my father. When my sister Francene was alive we sat for hours playing our father’s kind of music. We both played piano and were self-taught. Our mother also played and after hearing my Dad play, I can see where my mother’s style came from. My sister played for different clubs and lounges in this area for several years before her untimely death. I wish my Dad could have lived to see this.

Back to the Sam subject now. It was, according to my mother and the article by John Steiner, a “Dine and Dance” roadhouse on Greenbay Avenue in South Chicago. This is where my Mom and Dad met. They both lived at a rooming house next door that belonged to a lady named Rose Marsky. My Mom always spoke of her so fondly because she said that Rose more or less watched out for both her and my Dad. She even got a piano so my dad could practice when he wasn’t working. This was in the winter of 1933. They got married on Good Friday, 1934, in Crown Point, Indiana.

My sister Francene was born in 1935, brother Franklin 1936, and then me in 1939. Francene had some memory of our father and those memories, which were evidence of how much our father loved us all. She passed away in 1993 . . . death from a ruptured appendix. My brother Franklin drowned in 1954 . . . he was only 18. My Mom lived with me for the last 10 years of her life and I lost her Christmas Eve, 1997. She was 81 years old but could still play a mean piano, and sing the blues like you wouldn’t believe. Can you imagine how great it would have been if my father had lived and I would have twice the music in my life. Thanks to people like Prof. Lawrence Gushee, Hal Smith and you I have not really lost it all.

I can vaguely remember my Uncle Lee and I do remember my mother telling me that he played the accordion. Here’s another bit of news that you may not know. On a tape that John Steiner sent me, which was recorded in the 1930s in New York for Columbia, my mother, Fran Melrose recorded the last song. She played piano and did the vocal.

As to my father’s name . . . he was addressed as Frank Melrose. However, before my mother passed away she commented that the correct spelling was Franklyn. They chose to spell my brother’s name as Franklin.

My mom lived long enough to see the things I received and to hear the music and we shared them with a lot of joy and emotion. My sister and brother, Francene and Franklin, both died at young ages, so I was blessed to have Mom here to share in my excitement.

My father started teaching my sister Francene the fundamentals of the piano when she was 5 years old. He delighted in the fact that she was a quick learner and she loved those lessons. I’d like to think that maybe he knew that she continued to play what she had learned from him, and when she grew older was considered a very talented pianist. She played in several lounges and clubs in the Central Illinois area. She died at the early age of 58, never knowing that there was recorded music by my Dad that would eventually be available to us.

© 2000 Ida Melrose Shoufler

Ida Melrose Shoufler, daughter of Frank Melrose, sends the following rare photograph of her mother, Frances Melrose.


Click to enlarge photograph of Frances Melrose

Frances and Frank Melrose were at Bud Jacobson’s home in Chicago about 1933, when Merritt Jacobson, Bud’s son, took this photograph. Marie Jacobson, Bud’s daughter, was kind enough to give it to Ida in March 2007.

Frances Melrose, a slender, pretty little female, who, according to John Steiner, lived next door to Sam’s club, a dance and dine roadhouse on Greenbay Avenue in South Chicago. On busy nights Sam would hire Frances to help out. Marie Jacobson recalls that it was love at first sight between Frank and Frances.

Note: See also the in-depth article Kansas City Frank by John Steiner, which recalls the meeting of Frances and Frank. Special thanks to Marie Jacobson.

© December 2007 Ida Melrose Shoufler

 Brian Goggin sends the following article for a previously unknown Frank Melrose engagement in Hammond, Indiana from The Hammond Times, dated Friday, 10th March 1939, page 16, column 6.

The Hammond Times

PTA News


One of the most interesting meetings of the year was held Thursday afternoon by the Hammond Lincoln school PTA.

The program arranged by Mrs. Kellen included a talk by Miss Doris Keane of the Hammond radio station. Her remarks on the radio as a medium of community aid and convenience were enlightening and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The musical part of the entertainment was through the courtesy of the Works Progress Administration and included piano selections and a violin solo by Frank Melrose and selections on the piano accordion by John Schelfo. Both are good musicians whose performances were appreciated by the audience.

This month the parents were the guests of the teachers. Dainty refreshments were served in the auditorium. Green candles and a matching centerpiece decorated the table for the month St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated. Miss Wilke’s room won the attendance prize for this month.

 Brian Goggin sends the following article for a previously unknown Frank Melrose engagement in Hammond, Indiana from The Hammond Times, dated Thursday, 16th March 1939, page 11, column 3.

The Hammond Times

Here and There
In Society

PTA News


Motorcycle officer and school patrol boy leader, Joseph Norbeck, spoke on the subject, “Stop, Look and Listen” at the regular meeting of the Riverside PTA Wednesday evening. Mr. Norbeck emphasized the fact that we, the adults, are more in need of a safety education program than the children, as they are taught and made safety conscious in the schools.

In connection with this subject, a safety play was presented by the children of room No. 8 under the direction of their teacher, Miss Small.

An excellent musical program was given by Frank Melrose and John Schelfo, instructor of music under the recreation plan of the works progress administration at the Civic Center. Their renditions were as follows:

Duets, Frank Melrose, piano and violin; John Schelfo, piano-accorddion (accordion) and saxophone: “Rapass (Repasz) Band March,” “The Waltz You Saved for Me.”

Solos, John Schelfo, “Whispering,” “Neapolitan Nights” and “Wave the Flag.”

Solos, Frank Melrose, “Star Dust” and “Valse Petite.”

Tap dance, Dorothy Ellen CoVault, accompanied by Nila Thornberry.

Readings, Evelyn Jarvis, “Spoiled Children” and “Little Girl’s Secret.”

At the close of the meeting an informal gathering was enjoyed. Refreshments were served by an able committee.

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following article from Down Beat, dated 1st March 1940, Vol. 7, No. 5, page 20, column 3.

Down Beat

New (But Old Style) Chicago Band
Features a Hot Banjo!!


Chicago — An outfit of seven guys is playing a sort of jazz around here that would knock Chicago style enthusiasts right out from under their tops. They go Muggsy Spanier one better in using a banjo, and they’ve dug up a library of old Jelly-Roll Morton things and Elmer Schoebel arrangements that were published by Melrose here years ago. There are no other copies of the arrangements to be found anywhere, they tell me.

The tunes include Feelin’ That Way (which Tony Pastor’s band just recorded under the title Watchin’ the Clock), Shreveport Stomps, Roll Up the Carpets, Tampeekoe, Russian Rag and Jungle Blues, besides a couple dozen more.

“Trip-Hammer Rhythm”

Pete Daily, fronting the bunch on trumpet, gets that rhythmic drive in his lead that so few guys seem able to find today. LeRoy Smith is playing E-flat clarinet and can be listed as one of the few fine Chicago style purists left today.

Jack Daly on banjo gives the combo a wonderfully true-to-the-period trip-hammer rhythm that not even Muggsy’s band got. Frank Melrose, who has been playing fine blues for years, although nobody knows it, is on piano. A member of the Melrose publishing family, Frank provided the library for the group.

Muggsy’s bassist, Bob Casey, was with this bunch until recently, when he was offered a job with a strolling combo in Aurora. (Of course this Daily band doesn’t have a job). Bob was replaced by Willie Sherman. Bill Helgart on trombone feels the tradition with his fill-ins and ground floor effects, and Harold “Sleepy” Kaplan fits right in on drums.

Maybe They’ll Find Work

To say that June Davis with the band sounds like Billie Holiday would be the ultimate in understatement. You don’t realize there are so many fine individual nuances to Holidays’s singing until this Davis gal reveals them in her work. It seems that her subtlety with them is every bit equal to Billie’s too, but it’s the very idea of another gal performing them that makes them stand out so. She’s really got it.

As I say, this outfit isn’t working (not at press time anyway). Maybe they’ll find some spot where the kind of stuff they play will be tolerated. Maybe they won’t. In case they don’t, Frank Lyons of Chicago has a couple of private records they made. Maybe he’ll let you hear them if you ask real nice.

 played by “Kansas City Frank” Melrose

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from Down Beat, dated Thursday, 15th August 1940, Vol. 7, No. 16.

Down Beat


Melrose Was
Mistaken for
Jelly Morton


“The Kansas City Frank” who was always thought to be Jelly Roll Morton is Frank Melrose!

Verification of that was made last week in the Yes Yes Club on Chicago’s State Street where Frank, piano playing member of the famous Melrose publishing family, now taps the keys. Melrose acknowledged he is the “Kansas City Frank” of early record fame.

Collectors and even Delaunay have long credited Morton with Brunswick 7062 Jelly Roll Stomp and Pass the Jug (both Melrose’s own tunes) because Jelly’s name appears.

Melrose was working at the old Cellar Club in Chicago when the Cellar Boys waxed Wailing Blues and Barrel House Stomp. He played piano on the two now-famous with Wingie, Tesch, Freeman and Wettling, on Vocalion 1503.

There was another Wailing Blues date in Chicago with a different group which included, besides Frank Melrose, an all-Negro lineup with Jimmy Bertrand on drums. This came out on Paramount 12898 under the title “Kansas City Frank and his Footwarmers.” Wailing Blues (21469) and St. James Infirmary (21470). Same sides appeared on Broadway 1355 under the name of “Harry’s Reckless Five.”

Frank went to New York with a troupe to record around 1930 and made the following piano solos: Market Street Jive (9602); Piano Breakdown (9608); Whoopie Stomp (9609) and Distant Moan (9620), according to information found by George Avakian in the old Brunswick files and verified by Melrose himself.

Frank remembers recording Shanghai Honeymoon with Darnell Howard, clary, and Jimmy Bertrand, drums, for Brunswick. This and the already-mentioned piano sides have not turned up and may not have been released. Frank recalls record dates with Johnny and Baby Dodds. Two tunes owned by the Melrose people are Kentucky Blues (Frank Melrose) and Barrel House Stomp (Lester Melrose) as well as many others. Frank lately has been rehearsing with the fine Pete Dailey (Daily) band, which features a banjo, in Chicago — a real “old ragtime” group.

Note: Frank Melrose, the younger brother of Chicago music publishers Walter and Lester Melrose, was probably the first white pianist to come under the spell of Jelly Roll Morton.

Hal Smith sends the following article, which was first published in the Piano Jazz magazine, No. 1, pages 5—10. Jazz Sociological Society of London, 1945.

Kansas City Frank
by John Steiner

Hal Smith sends the following article, which was first published in the Piano Jazz magazine, No. 1, pages 10—12. Jazz Sociological Society of London, 1945.


Barrelhouse Frank Melrose

Chicago Trumpeter Tells of Last Days of Famous Chicago
Blues Pianist; Last of the Professors


I had heard about the pianist Frank Melrose by 1930. Both of us lived near Hammond, but because he played up in Chicago or in Kansas City, he wasn’t home much, I didn’t meet him until later. Fellow musicians made a legend of his terrific piano style. It was in about 1932 that we worked together for the first time on a gig in Hegewisch. I started the job on bass horn, but before half the evening was over our trumpet man went blotto, so I finished the night on his instrument. Little details of that job are clear in mind. I recall as if it happened yesterday how Frank played even beyond his reputation — a solid and beautiful barrelhouse piano. He wore a brown suit; his straw hat was crown up on the upright lid. He played with his hands high over the keyboard, like a classical man; his fingers walked around like spider legs.

Afterwards we were on a lot of weekend gigs together. Whenever I got a job or could suggest personnel, Frank it was on piano. Evidently he was satisfied with my horn because he used to call me for work too, perhaps even oftener than I called him. One night in the summer of 1933 Frank and I went to the Fair in Chicago, and then when it closed, to some spots on the Southside. At one place Frank heard a good sounding piano. He pushed a fumbling black kid off the stool and we took over for about six hours. Along about daylight five Indians arrived from one of the Fair’s sideshows. I guess Frank didn’t realize about Indians and firewater when he said, sure, they could use our jug. When the quart was gone, we got some more. Soon the chief went mildly nuts and insisted on marrying a dizzy frump who had come in and had started giving them the routine. Frank wanted everybody happy, so he put his coat on backwards and married the couple with a phone book. Last we saw they were blissful.

By 1935 we were pretty regularly together. There were several weeks at Johnny Nichols’ in Calumet City with Owen Johnson drums and a Joe Sullivan reeds. At Nichols’ we celebrated like New Year’s Eve on the night when Frank’s first child, Franklin Jr., was born.

In 1932 we had a pretty good stay at the Continental Club in Cal City. Nick Nicholas was on drums, Dooney Ward clarinet. During this time my eyesight failed completely for several months. The fellows had to pick me up at home to take me to the job, and then lead me to the stand and afterwards down again and home. Sometimes they came during the day and we’d talk or walk or listen to the radio.

Frank’s playing had kids and young musicians packing around the stand every night. He killed them and us with his unpredictable breaks, wild solo choruses, and the piano burlesques he’d do with a straight face. One of his tricks reminded me of the drunken dance where the dancer begins to lean and then runs to catch up with himself, but finally too late. Frank would play a staggering arpeggio or chromatic chords, getting farther and farther off the beam, and finally as if ‘What the Hell’, he crashed both arms down on the keyboard. Two beats and away he’d go again. During my blind spell I couldn’t see the crowd that applauded Frank’s solos, but it made me feel good inside. He was my boy. I was getting an idea like religion that everything in spiritual life was in good jazz and that we were almost over the hill, almost we were playing perfect jazz. The joint jobs were more fun for us than anything that happened since, still there was something more we wanted.

By 1935 we had begun to shape in our minds a dream band, an outfit that would stick together until it was perfect, playing jazz, ragtime, and blues. Jack Daley (Daly), who sometimes came in on piano when Frank couldn’t, had the same slant. But he knew Frank was the man for piano, so he concentrated on his banjo. When we talked about the dream band we considered the fellows we had worked with. Some of them seemed consistently better than anybody on records; conceitedly perhaps we didn’t bother with anybody outside the Chicago area to get exactly what we wanted. Just as any jazzman whom we had learned to know on records, our boys made mistakes, but in the dream we had cured their errors or rehearsed away their shortcomings. And honest to God, it finally worked out that way, John.

Sleepy Kaplan became our drummer (he’s at a place on North Avenue now); LeRoy Smith clarinet (he was last heard from on Bataan). Bill Helgert was trombone (now in Boyd Raeburn’s outfit at the Band Box in Chicago). Bill Moore was on bass. All of us had the Blues and Dixieland spirit. It was Frank’s library which we used, and in a short time we began to find that as well as on the Blues and two-beat jazz we were sold on Frank’s versions of breakdown ragtime tunes like Russian Rag, The Romp, Wild Cat, and Roll Up The Carpets. Frank gave us the ragtime urge by showing us what could be done with it. I’ve listened to every ragtime band that has come out on records, and to dozens which haven’t. None of them could compare with ours, I honestly believe. Maybe Frank was the only man who ever lived who knew all the secrets. Some day I hope I can get with a group that will make that kind of music again. You’ll learn then what I’m talking about.

For a while we held Wednesday rehearsals at the Chelsea Hotel where a gang besides our own would collect and listen: when we were through rehearsals everyone would sit in for jam. Fazola once told me, when playing with us on a post-rehearsal session, “Pete, if anything should happen to LeRoy, remember I wanna.”

It didn’t occur to me until later, that I had neglected to tell Fazola that our spirit stemmed from the results Frank drew out of us with the same kind of natural ease Jelly Roll had used in shaping his groups. When recently I heard Lu Watters band I recognized from their first note that their greatest deficiency was a Frank Melrose, someone who could dominate and mold the group into musical unity. Louis, Muggsy, Fats and Noone have done it.

For two reasons this was a group like nothing commercial. First, because we couldn’t wait for rehearsals (we even got together on Sunday afternoons); second, we couldn’t get jobs. Once when we did manage to snag an Irish picnic up on the North side, a priest who apparently knew all things righteous asked for Georgia Swing. That was No. 19 in our books. But you may be able to imagine how rushed for jobs we were not, playing full programs of Georgia Swing, Gary Blues, Bluisiana, Sweet Daddy, 69th and Wentworth, Have You Ever Felt that Way, and rags. Nearly we got in the Sherman Hotel — nearly. Even though nobody hired us, there were a lot of good people who knew what we were doing and said so, and gave us confidence. “Hummer” Collette, now with Columbia’s Chicago Studios, was then at Gamble’s recording laboratory. After hearing us, he invited us to use Gamble’s sound-treated rooms and good pianos. As we played he would often copy things down on record. Frank Lyons came over from his brokerage office on LaSalle Street to listen and to buy copies of what he liked best. When Hummer left Gamble, Frank bought all the copies we fellows in the band hadn’t wheedled away. Some I have still, kind of ragged now — Wild Cat, D. D. Strain, and a piano solo.

In 1936 and ’37 Frank and I sat in many times with Lee Collins’ band at the Derby Club. Lonnie Johnson was for a time in the outfit and he gave Frank such kicks with his 12-string concert guitar that we never would quit until everybody had dropped out dead drunk or dead tired. I don’t suppose Frank admired any musician more than Lonnie except Jelly.

Here are some incidental data. About the time of the Chicago Fair, Frank played with Max Miller’s outfit at Club Ultra, 39th and Cottage. Frank’s recording of Whoopee Stomp on Paramount is really Boy In The Boat, which was always one of his favorites. Wherever a piano can be heard on the Kansas City Tin Roof Stompers sides for Brunswick race series, it is Frank. He may not have played on all sides, since I cannot hear piano at all on two of them. I am positive that Frank was a pianist on the 6 Memphis Nighthawk sides for Vocalion.

It was about 1937 that Frank and Georgie Barnes worked for the winter at the Little Club in Hammond. Georgie was about sixteen, and his father brought him to work and then called for him about midnight. Papa would sit around a while if they were really hitting the ball, or if a session had developed. No wonder Georgie has always worshipped Frank — you should have seen how, if business was dull, they would spend entire evenings on jazz rudiments. Frank enjoyed teaching earnest youngsters who showed promise.

One of the Detroit characters figuring in his reminiscences was a hoodlum who flashed a gun when Frank made like intermission. After bullying Frank for three hours, friend hood would clear up his little joke with a $10 tip.

There were some things about that Sunday before Labor Day 1941, the day before Frank’s death, you left unsaid. Late on Sunday morning, Frank came to our apartment in the Windsor-Wilson. My wife, Faye, helped him fix a bite, and then I sent him to the davenport to nap for a few hours. After rolling out, he played with our kids until dinner — that was unusual for Frank. I never before saw him show such interest in any children except his own. Frank was jubilant about the prosperity his machinist’s job was to bring. Faye caught the mood and celebrated by preparing a whoppin’ chicken dinner. That early evening, while I played a society fray at the Sheridan Plaza, Frank went to the Espana to see Max Miller, Sleepy, and Clary Vern Joachim. (I had been playing with the boys up to the previous week or so, but because business slumped, the boss had to lay off first our singer, then the brass section; within another few weeks chronic slumping killed the spot). After short stops in several spots, he came back at 11:30 p.m., in a hurry to make the one o’clock South Shore train to Hammond. I remember Frank saying that on the Saturday night previous he had been down to the Southside looking for some of the old familiar ‘barbecue gang’ around 48th and State. None were around. He mentioned that he wanted to try again when he had more time but tonight he had too little money left and time was short. I repeated this comment at the inquest after his death. As I said goodbye, I told him that I would stop off at the Melrose cottage on my way back from Crown Point, where I had a job the next night. I left him at Wilson Avenue.

Some of us said at the inquest that many circumstances of his death smelled fishy. Frank had no business at 135th (130th) and Oglesby, where his body was found; it was a lonely place only indirectly on his way home. Although bruised as if a car had run over him, Frank’s face had a long, clean cut below the left ear. His watch was not damaged. Nothing remained in his billfold but his Social Security card. Nobody knows.

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from the Pickup magazine, dated April 1946, Vol. I, No. 4, pages 2—3.


The Record Collector’s Guide



On first receiving the 1943 edition of Delaunay’s “Hot Discography” the first section I turned to was Jelly-Roll Morton, to see if the same error existed as in the 1938 edition, i.e., the inclusion of “Jelly-Roll Stomp” / “Pass the Jug” on American Brunswick 7062 — rather to my surprise I found that it still does. It has, of course, since 1938 become well known that in reality this is Frank Melrose, and the disc has been re-issued by American Brunswick on 80031 under the name of “Frank Melrose” (Kansas City Frank) the unknown drummer referred to by Delaunay being Tommy Taylor. The fact that this disc was for so many years credited to the one and only Jelly-Roll is sufficient to guarantee the power and directness, and relaxed tempo of this comparatively unsung pianist, surely one of the finest barrel-house men in the game.

Born Franklyn Taft Melrose at Sumner, Illinois in 1907 he began first to study the violin, but fairly early abandoned this for piano, and was soon much attracted by the rags and blues of Jelly-Roll, Clarence Williams and others. For a time Melrose had a lean time in Chicago, though he recorded with the Cellar Boys in 1929, when the sides on Vocalion 1503, later re-issued on HRS and UHCA materialized. This coupling, “Barrel House Stomp” / “Wailing Blues,” had Wingy Mannone (Manone), Teschmacher (Teschemacher), Bud Freeman, and Wettling in addition to Frank, though probably the personnel of the Cellar Boys varied considerably, as the Cellar was a barrel-house which featured jazz sessions after hours.

His fortunes probably underwent a change for the better after this period, and the presence of Hodes, Sullivan, and a host of fine piano-men stimulated him. He also became acquainted with Jelly-Roll Morton about this time, and the two men saw much of each other and played together frequently.

Frank spent much time playing mainly solo at many dives and speakeasies. During 1931 he worked at a typical Prohibition joint called the Grill with Bud Jacobson, and although it was the usual type of place, complete with gangsters, hooch-pedlars (peddlers) and other things, he seems to have been happy enough, and in congenial surroundings, with a boss who knew the real thing when he heard it. A place at Bucktown however, appears to have been responsible for making the Melrose name better known. At this spot toughs of every description abounded and just about every type of vice was rampant. Killings were not much out of the common, but just about all the white musicians in Chicago jammed in there often.

At the World’s Fair, Chicago, 1933-1934, Frank, with Jacobson and a quickly-changing personnel and sitters-in, played around the Fair. Also, at this time, he played many spots, including the 101 Club, Sam’s, a road-house, in South Chicago, where incidentally he first met the girl who was to become his wife. After this he began to work more and more solo spots outside Chicago, and finally moved to Hammond with his wife. There his home began to be filled with hot men, though after a while it became apparent that the relatively small town could not offer sufficient work, and in 1938 he had to take up teaching to provide for his wife and children. He still jobbed around with the boys when opportunity offered, and played solo at odd spots.

Then, in 1940, along came the Signature date with the Jungle Kings, Carl Rinker (cornet), Bud Jacobson (clarinet), Bud Hunter (tenor), Joe Rushton (bass-sax), and Earl Wiley (drums). The first date flopped, but afterwards (Bob) Thiele re-assembled the musicians, and recorded them. Some of the most exciting Chicagoan music ever waxed resulted, “Clarinet Marmalade” being especially fine. On this side it is worthy of note that there are three clarinet solos in succession, the first by Jacobson, second by Hunter, and last by Rushton. Perhaps the best side to show up Frank’s piano work, however, is “Opus One, Sans Melodie” (Opus #1, Sans Melody) on which he is extensively featured.

With the war, Frank began to work at a munitions plant as a machinist, and most of his playing had to go. On Labour Day, 1941, Frank left for Chicago to visit his old haunts for the first time in many months, he visited Jacobson, and played at Liberty Inn with Boyce Brown. Going down to South Side with Pete Daley (Daily) they got into a fight and were parted. Frank’s body was later found near Hammond. Thus ended the career of a really outstanding player, an end which to this day seems to have remained something of a mystery.

Of his records, “Jelly Roll Stomp” was made for Gennett, four solos reputedly for the American Record Co., “Market Street Jive,” “Whoopee Stomp,” “Piano Breakdown,” and “Distant Moan,” but the last four were never issued. Paramount recorded “Rock My Soul” and “Whoopee Stomp” under the pseudonym of Broadway Rastus. Then came the Brunswick “Jelly Roll Stomp” and Pass the Jug” about 1931 (1929). Around this time also, came the sides named in the Mannone (Manone) section of “Hot Discography” — “St. James Infirmary” and “Wailing Blues” on Paramount as Kansas City Frank and his Footwarmers, and on Broadway as Harry’s Reckless Five. It is thought these include Jimmy Bertrand on drums. Apart from the Signature Jungle Kings date, this is all apart from private recordings.

As regards Frank’s last days, I find two references to these in Jazz Information. It appears, according to John Steiner, writing in that paper, that he was playing at the Sportsman on Chicago’s South Side occasionally up to September, 1940. Also, around that time Steiner reports, again in Jazz Information, that Frank Lyons had privately recorded the Silver Slipper band featuring Melrose, and there was talk of building up a record date using musicians from that band, around a rhythm section held down by Frank Melrose. That, however, was not to be.

 played by “Kansas City Frank” Melrose

Bill Haesler sends the following article from the Playback magazine, dated Oct.—Nov. 1949, Vol. 2, No. 10, page 14, columns 1—2.

Playback - Incorporating The Jazzfinder

Mystery Record Identified



Sparkling-eyed old-timer Walter Melrose is a warehouse of jazz information. Of course he should be, having been a jazz publisher and talent promoter since the days of the N.O.R.K. and Oliver, with whom he composed or co-published a mass of jazz standards. Walter is the brother of Kansas City Frank and Lester, Victor’s race series supervisor.

In a recent conversation with him regarding Jelly Roll Morton’s Chicago activities, I learned that it was not Jelly on:

Kitty Irvin:
   Ge 5592     Daddy Do

Several of the thorough Jelly collectors had held this item in ‘uncertain’ classification. I had determined several years ago that Volly de Faut was the clarinetist, but the pianist was a bit more difficult. Volly did not hear the record, but he remembered making it and felt positive that the pianist was white.

Yes, Walter remembered arranging the date. The two tunes were being pushed by his Melrose Music Publishers at the time, and he had sold Gennett on lusty singer Kitty Irvin. On the record Walter
played piano himself. And this is his only appearance on record. Add to those influenced by the Jelly piano style: Walter Melrose.

Walter has put me on the track some hitherto unissued Frank Melrose solos cut for the Marsh Studios (agent for Gennett, Autograph, Paramount, etc.)

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following obituary notice from the Chicago Tribune, dated Wednesday, 3rd September 1941, page 12, column 7.

Chicago Tribune

MELROSE — Franklin T. Melrose, age 33 years, residence 4403 Wabash avenue, Hammond, Ind., husband of Frances, father of Franklin Jr., Francine, and Ida May, son of Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Melrose, brother of Lester, Walter, Lee, Mrs. Muriel Donaldson, Mrs. Mamie Smith, and Mrs. Belle Lyons. Funeral Thursday, Sept. 4, at 2:30 p. m., at chapel, Commercial avenue. Interment Mount Hope.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article, which was headlined on the News page of Down Beat, dated 15th September 1941, Vol. 8, No. 18.

Down Beat

Frank Melrose

Struck Down by a hit-and-run driver or by thugs, Chicago blues pianist died at south Chicago within 15 minutes after he was found lying mangled in a south side Chicago street early Labor Day morning. He was the “Kansas City Frank” who played the piano believed for a long time to be Jelly Roll Morton’s on a number of early Brunswick jazz records.

Frank Melrose, Chi Pianist,
Is Found Fatally Injured

Chicago — Frank Melrose, considered by most Chicago musicians who knew or heard him to be one of the finest blues pianists of all time, was found fatally injured lying in a south side street early Labor Day morning.

According to police, who were unable to determine whether he had been struck by a hit-and-run driver or had been assaulted by hoodlums, Melrose was so mutilated as to be identifiable even by his wife, who recognized his coat.

Melrose, who lived in the nearby Indiana town of Hammond, had spent the evening with musicians and friends in the town. Trumpeter Pete Daily and clarinetist Bud Jacobson were among the last to see him alive. Frank left them at about 7 o’clock Labor Day morning, on his way home.

Before he died police heard him mumble “Bud Jacobson,” several times. They phoned Jacobson, whose wife Katherine, informed the Melrose family of the tragedy.

A coroner’s inquest to determine the cause of death was pending at press time.

Typical of the plight of so many truly gifted jazz men, Melrose never seemed able to make a decent living at his art, but occasionally found work playing in taverns and joints of the Calumet region southeast of Chicago.

The last job he had worked on piano was with Joe Sheets at Cedar Lake, Ind. For the month prior to his death he had been employed as a machinist at the Press Steel company at Hegewisch, Ill.

Frank left a wife and three children, girls aged 5, and 2, and four-year old Franklin P., Jr. There was no insurance.

Other survivors are Melrose’s mother and father, three brothers and three sisters.

The deceased was nearing 34 years of age, having been born Nov. 26, 1907, in Sumner, Ill. He was buried at Mount Hope, Ill., Sept. 4.

Alex van der Tuuk sends the following article from the Melody Maker, dated September 1950.

Melody Maker


A monthly reminder by Peter Tanner


Another well-known name in jazz, both as pianist and composer, was Frank Melrose, whose body was found in a road near Chicago on Labour Day 1941.

Franklyn Taft Melrose was born on November 26, 1907. Much of his early life was spent in Kansas City and, under the name of Kansas City Frank, he made a number of recordings, both piano solos and with bands, for the Paramount and Brunswick companies. Best known of these is, perhaps, “Aunt Jemima (Stomp),” “St. Louis Bound” as by The Kansas City Tin Roof Stompers (Brunswick 7066).

Under his own name Frank recorded for Gennett and Varsity, and, during the last years of his life in Chicago, along with Bud Jacobson and Pete Daily, he recorded for Signature and also privately.

 Brian Goggin sends the following article from The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana, dated Tuesday, 2nd August 1955, Vol. 29, No. 25, page 1, column 3.

The Vidette-Messenger

Plan Final
Rites For
River Victim

Funeral services for Franklin Eugene (Freeman) Melrose, 18, whose skeleton was found in the Kankakee river July 12 by three Hebron fishermen will be held Wednesday at the Todd Funeral home in DeMotte.

Deputy Coroner Herman Kosanke officially released the remains at 11 a. m. today after receiving a final identification in affidavit form from the Indiana State police. It was signed by Detective Sgt. Arthur Keller.

However, Kosanke stated that a formal inquest will not be held until he receives written information from Sgt. Charles Davis of the Indiana state police pathology department, who made the positive identification. Sgt. Davis is on vacation at the present time.

Franklin Eugene (Freeman) Melrose was born in Hammond Oct. 14, 1936, and disappeared Nov. 2, 1954, while on a duck hunting expedition. He was the son of Frances and Franklin Melrose. His father was killed in an automobile accident in 1941.

He lived in the Wheatfield area for seven years moving there from Rensselaer. He was graduated from the Wheatfield High school and at the time of his death was employed by the Indiana Steel Products company as a technician.

Surviving besides his mother is his step-father, C. W. Freeman, Gibson City, Ill., five half-sisters, Mrs. Francene Watson, Wheatfield, and Ida Mae (May), Elizabeth Ann, Maxine Evonne, and Carolyn, all of Gibson City, and two half-brothers, Wayne and Dale, also of Gibson City.

The Rev. Eugene Dayka will officiate at the funeral services. Burial will take place in the Wheatfield cemetery. Friends may call at the Todd Funeral home this evening.

Note: Francene Watson and Ida Mae (May) were full-sisters. There were three half-sisters, Elizabeth, Maxine and Donna, and two half-brothers Wayne and Dale. There was no half-sister by the name of Carolyn. [IMS]



Brian Goggin — Letters and information to Mike Meddings, 19th and 21st October 2009.


Ida Melrose Shoufler — Letter and information to Mike Meddings, 27th August 2009.


Gary Atkinson (UK)
Derek Coller (UK)
Adam M. Dubin (USA)
Vera Cheek (USA)
Tom Fischer (USA)
Millie Gaddini (USA)
Brian Goggin (Eire)
Prof. Lawrence Gushee (USA)
Bill Haesler (Australia)
Peter Hanley (Australia)
Christopher Hillman (UK)
Marie Jacobson (USA)

Mike Meddings (UK)
John Morris (Australia)
Luigi Ranalli (Italy)
Roger Richard (France)
Ida Melrose Shoufler (USA)
Hal Smith (USA)
Ed Sprankle (USA)
Mike Tovey (UK)
Alex van der Tuuk (Netherlands)
Prof. Alan Wallace (USA)
Laurie Wright (UK)

e-mail Mike Meddings

please e-mail Mike Meddings
if you can add any additional
documented information about

Frank Melrose

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