BluesTone Music Rolls is not a large operation, but it is a high-quality operation conducted in a professional and ethical manner by yours truly, Rob DeLand. I have a day job and a family to take care of, so sometimes I don't get updates and changes made as quickly as I'd like. But I do ship rolls as quickly as I possibly can, so you will never have to wait very long when you place an order. I have customers all around the world and in over 10 years of business I've never had a lost shipment or a complaint about my workmanship or musical selections.
(NOTE: If you want to read about BluesTone rolls themselves instead of reading about me, continue with All About BluesTone Music Rolls; otherwise read on for the mini-bio!)
My name is Rob DeLand and I live in Grayslake, Illinois - about half-way between Chicago and Milwaukee. I've been interested in player pianos ever since a friend of my dad's restored a footpumper in the early 1960's. Every time we went over to Gerry's house, I'd make a beeline to the footpumper and stay there until we had to go! I started buying rolls in 1978, at which time I discovered & joined AMICA & MBSI (see links to these fine organizations). I discovered reproducing pianos and rediscovered my love for classical piano by close listening to reproducing rolls, primarily in the collections of Chicago area collectors like Jerry Biasella and (then "Chicago Bob", now "Columbia Bob") Bob Taylor.
Up to that point popular (particularly ragtime & blues) rolls were my primary interest. I started buying recuts of hot piano rolls in mail-order roll auctions such as Mike Schwimmer's, and I realized how many more great rolls were out there than I had ever imagined. I was frustrated that I could read about (and occasionally hear) so much good music, but the only way I could actually own a copy of the roll was to wait for an older recut to show up on a mail-order roll auction, or to hope somebody else would eventually recut it - and new recuts of this type of music were rather few and far between.
In the mid-1980's I compiled a complete list of QRS Autograph rolls (QRS Autograph rolls were introduced in 1912 and were the first hand-played rolls issued by that firm; QRS word rolls were first issued in 1916). Through this project I made the acquiantance of the people who became my music roll mentors: Mike Schwimmer, Richard Riley, Ed Sprankle, Mike Montgomery, Trebor Tichenor, and Richard Howe. This is one of the finest group of friends one could ever hope to meet. This hobby wouldn't be nearly as interesting if it weren't for such good friends as these and many other friends and customers who share this interest. Then I was really hooked!
I met Ed Sprankle during a business trip to San Francisco while working on the QRS Autograph Rollography. Ed had recut rolls for a few years previously on his Echoes label, and he played some of his favorites for me - this was the first time I had heard most of them. I asked if any were available for sale, and he said no, not any more. I asked why he didn't make more recuts, and in his typical, straightforward manner, he said "why don't YOU?!!" And that's when I decided to make my own recuts. My first BluesTone list came out in the spring of 1988. In 1994 I added Ampico, Duo-Art, Welte, and Automatic rolls to my lists - including both hot music and classical reproducing rolls.
I was fortunate to come around when I did. Nobody else was reissuing the same quantity of top-notch ragtime and blues piano rolls, carefully chosen after conducting my own research in private roll collections and reading books on the topic (especially Jasen & Tichenor's Rags And Ragtime - see BluesTone "Recommended Reading" list for details). Now, after doing this for over 10 years, I'm able to offer the catalog of BluesTone Music Rolls you now see on this website.
I have been able to reissue many of the best vintage rolls issued by such piano roll greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Luckey Roberts, James P. Johnson, Lem Fowler, James Blythe, Fats Waller, Scott Joplin, Les Copeland, and many others. I recut rolls that are of musical interest to me, and my customers tell me I do a pretty good job of picking music that interests them as well!
I hope you enjoy going through this catalog of music rolls, and I hope you also find plenty of useful information along the way. Please let me know if I can answer any questions or be of any further assistance. I look forward to helping you expand your roll collection and your knowledge of this outstanding hobby.
485 Gatewood Lane
Grayslake, IL 60030