Walter B. Rogers

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Walter Bowman Rogers (October 14, 1865 – December 24, 1939) was an American cornet player, concert band and orchestral conductor and composer, who was responsible for most of the orchestral arrangements on recordings made for the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1904 and 1916.
Rogers was born in Delphi, Indiana, and learned to play the violin and then the cornet as a child. He studied violin with Henry Schradieck at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and paid for his study by playing in bands and orchestras in the Indianapolis area. In 1886, he moved to New York City to join the Seventh Regiment Band directed by Carlo Alberto Cappa. A report at the time described Rogers as "...a cornet soloist of great merit... [who] executes the most difficult passages with a degree of skill and a nicety of intonation that display a wonderful command of the instrument...". Rogers became Cappa's personal assistant and, after Cappa's death in 1893, took over leadership of the band. He first played in John Philip Sousa's band in 1898, and in 1900 became its assistant conductor. He shared cornet solo duties with Herbert L. Clarke and toured Europe with the Sousa band. When Clarke left in 1902, Rogers became the band's lead cornet player. Rogers also wrote pieces for the cornet; his best-known composition is "A Soldier's Dream", which he first recorded with Sousa's band for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1900.
Rogers left Sousa to join the Victor Company, based in Camden, New Jersey, in September 1903 as first cornet of the firm's studio ensembles, then directed by Arthur Pryor. Pryor formed his own concert band in late 1903, and he found the dual responsibilities of conducting his own group and overseeing ensemble recording at Victor too confining to advance his career as a popular bandmaster; thus, Pryor gave over the chief conductorship at Victor to Rogers in September 1904, while still continuing to make occasional recordings under the name "Pryor's Orchestra" and rapidly becoming Victor's leading concert band director with his own band. Rogers became the conductor of the regular Victor house orchestra, and engaged some extra players with whom he had played while under Cappa and Sousa. He arranged and conducted the studio band for almost all of the Victor company's recordings until 1916, for singers including Enrico Caruso, Billy Murray, and Al Jolson. Various combinations of musicians, under Rogers' direction, also recorded under different titles, including the Victor Light Opera Company, the Victor Orchestra, the Victor Concert Orchestra (which included extra players mostly taken from the Philadelphia Orchestra, a practice Victor would continue for decades), the Victor Mixed Chorus, and the Victor Military Band (many of whose recordings from 1912 on were conducted by Edward T. King, who was technically a Victor employee upon the company's acquisition of American Zonophone in 1906). Their most successful recordings included "The Merry Widow Waltz" (from The Merry Widow, performed by the Victor Orchestra, 1907), "The Glow-Worm" (from Paul Lincke's operetta Lysistrata, performed by the Victor Orchestra, 1908), and "The Yama Yama Man" (from The Three Twins, performed by Ada Jones and the Victor Light Opera Co., 1909). On one notable occasion in 1910, when American Quartet member Steve Porter was unavailable for a recording session, Rogers substituted for him in the vocal group. The resultant recording, of "Casey Jones", became "perhaps the first recording to sell over a million copies in American music history". Rogers also recorded many pieces of classical music, in many cases the first time these pieces had been recorded. Many of his recordings were made in competition with those of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra led by Charles A. Prince, and generally Rogers' recordings were more commercially successful than those of his rival.
Rogers left Victor for unknown reasons in late 1916 to become musical director at Paroquette, a short-lived recording company set up by singer Henry Burr and banjoist Fred Van Eps. After its collapse, he worked for the Paramount Record Company, the Emerson Phonograph Company, and, from 1922, the Brunswick Phonograph Company, where he conducted orchestral operatic accompaniments (for artists including Sigrid Onegin, Florence Easton, and Mario Chamlee) as he had done at Victor in addition to most of Brunswick's band records. He retired from recording in 1929. He played in a band in Huntsville, Ontario led by Herbert Clarke, and taught the cornet and played in theater orchestras in New York until 1932.
He died in New York in 1939, at the age of 74.