The Edison Files: Rae Eleanor Ball and Jessie L. Deppen

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. No one knows for sure who the very first recording artist was. Here is a look at an early recording artist I have in my collection.

Jessie L. Deppen (1881-1956) was a woman who lived in Cleveland, Ohio and taught piano. She wrote a number of light waltzes and themes, some of which were used in motion pictures. ‘A Japanese Sunset’ was used in the Vitaphone soundtrack of the silent film, ‘Old San Francisco’ (1927) and was the opening theme for the serial ‘Shadow of Chinatown’ (1936) with Bela Lugosi. She also wrote “In The Garden of To-Morrow,” Skylark Waltz” and “Dance of the Robins.”


Rae Eleanor Ball was a violinist for the RKO vaudeville circuit and apparently had a working relationship with Deppen. The two most always appear together on recordings with Ball on violin and Deppen on piano.


The theme music used on the Lum and Abner program during the early years, when the program was sponsored by Horlick’s, was written by Deppen. “Eleanor” first copywritten in 1914. (Deppen autographed a poster for Ball. See the attached photo.)



To my dear friend Rae Eleanor Ball

ELEANOR (A Serenade)
Words & Music by Jessie L. Deppen
(copyright 1914, 1918)

The birds of the forest are calling
From the wild-wood far a-way
While the night shades so softly are falling
At the close of the day;
Each breeze brings a message from love-land,
Fond and true, dear, fond and true,
With each spark from the dew,
My fond heart, dear, calls to you, calls to you,

The moon is creeping high o'er the hill,
Nature is sleeping, the world is still,
Come, ope your window, cast one sweet rose,
A rose to prove, to prove your love.
My heart is sighing for you, my own,
With love undying for you alone;
Beneath your window and star-lit skies,
I wait the love-light, the love-light that beams in your bright eyes.

Then come while the nightbirds are calling,
As the moonbeams brightly shine,
And we'll wander thro' love-land together,
Dreaming love dreams so divine;
I'll sing you sweet songs of a love, dear,
That will linger evermore,
And this big world will seem but a beautiful dream,
Eleanor, Eleanor

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