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Former city resident recalls music activities
Thursday, December 1, 1988


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Pix #1 - The Zez Confrey Orchestra of which Frank O'Neal was member. Confrey seated at the piano. Standing: reading left to right: Bill Richards, Jack Koyhka, Guy Workman, Paul Decker, Frank O'Neal., "Happy" Andrews, Jimmy Richard, Charlie Kroetz, Sam Hill.

Pix #2 - Cleo Bates (Photo reprinted from Red and Black commencement Annual of 1919)

Pix #3 - A nostalgic advertisement from years ago, featuring Confrey and his orchestra. All illustrations used with today's article furnished by Frank O'Neal.

Pix #4 - Frank O'Neal's unique violin, designed and built by him.

Last summer Harold "Toby" Freese, former Fostoria resident, and graduate from Fostoria High in 1919, came back to this area to visit his sister in Findlay and stopped to see me, too. At that time he suggested that perhaps we should go to Cleveland to visit Frank "Hank" O'Neal, one of his FHS classmates, also known by this author.

Perhaps our advancing ages influenced our decision to make the trip. Nevertheless, it was a good decision and out of it came conversation that provides material for today's article, including photos which will b e of interest to many readers. Mrs. Freese accompanied Toby and I on the trip to visit the O'Neals.

O'Neal introduced to music at early age When Frank O'Neal was only nine years old, his parents gave him a violin. Either they knew he was destined to be a musician, or the instrument awakened a skill that developed as he practiced and played it. The Wainwright music era may have been a contributing influence, too. At any rate, music had been an important part of O'Neal's life, and he has shared information and photos in today's POTLUCK.

O'Neal part of famous Confrey orchestra In the earlier part of this century "Hank", as well as other musicians living in Fostoria or this area were part of the famous Zez Confrey orchestra.

O'Neal dug into his archive of music information and photos with today's article. O'Neal didn't reveal, but this author would guess that he is the only living musician that played in the Confrey group. If I'm wrong, someone will probably correct me ... perhaps Ernie Duffield.

Worked at tank plant

O'Neal didn't let his music ability distract from a full-time job in the Cleveland area. He was a maintenance department clerk at the Cadillac factory. After a day at the factory O'Neal was listening to a phonograph, and the thought occurred to him: "why couldn't I use a diaphragm, like to one on the phonograph to make a single string violin?"

One night after work, he gathered together a few pieces of scrap material and started working on his idea. A carpenter gave him a piece of soft white pine from which he carved the body of the violin. He made a chin rest out of a bit of discarded cork.

The diaphragm was made from on old phonograph, and the single string held in place by a darning needle. A horn was fashioned from a bud-vase purchased in a dime store, and attached to the diaphragm.

Then "Hank" connected the string to the "tail piece", made from an old switch plate and he was ready to play it.

Frank has entertained with his new fiddle and listeners think it is excellent.

He also made an amplifier attachment which he can use in place of the diaphragm. With a socket attachment Frank can play through a radio or loud-speaker, to bring out the tone quality of his unusual fiddle.

Now when he draws his bow across that one-string fiddle, the music comes out "soft and low."

Confrey flyer will stir your memories

Do any of you readers recall the Confrey flyer? If Cleo Bates Saliers was still living (recently deceased), I'll bet she would. She would be in the same age-group as O'Neal, and was in the same FHS graduating class, On the back of the Confrey Flyer is this information; "Composer of America's greatest novelty piano numbers, and his Victor Recording orchestra of twelve super artists, unquestionably rate as one of the outstanding orchestral successes of the decade.

"Zez Confrey, the inimitable novelty pianist, is know the work over for his creative compositions, "Kittens on the Keys", "Stumbling", "Dizzy Fingers", and with his orchestra has increased his popularity by many Victor recordings including: All Muddled, Are You Playing Fair, Some Little Someone, Struttin at Ball, True Blue Sam, Mississippi Shiver, Morning Will Come, Rose-time, Dumbell, Fuzzy Wuzzy Bird, I Love Her ... and many others."

Confrey played at Castle Farm Dec. 19, 1926.

Memories of Cleo Bates

In a letter this author received from Frank O'Neal, he said: "Thanks for sending me a copy of Cleo Bates obituary. Yes, Paul, I am proud to say that she was one of my old friends. She was a very lovely lady, and a fine pianist. Was on quite a few jobs with Harry Mumma, and he would have her play the piano. I knew John Turner even before they were married. I know a violinist by the name of Saliers, but don't recall if his name was Harold."

Heed God's word Nearsighted Christians One definition for the headline could be

 

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