Music Rolls by Vicente Beltran
of San Antonio, Texas
by Ed Gaida  (980324 & 011130 MMDigest)

vicenteBeltran_1270.jpg (20 kb)

The "A" roll described by Robbie Rhodes in the MMD dated 01.11.29 was indeed originally produced here in San Antonio by Vicente Beltran, who in the 1920s operated a local roll cutting company that produced a number of rolls primarily with Mexican music.  There is evidence -- two extant original rolls -- that they also produced "A" rolls for the 'nickle pianos', as most of the old timers called them.  Beltran also produced "A" roll pianos in great quantity for the Mexican brothels on San Antonio's west side.

I have spent years trying to find out more about this man, with little luck.  I have researched city directories, old telephone books and even searched the addresses that were stamped on the leaders of the rolls.  I have come up with very little information.  This enterprising man operated in at least three locations.  Efforts to find relatives have produced no results.

The labels all have a picture of a bell on them, as the owner's name was Beltran.  "Bel" is in the upper part of the picture, and "tran" is in the lip of the bell.  I have 88-note rolls by him and some of the labels are marked "con letras" which means a word roll.  He did have a word stenciling machine.  The original  "A" roll labels are again the same, but the logo is stamped with a rubber stamp, and the titles are typed, not printed as is the 88-note roll label.

San Antonio in those pre-war days had the largest red light district in the state, a distinction held until the United States Army issued an ultimatum to the city in 1942 to either shut it down, or else downtown San Antonio would be placed "off limits" to all military personnel.  Until then, San Antonio had the dubious distinction of having the largest 'zona' in the state. ('La Zona' is the name for the red light districts in Mexico.  Every cab driver down there knows exactly what you mean should you decide to go there.  Prostitution is semi-legal in our neighbor south of the border.)   Every house had a coin operated piano.  There was even a "blue book" published listing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the prostitutes.  I have a copy of this book and needless to say it makes interesting reading.  There were three "classes" of woman listed.  Matamoros Street was the center of this operation.

Beltran had, from the looks of the rolls in my collection, a Leabarjan perforator, but the "A" rolls look like they might have been done on an Acme or similar perforator.  The largest collection of his 88-note and nickelodeon rolls was lost three years ago when the building in which they were stored burned.

Should anyone come across one of Beltran's original rolls, I would certainly appreciate a scan of the label for my collection of info on this most elusive of artisans.

Ed Gaida, San Antonio, Texas
Fri, 30 Nov 2001 06:34:57 -0600




vicenteBeltran_A42.jpg (29 kb)Here are the song titles on the label of the recut A-roll marked "Viva Mexico, Fabrica Mexicana de rollos para Pianola, Vicente Beltran, San Antonio, Texas, Rollo No. 42":

  1. Once Ochentauno, Flamenco
  2. Oficiales Paranderos, Marcha
  3. Mavi, Vals
  4. Me Siento Aviador, Vals
  5. Josefine, Fox Trot
  6. Sobre Las Olas, Vals
  7. Ojos Negros, One Step
  8. 23 De Julio, Marcha
  9. Palomita Consentida, Fox Trot
10. No Es Po __

The recut roll was produced by Ed Freyer in the 1960s and the music roll seems to have been recut several times, over several generations, because the reiterated notes are very sloppy.

Matthew Caulfield found that V. Beltran or Vicente Beltran is listed as composer of these songs on Wurlitzer band organ and APP rolls:

  La Pajarera, danzon
  Pasion, vals
  Las Mandolinas, valse

Robbie Rhodes


30 November 2001