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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


A Hidden Musical Treasure from East Tennessee: J. Lawrence Cook

Alan Wallace, Associate ProfessorLibraries

​Tennessee has many famous musical greats. Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, and, of course, Elvis! While little known to the public today, J. Lawrence Cook made as much of an impact on our musical heritage as the more famous musical giants from Tennessee. In his lifetime, Cook became the most prolific artist to arrange and record player piano music. Cook knew many of the jazz greats and was able to capture the essence of their playing on piano rolls. This was no easy task, as most player piano rolls sound stiff and mechanical. Cook’s musical ability allowed him to transcend the pedestrian sounds and create small musical masterpieces still being enjoyed today. He was equally at home with the classics as he was with jazz, blues, and later, rock ’n’ roll. In the early twentieth century, player pianos were the predominant piano in American homes. Cook wrote, arranged, and recorded more than 20,000 rolls in his prolific career. Known to only a relative few today, this East Tennessee native deserves wider recognition for his impact on our musical heritage.

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