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Guide to the Walter Heebner papers PA Mss 114
PA Mss 114  
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Collection Details
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  • Access Restrictions
  • Use Restrictions
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Walter Heebner papers
    Identifier/Call Number: PA Mss 114
    Contributing Institution: UC Santa Barbara Library, Department of Special Research Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 26.52 linear feet (3 cartons, 1 half-size document box, 1 document box, 2 flat boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes, 282 open reel tapes)
    Creator: Heebner, Walter S., 1917-2002
    Date (inclusive): circa 1930s-1960s
    Abstract: Papers of Walter Schussler Heebner (1917-2002), professional musician, composer, and songwriter, and executive at RCA Records and Capitol Records.
    Physical Location: Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library

    Access Restrictions

    The collection is open for research.

    Use Restrictions

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Research Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Research Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Research Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], Walter Heebner papers, PA Mss 114. Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Mary Heebner, 2016.

    Biographical Note

    Walter Heebner was born in 1917, and began his career as a professional musician at age 13, playing saxophone several nights a week in ballrooms. Graduating with honors from Temple University in 1938, he studied pre-law at The University of Pennsylvania before his musical talents became his main focus. In 1940, he began working in sales at RCA Victor in New York, before joining the army during World War II. While enlisted, Heebner produced V-Disc recordings for the Armed Services, and after the war he returned to RCA to become the Artist and Repertoire Director at their Hollywood headquarters. In 1950, he left to become the producer of the radio program "The Spade Cooley Show," on KCLA. Cooley was a popular western-swing artist and television star at the time. Several years later, he left and returned to New York to create a music library for Capitol Records, and also began composing music while serving as producer for many high-profile artists of his day, including Frank Sinatra, Shirley Temple, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Roy Rogers. In 1962 he acquired the Welte Piano Roll Masters, and began reproducing these recordings using contemporary methods, resulting in a vibrant quality.

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists of a mixture of materials documenting the work of Walter Heebner, acclaimed musician, songwriter, record producer, former Director of A and R for RCA Victor's Hollywood Division, who also served as an executive for Capitol Records. This collection is unique as it documents the creation, legacy, and preservation of musical history throughout the 20th century.
    Included in the collection are the open reel masters of the Welte Legacy of Piano Treasures, correspondence with notable musicians such as Henry Mancini, Rudolph Ganz, Spike Jones, and Lotte Lehman, photographs, press materials, business papers, contracts, legal documents, original sheet music manuscripts, genealogical research, and musical gig diaries from the pre-war World War II era.
    The open reel masters for the Welte Legacy of Piano Treasures are transfers of the piano roll recordings begun by Edwin Welte, a German pioneer in the field of piano manufacturing, and inventor of the world's first reproducing piano. The Welte-Mignon Reproducing Piano was groundbreaking for its ability to replay the individual recordings of live music after it was recorded onto a piano roll. Due to its unique method of recording, the Welte-Mignon was able to capture the dynamics of tempo, phrasing, and pedaling of each individual performance. After having his new instrument patented, Welte invited the most accomplished and renowned living piano players at the time to play for him, and the reproductions were manufactured and distributed beginning in 1904. This popular system lasted until the late 1920s, when phonographs became the most popular device for musical recording and reproduction. In 1962, Walter Heebner received a set of master rolls from Richard Simonton, and replayed them on a modern Steinway piano, resulting in a revitalized sound through analog stereo that surpassed the playing from the Welte-Mignon. These recordings were later released through Heebner's own company, Recorded Piano Treasures.


    Series 1. General Files, Series 2. Diaries, Series 3. Scrapbook, Series 4. 10 inch Open Reel Tapes.
    File names in Series 1., General Files, retain the creator's naming convention.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Welte legacy of piano treasures
    Welte-Mignon reproducing piano
    Sound recording executive and producers -- United States
    Administrative records
    Sound recordings
    Heebner, Walter S., 1917-2002 -- Archives
    Mancini, Henry -- Correspondence
    Jones, Spike, 1911-1965 -- Correspondence
    Ganz, Rudolph, 1877-1972 -- Correspondence
    Lehmann, Lotte -- Correspondence
    Capitol Records, Inc.
    RCA Records