The David L. Junchen Rollography

as Transcribed from the Junchen Opus List


David L. Junchen, circa 1985, author of the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ.
David L. Junchen, circa 1985, author of the
Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ.

David Laurence Junchen was born in Sherrard, Illinois on February 23, 1946, and he died in Barrington, Illinois, on January 30, 1992. His musical interest was reinforced at a very young age as he laid on the floor under the cabinet of a wind-up acoustic phonograph listening to old 78-rpm records.

As a child, his mother entered him in several TV game shows. While still in grade school, he split the grand prize on “The $64,000 Challenge” with a co-contestant. He also won a new Hardman Duo player piano on one of the shows, and modified it to play both 88-note player piano rolls and type “A” coin piano rolls.

Dave graduated from University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana with highest honors in electrical engineering in 1968, and pursued a career in theatre organ design, restoration, voicing, and tuning. He had the remarkable ability to know not only what notes he was hearing in a piece of music, but also to immediately reproduce the piece on a piano or organ after one hearing, without any practice. While in high school and college, he operated a piano roll auction, which gave him the opportunity to play thousands of rolls. He seemed to remember every piano roll arrangement he had ever enjoyed, including the brand of the roll, the original artist, the key it was played in, the year it was introduced, and other attributes. When he heard an A roll that he had never heard before, he would listen to one verse and one chorus of each tune, then wind through the rest of it while looking at the perforations, only stopping to play a new chorus that was different. Why not – he already knew what any repeated choruses would sound like, note for note. When in his early 20’s, he could almost tune every pipe in a pipe organ by itself, without reference to another pipe.

While at University of Illinois, I once loaned him a rather low-fidelity tape of Clark A-roll #1157 that I had recorded on a Seeburg K coin piano with violin pipes at Svoboda’s Nickelodeon Tavern. Later that same week, I ran into him somewhere on campus where there was a piano. He sat down and played all ten tunes in the right order, each in the right key – including the tenor countermelodies that would take an ordinary “amateur” three hands.

Dave began arranging various types of piano and orchestrion rolls while in college. I still remember him working at his light box on the floor of the room he rented in a rooming house, with translucent grids—one showing the note positions on the tracker bar, and the other showing the note lengths. The grids enabled him to draw notes so perfectly that he could then cut them out by hand and have a roll that played in perfect rhythm. After he drew an arrangement, he cut the beginning and end of each hole with a small sharpened screwdriver, and then cut the long edges with a razor blade. He later used a simple hand-operated punch.

The following list includes all rolls that he remembered making from 1964 through September 1989. The world is a better place, thanks to his fine musicianship, music arranging, and brilliant sense of humor, to say nothing of the many theatre organs that he designed and installed. If only he had lived a longer life — long enough to see and hear his final organ installation in the Sanfilippo residence through to its completion, and to arrange a few hundred more rolls!

Art Reblitz, December 30, 2017.

The David Junchen Rollography Report

The primary rollography information represents a verbatim facsimile of an original document hand-typed by the late David Junchen on his Junchen Pipe Organ Service letterhead. The original three page document is accompanied by a special small addition entitled: David Junchen Arrangements Not On His Opus List, written by an unknown author. An added fourth page entitled, Art Reblitz’ notes on Dave Junchen’s Opus List, provides interesting details for some of the Junchen rollography opus numbers.

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Last Updated on December 31, 2017

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Art Reblitz and Stephen Adams. Layout by Terry Hathaway.


Terry Hathaway.