Nicaragua: Don Zelaya performs “Estrellita”



Welte-Mignon reproducing piano (photo: Wikipedia/Creative Commons).

Welte-Mignon reproducing piano (photo: Wikipedia/Creative Commons).

Sometime at the end of 1920s a renowned Nicaraguan pianist arrived at the Poughkeepsie, New York factory of Welte and Sons to record some piano music. This was neither an ordinary setting, mind you, nor was the piano at hand a typical instrument.

Welte and Sons was a noted manufacturer of “reproducing” or player pianos, as well as orchestrions and player organs, in addition to piano rolls.

The pianist in question was known by the stage name “Don Zelaya,” among whose great claims to fame was as a son of a former president of Nicaragua. Don Zelaya’s real name was Carlos Alfonso Zelaya and he was, indeed, the son of Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya. By this point Zelaya had earned a reputation as a vaudeville and classical pianist. Later, he would take on bit roles in Hollywood films.

Zelaya apparently recorded three tunes, or rolls, for Welte and Sons, one of which was his own rendition of Manual Ponce’s famous song Estrellita (“Little Star”).

Here is Zelaya’s recorded performance of Estrellita (piano roll no. 7863), as heard through a Welte-Mignon reproducing piano.


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[note: the recording is sourced from here.]

More: history of Welte and Sons (Wikipedia)

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