Born: May 20, 1889,
New York, N.Y.
Died: Oct. 16, 1918,
Felix Arndts mother was the Countess Fevrier, related to Napoleon III. Felix was educated in New York City schools. Arndt started out as a self-taught pianist and later studied with some of the best teachers in New York. As a young man, he wrote special material for several years for a number of Vaudeville troupers including Bayes & Norworth as well as Gus Edwards. Arndt was a charter member of ASCAP, the performing rights society, and organist of New Yorks famed Trinity Church. Within a three-year period as staff musician for the Duo-Art reproducing piano company, he produced an astounding total of 3000 piano roll recordings. Many of these paper recordings still survive today.
Arndts biggest hit was written as an engagement piece, ten months before his wedding to Nola Locke. (She was also a composer, singer, and teacher who traveled as soloist with the St. Louis Symphony.) "Nola," a "keyboard novelty," was published in 1916. This piano solo caught on very quickly, and lyrics were later added to a simplified version of the piece. A fox trot arrangement in the early 1920s was also published. Later, orchestra leader Vincent Lopez, also a popular pianist, made it the theme for his radio show 1930s. "Nola" was also recorded by Les Paul in a multi-tracked arrangement featuring electric guitars and became a top ten hit in 1950.
A fine pianist, Arndt was also an influence on the young and then unknown George Gershwin, who would visit him at his studio in the Aeolian Building on 42nd St., between 6th and 7th Avenues. This contact may have been the inspiration for Gershwins "Rialto Ripples" and through Arndt, Gershwin came to make piano rolls in Jan 1916. Reputedly, Arndt secured Gershwin a job at Aeolian.
Felix died during the world-wide flu epidemic of 1918 in New York city. Incidentally, he and his wife Nola were good friends with lyricist Irving Caesar. Long after Arndt's death, Nola and Irving lived together for a while.
Works by Felix Arndt:
(1914 1915) From Soup to Nuts, Desecration Rag, My Own Iona,
Nola, I Love You Truly, An Operatic Nightmare, Toots, Marionette,
Poor Butterfly (from "The Big Show"), Clover Club, The Merman