In 2020, Ted Braun graciously lent his father Carl’s complete music library to SFSMA for digitization. This is one of the most exciting collections SFSMA has scanned: Braun made excellent notes in and on his cue sheets and music, including things like the topics of the week’s newsreels, substitution cues, and more. These markings help researchers understand how and when pieces were used in cinema accompaniment. You can view items in the Braun Collection here.
Ted Braun offered this biographical sketch of his father:
Carl Leo Braun (1903-1977)
My father was the son of German immigrants born in New Haven, CT. Self-taught on the piano, when a teenager he practiced as many as six hours a day. During the 1920’s he played the piano for the silent movies at both the Paramount and the Hyperion theaters in New Haven. At the same time, he played in illegal drinking establishments, the “speak-easies,” opened in defiance of Prohibition (1920-1933). He told of dashing out back doors with the law knocking at the front. One night he had to throw himself under the piano when shots from a rival liquor distributor shattered the plate glass window behind him.
He and Mom married as The Roaring Twenties gave way to The Great Depression in the 1930’s. Before the decade ended they had three of their five children. The “Talkies” and The Depression combined to push his music to the side and eventually gave way to a successful career in business.
Still his weekend nights and holidays were ﬁlled with many gigs for the next two decades. He played at nightclubs, local dance parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and for holiday entertainment. Notables he played with include Rudy Vallee when Rudy was a Yale, Artie Shaw, Les and Larry Elgart, and Charlie and Ben Spivak.
All his life at home, Dad played the piano for hours, going easily from one song to the next without music. As a child I remember being lulled to sleep in my bed listening to him “tickle the ivories” with family or friends gathered around the piano singing the old tunes late into the night. He could play the classics but his love leaned toward the popular music from the twenties through the fifties. Even now, listening to his recordings transports me back to very happy memories of my dad and his lifelong passion for music. He would be very pleased that the music he preserved so carefully is now available to future generations through the efforts of SFSMA.