Ellis quickly became one of the most popular keyboard artists during the 1920s. He also had the distinction of helping introduce Victor Talking Machine Company’s innovative Orthophonic Victrola. He toured England in 1928 and headlined at Café de Paris in London. During the late 1920s he recorded for the Columbia and OKeh labels and was the third ranked recording artist in record sales in the United States. His recordings included legendary jazz accompanists such as Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Pee Wee Russell, and Louis Armstrong. In 1930 he had a nightly national radio program on WLW, Cincinnati. He discovered the Mills Brothers there and became the group’s manager. During the 1930s he also appeared with the Paul Whiteman orchestra. In 1936 he sang in the film One Rainy Afternoon. By that same year he had organized his band, the Choir of Brass, which featured four trumpets and four trombones. His first wife, vocalist Irene Taylor, who had performed with the Paul Whiteman outfit, eventually performed as vocalist with the Choir of Brass. He played at large hotels in New York that had airtime. In 1941 the group disbanded, and Ellis moved back to Texas. In 1942 he joined the United States Army Air Corps.
During the 1940s and 1950s he continued to find success with his songwriting. Some of his most popular pieces included No Baby, Nobody But You, Shivery Stomp, Gene’s Boogie recorded by Gene Krupa, You Be You But Let Me Be Me, and the standard You’re All I Want For Christmas recorded by Bing Crosby. He also wrote Oilers, the official song of the Houston Oilers professional football team. Ellis lived out his life in Houston and went into the nightclub business for several years. He died in Houston on September 29, 1995, at the age of ninety-one and was buried in that city in Hollywood Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Pamela and a stepson.
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