Charles H. Willis founded a small business in Cincinnati in 1899, selling pianos and musical supplies. It also published piano methods, collections, and other sheet music. Willis bought out George B. Jennings & Company and then the Cable Piano Company’s Cincinnati branch in 1912.
John J. Cranley, who joined the company in 1923, became the owner, and built the firm into a large corporation. Willis Music became the leading publisher for piano teaching methods and solo pieces, including the John Thompson method, “Modern Course for the Piano” (1953-59), which is claimed to be the most widely used piano method in the world. John J. Cranley was followed by his son Edward in 1965 and his grandson Kevin Cranley in 1990.