The Willis Music Company was founded in 1899 in Cincinnati by Charles H. Willis. Following a series of ownership changes, John J. Cranley became general manager in 1923, and later came to own the company.
Under Cranley's leadership, Willis Music became the premier publisher of teaching methods, adding John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano to the catalog in 1936. This course remains today one of the most popular piano methods in the world. Son Edward Cranley became president of the company in 1965, and in 1990, Kevin Cranley succeeded his father Edward as president of the Willis Music Company.
Today, the Willis Music Company publishing catalog contains more than 5,000 titles, and there are seven state-of-the-art Willis Music retail locations throughout Ohio and Kentucky. The company is still owned entirely by members of the Cranley family.
In 2005 Willis entered into a long-term partnership with Hal Leonard to develop, market and distribute the entire Willis Catalog, including titles by John Thompson, Edna Mae Burnam, and William Gillock.
This partnership has also opened the door to Hal Leonard's wide breadth of copyrights which enhance Willis publications - including music from the movies, TV, Disney, Broadway, pop groups such as the Beatles, and much more. New publications are continually being developed through the talents of Willis composers, including Glenda Austin, Eric Baumgartner, Randall Hartsell, Naoko Ikeda, Carolyn Miller, Carolyn Setliff, and more.