... Miss Rio was undoubtedly among the very last to have played the silent-picture houses, accompanying the likes of Chaplin, Keaton and Pickford on the Mighty Wurlitzer amid velvet draperies, gilded rococo walls and vaulted ceilings awash in stars. She was also one of the few women to have made her way in a field dominated by men.

Miss Rio died on Thursday, less than three weeks before her 108th birthday. The death, at her home in Sun City Center, Fla., was confirmed by her husband, Bill Yeoman.

For the silents, Miss Rio provided music — often improvised — to set moods that images alone could not: the footsteps of a cat burglar, the sighs of young lovers and the dreadful roar of the oncoming train as the heroine flailed on the tracks. When silents gave way to talkies, she became a ubiquitous presence on the radio; when radio yielded to television, she played for daytime serials. The Queen of the Soaps, the newspapers called her.

In Miss Rio’s career one can trace the entire history of entertainment technology in the 20th century. After all, she was alive, and playing, for nearly all of it.

Midcentury Americans could scarcely touch a dial without hearing Miss Rio. As the staff organist of the NBC radio network from the late 1930s to 1960, and an occasional organist for ABC Radio, she provided live music for a spate of popular shows, including “The Shadow,” starring a trim Orson Welles, and “The Bob and Ray Show.” Her television credits include “As the World Turns” and the “Today” show.

Miss Rio was born on June 2, 1902. Her maiden name and birthplace have been lost to time; her given name was Elizabeth and she was reared in New Orleans. She began calling herself Rosa Rio — a name narrow enough to fit neatly on a theater marquee — early in her career.

At 8, Elizabeth began piano lessons and immediately decided on a show business career. This, her parents made clear, was no fit occupation for a proper Southern girl. ...

In the 1920s, Miss Rio played in movie houses around the country before being hired by the Fox Theater in Brooklyn. Then came Jolson, and she found supplementary work as an accompanist and vocal coach. One of her clients was an unknown singer named Mary Martin, whom Miss Rio accompanied on her successful audition for the Cole Porter musical Leave It to Me! (1938).

At NBC, Miss Rio played for as many as two dozen radio shows a week, often with just 60 seconds between shows to bolt from one studio to another. On Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, she was summoned to work at 2 a.m. For the next 10 hours, she performed somber music between news bulletins. After the United States entered the war, she had her own show, “Rosa Rio Rhythms,” broadcast to American troops overseas.

Radio of the period was a rough-and-tumble world — a man’s world. Miss Rio gave as good as she got.

As recounted in Leonard Maltin's book “The Great American Broadcast: A Celebration of Radio’s Golden Age” (Dutton, 1997), she was playing a show at NBC one day when the announcer, Dorian St. George, crept up behind her, undid the buttons down the back of her blouse and unhooked her bra. Miss Rio, performing live before a gallery of visitors, could do nothing but play on.

When the music stopped, Mr. St. George stepped up to the microphone to do a commercial. As he intoned plummily with the gallery looking on, Miss Rio stole up behind him, unbuckled his belt, unzipped his fly and neatly dropped his trousers. Then, according to Mr. Maltin’s book, she started on his undershorts.

What happened next is unrecorded.