Zez Confrey was born in Peru, Illinois, the youngest child of Thomas and Margaret Confrey. After World War I he became a pianist and arranger for the QRS piano roll company. His novelty piano composition "Kitten on the Keys," released in 1921, became a hit, and he went on compose many other pieces in the same genre. This piece was inspired by a cat at his grandmother's house that he discovered prancing up and down the piano keyboard.
After the 1920s he turned more and more toward composing for jazz bands. He retired after World War II but continued to compose occasionally until 1959. He died in Lakewood, New Jersey after suffering for many years from Parkinson's disease. He left behind more than a hundred piano works, miniature operas, and songs, plus numerous piano rolls, music publications, and recordings.