All MIDI file contents and Wave/MP3 Audio recordings are Copyright ©1998 through 2015 under the 1998 Electronic Copyright Laws by Bill Edwards and Siggnal Sounds. All Sheet Music and Album Cover images here have been restored or enhanced by Bill Edwards, and only the original sources are in the Public Domain (except where noted). Unauthorized duplication or distribution of these proprietary files or associated digital recordings is a violation of copyright and patent law. They are for personal use and enjoyment of individuals only, and may be used on other sites only upon request for permission to do so. This site has been optimized for HTML5/CSS3 browsers released in 2012 or later with a recommended minimum 1024x768 and optimal 1280x900 monitor resolution or better.
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Yes, I know. It seems like I have been off the grid for a while on this section. I have focused more energy on research than on music the past three and more years (2011-2015), resulting in my 400 page book on E.T. Paull
, and my upcoming Encyclopedia of Female Composers of Popular Music of the Ragtime Era
(big title, I know, but there are over 530 of these women). I am also nearing completion on a huge 2014/2015 site overhaul, adding in new technologies while I have applied corrections or additional data to biographies and articles. This is the last section to undergo that upgrade, so please have patience. By summer of 2015 the NEW RagPiano.com will be complete. Much of the change is reflected in the rather substantial increase of composer biographies, plus additional updated information on existing ones, all starting at Male Composer Biographies
. There are now around 230 biographies of composers, performers, artists and publishers on the site. New MIDI files and entries will hopefully be posted by May as I tackle this section. I completed MIDI conversion to MP3 audio for the entire site, since most browsers do not support direct play any longer. IN ESSENCE - if you have not been here for quite some time, EVERY TRACK IS NEW IN A SENSE. This includes the song sections, most of which now have vocals.
It's nearly RAGTIME SEASON again. I will be attending the 41st annual World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival
in Peoria, Illinois, this coming Memorial Day Weekend. It well may be the last such event, given diminishing audiences, and in spite of the success of the 2012 documentary The Entertainers
concerning the competition, and featuring myself with five other players. Founder and host Ted Lemen
needs to hang it after four decades, as it is a lot of work, and not conducive to a life of retirement. He is well deserving of tribute for his long run!
Then comes the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival
in Sedalia, Missouri the first full week of June from Wednesday to Sunday. This is always a great gathering with a number of free venues as well as very worthwhile concerts. The cast of usual suspects from around the world will be there as always. There will be some great seminars, and if you want to find out about the composer's perspective on improvising scores for everything from Mozart to Gershwin, please attend my Friday morning seminar to find out in an entertaining fashion.
NEW CD RELEASE: I am continuing my "Z" series, which to date has yielded RAGZ, BLUZ, TANGOZ and DUETZ. The 2015 offering will be STRIDZ, due out by Memorial Day Weekend, and online the following week.
What's New! Latest Additions for 2015 (finally!).
These are some lower-definition versions of the tracks I recorded over the past few years but did not render in MIDI format. While the slightly degraded quality is not able to capture or reproduce the nuances of a full grand piano, it should at least give you a sneak peak of the audio tracks on what I consider to be some of my best CDs to date. They include my Gospel album, RAGZ, BLUZ and TANGOZ. More previews available in the Albums Section of the site.
This was Hunter's first published rag and one of the most popular pieces by the blind Tennessee composer, outlasting his tragically short life by eons. It became somewhat of a template for his later pieces like Possum and Taters
and Just Ask Me
, and a good example of folk ragtime as he heard it all around him growing up. The white Hunter was able to embrace and actually participate in what was considered ethnically to be a black music form, inherently emulating the talented black musicians of Tennessee he encountered while growing up. While the rag itself is not all that simple to play, the catchy melodic line and harmonies make it a good candidate to stay in your head for long after you listen to, particularly the 32 bar trio. That in itself was not common during the time of cakewalks and early rags, but Hunter would use the elongated trio again in later pieces. Tickled to Death
was a popular on early records of instrumental ensembles and on piano rolls, in addition to sustaining good sales for many years in sheet music format. It is still a staple of ragtime festivals in the 21st century, making for a fine duet as well.
How Clarence St. John, a printer from Michigan, got involved with John Stark in spite of how many publishers there were in Detroit or Chicago, both closer to him, is unclear. However, it turned out to be a happy and logical pairing, with Stark publishing a handful of St. John's works. This was the first of them, and arguably the most memorable. In spite of the cover image, which could implicate either the tended fire or the color of the man in front of it, I am of the opinion that this might have bee intended as a train tune. There are some rhythmic clues within to indicate as such, and I infuse a bit of musical extrapolation to further exploit this possibility. The opening strain starts in a clear minor strain, cleverly reverting to the relative major as it concludes in a mashup of challenging syncopation. The interesting B section is similarly worthy of a good listen. The trio calls on a folk strain like that heard in Peaceful Henry
by E. Harry Kelly
, or later in Jerome Kern's Old Man River
. The final strain is ebullient to say the least. I follow it up with a reiteration of the opening section, and playing with whether it will resolve in major or minor mode. In the end I chose... well, play it already and you'll find out my train of thought.
Carey Morgan was the son of the dynamic Reverend Carey E. Morgan
who served at several locations around the country during the composers youth before settling in Paris, Kentucky. In spite of an ostensibly religious upbringing, his exposure to regional music styles of the early 1900s instilled in him the desire to be a popular composer. Morgan was best known for his Trilby Rag
which was later repurposed as the Cow Cow Blues
, contributed this serious yet quirky effort to the growing cache of American "tangos," one potentially intended for the famous husband and wife team of Vernon and Irene Castle
. He eventually did contribute a few pieces, including Trilby Rag
, to their growing catalog of commissioned pieces. It opens with a striking chime effect, often used in intermezzos and reveries, but not tangos. The opening minor theme is a harbinger of the famous tango piece Jalousie
, which would emerge from Denmark over a decade later. It is followed by essentially the same theme in a major mode. The next section uses the characteristic piano chime effect in several places. The trio is a grand tango in a broad sense, and the orchestral qualities of it should come through with little imagination. While not often played, this is a non-traditional gem worth listening to.
Tierney was known in the late 1910s and beyond as a fine composer of Broadway music, including his big hit Alice Blue Gown
from the record-breaking show Irene
. Born into a musical family, he was trained as a concert pianist, including courses in theory and harmony, so had the tools to compose. While touring the United States and Europe as a concert pianist in the early 1910s, he also took some time to compose a few fine piano rags, of which this was one of the more interesting ones. The A section is repeated with a first and second ending both before and after B, making it a full 32 bars both times, an unusual structure for a rag since most just allowed for 16 bars for the last repeat. While there is no obvious canary call, the main motive of the A section could be akin to a repeated chirp of that bird. The B section contains some unusual missing first measure beats, adding distinctiveness to it. The gentle trio is lyrical in its first iteration, then bold on the repeat. This should prove to be a favorite of songbirds everywhere!
There were quite a few automobile-related pieces penned by women, and a fair amount of adventurous women driving automobiles in the early 20th century as well. This one, which is actually a piano rag in disguise, brilliantly captures the feel of a ride through a rural area, or perhaps between a couple of towns, complete with a "beep beep" suggested by the text in the bass line (augmented here with actual bulb horn beeps). I have used this piece, or music with a similar feel, when accompanying driving scenes in silent movies (back then they just called them "movies"). Categorizing this tune as a dance doesn’t really do justice to what a great listening piece it is. The right hand in the A section also contains riffs used commonly in later piano rags of the 1910s. The same motive is used throughout each section in different manners. De Haven had already had several works published as of 1907, and even led her own group on the vaudeville circuit, but would retire from both writing and the stage within two years after she married.
Gasoline was not used for all that much until the internal (or infernal) combustion engine started sucking it in on a regular basis in the early 1900s. So as soon as cars started proliferating, oil became a big business in the U.S., as did ownership of fueling stations (later known – for a while at least – as service stations). That has nothing to do with the music, but a lot to do with the popularity of the petroleum product which would soon bring on a famous song named Gasoline
, already showing it as a reviled necessity in the United States. This is a pretty nice example of a rag, albeit likely with a random title (how do you emulate gasoline in music?) capitalizing on the motor craze in an original way. Mentel was a Kentucky-born composer who had several moderate hits to his name, and ran a relatively successful music publishing company in Cincinnati, Ohio, for several years as well along with his older brother William Mentel
. This particular Mentel work received three copyrights and issuances, including 1906, 1911 and 1913.
Best known for a few rags and many hit songs, Wenrich also composed a number of instrumentals throughout his career. His gift for catchy melodies is evident in nearly all of them, and most could be mastered relatively easily by the average pianist. One of a number of pieces with the same title or at least about the same topic, this one in particular captures the spirit of early racers like Barney Oldfield
, the first one to drive a Ford at over 60 mph in 1902, and even the dynamic Henry Ford
himself. While 6/8 marches tend to better emulate the gallop of a horse, this one manages to sustain the feel of a fast-paced (around 60 mph) race in this year before the famous brickyard in Indianapolis first opened for business. After a brief starting fanfare, the race is underway. The B section divides melodic duties between the hands. The trio starts out with a left hand sequence that I repeat an octave lower for fun. The D section is simple but easy enough to build on. Then as fast as it started, *boom*, it's over.
It's that same old story. No matter how hard you try that good-for-nothing mooching varmint who pays little mind to you unless he needs feeding simply won't disappear. He keeps coming back in spite of the evidence to the contrary that he should. That, of course, is the premise for this still-performed song that just barely predates the ragtime era. The versions we hear today at campfires or in recorded form (my favorite is by Garrison Keillor on his Cat CD) are quite different from the original, which was really an early "coon" song in thin disguise. The illustration on the cover is priceless, of course, if a bit frightening to small children. Even though all of the many original verses are included in the posted lyrics, there are hundreds more that have sprung up since then, since in 1893 there were no cars, semi-trucks, gas chambers, chainsaws, sewage plants, assault rifles, nuclear devices, or other WMDs and PETA
nightmares that would be an equal match to a crafty cat. Some minor alterations have been done to the melody here simply because the original was a poor fit to the lyrics. Also note that the original lyrics have ten verses, and that the cat finally dies after the first nine. Even though I have often suggestively sung this to my poor cats (as included on my It's Ragging Cats and Dogs CD
so you can do the same), they somehow keep coming back anyhow just to torture me.
The Joshua Drag
Tradtional Negro Spiritual arranged by Bill Edwards in the style of "Fats" Waller - 1862/2006
When working up my Gospel album in 2006 I wanted to keep it fairly close to the spirit of the genre, but also honor my the music I spend so much time with; in this case, some stride piano. So I came up with the unusual pairing heard here. It is essentially the melody of Joshua Fit (Fought) the Battle of Jericho
dropped into to the structure and feel of The Viper's Drag
by Thomas "Fats" Waller
. The end result is either sublime or profane, depending on your point of view, but it worked surprisingly well. While Viper's Drag
can be assigned a 1934 origin, it is harder for the core spiritual itself. It appears to have developed through field songs by African American slaves from the 1840s to 1860s, spreading throughout much of the American South during those decades. The first known copyright and publication for the tune date to 1865. The end of the piece tips the hat to another performer of such pieces, Eubie Blake
, with a hint of his famous Charleston Rag
closing out the performance.
Harold Arlen (M) and Ted Koehler (L) - 1930
While it seems odd that a fairly well-known popular song of the early 1930s is included in a gospel section, that inclusion is really not too far off the mark, since other such tunes have had strange origins outside of their respective genres. This one actually got its start with Broadway, but not intentionally. Arlen was still a relatively unknown composer in the late 1920s, but a talented pianist who played for several different New York shows. As he told it on film, "They used to have a standard vamp, which something like this..." (which sounded like a typical introduction to a dance tune). "I wanted to simplify it, and I did this..." which was a repeated single chord in a similar rhythm. "And I got tired of that, so one day I did this..." (playing the opening motive to Get Happy
). "Some foolish publisher heard it, gave me a contract, and it became Get Happy
." The piece was originally featured as the closing show stopper in The Nine-Fifteen Revue
of 1930, performed by singer Ruth Etting
. While the song and the performance were both memorable, the rest of the play was not, and it closed within two weeks. The song itself is intended to echo the feeling of a Christian evangelical revivalist tent meeting, and Koehler's lyrics, while not overtly religious, put it right in the field of similar gospel and spiritual songs. The dynamic but rarely-heard verse very much sets that tone. Get Happy
later became a hit for singer Judy Garland
as performed in her final MGM outing, Summer Stock
, and in most of her concerts to the end of her life. There is some continuity here since her other big hit, Over the Rainbow
, was also penned by Arlen along with Edgar "Yip" Harburg
for The Wizard of Oz
in 1939, a musical that brilliantly and arguably precedes Oklahoma
of 1942 with the idea of a musical using character-based songs to move the plot forward. So what are you waiting for? Click it! Get Happy!
Need A Little More Ragtime In Your Life?
can be available in your area for a concert. I have a variety of one-man shows that cover the ragtime music era using humor, education, and entertaining tunes and songs. I am also often available for special shows at schools for all age groups, and seminars on the topics of Ragtime performance, composition, playing style, economics, early popular music styles, and American music history, all in conjunction with a concert appearance. In addition I can offer highly entertaining silent movie nights, good for fundraisers or just fun-raisers for a weekend afternoon. For more information on any of the shows that you may want to pass on to a local arts council, college or theater owner, you may view or download my Ragtime Show Information Packet below. You can also e-mail me any time at
|There are lots of great ragtime recordings by top artists available from
Including some of my recommended favorites:
And don't miss these movies which include some ragtime music:
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