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|Recommended Ragtime and Old-Time Reference Books|
(Click on a book cover to locate and order it.)
Ragtime: An Encyclopedia, Discography, and Sheetography
David A. Jasen - ©2007, Routledge.
This large (and not inexpensive) volume represents decades of accumulated ragtime study by Jasen and many other historians, collected into one place. Included in here are extensive descriptions, biographies, lists of sheet music and sources, lists of recordings from cylinders to CDs, and all manner of things ragtime. Nice to have as a central reference source. Includes some updates and corrections from early publications as well.
Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, Coon Songs, And the Dark Pathway to Blues And Jazz
Lynn Abbott & Doug Seroff - ©2007, University Press of Mississippi.
A study of the one of the unavoidable parents and later stepchildren of ragtime, the coon song, and both the opportunities it provided along with the stigma attached to the genre and the performers of it, both black and white. This book covers the history of the songs and singers from minstrel days to vaudeville and the early blues singers, not pulling any punches on issues like segragation and exploitation of blacks for entertainment and profit. Many original sources of the era are cited and used as examples of ragtime era perceptions, interesting from an historical perspective.
That American Rag, The Story of Ragtime in the United States
David A. Jasen & Gene Jones - ©2000, Schirmer Books, New York.
A very complete overview of how Ragtime music developed in this country, and much of the semantics and thinking behind the music publishing business. Organized geographically and very logically with a detailed appendix section listing 2002 rags, it is certain to become the new indispensable reference for ragtime musicians and scholars. Look for many myths to be exposed and a number of surprising revelations concerning some publishers and composers. True to the title, it has little information on rags from outside the United States. Still, it is a valuable resource when used in conjunction with Jasen and Tichenor's Rags and Ragtime.
Rags and Ragtime, A Musical History
David A. Jasen & Trebor Jay Tichenor - ©1978, 1989, Seabury Press, New York.
This book contains a well organized and complete categorical summary of composers, styles, and other aspects of ragtime. However, since Jasen and Tichenor set out to focus primarily on piano ragtime and its direct descendants, there is little information about any songs of the ragtime era. In keeping with their definition of what constitutes piano ragtime, it also omits some popular instrumental pieces of the ragtime era that are not full-fledged rags. The listings for the major composers are complete, with some biography, analysis and recordings that may be referenced, albeit not updated for currently available CDs. It is nonetheless a valuable "must-have" reference.
Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880-1930
David A Jasen & Gene Jones - ©1998, Schirmer Books, New York.
A detailed history of black songwriters from vaudeville and early Broadway shows to the stars of the 1930s. The stories focus as much on the talent as the struggle to have that talent recognized. Includes insight on the origination of popular song, the blues and stride piano, with many interesting and concise biographies. There are plenty of surprises within about various personalities and a close association with the stage work done by each.
Tin Pan Alley
David A Jasen - ©1988, 1989, Donald Fine Inc., New York.**
This is a good source for mainstream information about composers, and great anecdotes about music in the early 1900s, but is not as well organized as a reference for composers or songs. Indexing is accomplished by composer and/or publisher and show titles, rather than by tune name. This is necessary because if all the tunes were referenced in the index it would look more like a catalog than a reference source. Includes great insight into the growth of the music industry from 1890 through the depression. There are biographies throughout for publishers, composers, and musicians, many of which played all three roles at various times. For a more detailed listing of popular songs, invest in the three volume Lissauer's Encyclopedia of Popular Song in American 1888 to the Present.
Chicago Jazz: A Cultural History
William Howland Kenney - ©1993, 1994, 1998, Oxford University Press.
An interesting look at the hotbed of early traditional and swing jazz, the author spends less time looking at the music and more at the social lifestyle that went along with it. An informative book that echoes much of the history and cultural changes our country went through entering the "Roaring Twenties," and a precursor of what was to come. Chicago is particularly interesting because so many jazz musicians from Oliver and Armstrong to Biederbecke migrated there, largely to soak in the influences of each other. How it affected the moral and social attitudes of the city explains quite a bit about the character of Chicago as a whole in the 1920s.
They All Played Ragtime
Rudi Blesh & Harriet Janis - ©1950, 1959, 1966, 1971, Oak Publications, New York.
This was long considered the authoritative book on ragtime and old-time music. Although much more accurate and revealing information has been compiled by many authors since its original printing in 1950, this book is still worth reading (or re-reading). Much of the story of ragtime is told in just that format; as a story. There are some useful appendices for collectors of ragtime records and piano rolls. The third and fourth editions also contain a few interesting rag transcriptions. There is a good chance it will not be updated again, but there is a reprint of the fourth edition currently available through Amazon. Original copies of all four editions are usually available through a title search at Amazon.com, or www.ABEBooks.com, but be prepared to PAY!
King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era
Edward A. Berlin - ©1994, Oxford University Press.
The definitive and most detailed book on Joplin ever presented. Looks not just at the composer, but at some of the previously unsolved mysteries about him, what drove him, and the culture and stigmas surrounding black composers and musicians in general.
Reflections and Research on Ragtime
Edward A. Berlin - ©1987, Institute for Studies in American Music, Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College, New York.
A detailed scholarly study of origins, composition, and performance of ragtime, with emphasis on the school of New York ragtime. Most easily found in the library, or by request of the author.
Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History
Edward A. Berlin - ©1980,2002, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
This is a new release of the original 1980 publication, which is not what some may expect to be a simple sterile analytical look at the music and its interaction with American culture, rather delving deeply into into influences of and by the music with specific examples. For those who are interested in more than simply the notes, this is an essential component of your library.
This Is Ragtime
Terry Waldo - ©1976, 1991, Da Capo Press, New York.
A wide scoping view of Ragtime and the requisite lifestyle during the era, particularly in the years following the era, with very frank interviews of traditional jazz and ragtime artists. A great resource for Eubie Blake fans.
Scott Joplin (Black Americans of Achievement)
Katherine Preston - ©1990, Chelsea House Publishing.
Excellent source for general information, and especially for younger readers. Found in many school libraries.
James Haskins with Kathleen Benson - ©1978, Stein and Day/Scarborough, New York.**
A nicely detailed look at Scott Joplin's life, including peripheral information on the ragtime life as he encountered it. Copies are sometimes available through a title search at Amazon.com (click the cover) or www.ABEBooks.com.
Tom Turpin - His Life and Music
Gene Jones - ©1995, Tom Turpin Ragtime Festival, Savannah, GA.
A short book, but the most complete on this eclectic and brash figure of ragtime, with many photographs and stories from his famous Rosebud Saloon in St. Louis, Missouri.
Blind Boone: Missouri's Ragtime Pioneer
Jack A. Batterson with Rebecca B. Schroeder - ©1998, University of Missouri Press.
The story of an often overlooked figure of early ragtime that was also a virtuoso classical player who played over 8,000 concerts during his lifetime, this book also follows the development of ragtime music, and the challenges faced by Negro artists of the late 19th century.
Mister Jelly Roll
Alan Lomax - ©1950, 1973, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. **
Looks at an aspect of ragtime largely glossed over by some other books, and the authoritative story about the "inventory of jazz and stomps." accumulated mostly through direct interviews. This updated edition includes some corrections or contradictions to the original, which while not entirely accurate was nonetheless an important document of Morton's life told largely by Morton. The accompanying voice recordings on Circle records are difficult to locate, but a few cuts are still floating around on CD.
All My Best Friends
George Burns with David Fisher - ©1989, 1990, G.P. Putnam, New York. **
Lots of stories about entertainers that date back to Ragtime, including a bit of Jolie joshing. After all, Mr. Burns (aka Nathan Birnbaum) was around and performing in the 1910s. Copies of this and other George Burns titles are usually available through an author or title search at Amazon.com (click the cover) or www.ABEBooks.com.
Gracie: A Love Story
George Burns - ©1988, 1990 G.P. Putnam, New York. **
Poignant and a worthwhile read. Includes stories about performing during the ragtime era and vaudeville in the 1910s and 1920s. Even more Jolie jokes. (For the uninitiated, Jolie refers to the legendary Al Jolson). Copies of this and other George Burns titles are usually available through an author or title search at Amazon.com (click the cover) or www.ABEBooks.com.
** This book may be Out of Print, but it might be possible to find it in libraries or used bookstores, or through the amazon.com or abebooks.com Used Books networks searching on Book Title or a topic such as Ragtime. Be warned that in many cases you will pay a premium for these now collectible books. Most may be more easily found in the public library for free, but not for keeps.
A related subject is that of Old Music Sheet Covers. Most previously published books with any color photos are out of print or have outdated prices. Most only have lists of music with few illustrations. However, the best series I have ever obtained is the one displayed below by Marion and Roy Short. They are filled with colorful photographs and stories behind the artists, the song or the cover. All five of the books listed here are available from most resellers or directly from Schiffer Books on the web. Click a cover to view and order.
|Recommended Web Book Resources|
|This well-known stop is a good source for much of the ragtime and traditional jazz currently in print, as well as lots of used material that is hard to find. Search on Ragtime Music|
|One of the most prestigious of booksellers, they host a considerable network of dealers that have rare sheet music available. Search on "Sheet Music", including the quotation marks.|
|This company specializes in hard to find or out of print books. Search on Ragtime or the specific book title. Since many of these books are rare but in good condition, expect to pay a premium for ownership.|
The Ragtime Webring-Dedicated to Scott Joplin and the music of the Ragtime Era, this ring is an invaluable resource for jazz music lovers, musicians and historians. Sheet music, midi files, afro-american history, record collectors...
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