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.
Listings are updated now and then. Last Update
Left Click on title to play MP3 or thumbnail to View full size cover with MP3 Player.
UPDATES - 7/27/2015:
I am currently overhauling the antiquated search engine for the site, and installing it in more locations for easier access. It will evolve into something more soon, but is a darn sight faster than the previous one. Still tweaking, so have patience on appearance, but the results are much more focused. The CD store, to which I am hoping to add downloads, is the last section to undergo an upgrade, so please have patience on that as well. By late summer of 2015 the NEW RagPiano.com will be complete. Much of the change is already reflected in the rather substantial increase of composer biographies in the Resources section
, plus additional updated information on existing ones, and some minor grammar/spelling corrections, all starting at Male Composer Biographies
. In April I completed a MIDI conversion to MP3 audio for the entire site, since most browsers do not support direct play of MIDI files any longer (they are still available from the MP3 Index). Many more performances never converted to MIDI have been added as a result. 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 vocal performances.
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 very soon.
What's New! Latest Additions for 2015.
Even more medium-definition versions of the tracks I recorded over the past few years, some of which I did not render in MIDI format, but are not up to CD level either (hopefully for obvious reasons). 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 digital audio recordings. This posting in honor of my recent appearance at the annual Ragtime Street Fair held at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, I am offering four more pieces from the album T-Model Tunes
, commissioned by the Henry Ford for an anniversary of the famous ubiquitous car. Everything here from a rag to some comedy and a not-too-subtle advertisement. More previews of album tracks are available in the Albums Section of this site.
Thomas H. Trenholm - 1905
A little-known self-published piano rag by an even lesser-known composer, this piece actually translates into an interesting work. Although a bit redundant in the first section, it is mildly challenging to interpret, and seems to also capture the spirit and motion of the auto car during its first decade of curious experimentation in advance of the coming of the Model T Ford. The B section has a wide variety of syncopated patterns, similar to the better rags of that period, which might make one wonder what else Trenholm would have been capable of if he had composed more rags. But it is also one of those rare rags that contain lyrics for the trio. Since they are not applied throughout it does not qualify as a song but more of a hybrid. Then again, the lyrics (not included in the performance) such "My auto girl, you’re all the whirl, with a click click click click a click, and a tick tick tick..." clearly demonstrate that Mr. Trenholm was better at composing music than pushing prose, which does not bode well when one finds out he was listed as an advertising manager in the 1910 census.
I'd Rather Go Walking with the Man I Love Than to Ride in Your Automobile
L.E. Spencer - 1908
This charming number with the extra-long title is a little-known sequel to In My Merry Oldsmobile
, in which Johnnie Steele’s romance with Lucille has hit the road, in part because of his own romance with his now famous car. Somewhat mean-spirited in nature, yet paved with good intentions, this song makes clear the early correlation of cars with status and virility in certain men. It further indicates that which is more important to the fairer sex, long before the highways from Venus and Mars were in operation, which is personal attention to the simpler things. In essence, it's a song about romance that was hitching a ride on the growing popularity of automobile songs. While never a big hit, this piece sold a fair amount in sheet music form. Perhaps Miss Kelsey's witty vocal performance will help to revive this sour persimmon. The mildly expensive four-color cover for the piece commissioned by the composer, who was also the publisher, is particularly vivid for a Chicago publisher during this time period.
I'd Rather Have a Girlie Than an Automobile (Or Anything Else I Know)
William A. Dillon - 1908
William A. Dillon was not a prolific composer, but he had a few minor hits in the 1900s and 1910s, including some written with his brother Lawrence, and was most famously the lyricist for the song I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad
. This piec was among his earliest issues, and one of the more predictive entries of the time, not so much because of the attitude against automobiles, but that it is one of the earliest "girlie" songs, like the famous Take Your Girlie to the Movies if you Can’t Make Love at Home
. The main protagonist of this song is essentially viewed as a spoiled twenty-something, but in reality he perhaps has his priorities in order. Save for the original half-speed left hand line, it is also predictive of the style of songs that would appear within the next few years, leading into the wild tunes of the 1920s. I have rectified this by applying the one-step double time left hand starting on the second chorus. You can also hear hints of something else that I decided to add in, a quote from the Great Race March
composed by Henry Mancini
for the great vintage car film The Great Race
Cole 30 Flyer
John Lee Bowers - 1910
There is nothing like blatant product placement, which is not so new as many might think. Clearly composed to tout the wonders of this model of Cole automobiles, the lyrics of this song again bring up the old males-with-automobiles-have-status issue, this time with the girl making it clear she’ll marry the man only if he has the right car. The piece was initially self-published in Indianapolis by Bowers, who was actually a salesman associated with United-Motor-Toledo Company in Toledo, Ohio, at that time, and NOT a professional songwriter. The song is not terrible, but it lacks some lyrical punch. It was soon reissued by L.S. French in Indianapolis, the same town in which the Cole Auto Company, shown in the picture to the right, built their product. In the long run, this simple waltz song outlasted the Cole Motor Company, which went under in 1925, by a considerable stretch, and the unattributed cover art of this piece featuring the title car is still popular today. The charming Miss Kelsey puts her own unique period spin on the choruses of the song in this duo performance.
Down Home Rag
Wilbur C. Sweatman
Rarely has any composer made so much from so little. The persistent and oft-recorded Down Home Rag
, Sweatman's signature piece, is essentially a set of variations on two simple themes. Composed entirely in pint-sized eight measure sections, Down Home Rag
depends on repeats and the performer’s embellishment skills to infuse variety and length. Yet it was highly popular when first published, and remained so in cartoons of the 1930s as well as during the 1950s ragtime and honky-tonk revival. Sweatman himself made two recordings of the piece for Emerson in 1916. The son of a black Missouri barber, piano was not his primary instrument, but one at which he had some skill. Wilbur initially gained notoriety as a clarinetist in circus bands and in vaudeville, using a special mouthpiece attached to two, then later three clarinets welded together allowing him to play all of them at one time in harmony. He was also the first to record Maple Leaf Rag on a piano, but unfortunately that cylinder, recorded in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is long lost. By the time Down Home Rag
was released he was a fairly big musical star in Chicago, Illinois, soon to move to New York City where he would spend much of the rest of his life trading on this piece and his musical talent.
Kendall was a somewhat prolific and original composer who performed on a few piano rolls as well. He was also a music teacher and organist in New York City, and worked as an accompanist in a vaudeville troupe in the 1890s. He also worked as a piano salesman, and then publisher's representative in the early 1900s, an employee of M. Witmark and Sons when Rig-A-Ma-Role Rag
emerged under the rival banner of Jerome H. Remick. This particular rag stands up well over time for a number of factors. The opening section is insanely simple, essentially using a slow trill in thirds as the melodic theme, yet it requires both finesse and stamina to execute. It is unusual that the B section and trio utilize the same key in relation to the opening strain. It is the trio of the rag that gives the most latitude for improvisation. Some of the licks I use are variations from a recording of this piece by pianist Lou Busch
on the Capitol album Bar Room Piano
from 1951, in which he plays a shortened version of Rig-A-Ma-Role Rag
at a rather frenetic pace. The colorful and whimsical cover depicts a popular swing ride found in early amusement and trolley parks.
Steeplechase Rag (a.k.a. Over the Bars)
James Price Johnson
The term steeplechase
was associated both with what was essentially an equestrian hurdle event imported from the United Kingdom. and a pseudo-coaster that emulated that experience, particularly the famous ride at George C. Tilyou's
iconic Steeplechase Park
on Coney Island (pictured at right). Johnson’s rendition may go as far back as 1914, when he was just 20 years old, and it may have even been played on Coney Island in one of the many music venues found there. His first piano roll of Steeplechase Rag
was rendered in 1917. Later, Johnson revisited the same piece under the title Over the Bars
, which constitutes the 1924 copyrighted name, but recorded it under both names over the following years. It was not in print until transcriptions of Johnson's various recordings of the piece started to appear in the late 20th century. This rag provides ample opportunity for showing off both ragtime patterns and early stride riffs, particularly in the ebullient trio and its final iteration of rapid-fire staccato chords.
Stompin' 'Em Down
Hill was the son of a pastor from Little Rock, Arkansas, who was trained in the classics and liturgical music. However, he caught the jazz bug in his youth, and to his parents' dismay set out on the road at age 16 to join a band and make popular music performance his career. After some years of struggle Alex found his niche in stride piano and jazz band arrangements. At 23 years of age he recorded this tantalizingly hot number, almost at the same time as his slightly older peer Thomas "Fats" Waller
was setting a new paradigm with his Handful of Keys
. He had the potential to be in the same place musically as Waller, and indeed did play and compose with the stride master (including I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby
in 1935), but Hill preferred leading a jazz orchestra over solo piano performance. His consistently fine work helped to pave the way for other Negro arrangers, such as Fletcher Henderson
who had been doing similar work. After several years of constant engagements around New York Alex contracted tuberculosis and died at age 31 in his native Little Rock. An attempt has been made here to recreate the essence of his original performance with a few extra licks thrown in.
Red Mouse Rag
Wilbur J. Piper - 1910/1911
The cover of Red Mouse Rag
states, "The melody of this will creep into anything." While there were many rags and song about dogs and cats and lions and tigers bears, oh my, there were very few rodent rags, and given the ick factor it’s understandable as to why. Yet Red Mouse Rag
sold at a pretty fair clip in its day. It was composed by a 19-year-old from Sidney, Ohio, who worked for his father who was a dry goods merchant. It is the only known work found by Piper, yet a rather fair quality piece at that. Largely scale-pattern driven in content, it wasn’t that hard for the average pianist to grasp as well. It was the sometimes-erratic syncopated rhythms that were the real challenge. The trio is slightly reminiscent of the familiar Frankie and Johnny
melody that would be published a year later, and which was already a folk staple of sorts. It is punctuated with a bold interlude. In recent years, pianist and historian Dick Zimmerman
had a computer mouse pad made from the cover. And if you don't like this fun little piece, well then rats to you.
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:
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