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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UPDATES - 5/20/2015:
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 RAGTIME SEASON again. I will be attending the 41st annual World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival
in Peoria, Illinois, this weekend, which happens to be 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 early June, and online the following week.
What's New! Latest Additions for 2015 (finally!).
Even more lower-definition versions of the tracks I recorded over the past few years, some of which I 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 T-Model Tunes (Commissioned by the Henry Ford Museum) and Gospel From Within albums. More previews available in the Albums Section of the site.
That Auto Ought to Go
Luella Lockwood Moore - 1908
It was an inescapable truth that cars had less than moderate reliability in their earliest incarnations. While one may be amazed at how well they could ford a stream with their 24” wheels and a simple 30 horsepower engine, it is also amazing that something as simple as a radiator or crank shaft had a relatively short life in the time before mass production improved on their overall reliability and durability. This song makes that point very clear, complete with a very clever tag-line. The reference to Bloomingdale in the original chorus (altered here in subsequent repeats) is unclear as to whether it refers to the department store or one of many such-named towns around the country, such as Bloomingdale, New Jersey. However, the rest is clear to anybody who has ever been stranded on the side of the road in an inert motor vehicle. Moore was a talented Detroit, Michigan composer, and the daughter of a noted 19th century songwriter as well, so her musical talent came naturally, as documented by her output, including her highly popular Snowflakes
Grace Walls Linn – 1899
The history of practical automobiles only goes back to the 1880s globally, and really the early 1890s in the United States where this work was composed. By 1899, Henry Ford
had already been tinkering with cars successfully, but would not yet have his own company, and was nearly a decade off from the introduction of the Model T. Given the scant number of cars in the United States in 1899, and even less, passable roads for them to drive on, this is possibly the first piece written specifically for or about an automobile. However, as the composer lived in Indianapolis, where many early cars were manufactured, she may have seen more of them than the average American by that time. The spin in this case could refer either to a popular dance music style, or to the notion of taking the auto out "for a spin." It is a pleasant little gavotte with some latent European influence, and predates the rhythmic "jalopy" feel of later automobile instrumentals, yet there are clearly some early 20th century elements within it as well. There are a couple of forceful minor interludes that add variety and enforce good dynamics in this charming dance tune.
I'm Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go "Ta Ta Ta Ta")
Clarence Gaskill – 1928
In the mid-1920s the Gabriel Trumpet horn appeared on cars as an extra. There were many configurations from two to seven or more tones in an array, the most common at that time being the three tone four note bugle. Before the sleek lines of the mid-1930s took hold, it was common to mount these beasts clearly in view as well, a blatant display of decibel dominance. While it wasn't Dixie
or La Cucaracha
, tunes more commonly found on car horns in later decades, it was enough to both irritate and fascinate people, the latter being the topic of this clever hit song. That it makes fun of certain car brands is more about popularity and rhyming than anything else. The reference to vehicular deaths of pedestrians is a little disturbing, but it underscores just how far (hopefully) we have advanced in traffic awareness, and safety. And perhaps even in horn sounds, except for, perhaps, Yellow Rose of Texas
Paul Charles Pratt (M), J. Will Callahan (L) – 1913
At a time not all that far removed from when we have seen petroleum prices at historic highs, at one point having doubled in less than a five years, this song puts a good historic perspective on the ever growing dependence (even in 1913) on the explosive liquid, and its clear place in our personal economy. Both composers were from Indianapolis, which was not too far from the center of automobile manufacturing at that time, and home to the great brickyard race track still in use a century later. Automobiles were relatively common in Indiana's capitol. It is interesting to note their references to how useful it had already become in terms of public safety services such as fire and police, as well as how the air quality had evidently changed. I use the ending as an opportunity to expand on their aggrandizement of petrol with a grand fanfare! Pratt was materially involved with helping several Indianapolis women composers get published, running facets of J.H. Aufderheide
publishing company founded by the father of composer May Aufderheide
for several years.
Automobile Two Step
Rose De Haven - 1907
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.
Louis Mentel - 1906
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.
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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