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
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UPDATES - 6/29/2015:
I am nearing completion on my huge 2014/2015 site overhaul. The CD, to which I am hoping to add downloads, is the last section to undergo that upgrade, so please have patience. By mid-summer of 2015 the NEW RagPiano.com will be complete. Much of the change is reflected in the rather substantial increase of composer biographies in the Resources section
, plus additional updated information on existing ones, all starting at Male Composer Biographies
. 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.
My next big event will be the Ragtime Street Fair at Greenfield Village
in Deaborn, Michigan, on July 11 and 12. It is worth a trip there and the Henry Ford museum for the history alone. Add in several ragtime performers and silent films and Teddy Roosevelt, and it is a true celebration of that history.
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 audio tracks on what I consider to be some of my best CDs to date. This posting I am focusing on four rags from varying periods, two of them by stride pianists. More previews of album tracks are available in the Albums Section of the site.
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.
Mel Kaufman was making a name for himself at this time, producing mostly dance tunes that were easy to play and easy to say, most (like Me-ow
or the circus standard Stop It
) with terse titles. The simplicity also sold his one-step melodies, of which this is one of his best, not too bad for a guy whose main career at that time was as a ladies undergarment salesperson, rather than as a musician. Initially self-published in New York, publisher Sam Fox
of Cleveland, Ohio, eventually took on a large body of Kaufman's pieces for his catalog. Taxi
has somewhat of an urban feel to it, forecasting a similar feel for the opening of
George Gershwin’s An American in Paris
, complete with suggestions of automobile horns. The words "taxi" and "whistle" are actually printed in the score. Whether they were intended for the pianist alone or the audience is unclear. We hail the thing either way.
The Little Ford Rambled Right Along
(M), C.R. Foster - 1914
The Model-T had become so ubiquitous after only six years from its introduction to the world that its presence was embedded in the national psyche of the United States as well. There were more of them sold each year by 1914 than almost every other car made combined, and their reliability in spite of their flaws became a legendary joke of sorts. This rather substantial hit, the first of many for composer Byron Gay
, was the automotive equivalent of Harry Miller's The Cat Came Back
, and there were likely more verses out there than the four by publisher Foster that showed up in print. Model-T Fords were used as coupes, sedans, fire trucks, delivery vehicles, and even jitney buses, so found at work virtually everywhere. It is true that the little Fords were hard to kill, even if one had to back them up a hill owing to the need for the gravity gas flow to go forward.
The Speed King
Speed was, of course, both a fascination and progressively a way of life for early automobile owners. However, owing to horrible roads that were intended for slower horse-drawn vehicles, speeding was also a luxury, and early on a captivating sport. By the time this piece was composed, a speed of 100 miles an hour or better was being reached on race tracks and early proving grounds like the one at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Streamlining of automobiles (and railroad locomotives) was also important, and historically from the early 1900s on, many innovations put into race cars trickled down into passenger vehicles as well, a trend which continues more than a century later. Morrison was a fine composer from Indianapolis, a city that was host to some great ragtime composers, early car manufacturers and, of course, the Indianapolis 500 mile race which began in 1911. This exciting little jaunt around the track is more than enough to get the circulation going.
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
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.
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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