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Philip Herbert

Famous pianist in the United Kingdom during the 1950s, selling over 20 million records. She was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, in February 1914. She studied the piano as a child and had a local following. It was hoped that she would eventually work for the family business, after her training in pharmacy.

To gain further musical training, Atwell moved to the United States in 1945, and then came to London in 1946, to the Royal Academy of Music, to become a concert pianist. To sustain her studies, she performed piano rags at hotels, theatres, and clubs in London. By 1950 she had attained national celebrity, and signed to record with Decca. She recorded such hits as Let's Have a Ding‐Dong, Poor People of Paris, Britannia Rag, and many others. The Black and White Rag became the signature tune for the BBC's Pot Black ...

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Charles Blancq

jazz clarinetist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Theogene V. Baquet, a music teacher and the leader of the Excelsior Brass Band of New Orleans, and Leocadie Mary Martinez. Baquet and his younger brother, Achille Baquet, were descendants of “downtown” Creoles, whose musical training was closely allied to the traditions of the French musical conservatory—a musical tradition held at that time to be far superior to that of the “uptown” jazz musicians. At age fourteen, Baquet was already playing E-flat clarinet with the Lyre Club Symphony Orchestra, a Creole ensemble with twenty to thirty pieces, directed by his father. Baquet later received additional training from the legendary Mexican-born clarinetist Luis “Papa” Tio, who, with his nephew Lorenzo Tio Jr., was among the founding members of the New Orleans school of clarinetists, a group that included Johnny Dodds, Albert Nicholas, Omer Simeon ...

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William G. Elliott

composer and pianist, was born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of John Sumner Blake, a stevedore, and Emily Johnston, a launderer. His father was a Civil War veteran, and both parents were former slaves. While the young Blake was a mediocre student during several years of public schooling, he showed early signs of musical interest and talent, picking out tunes on an organ in a department store at about age six. As a result, his parents rented an organ for twenty‐five cents a week, and he soon began basic keyboard lessons with Margaret Marshall, a neighbor and church organist. At about age twelve he learned cornet and buck dancing and was earning pocket change singing with friends on the street. When he was thirteen, he received encouragement from the ragtime pianist Jesse Pickett whom he had watched through the window of a bawdy house ...

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Bill Egan

composer and pianist. Born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore, Maryland, Blake was the only surviving child of eleven born to John Sumner Blake, a stevedore, and Emily Johnston Blake, a laundress, both of whom were freed slaves. Though the year of Blake's birth is traditionally considered to have been 1883, recent research suggests that it was 1887. His early enthusiasm for music convinced his parents to buy him an organ. He took lessons from a local church organist but soon became obsessed with popular ragtime music. Around the turn of the century, in his teens, he got a job as a pianist at Aggie Shelton's bordello.

After an apprenticeship in piano and dancing jobs in New York and Baltimore, from 1910 to 1915 Blake played the piano during the summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1910 he married his former schoolmate Avis Lee ...

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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, James Herbert “Eubie” Blake was the son of John Sumner Black and Emily Johnston Black, both former slaves. Having taken organ lessons when he was six, Blake was playing Ragtime piano professionally in Baltimore bordellos and saloons just ten years later. Around this time, he composed “Charleston Rag.” In his early twenties, he began playing in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he composed another of his popular songs, “Tricky Fingers.”

After Blake's introduction to legendary ragtime and stride piano players Willie “the Lion” Smith, Luckey Roberts, and James P. Johnson, Blake's piano playing matured. He combined a melodic ragtime style with waltzes and comic operas of the time. His playing was noted for its broken-octave parts, sophisticated chord progressions, and altered blues chords. Both Johnson and Fats Waller later used Blake's songs extensively in their repertoires.

In 1916James Reese Europe ...

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John Edward Hasse

(b Fort Worth, TX, Nov 9, 1887; d New York, May 26, 1949). American ragtime composer. He reportedly worked as an itinerant black pianist, beginning in ‘Hell's Half Acre’, the former bordello district of Fort Worth. Bowman commemorated four streets in this district with piano rags. In 1914 he published the 12th Street Rag at his own expense then sold it to the music publisher J W Jenkins Sons in Kansas City Missouri Its theme and variations structure unusual for ragtime and use of a repeating three note motif sometimes called secondary rag made the piece catchy and easy to play and under the Jenkins imprint it became a major hit Words were added and it was issued in numerous arrangements becoming an enduring standard among bandleaders pianists broadcasters and the record buying public More than 120 versions were recorded on 78 r ...

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Barbara Bonous-Smit

American ragtime and blues composer and pianist, was born in Tarrant County, Texas, to A. Bowman and Marguerite Olivia Estee Landin Bowman. His grandfather, Gatewood Bowman, cared for him and his older sister and brother where they lived, on a farm close to Mansfield, Texas. Bowman attended the public schools in the area and frequently visited Kansas City, Missouri, as a youngster.

In 1905 Bowman's parents divorced. Along with his mother he moved in with his sister, Mary M. Bowman who lived in Fort Worth His sister was not only a teacher in the school system but also a piano instructor and is credited with teaching Bowman to play the piano The tall and thinly built Bowman became an itinerant ragtime pianist performing at local homes at parties and night clubs in Forth Worth through the 1920s It is alleged that a train accident contributed to ...

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Trebor Jay Tichenor

(b St Louis, March 13, 1881; d Chicago, March 26, 1908). American ragtime pianist and composer. He began a career as a vaudeville entertainer in partnership with Sam Patterson, a trained musician who had grown up with Chauvin in St Louis. According to Patterson, Chauvin became a superb all-round performer with a wide repertory of piano pieces, a fine tenor voice and effective comedy and dance styles. The duo eventually drew high praise from leading vaudevillians such as Bert Williams and George Walker. Later they disbanded to concentrate on the more profitable trade of piano playing. They appeared together at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis in 1904 and in that same year Chauvin won the Rosebud Club piano contest an annual competition under the aegis of the ragtime pianist Tom Turpin By this time Chauvin had become known as the King ...

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Edward A. Berlin

ragtime pianist and composer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Sylvester Chauvin, a musician who may have been born in Mexico, and Mary, an African American born in Missouri. Some sources give 13 March 1881 as Louis Chauvin's birth date. His death certificate merely states his age as “about 25.” His first name was sometimes spelled “Lewis” and the family name was spelled variously as “Chovan,” “Chouvan,” “Chauvan,” “Shovan” (as in the 1900 census), or “Showvan.” Chauvin was about five feet five inches in height and light-skinned. The 1900 census listed him as black, but the 1880 census listed his parents as mulatto. Chauvin had no formal musical training and was musically illiterate. His brothers Sylvester, Abraham, and Peter, who also became musicians, probably also lacked formal musical training.

Chauvin's musical activities were first reported in 1899 when he performed as a member of a ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

songster and one-man band, was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta. Raised by a succession of foster families, he never knew his father and barely knew his mother. “My mother used to give me away to different people and they were so darn mean to me I used to run away,” Fuller told interviewer Richard Noblett many years later Fuller showed an early aptitude for making musical instruments constructing a mouth bow at age seven or eight He was eight and still being cared for by a foster family when his mother died He dropped out of third grade and spent the next year or two working various jobs including tending cattle outside Atlanta and carrying water at a grading camp At age ten he ran away from foster care for good staying briefly with his sister and her husband in the Atlanta area where he learned to ...

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Edward A. Berlin

ragtime pianist, singer, and songwriter, was born Benjamin Robertson Harney to Margaret Draffen and Benjamin Mills Harney, a Union army captain, teacher, and engineer. There is conflicting information on his place of birth. His listings in the census cite Kentucky, and his death certificate specifies Louisville, which agrees with information given by his Louisville publisher, Bruner Greenup. However, the Louisville Herald of 27 April 1916 says he was from Middlesboro, Kentucky, his marriage registry from 1897 specifies he was born “on board steamer,” and his father's military pension record gives Memphis, Tennessee, as his birthplace. There is no information available about Harney's childhood or education, but the 1880 census shows that his parents had divorced and he was living in Anderson County Kentucky with his mother and her parents his father was living alone in Louisville Harney is thought to have some black ancestry despite ...

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Edward A. Berlin

(b northeast TX, between July 1867 and mid-Jan 1868; d New York, April 1, 1917). American composer. He is regarded as ragtime’s greatest exponent. Census records of 1870 and 1880 and Joplin’s death certificate establish that the frequently cited birth date of 24 November 1868 is incorrect.

Article

Eric Bennett

Scott Joplin led the black musicians who, at the turn of the twentieth century, melded African American folk music with classical and romantic European traditions to form Ragtime, a march-based yet heavily syncopated style of popular music. Joplin's compositions fueled a ragtime craze that led thousands of middle-class whites to buy pianos, collect sheet music, and enjoy, for the first time, the pulse of black vernacular culture. While Joplin's energetic rags created a sensation in middle-class parlors, he also wrote more conventional classical music. He composed waltzes, tangos, operas, and ballet, yet, because of his tremendous success as sheet-music scribe—and because he was black—Joplin died with a reputation far smaller than the body of his work deserved.

Scott Joplin spent his first years in the lawless Reconstruction era countryside of East Texas s Red River Valley His father was a laborer and former slave and his mother a ...

Article

Hildred Roach

ragtime composer and pianist, was born in or near Texarkana, Texas, one of six children of Giles Joplin, reportedly a former slave from North Carolina, and Florence Givens a freewoman from Kentucky Many aspects of Joplin s early life are shrouded in mystery At a crucial time in his youth Joplin s father left the family and his mother was forced to raise him as a single parent She made arrangements for her son to receive piano lessons in exchange for her domestic services and he was allowed to practice piano where she worked A precocious child whose talent was noticed by the time he was seven years old Joplin had undoubtedly inherited talent from his parents as Giles had played violin and Florence sang and played the banjo His own experimentations at the piano and his basic music training with local teachers contributed to his advancement ...

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Edward A. Berlin

ragtime composer and pianist. Joplin was the second of six children born to Florence Givens, a freeborn African American woman from Kentucky, and Giles (or Jiles) Joplin, born a slave in North Carolina. Scott was born in Texas, probably in or near Linden, where his family was listed in the 1870 census. The frequently cited birth date of 24 November 1868 has no evidentiary support and is refuted by the census and his death certificate, which suggest a birth date between 19 July 1867 and mid-January 1868.

Sometime in the mid to late 1870s the family moved to the newly founded town of Texarkana which straddles the border between Texas and Arkansas Giles worked as a laborer and Florence as a domestic The young Scott had access to a piano in a home where Florence worked and he apparently taught himself the rudiments A local music teacher possibly ...

Article

Richard Carlin

ragtime composer and pianist, was born in Saline County, Missouri; information about his parents is unknown. The Marshall family had relocated to Sedalia, Missouri, by the time that Arthur was in grade school, and there he befriended another budding musician, Scott Hayden. Noted ragtime pianist Scott Joplin lived with the Marshall family for a while, influencing the youngster's interest in ragtime; Arthur also took private lessons in classical piano. Joplin is said to have introduced Arthur to the Maple Leaf Club (the inspiration for Joplin's own “Maple Leaf Rag”) while Arthur was still in high school, and Arthur is said to have performed there.

Marshall attended George R Smith College in Sedalia where he studied music and then obtained a teaching license He worked at various parties and gatherings in St Louis as well as in the city s red light district where ragtime music was much in ...

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Trebor Jay Tichenor

(b Braidwood, IL, Nov 15, 1888; d Cincinnati, Oct 25, 1958). American ragtime composer and music educator. He grew up in Springfield, Illinois, where he learnt ragtime from two local pianists, Banty Morgan and Art Dillingham, and played professionally in the tenderloin district. After moving to St Louis about 1908 he studied the piano, the organ and theory, and composed and arranged for local theatres. He also transcribed rags by other composers for the music publisher John Stark, who issued Matthews’s five Pastime rags. Jelly Roll Morton, who visited St Louis at this time, recalled Matthews as ‘the best musician in town’. In 1915 Matthews took a position as church organist in Chicago and shortly thereafter one at the Berea Church in Cincinnati where he settled at the end of World War I There he earned a degree at the Metropolitan College of ...

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Leonard L. Brown

musician and school founder, was born in Braidwood, Illinois. His parents' names are unknown. He spent his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, where his family moved when he was a young child. Matthews early expressed an interest in music, and historical accounts credit his mother as his first piano teacher, although he later took lessons from local teachers. A trip to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 exposed Matthews to the major African American performers of ragtime, the dominant popular music then. Upon returning to Springfield, Matthews learned ragtime from local performers.

Sometime in 1907 or 1908 Matthews settled in St Louis where he remained for the next seven or eight years with some excursions to Chicago While in St Louis he studied theory arranging composition and organ at the Keeton School of Music He developed into an excellent pianist composer and arranger and his reputation led to his being ...

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Jelly Roll Morton was born Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe to fair-skinned Creole parents in New Orleans, Louisiana, and all his life he considered himself more white than black. His father, who left the family when Morton was young, played trombone, as did Morton's stepfather, Ed Morton. Morton received guitar lessons by the age of six but soon abandoned guitar for piano. At the age of twelve he began playing piano in the bordellos of New Orleans's Storyville district, and as a teenager he traveled the Gulf Coast, mingling with famous regional musicians, including Ragtime pianist Tony Jackson. Morton also received some formal musical training at Saint Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana.

Beginning with his trip to the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 Morton embarked on a decade of itinerant music making that carried him throughout the South and to New York City and ...

Article

Bill Egan

jazz musician. Ferd “Jelly Roll” Morton was born Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe in New Orleans to Edward J. Lamothe, a building contractor, and Louise Monette, who lived together in a common-law marriage. His mother later married William Mouton, anglicized as Morton. The families were French-speaking Creoles with Haitian connections, and New Orleans was a rich melting pot of African American, Creole, and white music. The young Morton learned guitar but soon switched to piano, and to his family's dismay he started to play in local bordellos.

By 1907 Morton's mother had died. His family, except his much-loved godmother, disowned him because he was a musician. Now on his own, he traveled widely, playing and performing in black vaudeville. Between 1907 and 1914 he visited Memphis (where he played with W. C. Handy Saint Louis Texas and Chicago He became known as an outstanding pianist and composer ...