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Happy Missouri Day, Frankie & Johnny!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 10:47pm | Post a Comment

In recognition of Missouri Day, here's a brief breakdown on Missouri's second most famous couple (after the fictional Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher), a real-life couple usually referred to as Frankie and Johnny. After Frankie caught her man in flagrante delicto with another woman, Alice Pryor, and shot him dead, it was commemorated in numerous songs and films.

Frankie Baker was a 22-year-old St. Louisan dancer who was dating 17-year-old Allen "Al" Britt. Britt had another girlfriend on the side. Britt's friend Richard J. Clay warned Britt about dating two women at the same time but Britt carried on. Then, on October 15th, 1899, around 3:30 in the morning, Baker headed home to her apartment at 212 Targee Street in Chestnut Valley and caught Britt in bed with Pryor. An argument ensued with Baker's roommate, Pansy Marvin, testifying that Britt threw a lamp at Baker and cut her with a knife. In return, Frankie shot him once with her Harrington & Richardson .38. Britt died of his wounds two days later. Baker claimed in her trial that she'd acted in self-defense. She was acquitted but didn't escape notoriety.


Al Britt's grave

Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 05:35pm | Post a Comment


Stagger Lee
is one of Missouri's most celebrated characters in song. Loads of people have sung about the seemingly amoral anti-hero, but here are the facts, ma'am.


Lee "Stag" Shelton
was born on March 16, 1865. As a young man he drove a carriage cab and pimped. He also operated a "sporting club," the Modern Horseshoe Club in St. Louis's "Bloody Third" Ward, in an area known as Chestnut Valley. Chestnut Valley and the sporting clubs located there were instrumental in the development of ragtime. Shelton was part of a pimp clique called The Macks. His trademarks included a high roller stetson, rings, an ebony cane, spats and St. Louis flats -- mirrored shoes with pointy, upturned toes. Oh yeah, and a .44 Smith & Wesson.


On St. Stephens Day, 1895, Shelton and Billy Lyons were at a the Bill Curtis Saloon (described by the paper as "the envy of all its competitors and the terror of the police") together, in the "Deep Morgan" neighborhood. Initially they were cordial, but after more drinks, began smacking each others' hats after the conversation turned to politics. First, Shelton grabbed Lyons' derby. Lyons then removed Shelton's stetson. According to witnesses, Shelton demanded either the hat be returned or Lyons pay with his life. Lyons pulled out a knife he'd borrowed in advance from his friend and companion at the bar, Henry Crump. Shelton then shot Billy Lyons.


Stagger Lee's old residence

According to a witness, Lyons dropped the hat, at which point Shelton yelled, "Give me my hat, nigga!," picked it up and walked back to his home on Sixth in "Tamale Town," gave his gun to his landlady and hit the hay. At 4:00am, Lyons died in the hospital.


Shelton went to trial (twice) and ended up getting sent to Jeff City to serve his 25 year sentence. He was paroled in 1909 but went back two years later after robbing a house and bashing owner William Akins's head in with his gun. In 1912, Stagger Lee died in prison of consumption. He's buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale.


John Lomax
published the first known version of a commemorative song which he was given by Ella Scott Fisher in 1910. Mississippi John Hurt wrote what many consider the definitive version. In 1959, Lloyd Price had a massive #1 hit with his version, recorded the previous year.


It's also been done by Beck, Bill Haley & His Comets, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson, Dr. John, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Frank Hutchison, Furry Lewis, Huey Lewis and the News, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Johnny Dodds, Ma Rainey, Memphis Slim, Neil Diamond, Nick Cave, Pat Boone, Professor Longhair, Sam the Sham, Sidney Bechet, Snatch and the Poontangs, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Taj Mahal, The Isley Brothers, Tim Hardin, Tom Rush, Wilbert Harrison, Wilson Pickett, Woody Guthrie and many more...


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Show me the Mo Movies!!! - Missouri in Film and TV

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 30, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment
Some folk that know me know I have to see dang near err movie that's filmed in, set in or tied to Missouri (whurr I grew up). With the Bourne Trilogy, those ties were somewhat tenuous... Badass Jason Bourne is merely informed that his real name is David Webb and he's from Nixa. No wonder he joined the military. Needless to say, people are sick of hearing me talk about my home state, but most of yins are strangers so it will hopefully be only a fraction as annoying as what they put up wither pritnear err time I sip on somethin'.


I just sawl Winter's Bone the other day. What can I say? The boyz (and gulz) in the woodz is always hard! Wisely, they actually filmed in the Ozarks rather than in Canada or some other pale stand-in. Not much in the way of distracting celebrities either. Perfect music by Tindersticks' Dickon Hinchliffe. Real recognize real, ya heard? Anywho, hurr's my pretty complete timeline of Mo Films.


MO MOVIES IN THE SILENT ERA

  

Silent Movies were ideal for the people who made "Show Me" thurr motto. With outlaws from Missouri including Tom Horn, and badass cowgirls Belle Star and Calamity Jane, it's kind of surprising how many Missouri-set Westerns overwhelmingly favor popular Missourian Jesse James. Apparently, the most Missouri silent movie would have Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer joining the James Gang. Just consider the following silent films set in the state:

The James Boys in Missouri (1908), Coals of Fire (1911), In Mizzoura (1914), Tom Sawyer (1917), In Mizzoura and Shepherd of the Hills (both 1919), Huckleberry Finn (1920), Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921) and Jesse James (1927).

MO MOVIES IN THE EARLY SOUND ERA


People have always love songs about Missourians wildin' out. Just consider "Frankie and Johnnie," about Frankie Baker, who rubbed out her man in 1899 after she found him with another woman. It inspired the films Her Man (1930) and Frankie and Johnnie (1936).

Then thurr's Lee "Stagger Lee" Shelton, a Mack who killed William Lyons in 1895 after he made the mistake of touching his pimp hat. "St. Louis Blues" is relatively peaceful by comparison, and was in essence, one of the first music videos.

There were more movies about the creations of Mark Twain and Robert and Zerelda James too. Interestingly, thurr seems to've been a short-lived vogue for movies about people ('specially dames) from Missouri, probably in part due to the popularity of Missourian actress Jean Harlow. Consider the following:

 Meanwhile, the events of her famous lovers quarrel inspired films, including Her Man (1930) and She Done Him Wrong (1935). After that, her legend spread nationally and people hounded her for autographs and prank called her. Frankie and Johnnie (1936) followed.

St. Louis Blues (1929), Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn , Kitty from Kansas City (both 1931), The St. Louis Kid, The Girl From Missouri and Kansas City Princess (all 1934), St. Louis Woman (1935), The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), I’m From Missouri,  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer – Detective, Jesse James and Days of Jesse James (all 1939).

Huckleberry Finn 1931Voice of Bugle Ann

Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938           

MO MOVIES IN THE '40s

The '40s were pritnear a continuation of the previous decade as the nation remained obsessed with popular, racist murderer who stole from everyone and gave to himself (Jesse James). Just look at these'n's:

In Old Missouri and The Return of Frank James (1940) Bad Men of Missouri, Belle Starr, Jesse James at Bay, and Shepherd of the Hills (all 1941), A Missouri Outlaw (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis and Kansas City Kitty (both 1944), Down Missouri Way (1946), Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948) and Calamity Jane and Sam Bass and I Shot Jesse James (both 1949).

    

 

TV AGE MO

Finally, movies about Missouri started to get a little more interesting in the 1950s, focusing often on modern crimes and juvenile delinquents, and not just outlaws from the Old West. Consider the following:

The Great Missouri Raid, Return of Jesse James and The Missourians (all 1950), Pete Kelly's Blues (1951), The Pride of St. Louis and Kansas City Confidential (both 1952), Calamity Jane and The Great Jesse James Raid (1953), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jesse James’ Women (both 1954), The Delinquents (1955), The True Story of Jesse James (1956), The Pride of St. Louis (1957), The Cool and the Crazy (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

     True Story of Jesse James



MO MOVIES IN THE '60s

After nearly half a century, Americans seemed to have finally had enough of films about Tom Sawyer and Jesse James. As a result, movies taking place in Missouri became fewer and farther between; consider:
Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both 1960), Hoodlum Priest (1961),  Beetle Bailey and Hottenanny Hoot (both 1963), and Ride a Wild Stud (1969).




MISSOURI IN THE '70s

After a decade away from screens, a new generation of film-goers clamored for cinematic representations of Tom Sawyer and Hollywood obliged. Missouri-loving audiences were also blessed with many new characters.

Huckleberry Finn and Kansas City Bomber (both 1972),Tom Sawyer (dir. Don Taylor), Tom Sawyer (dir. James Neilson) and Paper Moon (all 1973), Huckleberry Finn and Lucas Tanner (1974), Huckleberry Finn, Bucktown, Linda Lovelace for President and Kansas City Massacre (all 1975), The Student Body (1976), The Baxters (1977) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1979).

 
   

MISSOURI IN THE '80s

When most people think of '80s cinema, teen sex comedies often come to mind. Not in Missouri, thank you. For Hollywood, Missouri in the '80s meant a revival of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn films... and Mama's Family. Things began, finally, to change toward the end of the decade.

Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (all 1981), After MASH, The Day After and Mama’s Family (all 1983), Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (all 1984), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1985), The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986), Huckleberry Finn and Bird (both 1988) and Miss Missouri, Parenthood and Road House (all 1989).
After MASH 


MISSOURI IN THE '90s

For whatever reason, in the '90s it became somewhat popular to set things seemingly randomly in the Show Me state... that, and the subject matter began to expand in odd directions. Look the these:

The Josephine Baker Story, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, White Palace (all 1990), Child’s Play 3 (1991), Sniz and Fondue and Article 99 (all 1992), King of the Hill, Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck and the King of Hearts, The John Larroquette Show and What’s Love Got to Do With It? (all 1993), On Our Own (1994), Casino (1995), Malcolm and Eddie and Kansas City (both 1996), The "Airport" episode of Newsradio and Waiting For Guffman (both 1998) and Ride With the Devil (1999).

Josephine Baker Story        


 Article 99King of the Hill


THE NEW MO-LLENNIUM

For some reason, the new millennium brought a decrease in Missouri's star turns. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout were both obviously filmed in Canada and the latter film was a steaming piece of horse pockey.

 



Living in Missouri
(2001), The Games of Their Lives (2003), Jesus Camp (2006), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout (both 2007), Albino Farm (2009).


MO IN THE 2010s

I haven't been home in a while but Winter's Bone made me nostalgic; so far it's the only MO Movie of the decade that I know of. Update: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was great too. 

Winter's Bone (2010)



The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2012)


 
Masters of Sex

*****

To read about Missouri and music, click here

******

The roots of jazz - ragtime

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 24, 2009 04:48pm | Post a Comment
Although for most people the strains of "The Entertainer" and other rags now primarily evoke quaint, scratchy images of silent films projected at the wrong speed, when ragtime first appeared around the 1870s, it was the soundtrack of Missouri's whorehouses, parlors and gambling clubs.

St. Louis in the 1870s

Ragtime was also one of the first truly and distinctly American musical forms. After cakewalk, ragtime was one of the first global music crazes. That Ragtime's cradle was the river towns of the Missouri Valley shouldn't be a surprise. Missouri, located at the center of the country, has long been and remains a crossroads of cultural exchanges. No state borders more than Missouri and noted ragtime musicians came from all the neighbors and spread to them (except Nebraska and Iowa, states whose people are known to be deaf to the joys of melody and dance). The character of ragtime -- drawing from folk, European and American marches, minstrelsy, spirituals and other forms -- connects Europe, Africa and North America, town and country, classical and popular, black and white.

Though ragtime is primarily written for the piano, it was also played on other instruments, notably the banjo. Although its syncopation is generally discussed as a defining characteristic, not all ragtime truly is and the term "syncopated" was applied much as “swing” was later, as a sort of shorthand for an indescribable feeling. Scott Joplin even wrote, “Play slowly until you catch the swing,” and described the effect as “weird and intoxicating.”

As insisted upon by "The King of Ragtime," Scott Joplin, ragtime was meant to be played exactly as written. Although discouraging improvisation, James P. Johnson stated that he and other New York pianists would routinely appropriate sections of ragtime and improvise, unaware even of the song's authorship, giving birth to a style known as stride.


THE BIRTH OF RAGTIME

Ragtime is usually said to have first appeared in the 1890s (when it first was published) and 1897 is usually named as the year of ragtime's emergence. However, E.A. Phelps’s "The Darkies’ Patrol," published in 1892, is a rag -- a fact noted on the sheet music by the publisher. Ragtime had, in fact, been around many years before it was commited to paper. Scott Joplin heard ragtime when he first arrived in St. Louis in 1885. Blind Boone, skipping school in the mid-1870s, did as well. The place they both heard it was St. Louis's famed Chestnut Valley tenderloin/red light district, where sporting houses employed pianists to provide a score for their client's various activities. Chesnut Valley had a reputation for being so hot that supposedly cops wouldn't set foot in it. It was in Chesnut Valley, on Targee St. in 1899, where Allen (Johnny) Britt got killed by Frankie Baker a lover's quarrel, a crime immortalized in the song "Frankie & Johnny."

ST. LOUIS'S CHESTNUT VALLEY

       
               Artie Matthews                                  Joe Jordan                                         Charles Hunter

    
      Louis Chauvin                     Tom Turpin                      Charley Thompson                Ralph Sutton

Georgia-born Thomas Million John Turpin, aka Tom Turpin, had strong ties to Chestnut Valley. Turpin's father, Honest John Turpin, ran the Silver Dollar Saloon. Turpin the younger opened two of the most famous venues for ragtime when, in 1900 (the same year he met Scott Joplin), he opened the Rosebud Bar, an enormous venue (with rented rooms upstairs) which featured many of the city's best ragtime musicians. The Rosebud also played host to many traveling musicians and was the sight of cutting contests between pianists from various locales. His other venue was the nearby Hurrah Sporting Club.

For his patronage, work as a publisher, and as a ragtime composer himself, Turpin earned the nickname "The Father of Ragtime." Other venues for ragtime in the district existed too. Arthur Marshall was employed at The Spanish Café. Madam Betty Rae ran a bawdy house that employed Louis "Bird Face" Chauvin and Sam Patterson. The Magic Horshoe was yet another venue.

 
                                        The Rosebud Bar                                                                       Chestnut Valley

As ragtime's popularity grew, the district attracted composers from nearby states. Artie Charles Hunter came from Tennessee and gained fame there. Charlie Warfield came in 1897 when he was just fourteen. Artie Matthews came from across the river in Illinois. Joe Jordan came from Ohio. Charlie Matthews moved there from Illinois in 1905.

Other musicians associated with the city over the years, including natives and transplants, are Sonny Anderson, Paul “Can-Can” Sedric, George Reynolds, Walker Farrington, Owen Marshall, Conway Casey, Rob Hampton, Gertrude “Sweety” Bell, Louella Anderson, Thehodosia Hutchison, Lucian Porter Gibson and Harry Belding. In response to the influx of musicians and composers, publishers like Jos. F. Hunleth Music Co., Buck and Lowney and Placht and Son soon appeared.
 

THE SEDALIA SCENE

   
                     Scott Joplin                                       Arthur Marshall                                       Scott Hayden

No city is as closely associated with ragtime as the tiny Missouri town of Sedalia. It may seem odd that a place with only a few thousand residents could claim primary parentage of so large a phenomenon but several factors made that possible.


First, the George R. Smith School of Music was founded there to provide a respectable education for blacks and soon attracted many aspiring composers and musicians from around the south and midwest, including Texas-born Joplin, Indiana-born Etilmon Justus Stark and Arthur Marshall, of nearby Saline County. Marshall and Joplin, after receiving a musical education, themselves turned to teaching. Without a doubt, their most celebrated pupil was a local Sedalian, Scott Hayden.

Downtown Sedalia

Another factor allowing for the tiny town's contribution to ragtime was the surprisingly vibrant nightlife.  East Main Street was the location of Sedalia's sporting district, where townies and railroad workers alike went after the sun went down in search of sport at bars and clubs like the Williams BrothersThe Maple Leaf Club, Tony Williams's The 400 Dance Club, and Hustlers' Hall and guest houses run by Nellie Hall and Mrs. L. WrightAt these venues, the aforementionEd respectable and talented ragtime pianists (and others, like Otis Saunders) found employment, earning up to $1.50 a night (plus tips).

      

In 1885, John Stark came to town with his publishing company, John Stark & Son. Soon after his arrival, he and Scott Joplin would sell over one million copies of the sheet music for "Maple Leaf Rag" -- the first million-selling instrumental piece in American history. So strong was the pull of the ragtime scene that, at just fifteen, S. Brunson Campbell (Brun Campbell) wisely left Kansas in search of Joplin and Saunders. He found them and they nicknamed the precocious teenager "The Ragtime Kid."

Sedalia's ragtime scene came to a screeching halt with the arrival of reform. Totalitarian teetotalers soon completely succeeded in destroying the town's culture and ragtime musicians responded by heading for greener pastures. Not surprisingly, John Stark & Sons and most of the local musicians headed downriver to Chestnut Valley. Soon after, in 1901, Hustler's Hall closed. By 1909, the sporting belt was dead and all vestiges of culture disappeared. Today, KMOS Channel 6 (the local PBS affiliate for Central Missouri) is the only sign of cultural life.


KANSAS CITY'S 18TH AND VINE

    
        Charles L. Johnson                   Euday Louis Bowman                                  Calvin Lee Woolsey

Though less-widely recognized, Kansas City, Missouri's 18th & Vine district, in Downtown East, is of equal importance as more famed music-associated streets like Basin St., 52nd St., Beale St, and Central Ave. It was there that ragtime flourished, with ragtimers like Ed Kuhn, E. Harry Kelly, Irene Cozad, Maude Gilmore and Mamie Williams all representing Kansas City.

Later, 18th & Vine would be the center of Kansas City's vibrant and more commonly-celebrated jazz scene, but it was ragtime that first took hold, a fact not lost on locals. In the 1930s, "Kansas City’s finest outdoor theater for colored people,” the Highland Garden Theater was enclosed and renamed the Boone Theater after the pioneering ragtime musician.

Though he lived in Fort Worth, Texas, Euday Louis Bowman routinely journied to Kansas City to promote and sell his compositions, including songs like "Fort Worth Blues," "Kansas City Blues" and "Twelfth Street Rag," which became popular with early jazz performers like Bennie Moten and Louis Armstrong. Calvin Lee Woosley was drawn to Kansas City from nearby Tinney's Point.

18th & Vine

Kansas City was an early center of ragtime publishing too. Local ragtime composer/publisher Charles Neil Daniels bought Joplin’s 1898 “Original Rags” and arranged it for Carl Hoffman Music Co. of Kansas City. With ragtime's exploding popularity and the resulting emergence of Tin Pan Alley in New York, there was a talent drain on Kansas City and local composers such as Daniels moved to New York. According to Jelly Roll Morton, by 1911 there were no decent pianists in the city. However, some composers stayed, such as Charles L. Johnson, who preferred KC to NYC. He owned his own publishing company (Charles L. Johnson & Co.) and was so prolific he also published under the alias Raymond Birch. Ethel May Earnist and Fannie Bell Woods were long thought to be other aliases of his but recent discoveries have suggested that both women were quite real. Earnist was a Nebraska-born composer and Woods was from Louisville. Other local publishers included JW Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. and Will L. Livernash.


CENTRAL MISSOURI - LITTLE DIXIE

  
                                  Blind Boone                                                              Wilbur Sweatman

Perhaps more than any other musical figure in the 19th century, John William “Blind” Boone bridged the gap between black and white music. Like Gottschalk and Big Tom before him, he wrote and performed music that drew from both musical traditions and synthesized a uniquely American sound. Born in Saline County, Blind Boone had been sent to a school for the blind in St. Louis where his mother hoped he'd gain a musical education. At first he did, but when the school changed hands and he was instead taught the more practical skill of broom-making, he frequently ditched, prefering to hang out in Chesnut Valley.

Boone's truancy led to his expulsion and the blind musician ended up held captive by an unscrupulous gambler. After a group from his hometown secured his freedom, he moved to Columbia's Sharp End neighborhood. In 1880, Sharp End hosted a cutting contest between Blind Boone and the famed early black musical sensation Blind Tom. There, local publisher Allen Music Co. published several of his works.

Downtown Columbia

Wilbur C. Sweatman hailed from nearby Brunswick and moved to Minneapolis in 1902. However, he retained his ties to ragtime, recording and composing many hits. His wax cylinder recording of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" was supposedly the first of the song. He also had strong ties to a then new style, jazz, and was the first black musician to record songs with "Jass" and "Jazz" in the titles.


THE OZARKS - THE CARTHAGE SCENE

    
         James Scott                      Clarence Woods                 Percy  Wenrich               Theron Catlen Bennett

Though today the Ozarks are more recognized for their hillbillies, back in the day, the small town of Carthage boasted a ragtime scene hot enough in its time to attract composers from outside the state.

 
Happening Carthage

Though Carthage is now best known as the home of the Precious Moments Inspiration Park, at the turn of the century, Dumar Music Co. and the local ragtime scene lured the likes of Clarence "Ragtime Wonder of the South" Woods from neighboring states to the town of around only 10,000 inhabitants. Percy "The Joplin Kid" Wenrich, as his name suggests, was from nearby Joplin. Theron Catlen Bennett hailed from nearby Pierce City. The most famous ragtime composer, the celebrated James Scott, originally of nearby Neosho, traveled to St. Louis to meet Scott Joplin but stayed in Carthage until 1914, when he moved to Kansas City to teach piano. 


THE SPREAD OF RAGTIME'S POPULARITY

Ragtime quickly spread around the lower middle west and upper south, first by itinerant musicians and then sheet music and piano rolls. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, pianists from nearby states gathered outside to seek money entertaining the crowds and in the process exposed and exchanged the syncopated style. Soon ragtime struck a chord in the major cities of the area such as Indianapolis, Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati.

1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

In the 1890s, ragtime spread down river to New Orleans where it took root in the storied Storyville neighborhood. Had that not happened, jazz would've probably never happened. After the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (aka St. Louis World's Fair), visitors from around the country and the world were exposed to rags and the music quickly spread. In Europe, not yet recovered from the throes of an obsession with cakewalk, ragtime became the new thing.


RAGTIME BEYOND THE SHOW ME

Other composers from outside Missouri were soon publishing rags over the following years, including A. Shaw, Abe Holzmann, Adeline Shepherd, Ben Harney, Cecil Duane Crabb, Charley Straight, Charlotte Blake, Clarence C. Wiley, Ernest Reuben Crowders, Felix Arndt, Gene Greene, George Botsford, George Botsford, George L. Cobb, Harry Jentes, Harry P. Guy, Harry Tierney, J. Russell Robinson, Jacob Henry Ellis, Jelly Roll Morton, Johann C. Schmid (under the pseudonym "Marie Louka"), Joseph Lamb, Joseph Russel Robinson, Julia Lee Niebergall, Kerry Mills, Les C. Copeland, Luckey Roberts, May Frances Aufderheide, Muriel Pollock, Paul Pratt, Paul Sarebresole, R.J. Hamilton, Robert Hampton, Roy Fredrick Bargy, Russell Smith, Sadie Koninsky, Theodore H. Northrup, Thomas E. Broady, Thomas Henry Lodge, Tony Jackson, and William Beebe.


HYSTERICAL HISTORICAL QUOTES ON RAGTIME

As with all musical developments, conservatives reacted with reactionary panic to what, over time, seems completely harmless. With ragtime's seduction of America's youth, there was predictable concern among wide numbers of both black and white Americans, albeit for different reasons. Blacks often expressed that it was the worst sort of primitive expression that impeded their collective progress as a people. Whites, on the other hand, usually worried that it was corrupting music and white morality. In some ways, the reaction against ragtime helped unite blacks and whites, just as the appreciation of it did.

Louis Blumberg noted, “It can not be denied that the lower types of 'rag-time' and the bulk of it – has done much to lower the musical taste and standard of the whole musical public, irrespective of color."

The New York Herald warned "Can it be said that America is falling prey to the collective soul of the negro through the influence of what is popularly known as ragtime music? If there is any tendency towards such a national disaster, it should be definitely pointed out and extreme measures taken to inhibit the influence and avert the increasing danger if it has not gone too far. American ragtime music is symbolic of the primative immorality and perceptible moral limitations of the negro type." 

Composer Edward Baxter Perry warned, "Ragtime is syncopation gone mad and its victims can be treated successfully, in my opinion, like the dog with rabies, with a dose of lead. Whether it is simply a passing phase of our decadent art culture or an infectous disease that has come to stay, like leprosy, time alone can tell."

Other composers were more pragmatic. Arthur Farwell said, “I often catch my foot in the act of appreciating it [ragtime] when my higher nature is caught off guard.”


RAGTIME'S CO-OPTION AND DECLINE

As with every black American musical development, ragtime was quickly co-opted and in many cases perverted by whites. And, as with all musical crazes (from cakewalk and ragtime then, to alternative and indie today) the term "ragtime" was eventually applied to almost any new composition, in an effort to cash in on the craze.


COON SONGS

Coon songs arose when composers applied ragtime's syncopated rhythms to the tired old minstrel stereotypes of the pre-Civil War era. Coon songs became so popular in the late nineteenth century that both white and black composers wrote them. Though offensive, the songs nonetheless helped open doors for black composers and black-derived music such as cakewalk and ragtime. Nonetheless, with many coon songs being misleadingly labeled as ragtime, many of the criticisms of ragtime began to come from progressives who were incapable of distinguishing coon songs from the genuine article.

Scott Joplin himself jumped to ragtime's defense, arguing "What is scurrilously called ragtime is an invention that is here to stay. That is now conceded by all classes of musicians... All publications masquerading under the name of ragtime are not the genuine article... That real ragtime of the higher class is rather difficult to play is a painful truth which most pianists have discovered."


LATER DEVELOPMENTS

As it declined in popularity, ragtime at the same time began incorporating and mixing with other genres to interesting effect. In 1912, W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues" was advertised as "A Southern Rag." However, even this shot in the arm couldn't keep ragtime vital forever. Whereas in 1899, 124 rags had been released, in 1919 there were only seven and ragtime was deposed by its offspring, jazz.


RAGTIME'S REVIVAL

Many years later, in 1951, interest in ragtime was renewed. Again, in 1973, the film The Sting brought it back to life yet again. That year, Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," featured in the film's ragtime soundtrack, almost unthinkably reached number three on the pop charts. Seems like we're long overdue for another'n.

*****

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Happy Missouri Day! - Yup, It's aready been a yurr since the last'n

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 15, 2008 12:42am | Post a Comment
MISSOURI DAY

The 3rd Wednesday of the October, this year the 15th.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Missouri


In my experience, when you'ins tell people you’re from Missouri, most people reply self-satisfiedly with "don't you mean Missouruh?" or, alternately, "where is Missouri? I don’t think I’ve ever been there."

Whether Missouri is Lower Midwestern or Upper Southern (or the Border South or, the Upland South, or less commonly today, the Yeoman South) is a somewhat common debate amongst Missourians... at least on the internet.

In my experience, Missouri's Midwestern neighbors, centered along the Great Lakes, (haters) tend to disparage Mighty Mo as a hick state whurr test scores are low, the accent is ugly and you'ins can buy fireworks, liquor and ammo... all in the same place.

Missouri's neighbors in the Deep South (also haters) usually don't consider it to be Southern because Missouri didn't side with the South in the Civil War (well, that's complicated-- thurr were 30,000 gray and 109,000 blue) and because South Coasters love to equate the entire South with just the Deep South aka the Lower South aka the Plantation South.

As far as Southern credentials go, Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, Thomas Hart Benton all seem fairly Southern, do they not? On the other hand, natives like T.S. Elliot, William Burroughs and Maya Angelou don’t so much, huh? Cultural cringe I reckon, plays a part in this confusion, as do geographical overlap and historical shifts.


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