Ragtime [Music Genre/History/Lists]


In 1865 the 13th amendment of the constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States forever. As a result an entire population of citizens was now free to pursue their education and their artistic dreams. The next generation saw the development of new musical styles; the American art-forms of blues, ragtime and jazz.

“The Blues” came from the American south in the late 1800’s. It blends together the work songs, spirituals, chants and ballads of the African-American community. Besides the obvious expression of sadness and melancholy, the blues also introduced stylized scales, chords and unique forms. “Blue notes” are often seen as flattened thirds or sometimes even pitches between notes, blurring the rules of traditional harmony. The form of the 12-bar blues has become ubiquitous in popular music around the world.

The word “Jazz” means pep or energy.  This style was born in the taverns of New Orleans at much the same time and with the same influences as blues and ragtime. But jazz had an added element of Cuban/Spanish culture. Habanera rhythms, blues forms and ragtime drive blended together to form something new. Eventually the rigid rhythms of the beat relaxed to allow a feeling we call “swing”. Swing is hard to define and difficult to notate. As Louis Armstrong stated, “If you don’t feel it, you’ll never know it.” The prohibition of the 1920’s saw the rise of “The Jazz Age” in the U.S. cementing this style and sound into American culture.

“Ragtime” was born in the African-American communities of St. Louis in the 1890’s. This style takes traditional march form, much like the music of John Philip Sousa, and adds the syncopated, or “ragged”, rhythms of African music. The style fell out of favor in the early 20th century with the rise of jazz but many compare the American rag to European minuets, mazurkas and waltzes. The rhythm of ragtime had an influence on later composers, such as Satie, Debussy and Stravinsky.

American orchestras and conservatories were slow to recognize these styles, but their European counterparts embraced them openly.


Ragtime (sometimes spelled rag-time or rag time) is a musical style that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1919. Its cardinal trait is its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm.

Originally developed in the U.S. in the late 19th century by various composers of whom one of he best known is Scott Joplin (whose most famous work is “Maple Leaf Rag”). In it’s earliest period ragtime was also associated with the cakewalk (a dance). After 1900 the ragtime style became very popular worldwide and there are many recordings of ragtime from the UK, Europe and elsewhere in the period before 1920 (but mostly before WWI).

Ragtime, while an obvious precursor of jazz, is a written [ie. composed] music rather than an improvised form of music. Despite sharing the syncopated base that was an essential element in later jazz, ragtime was performed as written and had a strict form (usually with an “A” section followed by a “B” section and then a return to the “A” section – or some variation of this) and was often played by military or brass bands. During it’s peak period (before 1920) most ragtime recordings are by orchestras or bands or are vocal recordings of ragtime songs. Ragtime recordings can frequently (but not always) be identified by the use of the word rag or ragtime in the title.

Although rags continued to be recorded in the period from 1920s to the 1940s, ragtime was no longer a common form during this period as jazz and later big bands or swing had became dominant. The ragtime tag should be used very sparingly after 1919. It should NOT be applied to any early jazz or popular music records unless the titles are specifically ragtime compositions. Just having a rhythmic or syncopated sound does not make a record ragtime and jazz or pop (or both) would be more appropriate.

During the 1920s & 1930s many recordings of novelty syncopated piano solos were made by artists such as Zez Confrey, Roy Bargy & Rube Bloom (in the U.S.) and many others worldwide including Billy Mayerl & Raie Da Costa (in the UK), Willie Eckstein (in Canada), Jean Wiener & Clement Doucet (in France), Mischa Spoliansky (in Germany), or Gil Dech & Beryl Newell (in Australia). While obviously influenced by ragtime these are not ragtime recordings and should be given the pop tag.

The ragtime influence on jazz was very significant and some early jazz performers (such as Jelly Roll Morton) both wrote and recorded rags. Some jazz pianists were more ragtime influenced than others with James P. Johnson and Thomas Waller (later better known as Fats Waller) recording in what is known as the stride style, while other jazz piansts such as Earl Hines and Duke Ellington created totally new styles of jazz piano. The ragtime tag does not aply to these or other similar jazz records.

By the 1950s interest in the ragtime style was re-emerging and there was something of a revival with many ragtime compositions being recorded (and some new ones written and recorded). An off-shoot of the ragtime revival was Honky-tonk which is not strictly ragtime and is more appropriately tagged pop.

Ragtime is a very well defined style and the tag should not be applied broadly unless it is a ragtime composition from the peak peak (1895-1919) or a ragtime composition recorded later. If jazz, pop or some other tag is applicable this should be preferred.

With the movie Robert Redford movie from 1973, The Sting, ragtime had another resurgence and brought the style into the spotlight again. There’s probably no one in the western world born before the millennium that haven’t heard Scott Joplins “The Entertainer”

Post is a mix of wikipedia, discogs and my writing.

Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin

From Wikipedia

Scott Joplin (c. 1868 – April 1, 1917) was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the “King of Ragtime”. During his brief career, he wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first and most popular pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag”, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

Joplin grew up in a musical family of railway laborers in Texarkana, Arkansas, and developed his own musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. While in Texarkana, Texas, he formed a vocal quartet and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s, he left his job as a railroad laborer and traveled the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri in 1894 and earned a living as a piano teacher. There he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. He began publishing music in 1895 and publication of his “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 brought him fame. This piece had a profound influence on writers of ragtime. It also brought Joplin a steady income for life, though he did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems. In 1901, Joplin moved to St. Louis, where he continued to compose and publish and regularly performed in the community. The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings for non-payment of bills, and is now considered lost.

In 1907, Joplin moved to New York City to find a producer for a new opera. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form that had made him famous but without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was never fully staged during his life.

In 1916, Joplin descended into dementia as a result of syphilis. He was admitted to Manhattan State Hospital in January 1917 and died there three months later at the age of 48. Joplin’s death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format; over the next several years, it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz and eventually big band swing.

Joplin’s music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award-winning 1973 film The Sting, which featured several of Joplin’s compositions, most notably “The Entertainer”, a piece performed by pianist Marvin Hamlisch that received wide airplay. Treemonisha was finally produced in full, to wide acclaim, in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

This is a shortened text about Scott
Joplin, read the whole history here!

Piano Roll

Most early recordings was made on so-called piano rolls, like for example the recordings of Scott Joplin. A piano roll is a music storage medium used to operate a player piano, piano player or reproducing piano. Piano rolls, like other music rolls, are continuous rolls of paper with perforations (holes) punched into them. The perforations represent note control data. The roll moves over a reading system known as a ‘tracker bar’ and the playing cycle for each musical note is triggered when a perforation crosses the bar and is read.

Piano rolls have been in continuous production since at least 1896, and are still being manufactured today; QRS Music offers 45,000 titles with “new titles being added on a regular basis”, although they are no longer mass-produced. MIDI files have generally supplanted piano rolls in storing and playing back performance data, accomplishing digitally and electronically what piano rolls do mechanically. MIDI editing software often features the ability to represent the music graphically as a piano roll.

The first paper rolls were used commercially by Welte & Sons in their orchestrions beginning in 1883.

rollography is a listing of piano rolls, especially made by a single performer, analogous to a discography.

Ragtime Piano Music
List of 100 Greatest Rags

List made by DigitalDreamDoor
A Website Dedicated to Various List.

Criteria: These Ragtime music piano compositions were chosen as the best examples based on their initial and lasting popularity, impact on other songwriters, originality, and the innovative qualities of the piece.

Song Title – Composer – Year of Publication

1. Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin – 1899

2. The Entertainer – Scott Joplin – 1903

3. Mississippi Rag – William Henry Krell – 1897

4. You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon but You’ve Done Broke Down – Ben Harney – 1895

5. The Cascades – Scott Joplin – 1904

6. Ethiopia Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1909

7. Original Rags – Scott Joplin – 1899

8. Frog Legs Rag – James Scott – 1906

9. Magnetic Rag – Scott Joplin – 1914

10. The Sporting Life is Sure Killing Me – Ben Harney – c.1890s
11. Charleston Rag – Eubie Blake – 1899
12. The Cake Walk in the Sky – Ben Harney – 1899
13. Combination March – Scott Joplin – 1896
14. La Pas Ma La – Ernest Hogan – 1895
15. 12th Street Rag – Euday Bowman – 1915
16. Shake Yo’ Dusters, or Piccaninny Rag – William Henry Krell – 1898
17. Sugar Cane – Scott Joplin – 1908
18. Bohemia Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1919
19. Chicken Chowder – Irene M. Giblin – 1905
20. Climax Rag – James Scott – 1914
21. American Beauty Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1913
22. Louisiana Rag – Theodore Havermeyer Northrup – 1897
23. Fig Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin – 1908
24. Fluffly Ruffles – Cecil Duane Crabb – 1907
25. Strenuous Life – Scott Joplin – 1902
26. Hilarity Rag – James Scott – 1910
27. Peaches and Cream Rag – Percy Wenrich – 1905
28. Wall Street Rag – Scott Joplin – 1908
29. Peacherine Rag – Scott Joplin – 1901
30. The Chevy Chase – Eubie Blake – 1914
31. Roustabout Rag – Paul Sarebresole – 1897
32. Weeping Willow – Scott Joplin – 1903
33. Broadway Rag – James Scott – 1922
34. The Chrysanthemum – Scott Joplin – 1904
35. Dill Pickles Rag – Charles L. Johnson – 1906
36. Cleopatra Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1910
37. Sunflower Slow Drag – Scott Joplin & Scott Hayden – 1901
38. Castle House Rag – James Reese Europe – 1914
39. Champagne Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1915
40. The Baltimore Todolo – Eubie Blake – 1910
41. Elite Syncopations – Scott Joplin – 1902
42. Grace and Beauty (A Classy Rag) – James Scott – 1909
43. Hoosier Rag – Julia Lee Niebergall – 1907
44. Pineapple Rag – Scott Joplin – 1908
45. Don’t Jazz Me Rag – James Scott – 1921
46. The Ragtime Dance – Scott Joplin – 1902
47. Top Liner Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1916
48. Temptation Rag – Henry Lodge – 1909
49. Mister Johnson (Turn Me Loose) – Ben Harney – 1896
50. Melody Rag – Raymond Birch (Charles L. Johnson) – 1911
51. Steeplechase Rag – James P. Johnson – c.1914-1916
52. The Dream Rag – Jesse Pickett – 1920
53. Regal Stomp (AKA: Bow to Your Papa) – Jimmy Blythe – 1901
54. Sensation Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1908
55. Great Scott Rag  – James Scott – 1909
56. Gladiolus Rag – Scott Joplin – 1907
57. Alabama Dream (Ragtime Cake Walk) – George D. Barnard – 1899
58. New Era Rag – James Scott – 1919
59. Excelsior Rag – Joseph Lamb – 1909
60. Honey Moon Rag – James Scott – 1916
61. Dusty Rag – May Aufderheide – 1908
62. Kansas City Rag – James Scott – 1907
63. Eubie’s Classical Rag – Eubie Blake – 1914
64. Junk Man Rag – Luckey Roberts – 1913
65. Tickled to Death – Charles Hunter – 1899
66. Pastime Rag #5 – Artie Matthews – 1913
67. St. Louis Tickle – Theron C. Bennett – 1904
68. Blue Goose Rag – Raymond Birch (Charles L. Johnson) – 1916
69. Powder Rag – Raymond Birch (Charles L. Johnson) – 1908
70. Dixie Blossoms – Percy Wenrich – 1906
71. Freckles Rag – Larry Buck – 1905
72. At a Ragtime Reception – Ben M. Jerome – 1899
73. Silk Hose Rag – Omar Sims – 1916
74. The Ebony Funeral – Carl Lexhoizt – 1894
75. The Thriller Rag – May Aufderheide – 1909
76. Whistling Rufus – Kerry Mills – 1899
77. Music Box Rag – Charles Luckey Roberts – 1914
78. Just Ask Me – Charles Hunter – 1902
79. Rag de Luxe – Elmer Olson & Scott Gowles – 1913
80. Porcupine Rag – Charles L. Johnson – 1909
81. Scott Joplin’s New Rag – Scott Joplin – 1912
82. The Aviator Rag – Irene M. Giblin – 1910
83. You May Go, but This Will Bring You Back – Ben Harney – 1897
84. Ophelia Rag – James Scott – 1910
85. Possum and Taters – Charles Hunter – 1900
86. Snowball Babe – Roland Flick -1900
87. Honey Rag – Egbert Van Alstyne – 1909
88. A Tennessee Favorite – P. Emsel – 1899
89. Harlem Rag – Tom Turpin – 1897
90. Corn Shucks Rag – Ed Kuhn – 1908
91. The Smoky Topaz – Grace Bolen – 1901
92. Kismet Rag – Scott Joplin & Scott Hayden – 1913
93. Cataract Rag – Robert Hampton – 1914
94. Chatterbox Rag – George Botsford – 1910
95. Slippery Elm Rag – Emma Biba – 1914
96. Heliotrope Bouquet – Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin – 1907
97. The Webster Grove Rag – Axel Christensen – 1915
98. Ashy Africa – Percy Wenrich – 1905
99. The National Rag – Ethel C. Schultz – 1908
100. Shake Ol’ Brown Rag – R. P. Akard – 1916

Read The Whole History About The
King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin here!