Ragtime is a combination of Blues, Gospel and Vaudeville. In the late 1800's,
roughly about 1886, white European Americans of the upper and middle classes of
society, in those days mostly indulged in Classical Music while the lower middle
classes basically enjoyed the marches; at that time John Phillip Sousa was their
main man, or attended the vaudeville shows on a regular basis.
John Phillip Sousa
People in those days viewed Vaudeville as we view TV. It was their main source
of entertainment. Many African American performers took to Vaudeville as well.
Williams & Walker (search for it on your browser) were extremely popular at that
time. Although, Bert Williams & Walker didn't do ragtime, they did influence
allot of performers like Al Jolson. They invented the cake walk.
Williams & Walker
Other Vaudeville acts of the period of 1900 were performers named Billy Murray
and Ada Jones. Each of these artist also performed as solo as well as a team.
They performed mostly Novelty songs and rarely indulged in minstrel acts.
Billy Murray was well known for his popular version of "In My Merry Oldsmobile" in
Ada Jones' big hit was "By The Light Of The Silvery Moon" in 1906. Both
made recordings for all three of the big record labels; Victor, Columbia and
Edison Cylinder Records.
Even though Vaudeville had been around throughout the early and mid 1800's, the
musical shows adopted the Ragtime sound for its acts. Arthur Collins and Byron
Harlan had been performing mistral shows since the late 1800 (unsure of the
date) but by 1906, they had become the staple of African satire with such songs
as "Bake Dat Chicken Pie" in which incorporates the Ragtime mock melody (but it
isn't real Ragtime you see). Many white minstrel act consisted of whites
portraying blacks using shoe polish for "black face". Even Bert Williams who was
black African American was demanded by his producers to "blacken it up".
Bert Williams in blackface
shortly before he died
But for the most part, African Americans in that era mostly engaged in Ragtime.
Ragtime musicians were influenced by vaudeville from the minstrel shows but
mostly the music comes from the Negro Spiritual and Blues.
Scott Joplin was not a minstrel performer although he was the first African
American to deliver Ragtime to the ears of the white majority. Scott Joplin's
"MAPLE LEAF RAG" (1899) became the best selling "Rag" of all time. This song
would be the keystone that would begin a revolution in American music and alter
the taste for "white America" paving the way for the New Orleans sound to
dominate. That new sound would be known as JAZZ.
DOWNLOAD "MAPLE LEAF RAG WAVE FILE"
Add it to you computer!