First a quick note regarding Charles L. Johnson's Fannie B. Woods
pseudonym, which came up in the earlier "Ragtime Encyclopedia,
Discography, Sheetography . . ." thread. I'd trust the accuracy of
Fannie B. Wood's son more than I'd trust Charles L. Johnson's
publisher. The sheet music's dedication to her soon-to-be husband,
the father for whom the son was named, is convincing evidence. Where
Jasen's information came from is immaterial. Discoveries a couple of
years ago indicate his source is wrong.
I wrote Jasen a letter in June 1898, shortly after I had begun
researching the life and career of William Christopher O'Hare, my
ragtime composer great grandfather. In response, Jasen phoned me.
During the conversation, he told me that my great grandfather was from
Shreveport. He gave his source as Isidore Witmark and Isaac
Goldberg's well-known history of the music publishing firm M. Witmark
& Sons--The Story of the House of Witmark (1939). This "fact" serves
as another example of erroneous information disseminated by a
publisher and taken as "truth" by unsuspecting, unquestioning readers
or listeners. Perhaps Witmark considered Louisiana a more fitting
home than Washington, D.C. for the composer of several folk rags in
its catalog. Perhaps this was an honest mistake on Witmark's part
because O'Hare had lived in Shreveport for 12 years after leaving DC
and before moving to NY. Whatever the case, Jasen also told me that
my great grandfather worked for Witmark's Chicago branch. I didn't
know much at the time, but two things I did know and explain: W. C.
O'Hare was from Washington, D.C. and had worked for Witmark in New
York. After I explained what I knew, Jasen repeated that my great
grandfather was from Shreveport and had been on Witmark's Chicago
staff. Why he stuck to that story I can't say.
After several extended research trips to Shreveport and DC, I can now
document many events in William Christopher O'Hare's life, including
his graduation from business college, his membership in a drama club,
and the band he led in DC before moving to Shreveport at 21. I have
microfilm copies of Shreveport newspaper articles mentioning his
arrival from DC and his father and sister's visit from DC. Several
years later, the social columnist talks of his new job in NYC and
thanks him for sending NY newspapers. I have information documenting
his death in a NYC hospital and his burial in the O'Hare family plot.
I have driven to the cemetery twice , talked with office employees,
seen burial records, sat on his hilltop gravesite with a friend
overlooking DC, and met roughly 60 members of my (and his) extended DC-
I used the index and the search feature on amazon.com to see if any of
the misinformation given to me nine years ago over the phone appears
in the new book. According to the index and search, the name O'Hare
does not appear, so I assume that there are no discography or
sheetography listings, in addition to no biographical information.
Will Joel or anyone else with a copy of the book please confirm or
disprove my assumption based on the online search results? This could
easily be done by checking the sheetography and discography for "Levee
Revels," "Plantation Pastimes," and "Cottonfield Capers." Granted,
William Christopher O'Hare was not a MAJOR ragtime composer, but
"Levee Revels" was recorded repeatedly during the ragtime era,
including by Sousa's band, directed by Arthur Pryor on the Berliner
Gramophone and Victor labels. It was also recorded by orchestra on
the Talk-o-phone label. "Plantation Pastimes" was issued by Climax,
Victor, and Columbia; "Cottonfield Capers" by Star, D&R, Kalamazoo,
Climax, and Columbia. Those are the recordings I know of; there may
have been more. I listed several in the 2002 Ragtime Ephemeralist but
have learned of others since then. "Levee Revels" and "Cottonfield
Capers" have been recorded in recent years, with recordings of
"Cottonfield Capers" released in 2006 and 2007. Those two are too
recent to have been included in Jasen's book. However, if I have been
able to find these earlier recordings and if the music is still
respected and enjoyed enough to be played by Morten Gunnar Larsen and
others who regularly play rags, surely a major ragtime scholar should
have found them and listed them in a definitive study. I'd be happy
to have my assumption disproved and to learn that he did, for it seems
an odd omission to make in a definitive study for someone who knew the
composer at least as far back as 1998.
But although this leads up to my point, none of it is quite my point.
Despite the large amount and variety of information that Jasen has
assembled in his new book, we will never see a truly definitive
ragtime encyclopedia, discography, sheetography, and rollography.
Trying to cover everything there is to know about any large,
comprehensive subject forces one to skim the surface and perhaps even
to describe the music, as Jasen frequently does, with largely
meaningless adjectives such as "unique," "imaginative," "inspired,"
"athletic," and "lyrical," while only sometimes supplying a phrase or
clause that supports and justifies the chosen adjective. Certainly,
nothing is wrong with, and much is praiseworthy about, compiling data
from sources such as copyright entries, advertisements, publishers'
records, etc. Somebody needs to do it. As Joel points out, such
material has many uses. Accolade upon accolade will be heaped upon
Jasen from many directions for what he has accomplished. Nonetheless,
more discoveries will always lie ahead for those whose focus allows
them to, and whose mindset compels them to, dig more deeply and to
question both newly gathered information and old beliefs. We will
always have more past misconceptions and errors to correct and more
new questions to raise and to answer.
P.S. Just so there's no confusion, a signed Maple Leaf Rag contract
has been previously reproduced. You can find it on page 55 of the
Oxford paperback edition of Ed Berlin's Joplin biography published
about 13 years ago. Furthermore, Ed's endnotes acknowledge that it
had been previously printed in the Rag Times. Since I had exhausted
my free searches and "surprise me" pages on the book's Amazon page
before trying to locate the contract, please let me know if it differs
from that first published in 1975.
Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Ragtime? David A. Jasen gives the definitive musical definition
as well as the history of Ragtime from it's beginning to the present day
in his latest book "Ragtime An Encyclopedia, Discography, and
Sheetography" published by Routledge. It's 550 pages, hardcover, 8 ½" X
Jasen describes in detail the categories of Ragtime. From the Early Folk
Rags, The Joplin Tradition or Classic Ragtime, Popular Ragtime, Advanced
Ragtime, Novelty Ragtime, Stride Ragtime, and Jelly Roll Morton's
Ragtime. Ragtime's original heyday as well as its Revivals are covered
up to the present day.
The book is divided into 4 primary sections. The first section contains
the Encyclopedia entries. You can look up Composer, Performer, and
Publisher Profiles, Ragtime Compositions with musical descriptions and
other interesting related facts. There are over 100 images of rare
photos and artifacts from the Ragtime era. Including a signed contract
between Scott Joplin and his publisher John Stark for his landmark
composition "The Maple Leaf Rag". There are images of Sheet Music,
Record and Piano Roll Labels, Period Advertising, Composers, Performers,
and Places of historical interest.
As a serious collector of Ragtime Sheet Music, Piano Rolls and Records,
I really appreciate the next three sections of the book. The perennial
question for the collector is "What's out there to collect?" For the
performer it might be "What tune can I perform that nobody else has done
or may even know about?" Stamp collectors have their Scott's Catalog to
see what's possible to collect. We Ragtimers have a Discography, Ragtime
Piano Rollography, and Sheetography, thanks to Professor Jasen, the
first to have published them. I check off the items I own, and then I
can see the items I need.
Appendix 1 Rags On Record: A Discography
"The intention of this discography is to identify all commercially
released discs of 78s, 45s, and LPs throughout the world since the
beginning of Ragtime recording in 1897." The discography lists the
Compositions alphabetically with the Composer, followed by Performers,
Record Speeds, Record Companies and Number, and Year of release.
Appendix 2 Ragtime Piano Rollography
There are Ragtime Compositions that were never published in sheet music
form, or recorded on disc, as you will note from the entries in the
encyclopedia. However, some compositions do turn up on Piano Roll. Some
of the performances are truly extraordinary. The Rollography lists the
Compositions with Composers alphabetically, then the Roll Companies and
Number. If the roll is an early 65-note type it's indicated. The
performer is listed if the roll is hand played.
Appendix 3 Published Rags In America
There's an alphabetical list of over 2000 Published Instrumental Ragtime
compositions. It lists the Composition followed by the Composer, Date,
Publisher, City and State of Publication.
David A Jasen is internationally recognized as a leading authority on
American Popular Music. He's authored many well-received reference books
on Ragtime, Early Jazz and Popular Music. He produced many sheet music
folios and Records. As a Composer and Performer, The Professor captures
the essence of Ragtime. He is Professor of Media Arts at the C.W. Post
campus of Long Island University, where he has been teaching for the
past 35 years.