Wednesday, February 15, 2017

12th Street Rag

12th Street rag 1915 sheet music
One of the most popular ragtime-era tunes is 12th Street Rag, composed in the late 1800s by Texan pianist and arranger Euday Bowman and his sister, Mary M. Bowman. In 1914, the Jenkins Music Company purchased the rights to 12th Street Rag from the Bowmans for $100 – an amount that would eventually prove to be an incredible bargain. Jenkins hired composer and arranger C.E. Wheeler to simplify Bowman’s version before advertising and selling sheet music for the tune to the general public. Moderately popular for years after its release, 12th Street Rag became a hit in 1927 when jazz pianist and big band leader Bennie Moten recorded it for Victor. It became an even bigger success in the 1940s when trombonist Pee Wee Hunt’s recording of the tune reached number one on the Billboard charts and sold more than 3 million copies. 12th Street Rag thereafter became, and remains to this day, a standard in jazz repertoire. (Euday Bowman eventually regained the copyright to his famous composition, but only after it had reached its commercial zenith.)

Terry Morris 1975 grand Masters
Ragtime music has had a place in American fiddling since as early as the 1830s, when ragtime tunes were called “cakewalks.” After the style achieved international popularity in the 1890s, many old-time fiddlers, in particular, adapted piano rags to fiddle, maintaining some pianistic elements of phrasing and construction. Today, 12th Street Rag nd many other ragtime tunes thrive in the American fiddling scene and are frequently heard at all the major contests and conventions around the country. The great fiddle champion Terry Morris was particularly fond of 12th Street Rag, and his arrangement of the tune has become well-known and commonly copied.

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