Celebrating America's Musical Heritage

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club's Web Site. We've worked hard putting together a lot of ragtime-related material for you to browse and enjoy. If ragtime is what you want, you'll likely find it here, especially if it's in Southern California!

Ragtime is a distinctive American musical art form that took shape following the Civil War and rose to nationwide popularity by the end of the Nineteenth Century. Its syncopated, "ragged" rhythms and catchy melodies not only got people dancing, but also inspired a generation of musicians to experiment and compose in the ragtime idiom. Within a few short years, ragtime became America's first home-grown popular music, crossing racial barriers and appealing to all but a few self-righteous moralists who deemed its syncopated rhythms "evil."

Like other uniquely American hemisphere music such as the Tango, which was developing concurrently in Argentina, Ragtime was initially relegated to saloons and sporting houses. It was, to borrow a phrase, an "underground" art form—not welcomed in "proper" society.

Largely through the creative genius of Scott Joplin, ragtime's greatest composer and proponent, ragtime was able to break free from the societal constraints imposed upon it. Joplin was educated in classical composition and brought the discipline gained from this training to his work. His rags were carefully composed and scrupulously notated so they could be easily transposed to sheet music. The sheet music to Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," published by Missourian John Stark, became the first folio in U.S. history to sell a million copies. Thanks to Joplin and a few other early ragtime writers, ragtime was the main engine that fueled the growth of the sheet music industry in the U.S.

Ragtime Legends (left to right): Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, Eubie Blake, Charles "Luckey" Roberts, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Tom Turpin, Scott Joplin, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, Thomas "Fats" Waller, James P. Johnson

Of course, Joplin wasn't alone in crafting the ragtime vocabulary. He pioneered the so-called Midwestern "Classic" ragtime style, but there were hundreds of great rags written following the turn of the century, from Tennessee to Texas, from New Orleans to Indiana, from Maryland to New York.

Among the many ragtime-era composers, there are a select few who, like Joplin, poured their singular creative genius into their art and made such an impact that their influence is felt even today. In particular, New Orleans-born Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, New York's James P. Johnson, and Baltimore's Eubie Blake stand with Joplin at the forefront of the development of American jazz and popular music.

Meeting each month to share this wonderful music and learn about those who made it happen (and those who continue the tradition today) the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club is dedicated to preserving the important American cultural heritage that is ragtime music.

By Gary Rametta