Ragtime: The Rock & Roll of the early 1900s


1896-1920 is the period in which Ragtime was truly at it’s peak. Following folk music came the development of Ragtime in St. Louis. Ragtime can be described as a musical genre that a type of march. Furthermore some even consider it to be the “Rock & Roll” of that time period. Ragtime was composed for pianos(there weren’t necessarly and lyrics). Ragtime came to an end with the introduction of jazz. 


King's of Ragtime

Scott Joplin is considered to be the king of ragtime. Ragtime became a popular genre of music following the publishment of “The Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899. This record sold over 1 million copies. 

James Blacke was a pianist, composer, and lyricist. His composition “Charleston Rag” was a very popular Rag time song. In 1978 his work was featured on Broadway in the musical “Eubie.”

Thomas Turpin was the first African American to compose a ragtime song (or so we are told). His song “Harlem Rag” was produced in 1882. Some consider him to be the “Father of St. Louis Ragtime.”

James Hubert "Eubie" Blake,

Scott Joplin

Thomas Turpin

Cake Walk

The “Cake Walk” was a dance performed by Negroes that basically made fun of white people. During this dance black couples would dress in their best clothes and march in a circle. This was however, only done with the permission on the slave masters.  Blacks would compete with each other to see who could put on the best performance. The winners would win a cake at the end. This competition is were the common saying “that takes the cake,” came from. 

Rag time is syncopated. Syncopated means that within each beat their is also another beat. It is for the most part composed of 3/4 sections. 


Coon Songs were ragtime songs that made fun of black people. Whites did this as a way to cope with the fact that black people were migrating to the North.

Jadah J. Best

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