This was the first installment of Larry Melton’s Blowing off the Dust column for The Syncopated Times back in October 2016.
I have been reflecting recently with an old friend by email, about all the sources of information we have regarding Ragtime, from learned authorities to libraries filled with publications, documents, and periodicals and finally to the great collective “concert” of recorded ragtime—not to mention performances around the country by students of the genre.
Specifically, we were discussing the heritage of periodicals published in recent years to keep us informed, especially out here on the Midwestern periphery, about all things Jazz and Ragtime.
This discussion was precipitated by Carol Tillman who recently donated her husband Rod’s accumulated issues of The Mississippi Rag to the Sedalia Ragtime Archive Project I’m voluntarily curating right now. As many know, Rod was an avid ragtime booster in the Tulsa area and a meticulous collector until his untimely death in January this year.
Well, of course, all those 33-plus years of publications have to be indexed, interleaved, and stored in archival boxes. It can be quite time consuming as we have discovered. That’s not what takes the time however, it is coming across interesting articles that simply have to be read right then, thus throwing off the whole archive routine.
I remember so well, getting the first November, 1973 issue from Leslie Johnson which contained the Jazz Train article. Her husband Dennis, with Max Morath, the Hall Brothers, and Father Al Lewis had just had just brought the show to Sedalia so the little burg made the first issue. From then on until her untimely death in 2009, news from the world of America’s music was to be read with relish every month.
If I ever get all of Sedalia’s collection conserved and indexed. I would dearly enjoy indexing these three publications along with the wonderful earlier “newsletters” like Dick Zimmerman’s Rag Times and the Toronto Society’s The Ragtimer and Trebor Tichenor’s Ragtime Review. We are fortunate to have two copies of Stark’s Intermezzo in our collection—and that reminds me of all the earlier periodicals that would have to be included in a compendium index. It will probably take at least fifty years—which means I should have started when I was twenty-five!
Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976 before moving on to a creer as a community college history teacher specializing in Western Trails History in Union, Missouri, his wife Karen’s hometown.