Digging Ragtime Gold at Sutter Creek

Northern California’s gold rush town of Sutter Creek, in the Sierra foothills southeast of Sacramento, hosted its annual ragtime festival August 9-11 this year under new management. Architecturally the town exudes ragtime era ambiance. The festival’s unique features include the local Ice Cream Emporium as a venue and a ragtime era Victorian mansion where owner Chip Lusby welcomes visitors and musicians each evening to socialize after formal festivities have ended. The story of the festival begins in the early 1980s. Young ragtime pianist Stevens Price, duly impressed by Keith Taylor’s playing at Maple Leaf Club meetings in Los Angeles, purchases a copy of Taylor’s cassette and asks Taylor to autograph it. Years pass. Price opts for small town living and moves his piano and family to the hills. Taylor retires from teaching music in the L.A. public schools. He and his wife move to southern Oregon where he regularly tunes, repairs, and performs on the pianos in every California gold rush town south to Oakhurst. In 1998, making his regular circuit, Taylor stops at the Ice Cream Emporium in Sutter Creek, discovers the piano, and asks permission to play a few tunes. Proprietor Stevens Price nearly drops a banana split: “Hey, you’re the guy I met years ago at the Maple Leaf Club!” To the delight of the customers, the two spend the evening playing ragtime. They also start init
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Fred Hoeptner is a Ragtime historian and composer of new ragtime pieces frequently performed today. He was a founder of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation which was a non-profit of the University of California at Los Angeles to promote the study and dissemination of knowledge about American folk music of the 1920s-1940s. It is part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Southern Folklife Collection today and contains several important taped interviews Fred conducted in the 1950s.

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