Eubie Blake: Rags, Rhythm and Race

You may already know a lot about Eubie Blake, especially if you are an aficionado of ragtime music. Even you are not an aficionado you may know him as the composer of “Charleston Rag,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and “Memories of You”; as a pianist who was one of the main beneficiaries of the ragtime revival of the late 1960s-early ’70s; or as an extremely engaging, aged raconteur on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Eubie Blake: Rags, Rhythm and Race, published in 2020, reveals so much more than that about the life of James Hubert “Eubie” Blake. This is actually the fourth biography of Blake. While the most recent book incorporates material from the previous ones, it is much more expansive and detailed, filled with quotes from interviews and material such as Blake’s contracts, schedules and pay records. The authors spent several days mining such primary sources at the Maryland Historical Society in Blake’s home town, Baltimore. Their work is especially valuable in recounting the years between Blake’s Broadway successes in the ’20s and early ’30s and the revival of interest in ragtime nearly forty years later. Talk about a jack of all musical trades. In addition to composing, among his other jobs during those lesser-known years of his career, Blake worked as an arranger, conductor, song pitchman, stage manager, pianist at the Apollo’s amateur night
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Bob Jacobson is based in Baltimore, Maryland and has written about jazz for Allaboutjazz.com, The Clarinet, Baltimore Jazz Alliance Newsletter, and Apprentice House.

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