Rudiments of Ragtime 8: Artie Matthews (1888-1958)

Artie Mathews John Stark began publishing Scott Joplin’s compositions, he sought out other composers who wrote in the Classic Ragtime style, In St. Louis, Stark found Artie Matthews. Artie was originally from Illinois. He learned piano there and became interested in syncopation early in his training.

He moved to St. Louis to be at the center of ragtime activity when he was in his teen years and worked for Tom Turpin there. Matthews is well known for his five “Pastime” compositions published by John Stark from 1913 to 1920. They differ somewhat from earlier pieces Stark issued with their echo of Latin styles. While in St. Louis, Matthews also arranged music for Stark.

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After venturing to Chicago several times, and working in the field of church music, he moved to Cincinnati where he founded and taught at the African American Cosmopolitan School of Music until his death in 1958. In addition to his educational work, Matthews was also a church choir master and liturgical organist there. This brought him back to Classical music, indicating the superior quality of his playing and reading talent.

When he died Matthews was also well known for writing in the emerging Blues style, thus taking his ragtime into a derivative genre. “Weary Blues” was his most famous composition other than Ragtime. “Baby Seal Blues” is often considered the first LofC registered song published with “Blues” in the title.

Next: Eubie Blake

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Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected].

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