Rudiments of Ragtime Installment 9: Eubie Blake (1887-1983)

Eubie Blake (born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore) learned to play the piano as a child of four or five. He became a living link between the Age of Ragtime after 1900, and the Ragtime Revival of the 1970s and 1980s.

In a way, Eubie had two careers, the first as a young ragtime composer and performer in the early 1900s that included a stint writing music for African American revues with Noble Sissle. “Shuffle Along” was their best-known work. Eubie wrote “The Charleston Rag” at age 16 in 1903 and another popular piece, “The Chevy Chase,” in 1914.

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Eubie always claimed to have met Scott Joplin. His ragtime compositions, however, moved slightly away from Joplin’s Classic style. In addition, because of his talent and unusually long fingers, he was able to compose pieces that are extremely difficult for others to play.

After a few decades out of the public eye, Eubie re-emerged in the 1960s having been re-discovered by several prominent entertainment industry personalities. He became a popular guest at ragtime festivals and other music events, he was featured in motion pictures, on television, and on the radio. Eubie continued to record and compose in his seniority. His “Rhapsody in Ragtime” (1973) is a well-known piece from his later period. Eubie lived to be 96 years old while claiming to be 100.


Edwards, Bill; “Rag Piano” Ragtime Composers; Eubie Blake;

Rose, Al; Eubie Blake; Shirmer Books; 1979

Next: Early instrumental Ragtime

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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