String Groups at the 1974 Scott Joplin Fest

News from Galen Wilkes that Dennis Pash was rushed to the hospital in December brought back a flash of memories and of course great concern for Dennis.

During the First Sedalia Joplin festival, two young visitors from Kansas City, Dennis Pash and Kevin Sanders caught the attention of several audience members. The following year when they came as The Etcetera String Band (having added Pat Ireland), they were very well received. The band was organized in 1973 and made several recordings including Harvest Hop in 1975 before Dennis Pash moved to California. Sanders and Ireland then added Bob Ault who was from Sedalia, and the new group was called Rhythmia. In 1992 when Pash returned to Kansas City the Etcetera trio recorded Old Rags, Cakewalks, and Marches. Pash played mandolin; Sanders, guitar, and banjo; and Ireland, violin. Their arrangements had an original sound quality that might have been from the ragtime era.

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Dennis Pash is still in the ICU as I send this column off to Andy Senior. He will hopefully be transferred to a Kaiser facility after the first of the year for further diagnosis according to Kevin Sanders. I should know where he is by the time this is published so email me for his address if you would like to send him cards or letters.

Dennis has been playing the music of the ragtime era and arranging ragtime for strings for over 50 years. He is known for his extensive knowledge of the history of the music. In San Francisco he organized The Ragtime Skedaddlers and they have recorded three CDs. He has a long performance career.

The Ragtime Skedaddlers, from left: Nick Robinson, Dennis Pash, and Mike Schwartz. (submitted photo)

Another string group at the 1975 festival was Zinn’s Original Ragtime String Quartet, with Willam Zinn, violin; Stanley Karpentia, second violin; Vincent Liota, viola; and Juleus Chremewerth on viola. This group was recently formed in 1975 had had more of a classical string ensemble sound, using ragtime era compositions.

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And of course, there was David Reffkin playing ragtime violin at venues around town when not being of invaluable assistance to the producer. He was beginning his unbroken run of festival attendance. Another original sound at the first event came from the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. They were from Boston and had produced a an important ragtime revival era recording, The Red Back Book, Composer/historian Gunther Schuler had organized the group at the Conservatory and Bruce Creditor was the student director who led the group on tour. I’ll write more on these performers in the coming months.

Update on Joplin’s School Story

I was reminded last month that history is a social science and as a science it is only as factual as the latest research exposes. Dr. John Tennison, author of the documentary, The Place That Forgot It Existed: A Texarkana Reckoning, informed us on social media in December that Scott Joplin did not attend the Orr School, currently at 831 Laurel Street in Texarkana, Arkansas as I reported in the December 2019 TST on page 18. He discovered that the building wasn’t built until 1899 after a fire destroyed the earlier structure. Joplin may have attended school in the earlier building but there are no documents to verify this. Dr. Tennison’s research then puts in doubt the testimonies to which I referred in my earlier column, though perhaps they were remembering the earlier building.

Dr. Edward Berlin, in the 2nd edition of his book King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era, indicates Joplin may have attended the Orr School in 1887 but he would have been 20 years old. Dr. Berlin also mentions that there is some indication that Joplin was living in Sedalia and may have attended the Lincoln High School there. Currently I understand that Joplin’s biographer is researching the composer’s family and hopefully Dr. Berlin will have new information on Joplin’s early life when his studies are published.

Recorded Ragtime Update

I was pleasantly but firmly called to task last month over the resource I listed for recorded ragtime in my Rudiments of Ragtime column. Allan Sutton reminded me that David Jasen’s Recorded Ragtime 1897-1958, is now considerably out of date. He politely suggested that I consider using the fourth edition of his, Ragtime on Records. 1894-1950: The Worldwide Discography of Cakewalks, Rags and Novelties on Cylinders and 78s. It is available free for personal use through the American Discographical Project at UC Santa Barbara: tinyurl.com/ragtimeonrecords

I did spend quite a bit of time with his prodigious 533-page work. He begins with a clear description of the criteria used to identify the three elements of his study, provides historical background regarding the history of those recordings, and then provides the lengthy discography.

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Allan’s work is yet another example of extensive scholarship generously shared for our personal use. This old octogenarian tends to rely on treasured resources used for years without remembering that though great in their day and often groundbreaking, they are now outdated and have often been replaced by amazing scholars with far more resources available.

Lundberg on May Aufderheide & Bunk Johnson

Regarding my short piece last month on May Aufderheide, Peter Lundberg made an inciteful observation.

“Larry, just read your May Aufderheide biography—I wish she had recorded. Made me think of Bunk Johnson who, on his only second band session, chose to record “Triller” and “Dusty,” of all possible rags. It shows the impact of those two. I hope ragtime audiences are aware of Bunk Johnson as that link between ragtime and jazz, in this recording session and in the five classic rags from his final recording session.” Thanks, Peter.

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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