Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hasn't EVERYONE Heard of Scott Joplin and Maple Leaf Rag?

      Apparently not.
      Early on in my search for background material for my historical mystery, THE RAGTIME KID, I called a local video shop to reserve a copy of SCOTT JOPLIN, the 1977 movie, starring Billy Dee Williams and Art Carney. I told them I'd come in the next day to pick it up.
      First thing next morning, I walked into the store and up to the counter, and interrupted a clerk's daydream by telling him I wanted to pick up the movie they were holding for me. He showed his displeasure by muttering, "Whatsa name?"
      "Scott Joplin."
      If looks really could wither, I'd have been a cornstalk in October. The clerk looked me up, down, and sideways, then growled, "No, man! I don't mean your name. Whatsa name of the movie?"

      Shortly after THE RAGTIME KID came out, I went on tour through California. At a big-chain bookstore north of Los Angeles, the assistant events manager asked me to tell him "a little" about my book, so he could make an announcement over the store's P.A. system. "Well," I said, "It's a historical mystery, set in Sedalia, Missouri in 1899, when Scott Joplin signed the contract to publish Maple Leaf Rag, the tune that started the ragtime craze in America."
      I was going to say more, but the A.E.M. was ready to roll. "Great. I'll go make the announcement."
      A couple of minutes later, I heard, "Please stop by the table near the checkout counter, and meet Larry Karp, author of THE RAGTIME KID, which tells all about Scott Joplin and his knockout hit, the Make Believe Rag." 
      There's a punch line...two, in fact. In June, 1979, ragtime performer, composer, and historian David Jasen actually did publish a tune he called Make Believe Rag.
      And I could send you to youtube to hear Make Believe Rag, as transcribed for guitar by Tony Ackerman. That's what the caption says. But the tune Ackerman will play for you is Maple Leaf Rag.

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