Tuesday, August 10, 1999

On This Day (1899): “Maple Leaf Rag” published

Maple Leaf Rag

Scott Joplin

Writer(s): Scott Joplin (music), Sydney Brown (words) (see lyrics here)

Published: August 10, 1899

First Charted: --

Peak: -- (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 17.6 video, 5.68 streaming

Awards (Scott Joplin):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (U.S. Marine Band):

Awards (Vess Ossman):

About the Song:

Scott Joplin was a black pianist from Texas. His mother worked as a servant in a white household where he had access to a piano. He later received classical training. He left home as a teen to hit the road as a musician. He popularized a playing style known as ragtime in which he played a beat with the left hand and melody with the right hand. In their book They All Played Ragtime, Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis called it the “most exciting, most infectiously lilting music ever heard.” SS

With its “fabulously infectious melody,” SS Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” “is the essence of ragtime,” SS becoming “the model for ragtime compositions by subsequent composers.” WK Ragtime was a “musical innovation [that] was key to the development of jazz” LW and “an important influence in the development of popular music in the first two or three decades of the century.” LW The musical form got its start with banjo playing, but was then adapted to piano and became widely popular as the instrumental gained widespread popularity as a staple in American homes in the late 19th century.

It was the first rag to sell more than a million copies of sheet music and “spawned a host of songs with the word ‘rag’ in the title.” LW The title came from the Maple Leaf club in Sedalia, Missouri – “the world capital of ragtime.” SS Joplin first visited the city as a touring musician in 1894 and took up permanent residence there a decade later. WK

In 1903, the song was published again with lyrics by Sydney Brown. WK Wilbur Sweatman, a black clarinetist, appears to be the first to record the song either that year or the next. SS He recorded it with a six-piece band for the Metropolitan Music Store in Minneapolis. SS The first widely available commercial recording was made in October 1906 by the U.S. Marine Band. SS Their version charted in March 1907, reaching #2. Four months later, banjo player Vess Ossman hit the charts with his version, coming in one rung lower but becoming the more celebrated version. Before his death in 1917, Joplin made some piano rolls but otherwise he never made any commercial recordings.


First posted 9/5/2023.

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