Friday, December 5, 2003

100 years ago: “Any Rags?” hit #1

Any Rags?

Arthur Collins

Writer(s): Thomas S. Allen (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 5, 1903

Peak: 15 US, 10 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Any Rags?” was written by Tin Pan Alley composer Thomas S. Allen who was born in Natick, Massachusetts in 1876. In high school, he organized a small orchestra and was playing in public by the time he was nineteen. He was working regularly as a musician by 1898. He started turning more toward composing, working in different styles, including “waltzes, marches, Latin dances, and even some classical.” RP

He found success in 1902, when his song “Any Rags?” became popular. It tells the story “of ‘ragged jagged Jack,’ a ragpicker. He comes down the street waking up all the neighbors with his yell for ‘Any rags?...Any bones? Any bottles today?” TY2 The song played on racial stereotypes of African Americans, as can be seen even in the cover for the sheet music.

The song was popularized by Arthur Collins, who was born in 1864 in Philadelphia. He was the “leading minstrel-style dialect-comedy singer of the early 1900s” PM and known as the “King of the Ragtime Singers.” He specialized in coon songs, which generally played on racially insensitive stereotypes of African Americans. He was known for his use of vocal effects and caricuature voices. WK

“Any Rags?” was his eleventh trip to #1 as a solo artist; his next chart-topper, “The Preacher and the Bear,” would be the biggest song of his career. He scored another dozen #1 songs in a duo with Byron G. Harlan. Collins also had success as a member of the Peerless Quartet, scoring another half-dozen chart-toppers with them. He ranks as one of the top 10 acts of the pre-rock era.


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First posted 12/15/2022.

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