Friday, August 28, 1998

50 years ago: “Twelfth Street Rag” hit #1 more than 30 years after published

Twelfth Street Rag

Pee Wee Hunt

Writer(s): Euday L. Bowman, Andy Razaf (lyrics – NA - instrumental)


First Charted: June 28, 1948


Peak: 18 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 U.S.


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

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Twelfth Street Rag” has an interesting history. It was first published in 1914 as a piano rag TY by composer Euday L. Bowman. Years earlier, he was walking down 12th street with a friend known as “Raggedy Ed” who said he planned to open a pawn shop on the street. Bowman supposedly shot back that if his friend got rich from the shop, then Bowman would write a song to make himself rich. WK Since the song has become “the most recorded rag of all time,” JA it would be fair to assume Bowman succeeded. No word on the pawn shop.

Actually, Bowman took more than 15 years to write down the music, finally selling it in 1913 to Jenkins Music Company. They thought the arrangement was too difficult and hired C.E. Wheeler to simplify it. WK In 1916, James S. Sumner added lyrics TY and Earl Fuller got the song on the charts for the first time the following year, taking it to #7. Ted Lewis revived the song in 1923, reaching #14. In 1927, Bennie Moten and Louis Armstrong recorded it. WK In 1929, Spencer Williams added new lyrics. TY In 1935, the song charted for a third time – this time with a #19 version by Fats Waller.

The song still wasn’t done transforming. Andy Razaf added new lyrics once again in 1942, TY but it would be another six years before it charted again. This time, however, it had its greatest success. Pee Wee Hunt and his orchestra decided to record the song for Capitol Records. It went on to become one of the biggest records to date for the company, TY selling more than three million and becoming the biggest-selling ragtime song of all time. JA

The song charted two more times by Frankie Carle (#10, 1948) and Liberace (#23, 1954). PM The song was given yet another life when Big Tiny Little’s 1959 recording of the song became the theme for The Joe Franklin Show in the UK. WK The song also made appearances in the movie The English Patient (1996) and in the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants. WK


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Pee Wee Hunt
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 201.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 136.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 599.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 8/28/2016; last updated 4/23/2021.

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