Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Ragtime: Top 50 Songs


Top 50 Songs

Ragtime music was a largely piano-based form of music which reached its widest widest popularity between the mid-1890s and World War I. Its primary characteristic is, according to, “its ragged – i.e., syncopated rhythm.” OM This was, as says, “usually in 2/4 time, over a regular, march tempo bass line.” PS The genre is significant as a predecessor to jazz.

16 lists were aggregated together (see sources at the bottom of the page). All songs appearing on 2+ lists were then sorted by overall DMDB points. The top 50 songs were then sorted by the most points on the ragtime lists. As to how the songs are listed – first up are the songwriters, followed by the title of the song and the year the song was introduced. When relevant, the performer(s) with the highest-ranked version of the song are listed in italics.

Ragtime purists will quibble with songs such as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” that don’t adhere to strict definitions. I offer no apologies for such inclusions, as this list is meant to celebrate those tunes which introduced and shaped the craft as well as those which popularized the genre by integrating elements of ragtime.

Click here to see other genre-specific song lists.

“The Entertainer,” as performed by Marvin Hamlisch in the 1973 movie ‘The Sting’

1. Scott Joplin “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899)
2. Scott Joplin “The Entertainer” (1902)
3. Tom Turpin “Harlem Rag” (1897)
4. Eubie Blake “Charleston Rag” (1899)
5. Euday L. Bowman “Twelfth Street Rag” (1916): Pee Wee Hunt, 1948
6. Harry DeCosta, Original Dixieland Jazz Band “Tiger Rag” (1918)
7. Charles L. Johnson “Dill Pickles Rag” (1906): Arthur Pryor’s Band, 1910
8. James Scott “Climax Rag” (1913): Jelly Roll Morton, 1914
9. Irving Berlin “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911): Arthur Collins & Bryon G. Harlan, 1911
10. Percy Wenrich “Peaches and Cream Rag” (1905): Len Spencer & Ada Jones, 1905

11. Scott Joplin “Elite Syncopations” (1902)
12. James Scott “Frog Legs Rag” (1906)
13. Joseph Lamb “Top Liner Rag” (1916)
14. Scott Joplin “Sunflower Slow Drag” (1901)
15. Scott Joplin “Weeping Willow” (1903)
16. Henry Lodge “Temptation Rag” (1909): Prince’s Orchestra, 1910
17. Hughie Cannon, Johnnie Queen “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” (1902): Arthur Collins, 1902
18. Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton “King Porter Stomp” (1923)
19. Kerry & F.A. Mills “At a Georgia Camp Meeting” (1897): Dan Quinn, 1898
20. Grant Clarke, Lewis F. Muir, & Maurice Abrahams “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” (1912): Bob Roberts, 1912

21. Ben R. Harney “Mister Johnson, Turn Me Loose” (1896)
22. W.C. Handy, George A. Norton, Charles Tobias, Peter DeRose “The Memphis Blues” (1912): Prince’s Orchestra, 1914
23. Abe Holzmann “Smoky Mokes” (1899): Len Spencer, 1899
24. Zez Confrey “Kitten on the Keys” (1921)
25. Charles Hunter “Tickled to Death” (1899)
26. Kerry & F.A. Mills “Whistling Rufus” (1899): Vess Ossman, 1899
27. Joseph E. Howard, Ida Emerson “Hello Ma Baby” (1899): Arthur Collins, 1899
28. Nat. D. Ayer, Seymour Brown “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” (1911): Billy Murray & American Quartet, 1911
29. Theodore August Metz, Joe Hayden “A Hot Time in the Old Town” (1896): Dan Quinn, 1896
30. Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, James Weldon Johnson “Under the Bamboo Tree” (1902): Arthur Collins, 1902

31. Theodore Havermeyer Northrup “The Louisiana Rag” (1897)
32. John Philip Sousa “The Washington Post March” (1889): United States Marine Band, 1890)
33. W.C. Handy “St. Louis Blues” (1914): Bessie Smith & Louis Armstrong, 1925
34. James Reese Europe “Castle House Rag” (1914)
35. Spencer Williams, Jack Palmer “Everybody Loves My Baby” (1924): Aileen Stanley, 1925
36. Thomas Turpin “St. Louis Rag” (1903): Vess Ossman, 1905
37. James Reese Europe, Ford Dabney “The Castle Walk” (1914): Irene & Vernon Castle, 1914
38. traditional “Turkey in the Straw” (1820): Billy Golden, 1891 (1891)
39. Scott Joplin “Bethena (Ragtime Waltz)” (1905)
40. Scott Joplin “Swipesy Cake Walk” (1900)

41. Cecil Macklin “Tres Moutarde (Too Much Mustard)” (1911): Victor Military Band, 1911
42. George Sidney, J. Bodewell Lampe “Creole Belles” (1900): Metropolitan Orchestra, 1902
43. Thomas S. Allen “Any Rags?” (1903): Arthur Collins, 1903
44. W.C. Handy, Walter Hirsch “Joe Turner Blues” (1915): Prince’s Orchestra, 1916
45. Robert S. Roberts, Gene Jefferson “I’m Certainly Living a Ragtime Life” (1900): Fannie Midgely, 1900
46. Irving Berlin “That International Rag” (1913): Victor Military Band, 1914
47. Irving Berlin “I Want to Go Back to Michigan (Down on the Farm)” (1914): Eldia Morris, 1914
48. Tom Turpin “The Buffalo Rag” (1904): Vess Ossman, 1906
49. Scott Joplin “Scott Joplin’s New Rag” (1912)
50. Theron C. Bennett “St. Louis Tickle” (1904): Vess Ossman, 1910

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 4/16/2021; last updated 9/6/2023.

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