Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, "Coon Songs," and by Lynn Abbott

By Lynn Abbott

The industrial explosion of ragtime within the early 20th century created formerly unimagined possibilities for black performers. in spite of the fact that, each prospect used to be mitigated via systemic racism. the most important hits of the ragtime period were not Scott Joplin's stately piano rags. "Coon songs," with their gruesome identify, outlined ragtime for the hundreds. although the identify itself is offensive to trendy ears, it really is very unlikely to enquire black well known leisure of the ragtime period with no without delay confronting the "coon songs" which cleared the best way for the "original blues." In Ragged yet correct Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff examine musical comedy productions, sideshow bands, and itinerant tented minstrel indicates. Ragtime historical past is topped via the "big shows," the lovely musical comedy successes of blackface performers Williams and Walker, Bob Cole, and Ernest Hogan. less than the massive tent of Tolliver's shrewdpermanent Set, Ma Rainey, Clara Smith, and others have been switched over from "coon shouters" to "blues singers." during the ragtime period, circuses and Wild West exhibits exploited the preferred call for for black musicians and performers but segregated and subordinated them to the sideshow tent. Minstrel indicates have lengthy been marginalized in discussions of the background of blues and jazz. but this ignored black leisure helped to maneuver blues and jazz into the mainstream. Drawing from cautious analyzing of the Indianapolis Freeman, Chicago Defender, and different black newspapers and mainstream leisure exchange papers, the authors demonstrate a torrent of creativity that swept hundreds of thousands of black writers, performers, musicians, and marketers into the pro ranks regardless of the overt racism of the days. Lynn Abbott works for the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane collage. Doug Seroff is an self reliant pupil dwelling in Greenbrier, Tennessee.

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Additional resources for Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, "Coon Songs," and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz (American Made Music Series)

Example text

Abraham Lincoln once wrote a harsh letter to a man and after considering how the man might feel over it, he threw the letter in the stove. Every composer who writes a song with the word “coon” in it should do the same. ” However, it was under the guidance of these same entertainment leaders that a generation of African American performers reached the popular stage and forever altered the face of American entertainment. The Big Shows In the late 1890s, the public’s fascination with ragtime brought about a confluence of creative and commercial purposes, resulting in unique and unexpected opportunities for black entertainers.

The authors who wrote “Suwanee River,” “Old Black Joe” and others like those, songs that will live forever, never used bad words, slang, etc. Nowadays the composers have no respect for good people, no thought of elevating, careless of hurting good innocent people, they rush their horrible junk on the market for sale. Out for graft, they use slang, hurried-up poetry—anything that will sell quickly. The colored writers not knowing the harm they were doing, took a stick to break their own heads, by writing “coon” songs.

In the spring of 1899 Hogan left the Black Patti Troubadours in midtour and returned to New York, where he continued to enjoy prosperity and celebrity. He submitted this ragtime credo to the Clipper, in the words of an Irving Jones coon song hit: “I’m living easy, eating pork chops greasy. ”100 Contrary to this carefree pronouncement, Hogan was driven by an obsessive work ethic. On June 1, 1899, he set sail for Sydney, Australia, with the M. B. Curtis Afro-American Minstrel and Vaudeville Company, a monumental combination that included Billy McClain, N.

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