Joplin Scott

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Scott Joplin

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Joplin, Scott j?pl?n, 1868?1917, American ragtime pianist and composer, b. Self-taught, Joplin left home in his early teens to seek his fortune in music. Louis (1885?93), playing in saloons and bordellos. In 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Mo., and played second cornet in a local band. Scott Joplin was 'the King of Ragtime Writers,' a composer who elevated 'banjo piano playing,' a lowly entertainment associated with saloons and brothels, into an American art form loved by millions. Born in Texas in either 1867 or 1868, Joplin was raised in Texarkana, the son of a laborer and former slave.

Scott Joplin (November 24, 1868 – April 1, 1917) was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the King of Ragtime. During his brief career, he wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first and most popular pieces, the 'Maple Leaf Rag', became ragtime's first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

Joplin grew up in a musical family of railway laborers in Texarkana, Arkansas, and developed his own musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. While in Texarkana, Texas, he formed a vocal quartet and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s, he left his job as a railroad laborer and traveled the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World's Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894 and earned a living as a piano teacher. There he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. He began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his 'Maple Leaf Rag' in 1899 brought him fame. This piece had a profound influence on writers of ragtime. It also brought Joplin a steady income for life, though he did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems. In 1901, Joplin moved to St. Louis, where he continued to compose and publish, and regularly performed in the community. The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings for non-payment of bills, and is now considered lost.

In 1907, Joplin moved to New York City to find a producer for a new opera. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form that had made him famous, but without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was never fully staged during his lifetime.

In 1916, Joplin descended into dementia as a result of syphilis. He was admitted to Manhattan State Hospital in January 1917, and died there three months later at the age of 48. Joplin's death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format; over the next several years, it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz and eventually big band swing.

Joplin's music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award-winning 1973 film The Sting, which featured several of Joplin's compositions, most notably 'The Entertainer', a piece performed by pianist Marvin Hamlisch that received wide airplay. Treemonisha was finally produced in full, to wide acclaim, in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

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  • Wikipedia content provided under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-SA license

Birth and Death Data: Born 1868 (Texas), Died April 1st, 1917 (New York City)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1906 - 1938

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer


CompanyMatrix No.SizeFirst Recording DateTitlePrimary PerformerDescriptionRoleAudio
VictorB-388710-in.10/15/1906Maple leaf rag United States Marine BandBandcomposer
VictorE-38878-in.10/15/1906Maple leaf rag marchUnited States Marine BandBandcomposer
VictorBVE-6316810-in.10/24/1930Maple leaf ragVictor Arden ; Phil OhmanPiano duet, with bass and traps (takes 4-6); with tuba and traps (takes 1-3)composer
VictorBS-7350210-in.9/15/1932Maple leaf ragSidney Bechet ; Scott Joplin ; New Orleans FeetwarmersJazz/dance bandcomposer
VictorG-18210-in.9/16/1914Maple leaf ragLionel BelascoPiano solocomposer
VictorBS-0217210-in.10/18/1936Maple leaf ragTommy Dorsey OrchestraJazz/dance bandcomposer
VictorBS-02405410-in.7/18/1938Maple leaf ragOzzie Nelson OrchestraJazz/dance bandcomposer
VictorBS-02667810-in.8/30/1938Maple leaf ragBluebird Military BandInstrumental ensemblecomposer
Columbia362610-in.Jan.-May 1907Maple leaf ragVess L. OssmanBanjo solo, with orchestracomposer
ColumbiaW14099810-in.9/25/1925Maple leaf ragHalfway House Dance OrchestraJazz/dance bandcomposer
OKehS-7202610-in.11/9/1923Maple leaf ragWillie EcksteinPiano solocomposer
Brunswick14058-1406010-in.10/21/1924Maple leaf ragCinderella Roof Orchestra ; Herb WiedoeftJazz/dance bandcomposer
BrunswickC432-C43310-in.6/22/1926Maple leaf ragHarry M. SnodgrassPiano solocomposer
BrunswickA115-A11810-in.5/20/1924Maple leaf ragCinderella Roof Orchestra ; Herb WiedoeftJazz/dance bandcomposer
BrunswickE25102-E2510510-in.11/8/1927Maple leaf ragMoore and PowellGuitar and octachorda duet, with clarinet and bass clarinetcomposer


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. 'Joplin, Scott,' accessed May 10, 2021,

Joplin, Scott. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved May 10, 2021, from

'Joplin, Scott.' Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 10 May 2021.


DAHR Persistent Identifier

Joplin Scott Youtube


External Sources

Joplin scottish rite cathedral

Wikipedia: Scott Joplin

Discogs: Joplin, Scott

Allmusic: Joplin, Scott

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LCNAR: Joplin, Scott, 1868-1917 -

Wikidata: Scott Joplin -


MusicBrainz: Joplin, Scott, 1868-1917 -


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Artist Biography by Uncle Dave Lewis

Scott Joplin was 'the King of Ragtime Writers,' a composer who elevated 'banjo piano playing,' a lowly entertainment associated with saloons and brothels, into an American art form loved by millions. Born in Texas in either 1867 or 1868, Joplin was raised in Texarkana, the son of a laborer and former slave. As a child, Joplin taught himself piano on an instrument belonging to a white family that granted him access to it, and ultimately studied with a local, German-born teacher who introduced Joplin to classical music. Joplin attended high school in Sedalia, MO, a town that would serve as Joplin's home base during his most prosperous years, and where a museum now bears his name.

In 1891, the first traceable evidence of Joplin's music career is found, placing him in a minstrel troupe in Texarkana. In 1893, he played in Chicago during the Columbian Exposition was held, reportedly leading a band with a cornet. Afterward, Joplin settled in Sedalia, worked with other brass bands and founding a vocal group called the Texas Medley Quartette. During an 1895 appearance in Syracuse, NY, the quality of Joplin's original songs for the Texas Medley Quartette so impressed a group of local businessmen that they arranged for Joplin's first publications. Around 1896, Joplin enrolled in Sedalia's George R. Smith College for Negroes to study formally, publishing a few more pieces in the years to follow.

In 1899, publisher John Stark of Sedalia issued Joplin's second ragtime composition, 'Maple Leaf Rag.' It didn't catch on like wildfire immediately, but within a few years the popularity of 'Maple Leaf Rag' was so enormous that it made Joplin's name; and Joplin earned a small percentage of income from it for the rest of his days, helping to stabilize him in his last years. By the end of 1899, Joplin presented his first ambitious work, the ballet The Ragtime Dance, at the Wood Opera House in Sedalia. It didn't appear in print until 1902, and then only in a truncated form. Joplin moved to St. Louis in 1901, as did Stark, who set his new publishing venture up as 'The House of Classic Rags.' Joplin wrote many of the other rags he is known for during this time, including 'The Entertainer,' 'The Easy Winners,' and 'Elite Syncopations.'

In 1903, Joplin organized a touring company to perform his first opera, A Guest of Honor, which foundered after a couple of months, leaving Joplin destitute. He had recovered well enough to appear at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair to present his rag 'The Cascades,' which proved his second great success. Joplin also married for a second time to a woman who died only a few weeks into their marriage after a bout with pneumonia, plunging Joplin into another bout of despair. During a visit to Chicago in 1907 he renewed an acquaintance with the St. Louis pianist Louis Chauvin, who did not long outlast the visit. Joplin utilized a strain drawn from Chauvin's playing into the finest of his 'collaborative' rags, 'Heliotrope Bouquet.' This was published after Joplin moved to New York in 1907. Stark had also resettled there, and they resumed their partnership to some degree, but Joplin also published through Seminary Music, likewise home to aspiring songwriter Irving Berlin. Through Seminary many of the best of his late works appeared, such as 'Pine Apple Rag,' the transparently beautiful 'Mexican serenade' 'Solace,' and the harmonically adventurous 'Euphonic Sounds.'

From 1911 until his death in 1917 most of Joplin's efforts went into his second opera, Treemonishia, which he heard in concert but never managed to stage during his own lifetime. With his third wife, Lotte Joplin, Joplin formed his own music company and published his final piano rag, 'Magnetic Rag' (1914), one of his best. By this time, debilitating, long-term effects of syphilis were beginning to break down Joplin's health, although he did manage to make seven hand-played piano rolls in 1916 and 1917; though heavily edited, these rolls are as close as one is likely to get to hearing Joplin's own playing. One of them is W.C. Handy's 'Ole Miss Rag,' which suggests that Joplin might have had a hand in its composition or arrangement. Joplin was tireless and selfless in his advocacy of his fellow ragtime composers, collaborating with James Scott, Arthur Marshall, Louis Chauvin, and Scott Hayden and helping to arrange others by Artie Matthews and the white New Jersey composer Joseph Lamb, whose work Joplin pitched to Stark.

Joplin Scott Maple Leaf Rag

'Maple Leaf Rag' remained a constant in popular music throughout the Jazz Age, but the better part of Joplin's work remained unknown until the 'ragtime revival' of the early '70s, during which 'Scott Joplin' became a household name and Treemonishia was finally staged by the Houston Grand Opera. Although primary sources on Joplin's music were still extant as late as the late '40s, today not a single manuscript page in Joplin's hand still exists and only three photographs of him have survived, along with precious few first-hand quotations. Joplin died in a mental facility convinced that he had failed in his mission to achieve success as an African-American composer of serious music. Were he alive today, Joplin would be astounded to learn that, a century after his work was first printed, he is the most successful African-American composer of serious music that ever lived -- by far. Some of his works have been recorded hundreds of times and arranged for practically every conceivable instrumental combination, played by everything from symphony orchestras to ice cream trucks. For a couple of generations of Americans who have even never heard of Stephen Foster, the music of Scott Joplin represents the old, traditional order of all things American.