Austrian Sock Puppets, Elvis, and the Next Big Thing

The word “ragtime” describes a kind of music. You think of gaslights and mustachioed gentlemen in red and white vertical striped shirts with garters around their biceps banging away on an out of tune upright. Jelly Roll Morton probably died broke and broken but he sure did know how to make that “sweet harmony.” Why can't we have a new idea in music like that? Why, with all our trinkets and doo dads, can't we create a new genre? It's a good question. To answer it, we are going to have to look into where the term 'ragtime' came from. Which is easy. Once a month, a girl has her 'ragtime'. And in the brothels of New Orleans, when a girl was on her ragtime, she couldn't work. Well, couldn't work doin' the wild thing, anyway. So she'd play the piano. In a house of prostitution, there are many girls. So they'd take turns playing the piano when they were on their ragtime. That sloppy style was created by the fact that they weren't very good, as they only played for three days a month or so and didn't practice in between. And when they were playing they were, well, their mood wasn't exactly … Oh never mind.

The point I'm trying to make is that ragtime music wasn't invented. It just occurred. It was an accident. Those ladies of the evening invented a wonderful style of playing. It was fun. Whimsical. Silly. Dancey. It was authentic. That kind of music couldn't be invented by musicians. Trained musicians. Skilled composers couldn't come up with that music, which took the world by storm and paved the way for the jazz that would come and eventually give us Bon Jovi.

Also: The ships came to Hawaii. On the ships were Mexicans. Who had guitars. They left the guitars. But didn't teach anyone how to tune them. Thus: the slack key Hawaiian sound. That lose twangy string was an accident. Combined with the fact that the Hawaiian alphabet only has 11 characters (and 18 sounds!), you got your Don Ho right there. But you can get a billion graduates from Julliard and not one of them would come up with the slack key. Not one of them would be able to write Blue Hawaii.

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