Monday, August 25, 2014

#217: Scott Joplin House

It was more than a thrill to come in here and check this place out for the very first time. Those who know me very well know that I am a popular-music enthusiast. And yes, Scott Joplin is considered popular music. In fact, some scholars cite him to be one of the first in 'modern popular music', before it even became a term! Even more thrilling is the fact that he lived in St. Louis, but for a brief amount of time. Nonetheless, this museum is the only place in the world devoted to the 'King of Ragtime Music'.

I think everyone who loves music and pop culture of any kind will enjoy this museum. It has everything historians will want you to know about Scott Joplin. Memorablia is on the walls and on display, as well as items and furniture (even though they weren't his) from the early 1900s are spread throughout the house. The house has been restored to its original condition, with help from several volunteers.

A little background on the house: Scott Joplin and his wife moved here from Sedalia in 1900 to Morgan Street (now named Delmar Boulevard). At that time, it was a neighborhood/city section where African-Americans lived, worked and commuted. It is said by the website and other publications that they lived here from 1903, although my tour guide told me they actually lived here for only a year. I believe even though this was their home, they might have dropped in every now and then during those four years. Unfortunately, history does not record when he and his spouse actually stayed at the house. This is just what historians believe.

Here are some facts about Joplin:
  • His birthdate is believed to be in 1868, even though it has not been ever verified. 
  • Born in Marshall, Texas, he moved to Sedalia to expand his craft and enroll at the George R. Smith College for Negros, where he studied music.
  • By the time he was a teenager, he was an expert in music, playing several instruments.
  • His most popular compositions were Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer and Bethena
  • Sadly, during the Joplins' stay in St. Louis, their baby girl (who was born there) died while an infant and Scott and his wife divorced him.
  • On another sad note, most of his possessions (if known), including his hand-written compositions did not survive as they were destroyed.
  • While he wasn't in St. Louis in 1904, he did write a song based on the World's Fair after seeing a fountain he considered beautiful, titled Cascades
  • He spent many of his post-St. Louis years on the road, and eventually moved to New York City in 1907, hoping to expand his success. 
  • Joplin died in 1917 at a mental institution in Manhattan, after suffering from syphilis and dementia for a year.
As you can see, there's several things I can say about Joplin; too many to list! But I hope this is a clear overview of his short-lived life. Ragtime music was a popular form of music in the early 1900s, which spun off into several different subgenres. It would be overshadowed by a more contemporary type of music, including slower, romantic waltzes and famous dances including the charleston by the 1920s. Ragtime music is widely considered an ancestral type of music for rock and roll.

In 1974, Scott Joplin's work would be recognized again thanks to the late Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch recorded many of Joplin's songs and featured them to the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning movie, The Sting. Hamlisch's version of 'The Entertainer' went to No. 3 on the Billboard Pop chart, as well as hitting No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Wikipedia link
Official website

2658 Delmar, ST. LOUIS, MO, 63103
Cake artist: Bruce Howard   (he also decorated the Kenrick-Glennon cake)

No comments:

Post a Comment