San Gabriel Valley Tribune article

January 31, 2000

A Super Day for Ragtime

By Emanuel Parker, Staff Writer

PASADENA—Millions of Americans spent Sunday watching the Super Bowl play of Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner and Eddie George at the Super Bowl. But here in Pasadena, others preferred to listen to people play Joplin, Scott and Lamb.

Those others are members of the Roseleaf Ragtime Club, who meet monthly at the Pasadena IHOP on Foothill Boulevard to share their love of ragtime music.

"It's happy music; it makes you feel good," says Bill Mitchell, 75, of Placentia, who entertained about 50 people with "Frog-i-more" and "Pride of the Smokey Row." He was joined by Gary Rametta in a rendition of Charles Hunter's "'Possum and Taters."

Ragmeister Bill Mitchell at the piano

"I like the syncopation and melody," Mitchell said. "I'm particularly partial to (Scott) Joplin. I first heard ragtime in high school, it was the 'Maple Leaf Rag,' and I really flipped over that. I started looking for sheet music. Ragtime was revived in the 1970s when the movie 'The Sting' came out featuring music by Joplin. Ever since then it's been going great guns."

Club meetings feature impromptu playing; anyone who wants to play old favorites or introduce a new composition is welcome to perform. On Sunday, in addition to Mitchell, there were performances of "Sunrise, Sunset," The Good Ship Lollipop" and Zippadee Do Da" by Ruby Fradkin, 9, of Sherman Oaks. She and her father, Chris said she also plays for residents at retirement homes at least four times a week.

George McClellan and Lee Roan gave a sing-along of "Lena From Palesteena." Then McClellan played "Ma He's Making Eyes At Me" and "Nobody's Sweetheart." Ron Ross, the club's public relations director, played his composition "Digital Rag" and "Ragtime Song."

Joe Tortomasi, from Sierra Madre, played guitar and performed a sing-along version of "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." Bill Mintz, 70, from Panorama City, agreed with Mitchell that ragtime is happy music.

"It goes back 34 years for me. The rhythms get to me. I gravitated toward it when I heard it. It's got a lot of variety with Joplin, James Scott and Joseph Lamb, the big three of ragtime. Unfortunately, I don't play it. I tried to take piano lessons when I was 40, but it didn't take. But I'm a big collector."

Rametta, from Redondo Beach, said ragtime has influenced European classical music, jazz, popular music and hip-hop.

"I'm really fond of Jelly Roll Morton," he said. "He's one of the most extraordinary musicians and composers in history. Duke Ellington gets a lot of credit, and rightly so, but Morton and his Red Hot Peppers band in the 1920s came before Duke."

"I think the appeal of ragtime, and of the club, is that it is nostalgic music. It's syncopated, rhythmic and infectious—it's American."

Anyone interested in attending a club meeting may call Ron Ross at 818-766-2384 or Hal Leavens at 626-359-8648.

John T. Carney's Original Rags for Download

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