Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club January Meeting (1/28/2001)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

As it was Super Bowl Sunday, we were a bit apprehensive about having a good turnout of musicians and listeners. We needn't have worried, however; apparently it takes more than New Year's Eve or the Super Bowl to deter us ragtimers from getting our monthly fix at the IHOP in Pasadena. Yes, we had another full house and a few newcomers to perform or check us out.

Ron Ross acted as emcee in the absence of Gary Rametta, getting things off to a syncopated start with a rendition of his own "Digital Rag." Ron commented that he gave it that name "…because I use my digits to play it."

Ron invited Bill Mitchell, returning from a two-month absence because of performance commitments, to play. Bill opened with Scott Joplin's "Original Rags," the composer's first published rag. (Carl Hoffman, Kansas City, Missouri, 1899) This piece was remembered and played by Jelly Roll Morton in his "New Orleans Memories" album of 1939. Bill chose "A Bag of Rags" as a follow up. A two-step from 1912 by W. R. McKanlass, this frisky little number is fun to play. Both Terry Waldo and Paul Lingle liked it well enough to record it. Bill concluded with "Climax Rag," by James Scott. (If he'd played it first it would have been anticlimactic, no doubt).

Ron took a few moments to remind new visitors and regulars that the Rose Leaf Club suggests a $2 donation at the door, although performers are exempt from this. The club maintains a lending library of tapes and videos at no charge. It is run on the honor system.

The piano duo of George McClellan and Lee Roan was joined by a first-time visitor, Jim Campbell, on banjo.

The threesome played oldies but goodies: "Second Hand Rose," "My Little Bimbo," and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans."

Ron introduced a new performer, Martin Choate, who had composed a new tune. Receiving its world premiere at the meeting, this brisk and inventive novelty was entitled "I Done Left My Hip Boots in the Other Car," with lyrics consisting of a repetition of the song's title. Ron Ross joined Martin to give it a duet performance.

Fred Hoeptner was invited to play next, choosing to lead off with his own composition, "Dalliance, a Ragtime Frolic," which had the distinction of being the first-place award winner in the new ragtime contest in Sedalia last year. For an encore Fred chose Joseph F. Lamb's haunting "Ragtime Nightingale," which borrows ideas from Chopin and Ethelbert Nevin.

Our youngest performer, Ruby Fradkin, played "Alouette," "Stardust," "Tom Dooley," and "Swipesy Cakewalk." She is always a favorite. Recent articles about her performances and awards have appeared in U. U. World and Girls' Life.

Nancy Kleier, "The Little Old Rag Lady from Pasadena," came up with some material that she amusingly related to the Super Bowl - "Things you might be hearing echoing out of Tampa." Choosing first a title she thought might apply to both teams, she played "Rufenreddy," a 1922 novelty by Roy Bargy and Charley Straight. Perhaps the teams would try to scare each other, so "The Baboon Bounce" might do it. This 1913 rag was by George Cobb. It was apparently written "…for comedy scenes in eccentric pictures." Nancy concluded her set with "Who Let the Cows Out - A Bully Rag" by Chas. Humfeld. The rationale for this one had something to do with the teams coming down to the wire. The score of the piece provides a break for the player to "Make a noise like a cow," so Nancy obligingly provided a "Moo."

Niles Frank, ragtime pianist and composer from Nashville, Tennessee, paid us a visit to perform his "Illinois Rag," which had a real folk ragtime feel. He encored with a piece he wrote after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill and originally called the "Oiley Bird Rag." He spent some time cleaning it up, however, and now calls it the "Early Bird Rag." It was a pleasing number with a gentle melody. This was Niles's second appearance at the Rose Leaf Club. He attended and played a few months ago on a previous excursion to California.

For a change of pace, Bob Balbert, visiting from the San Fernando Valley, took us on a pleasant nostalgia trip back to the 1930s by playing a couple of medleys of great standard pop ballads. He started with "Body and Soul," then segued into some Duke Ellington: "Mood Indigo," "Solitude," and "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good." The second medley included "That Old Feeling," "Darn That Dream," and "Confessin'."

Winding up the first half of the day's program was a newcomer, Duane Thorne, who sang and accompanied himself on a lute-like instrument he called the "fluke," which sounded much like a ukulele. He invited the audience to join him (if they knew the words) on "Once in a While." Quite a few people seemed to remember the words to this 1937 pop song.

After a ten-minute break, Ron Ross got the music going once again with a recent novelty of his, "Something Old, Something New," written in the year 2000.

Stan Long began his segment with three ballads: "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," "New York, New York," and "Someone to Watch over Me." He called on Les Soper to join him on washboard for a rousing "Maple Leaf Rag," and an original he called "My Ditty," a raggy thing which incorporated several familiar pieces.

Les Soper remained on stage for some further washboard workouts, accompanying some Robin Frost piano pieces taped from Midi. Frost called them "Temperature," "Roger's Favorite Toy," and "Jelly Fish Omelet." Les, also an excellent pianist, has been experimenting with washboard percussion for the last six years.

Introduced as our elder statesman, Tom Handforth chose to play three old-time songs: "Bye Bye Blues," "The Birth of the Blues," and "Sleepy Time Gal." He was accompanied on banjo by Len Bergantino, a friend and first-time visitor. Len provided some nice single-string work to complement Tom's lead on piano.

Ruby Fradkin and Stan Long teamed up for peppy duets on "Baby face" and "Old Zip Coon."

Alan Breiman (The Great Bramanovich), accompanied by Ron Ross on piano, sang "You're the Cream in my Coffee" and "Hello, My Baby." As is his wont, he offered choruses in both English and Russian (or whatever).Ron sang with him on "My Old Kentucky Home," which sounds quite comical as an a cappella duet in a Slavic tongue.

Returning with more Super Bowl fantasy, Nancy Kleier paid tribute to the Baltimore Ravens by playing "Baltimore Rag," a number written by Galen Wilkes as a tribute to Eubie Blake, a native of that city. Some of Eubie's characteristic figures are detectable in this number. Not to neglect the New York Giants, Nancy played "Harlem Rag" by Tom Turpin. And to wind it all up, she played a song probably descriptive of both teams after the game -- "Black and Blue," by Fats Waller.

Ron Ross honored a request for a reprise of his "Good Thing Going," complete with vocal.

Bill Mitchell wound up the meeting's proceedings with Joseph F. Lamb's "Bohemia," and at a listener's request, "Dill Pickles."

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