Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club August Meeting (8/29/1999)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

Editor's Note

The meeting report below recalls a truly joyous celebration, our Fourth Anniversary, the success of which had truly touched our founder P.J. Schmidt. He was especially bright and happy that day, with a shine in his countenance. How chilling to think that less than a few weeks later, he was no longer with us. An announcement and tributes to P.J. follow the August meeting report.


Celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Rose Leaf Club was the largest congregation of ragtime fans yet to assemble at the IHOP restaurant on Foothill Blvd. The back room's tables and booths were virtually filled by enthusiastic celebrants. An assortment of piano duets and solos gave our two pianos a good workout.

Club founder P.J. Schmidt greeted the guests and invited Eric Marchese to join him in a performance of "Rose Leaf Rag," the club's theme song.

Bill Mitchell was up next, opening with a literal reading of "Panama," the W.H. Tyers novelty of 1911. This piece became a popular stomp number with New Orleans and Dixieland bands, but was written as a charming tango. In sharp contrast, "Kalamity Kid," a 1909 folk rag by Ferdinand Guttenberger, sounded very brash and frisky. James Scott's "Kansas City Rag" rounded out the set.

Gary Rametta chose the Joplin-Chauvin collaboration, "Heliotrope Bouquet," for his opener, and followed up with a sensitively played "Alaskan Rag," a late Joseph Lamb piece of great charm. Bill M. joined Gary on an impromptu version (as most RLC duets are) of "Something Doing," by Scott Joplin and his protege, Scott Hayden.

Nancy Kleier, as is her wont, had a theme and story to unify her set, honoring the RLC anniversary with "Invitation Rag," by Les Copeland, and expressed her appreciation for the club by selecting "Ain't I Lucky" (1905) by Bess Rudisill, and "Satisfied" (1904) by Theron Bennett. (Prentice Bacon, one of our regular attendees, knew Bennett when the latter finally settled in Los Angeles, where he died in 1937.)

George McClellan was given a laudatory introduction by his wife, Louise, who explained that while her husband was a gifted composer of prize-winning rags, he was unable to play them because of their demands, so instead he preferred to play standards, which he does very well. George favored us with "Ain't Misbehavin'," and a medley of "Who's Sorry Now" and "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry." He finished up with "Tip Toe Through the Tulips."

Ron Ross, perhaps our most prolific composer/pianist, played a revised version of his "Something Old, Something New," and then premiered a song he composed to celebrate the RLC anniversary, "The Rose Leaf Way." He distributed copies of the lead line and words so that we could all join him in singing this tribute to P.J. and the club he founded.

At intermission an anniversary chocolate cake was brought in, nicely iced with an inscription appropriate to the occasion. Indeed a yummy dessert to complement our IHOP vittles.

Eric Marchese began his set with a rarity, "Texas Tommy Swing," a 1911 tune by Brown and Harris. Eric speculated that it was a pop song and perhaps dance tune, as it is known to people who aren't familiar with ragtime. "Cheerful Blues," his next number, was a "bluesy rag" of 1922 by Abe Olman. "That Poker Rag" of 1909 was described as "one of the best rags by one of the best lady ragtime composers," Charlotte Blake. Eric's concluding selection was his own "A Sunset Idyll" of 1991, "inspired by a visit to the countries of England and France in December, 1991. It had a lyricism reminiscent of Joseph Lamb.

Fred Hoeptner opened with a beautifully played "American Beauty Rag," one of Joe Lamb's finest. "Evergreen Rag," a distinctive march like piece by James Scott, ensued. Fred concluded his set with one of his own fine compositions, "The Ghost Dance." One of our guests, Roger Jamieson, trombonist-leader of "The New Orleanians," said that he and Fred had played together in a jazz band back in the late 1950s, and the two hadn't seen each other since. This was a surprise reunion for both.

Bill Mitchell returned to play "Queen of Love - Two Step" by Charles Hunter. Gary Rametta joined him on another Hunter rag, "Possum and ?Taters." Gary remained at his piano, and Eric Marchese joined him on the other to conclude the festivities with two Joplin classics, "Original Rags" and "Maple Leaf Rag."

This was an exciting meeting to be remembered. Onward and upward, Rose Leaf Club!


(Here are the words to the song which Ron Ross composed for the fourth anniversary celebration, sung by the members of the Rose Leaf Club at the August meeting. Copyright 1999 by Ronross Music.)

Four Years Ago, In Pasadena
Fella Name Of P.J., He Had A Bright Idea
Found A Place To Play That Ragtime Music
Where Once Each Month You Could Soothe Your Ears
With Music From The Golden Years
And Now That Dream, Well It Does Survive
Because The Rose Leaf Ragtime Club Is Gonna Keep It Alive
So Here's To P.J.
We're All With Him
To Keep Alive That Rhythm
Ragtime, The Rose Leaf Way
Bet Your Life The Bottom Line
Is: Nothin' Quite As Super Fine
As Ragtime, The Rose Leaf Way

IN MEMORIAM: P. J. SCHMIDT (1944-1999)

It is our sad duty to report the death of P.J. "Phil" Schmidt, founder and guiding light of the Rose Leaf Club of Pasadena. Phil succumbed to undisclosed illness Tuesday morning, September 14, at Glendale Memorial Hospital. His daughter, Ilana, flew out from Chicago to be with him at the end. The body will be cremated and a memorial service will be held in his native state of Wisconsin, where his family is.

Phil's passing came as a shock to all of us, as he seemed fine and in good spirits at the August 29 meeting of the club, where he presided over the fourth anniversary celebration. By next month we hope to have a more extensive obituary, but in the meantime, here are several tributes we have received as of now:

"Phil (P.J.) was an inspiration to me in his enthusiasm for the music itself and for the new music I was creating. I'm sure, without the Club as an outlet, I would not have been so inclined to keep writing new music. I will do what I can to make sure Phil's dream continues and that the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club flourishes." --Ron Ross

"As a person, Phil was gentle, caring, compassionate and kind. As an artist, he was sensitive, soulful, gifted and inspirational.We will deeply miss him, but his spirit will live on and guide us as we continue to enjoy the music that held a special place in his heart" --Gary Rametta

"Who knows what the fate of Southern California ragtime would have been if it hadn't been for P.J. Schmidt? The Maple Leaf Club attendance was spiraling downward, and P.J. resuscitated the group by launching the Rose Leaf Club. Effectively, most of MLC's membership was transferred to Pasadena and has been going strong ever since.

"P.J.'s effort, his energy and his dedication to ragtime music kept everyone going at a time when things did not look hopeful. He showed tremendous courage in continuing to organize RLRC's monthly meetings, even during those times when his health was failing him. Most other people would have thrown in the towel -- but not P.J. He bowed out briefly, then came back even stronger and with a greater commitment to the group's performers and its devoted audiences.

"His musicianship was exquisite. His passion for the moving, bittersweet qualities of Joe Lamb and Scott Joplin's best compositions was unparalleled. When P.J. sat down to play a haunting piece of Lamb's music, his performance became a transcendent experience. He didn't merely 'play' or 'perform' a piece -- he interpreted it, with sensitivity and deep feeling, his hands caressing the keyboard, lingering over every note. He brought great ragtime music to tender new heights which we shall never see or hear again.

"What a debt we all owe to this man, and what a profound loss for us all." --Eric Marchese

"I will always remember the things Phil did which have enhanced my life. One was persevering with the Rose Leaf Club when it seemed like a hopeless project. Another was his excellent compositions, "French Vanilla," which won an honorable mention at Sedalia in 1997's composition contest, and the more recent, "Father Martin's Song." A third thing was his learning my composition, "Aura of Indigo," and playing it in the "Ragtime Revelations" concert in Sedalia a few years back." --Fred Hoeptner

"P.J. started showing up at the Maple Leaf Club meetings in the early 1990s at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo. It was evident that he was devoted to the music of Joplin, Scott, and Lamb, and that his interpretations were cleanly played and deeply felt. When he was performing at the Fresno Ragtime Festival in 1994 Yvonne and I attended an early Sunday morning set where he played Scott's "The Suffragette," a lovely waltz I was hearing for the first time. It was, to borrow Eric's phrase, a 'transcendent experience.'

"It was a blessing that Phil was spared until after the fourth anniversary meeting, which was a triumphal one for him, and for the club. He saw the best turnout to date. He was in good form musically, playing some duets and solos. He was honored with an anniversary cake and a special song written for him by Ron Ross and sung by the members.

"My final memory of him is just after the meeting. Most of the members had left. P.J. came up, grinning, we shook hands, and he said, 'We did it! We kept ragtime going in Southern California.' He left us knowing he had fulfilled a dream." --Bill Mitchell

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