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May 23, 2024 47 mins

As Ernest Hogan reaches new heights of success, critics turn against ragtime and "coon songs," prompting a larger conversation about the cyclical nature of music and society. In the second installment of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max join Katie Mitchell and Yves Jeffcoat, the creators of the On Theme podcast, to learn more about the complex relationship of creativity, capitalism, entertainment and race -- all found in the story of one brilliant composer: Ernest Hogan.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous Histories, a production of iHeartRadio. Welcome back to the

(00:27):
show Ridiculous Historians. Thank you, as always so much for
tuning in. Let's give a big shout out to the
man the myth Legend super producer, mister Max Williams.

Speaker 2 (00:36):
I am that human being that Ben has referenced.

Speaker 1 (00:38):
Yes, yes, this is all what we will call technically
the truth on Reddit. That's an awesome subreddit. It's a
weird one.

Speaker 2 (00:46):
Well. Hey, we are in the midst of a conversation
already in progress with the wonderful Eves, Jeff Coats and
Katie Mitchell of on Theme the podcast. We are discussing
the history of minstrel shows and very problematic and difficult
genre of song known as coon songs, and we are
going to get back into it and then take it

(01:06):
even further than I think any of us expect it.

Speaker 1 (01:08):
And I'm going to introduce this I'm bim bowling and.

Speaker 2 (01:10):
Yeah, bread that's right.

Speaker 1 (01:12):
Yeah, So let's get into it, folks. We're also going
to learn about some philosophical dark nights of the soul,
what happens when art becomes commodified, and this gives us,
this gives us a window into something that I think,
you know, a lot of a lot of people in
the US are they maybe only have a surface awareness

(01:36):
of it without a full understanding of the complexities. And
I'm just picturing right now, Katie Eve's nol Max. I'm
picturing this idea of Earnest finishing a show, right the
show goes well, He's on tour, and then someone comes
to him, maybe a child or something, and is saying, like,

(01:59):
why are you doing this? You know this kind of
like dark Knight of the Soul, wrestling with your conscience?
Uh you said, we said that.

Speaker 2 (02:08):
I also had a lot of white folks patting him
on the back and saying, good job.

Speaker 3 (02:14):
You look deeper than any.

Speaker 1 (02:16):
Some guys like you know, I'm also for bullying Green. Yes,
I think you're doing a great job. Uh yeah, I
see that. But I'm wondering, like, when we're talking about Regret,
what do we know about his his journey, you know,
to pretty much musical stardom and then his later regrets
Because we mentioned that several times.

Speaker 4 (02:37):
So I know about his rise in ragtime and his composing.
He wrote plenty of songs, some of them being clone songs.
His regret is only kind of really tangentially mentioned, which
is was the thing that was fascinating to me because
because he was so huge, and because we only have
this very small glimpse or insight into him being like, hey,

(02:58):
I really it's unfortunate that that was part of that
that is part of my history. But one thing that
he did also say about his regret was that he
he also acknowledged how important it was that he was
part of that history, because he acknowledged that coon songs,

(03:21):
if it hadn't been for coon songs, if they never existed,
if ragtime wasn't a part of this, then black entertainers
wouldn't have gotten the opportunities that they would have.

Speaker 3 (03:31):
So he acknowledged the.

Speaker 2 (03:34):
Approach to it. Yeah, and that is there is truth
to that. Right.

Speaker 4 (03:38):
So he died of tuberculosis in nineteen oh nine and
he was just forty four. So although he was working
as an entertainer from an early age and continued doing
that and got big during his life, he was only
forty four when he died, so he only had so
much time to rise to stardom.

Speaker 1 (03:56):
Well, we're we're close enough in age that forty four
is officially a scary number.

Speaker 2 (04:03):
Bro, I think about it all the time.

Speaker 1 (04:12):
From what I understand he was, this was around like
the early nineteen hundred, it's nineteen o eight to nine
and just forty four years old. How did the public react?
What do we know about this guy? Because in full disclosure,
I don't know about you, Noel, but I had never

(04:33):
heard of Hogan before we started talking about doing the show.

Speaker 2 (04:37):
Now.

Speaker 5 (04:38):
Yeah, And I think also one of the things with
the regret is like, have you ever done something that
you were just like kind of doing for money and
you didn't think like a bunch of people are going
to see it? Or you did it like when you
were younger and like that's not really my thing, but
I'm just doing it and it's illegal for you to
ask me that.

Speaker 2 (04:54):
Thankfully, most of those things not a lot of people
saw them, thankfully, but no, certainly any like just the
worry someone will see it, yeahself a thing.

Speaker 5 (05:04):
So I think like anything that you're like doing in
your early twenties, you're like, oh, that's like kind of embarrassing.
But like you know, luckily for us, like they didn't
like get to the point where Ernest did. But I
think that's a lot of their regret too. It's just
like I was just doing this thing. I didn't know,
like you said, like there are so many coon songs,
like why is this the one that took off?

Speaker 3 (05:22):
And like now this is like my legacy.

Speaker 4 (05:24):
Yeah, and so just on the coon songs and the
proliferation of coon songs, there were hundreds of them in
the early eighteen nineties so or in the eighteen nineties.
It's the mid eighteen nineties to the late eighteen nineties
is when they started getting popular. So there's this huge
boom of coon songs. I'm not exactly sure how people

(05:48):
responded when Hogan died. I'm not sure if people were like,
oh my goodness, this huge star is gone.

Speaker 6 (05:55):
But around the time he died, coon songs.

Speaker 4 (06:00):
Were still people were talking about how they were on
their way out kind of around that time. So not
although I'm not able to say exactly how people responded,
I can't think of any individuals who are like, oh
my goodness, or any press that may have been in
the newspapers about his death. People weren't kind of like
not feeling coon songs so much. There were people who

(06:22):
were like that can die. So I would imagine there
are people who were also like, can.

Speaker 3 (06:27):
Die along with that?

Speaker 4 (06:28):
Oh wow, But I'm sure there were also people who
recognize his legacy had said this person who created this
big hit was like so, I'm sure there was probably
some sort of debate around Coon songs at the time
of his death, because he was so integral in their making.

Speaker 2 (06:44):
You know, I just found something kind of interesting because
you mentioned that some of these songs had little satirical
kind of jabs built into them, little easter eggs. I
don't know if this is that I think it is,
but another of Hogan's songs was called the Phrenologist Kuon,
And you know, the idea of phrenology, obviously is a
mega racist concept of being able to tell someone's inferiority
by the bumps on their skull or whatever. And this

(07:08):
article that I found suggests that this song of his
was satirical and was an example of this type of
black culture contributions to pop culture at the time, engaging
with political ideas that were maybe sort of buried beneath
the surface a little bit. I thought that was kind
of cool.

Speaker 4 (07:24):
Yeah, phrenology is a big one. Yeah, so they did
have comments about stuff. And on that note, I well,
I have some lyrics that I enjoy that I that
are pretty satirical from Irving Jones. He had a song
that called that was called My Money Never Gives Out.
And one of the things that I love about Irvin
Jones is a lot of his songs are about money,
and they're very tongue in cheek, Like I feel like

(07:47):
how sometimes black people just understand other things and black
people's artistry because of this share consciousness and culture that
we have. And when I look at these kind of lyrics,
I could see like a white person reading them back
then and.

Speaker 3 (07:59):
Being like, yeah, he's right, I hate those.

Speaker 4 (08:01):
You know, and then black people being like, I know
exactly what he's talking about. So he says in these lyrics,
he says, I have everything to eat a king could wish.
On Fridays, I even eat fried goldfish. I make all
the warm coons look ice cold. Eat every tooth in
my mouth is solid gold. And then he also says,

(08:23):
almost every hour I change my hat. A poor coon
I've hired as my doormat. I step on that coon
going through the door so I won't spoil the velvet
carpet on my floor.

Speaker 2 (08:34):
Wow.

Speaker 4 (08:34):
So just imagine like you know, it's I So he's
speaking it from this kind of first person perspective, but
it's coming out of a black person's mouth, but the
persona he's taken on is one of somebody who has
enormous wealth, Like well, it's a lot of I'm sure
a lot of the white people who were listening to
this song and had this sheet music they didn't have
for themselves, I mean. But also just the tongue in

(08:56):
cheek nature you can see that he's throwing it to
like these are jabs because goldfish fried goldfish, right, that's absurdist.
And velvet carpet also a little absurdist. That's probably beyond
what a lot of people had, Like that wasn't a
normal thing, even for people who were middle class.

Speaker 2 (09:15):
Thing, wouldn't it get like scuffed up? Real bad wall covering?
You gotta think about walking on velvet. But it's a
funny too, the cadence of that when you read it,
it really has kind of a modern hip hop kind
of you know, yeah, yeah, no, it's interesting.

Speaker 4 (09:36):
Yeah, so I really enjoyed that song. Enjoyed is a
word to use for it, But you know, it's fun
like honestly, truly it's fun. And you can see that
in some of the writer's works. I think, like the
Phrenologist Coon and then and My Money Never Gives Out.
I mean, yes, that sounds like rap, like a wrap title.

Speaker 2 (09:51):
It would work today.

Speaker 4 (09:53):
So all your rappers out there trying to make it big,
if you're still selling your CDs out of trunks, you
might need to look back to some Coon song.

Speaker 2 (10:00):
Oh wow, oh great, I love it. Folks.

Speaker 1 (10:02):
We live in Atlanta, I know, I know the people
making those mixtapes.

Speaker 2 (10:06):
Yeah, some of them them are good.

Speaker 1 (10:08):
Some of them are good, some of the were good. But
this also shows us I think a period of maybe
decline and then perhaps resurgence and re examination in scholarship
right with with Coon songs. So from my understanding, it
is the early twentieth century when they start to die out,

(10:30):
right like sort of prefaced maybe by the passage of earnest,
but they were.

Speaker 2 (10:37):
Considered tasteless or something. I bet there was a sense.
I don't know, it's still the nineteen I know. I
just I wonder what what the sentiment was, though, Like
why did they die out? Like I'm just wondering what
the you know, I just was replaced by something else,
like I just you know, I don't know.

Speaker 4 (10:51):
So there are multiple reasons for it dying out, as
with so many other fats. So coon songs were kind
of a fat, like it was a crazy happened, and
then coon songs were a fat and then rag Time,
as part of that history, was also a fat itself.
So I don't know if you want me to back
up or not, because I didn't really get into rag
time too much, so he should do. Yeah, I could

(11:15):
talk about that along with the coinciding of the death.

Speaker 2 (11:17):
I think that's perfect, ok yea yeah, because I mean
I think people we didn't really describe it, but you
did use the word syncopation and obviously piano centric oft
the times it's solo piano driven, but then there's also
other instruments. But I think people most people can picture
what a rag time tune sounds like.

Speaker 6 (11:31):
Yeah, when I think of six Flags over.

Speaker 2 (11:33):
George I knew, yeah, because having like the Western Saloon
kind of vibes.

Speaker 3 (11:39):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (11:40):
Yeah. I remember one of the one of the first
times I went to six Flags Over Georgia as a kid,
and my my dad.

Speaker 2 (11:51):
Was taking us. One of the first things he said
we walked in.

Speaker 1 (11:53):
They have that music playing, and he goes, wow, we're
we're definitely in the South.

Speaker 2 (12:01):
It sort of you had a little stinger and it's
some up ragtime. It's bout up up, you know, like
it's sort of like that vibe.

Speaker 4 (12:06):
Yeah, these fingers.

Speaker 1 (12:11):
But I didn't I didn't understand that guy's statement in
six Flags until quite sometimes where right?

Speaker 2 (12:19):
But this? Okay?

Speaker 1 (12:20):
So the history of ragtime is it? Is it distinct
from the history of coon songs? Is there like a
Venn diagram? And if so, to what degree?

Speaker 4 (12:37):
So they go together, they go hand in hand, they
are not the same, although you would see in sources
of the era people calling Kon songs ragtime and ragtime
coon songs. So that shows you just how much they
were blended. And it kind of confused me when I
was going back through some primary sources, because I was like,
you're talking about the death of ragtime, but I'm looking
at the newspaper date and that was nineteen oh six

(12:59):
and ragtime still alive in nineteen oh six. So a
lot of times, because coon songs were so inextricably linked
with ragtime, they were called the same thing. So yes,
the histories are very intertwined. But like I said before,
there were kind of coon songs that weren't that weren't
linked to ragtime in the eighteen eighties, and it came
into the eighteen nineties, and then ragtime came around, which

(13:21):
it was this specific kind of music that you know,
Noah was saying, the syncopated beats, It was very piano heavy,
one person was playing a piano, and it was very
lively and energetic. All of this still coming from a
black musical, black folk music background, So that's where ragtime
black ragtime. Ragtime was a specifically black cultural production, So

(13:44):
that's where it came from, which is very interesting where
you think about how linked it is with coon songs
even though it's very rooted.

Speaker 6 (13:50):
In true black folk traditions.

Speaker 4 (13:53):
So yeah, so they the creation of the two went together,
and there was kind of like a rise of rag
time as there was.

Speaker 6 (14:02):
A waning of coon songs.

Speaker 4 (14:04):
But that's not so hard line to find because there
were other ragtime songs. But you can kind of think
of it that way because there were other ragtime songs
that came kind of after people were hot on coon
songs that were more like.

Speaker 6 (14:18):
People were like this is sophisticated.

Speaker 4 (14:20):
Listen to the music, the way they put this together,
Like these aren't coon songs.

Speaker 2 (14:25):
So I guess that's what I meant about tasteless, Like
it there's less about like, oh, we're offended by this,
and more like this is two on the nose. We
need something that's a little more subtle and like a
little more elevated perhaps, right.

Speaker 4 (14:37):
Yes, it's funny you say that, because I think there
was an element of like coon songs were very overt
in their racism, and then this feels like this is
how America works a lot.

Speaker 3 (14:46):
You just move into more covert racist situation dog whistles particular. Huh,
it's sicular.

Speaker 5 (14:54):
Sometimes we're overt, sometimes we're subtle, right, right, And that
was the case with these songs.

Speaker 4 (14:59):
And and you'll see that, I think in contemporary times
and then in scholarship after the fact to looking back
on it saying there is a difference between rag time
that was simple and it was just it was just commercial,
a commercial endeavor, like we did it for the money,
and then they're a scholar. There was critics then and

(15:20):
then scholars after the fact that said, and there were
the people who were creating ragtime as a true musical pursuit,
as you know, a really cultural endeavor.

Speaker 3 (15:30):
But no one would have said that about Clon songs.

Speaker 6 (15:31):
You don't think, well, I think that.

Speaker 3 (15:37):
High brow.

Speaker 4 (15:37):
Well you taught me this. The word highbrow. It comes
from prenology.

Speaker 3 (15:46):
I had to catch.

Speaker 6 (15:46):
Myself just now. I had to roll it back.

Speaker 4 (15:49):
But so I think some of the although they that
might be accurate use of the word considering the context
of the conversation. But yes, so I would say that
most people wouldn't say it was a high endeavor, but
that Coon songs were musical pursuits. Like there were people

(16:09):
who argue this came from a black tradition. So there
were black critics who would say, yes, the lyrics are problematic,
but also don't just completely dismiss the validity of the
music itself, like it is a legitimate craft.

Speaker 2 (16:24):
That's what I was asking about Hogan too, because even
though he may have contributed some problematic things in terms
of the lyrics, he also was a big part of
shaping that sound right.

Speaker 4 (16:35):
So there was a history of debate between different critics
at the time talking about how they felt about Coon songs.
And this is black critics speaking amongst each other. So
you know, there are often conversations. You could imagine put
yourself back in this day and think about how white
people would feel about coon songs and how black people

(16:56):
would feel about coon songs.

Speaker 3 (16:57):
Those are two.

Speaker 4 (16:57):
Different discussions, and the discussions amongst black people would need
to be had amongst black people, like this is like,
we're talking about how we feel about this with other
black people.

Speaker 1 (17:07):
And because it changes if like the it changes if say,
there there's a conversation with musicians and then white musicians
strolls into the room and it's like, well, I also
have some opinions.

Speaker 5 (17:21):
Yeah, right, changes the whole vine, the whole vibe.

Speaker 4 (17:25):
So there were people who commented on how they didn't
like coon songs in newspapers and black newspapers. So these
are newspapers that are catering to black audiences, okay, and
the people who are writing the articles in the newspapers
are black people. And then there are other black critics
at the time who are responding and saying, look.

Speaker 6 (17:46):
Coon songs.

Speaker 4 (17:46):
Yes, we need to talk about the issues with coon songs,
but we also need to acknowledge that these are legitimate
musicians who are creating these songs. So this is even
just amongst black people who are debating the importance of
coon songs and the impact that they did have. So
around the time the turn of the twentieth century and

(18:11):
into the early the first decade of the nineteen hundreds,
people were starting to have these conversations talking about how
coon songs were going out of style. So I do
have a couple of quotes. Some of them are quite long,
but they are interesting. So this was from a nineteen
oh one article in the Indianapolis Freemen, and they said,

(18:35):
it is said that ragtime music is going out of fashion.

Speaker 3 (18:38):
We are glad of it.

Speaker 4 (18:39):
More lies have been sprung over the footlights in ragtime
than otherwise.

Speaker 6 (18:43):
Take the vile lie. All kuons look alike to me?

Speaker 4 (18:48):
And another song he mentions in this quote every race
has a flag but the coon. So they're mentioning that
big song all kuons look alike to me. And I
should add the caveat here just alone the lines of
what I said earlier. They're using rag time to mean
coon songs. In this instance, they're not talking because.

Speaker 2 (19:06):
She still has time left.

Speaker 6 (19:09):
Rag time has time left. This is nineteen oh one.

Speaker 4 (19:11):
So this is where I was saying, they conflate ragtime
with coon songs, and you can kind of tell that
from the context, because they're clearly talking about all coons
look alike to me, and every race has a flight
with the coon.

Speaker 6 (19:21):
Those are coon songs.

Speaker 1 (19:22):
Ernest is alive to also be cognizant of this criticism exactly.

Speaker 4 (19:28):
So they go on in this article to talk about
how the music is of rag time is tolerable, but
most of the sentiment of it.

Speaker 3 (19:35):
Is false, degrading, and intolerable.

Speaker 4 (19:37):
We want our men and women on the stage, but
we want them in a decent and honorable way.

Speaker 2 (19:42):
There is a black critic, of course, right, this is
a black.

Speaker 4 (19:43):
Critic, yes, And then they say, there is nothing happened
since the war that did so much to show up
Negro weaknesses as that very thing of rag time music.
And then they say, the truth of the whole business
is there was a whole sale letting down of the
racial standard, whatever that might have been. And this is
one of the very interesting quotes from this article. To me,

(20:05):
the writer says, even the whites were becoming inoculated. But
remember the songs did not refer to them. They gave
the shekels that's money to hear us sing away our
honor and we sang. So you can see in the
collective we that they're trying to call attention to the
issues that they may be dealing with this in real time.

(20:27):
It also feels a little respectable to me because they're saying,
look at how we look in front of white people
in a way, but they're also saying, look, you know
about what we're doing to ourselves, like this is still
an internal thing.

Speaker 1 (20:38):
The shekels is a little antismitic.

Speaker 5 (20:41):
Just a tad, just a tad, yes, so there will
say more. I don't know about that.

Speaker 2 (20:46):
It's just it's sort of like a referring to I
think sort of. I don't know how would you describe
it then, So it's it's the choice of that kind
of currency. It's a smaller point in this, but the
choice of that kind of currency shows us. I think
again that this critic who is raising valid points is
also giving a nod to the old stereotype or conspiratorial

(21:07):
thought about Jewish people running Hollywood. Yeah and being yeah,
that particular choice feels a little pointed. It's irrelevant. It's
just interesting how people talking, people speaking out against racism
can also themselves be a little racist. It's very it's
just very interesting.

Speaker 1 (21:24):
But I think you're I mean, I really appreciate that
quote because it does show us it pain's a perfect picture.
Like like you and Katie were saying earlier, you know,
this is how it's the discourse of like this is
how we look this is important, right, and how do
we how do we respect the artistry and the drive
of again legitimate musicians while also acknowledging the dangerous or

(21:49):
problematic things about it. I mean, did scholarship, I'm not
read up on the research scholarship ever reach a conclusion
about this, because I'm sure people went back over time
and re examined this specific genre of music.

Speaker 5 (22:04):
Well, I think the main point here, like with the sentence,
we want our men and women on the stage, but
we want them they're in a decent way.

Speaker 3 (22:09):
I think like the.

Speaker 5 (22:11):
Whole representation of it all is I think a lot
of people's solution to that so like, yeah, like some
people are going to be doing like some coon stuff
like in the Year of Our Lord twenty twenty four,
Like there are people doing that, but there's other opportunities
for you to do something else. And I think that
was kind of the main tension, like this is the
only way we're able to show up in this space,

(22:32):
and you know, some like this is people's talents, their singers,
their actors, and if this is the only way they
could get their art out, then that's the issue. But like,
if there's other ways where you can be decent and
honorable and respectable intolerable, then I think that is kind
of what they were, you know, fighting for.

Speaker 2 (22:49):
I mean, that would certainly come you know, I mean
ragtime was also sort of a proto form of jazz,
and then you know, jazz is very much a black
and American you know, tradition.

Speaker 4 (23:00):
Well that was also seen as evil jazz. Yes, it
faced it, Yes it was and on into hip hop.
But I think it's interesting because there was a book
that I was reading that was really arguing for ragtime
as its own distinct because a lot of people do
associate ragtime with jazz, but as its own distinct cultural
influence where jazz did come after, and people were kind

(23:22):
of like, you know, look at this elevated art form
versus ragtime felt a little more simple. Earlier, it was
more about ritual in the music. It was coming from
like it was repetitive. Ragtime was very repetitive, and going
into jazz it was more like free flowing.

Speaker 6 (23:39):
And it was it was. It was definitely different.

Speaker 2 (23:41):
Like considering it was more academically in a way too.
I mean, like the ragtime was pretty pure like popcorn
kind of you know, going to the movie's tent pole stuff,
and jazz is a little more high minded. Are there
banjo's and jazz?

Speaker 1 (23:52):
There can't be there can be jazz jazz manzz.

Speaker 2 (23:59):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (24:00):
Yeah, So.

Speaker 4 (24:02):
I think there there was an argument in a book
that was reading that like it is, it was a
very it was this rag Time was his own distinct
era of black cultural music that without that era of Ragtime,
like everything after it that came and black musical culture

(24:24):
in the United States wouldn't have happened. Like it was
specifically because of rag Time that black entertainer black entertainers
were able to enter the mainstream, right.

Speaker 2 (24:34):
I think that's what I was getting at. I mean,
like it was just it just got better from there.
But you're to your point about the evil aspect. I'm
really interested in a little more of that, Like what
do you mean when you say it was I know
there was kind of controversial figure it was it was
like corrupting the youth and stuff. Is that kind of
what you're referring to.

Speaker 5 (24:49):
Yeah, And I think because it was like a very
black uh export, it was like, ah, this is evil,
like what are they doing, Like we don't understand it.

Speaker 2 (24:56):
You know, to stop it from being intensely popular, which
is controversial.

Speaker 5 (25:00):
I mean, I think the same thing with like hip hop,
like and say it's evil and then it's like the
number one selling music in the United States.

Speaker 1 (25:07):
So because there's there's also I think for at least
the white part of America in the age of jazz,
at least was there there was this idea that there
was something forbidden, right, and then now now they're on
they're walking on a dangerous side, which, of course is
it uh, pretty messed up, I think. But we also see,

(25:32):
you know, the moral panic that sprang out of jazz
bringing communities together in different ways, and I think that
led that was a big part of what later leads
to Harry and Slinger's war against cannabis, right, because a
lot of the marijuana madness was based on the idea

(25:52):
of like someone smoking again a jazz cigarette and the
next thing, you know, they're like not down with Jim
Crow or something. Right, this is I just I keep
thinking about your point, Katie, about the way things informed policy, right,
and do we see this? I guess we do see

(26:13):
it continuing to under the present.

Speaker 5 (26:15):
Absolutely. We had an episode about because you know, thugs
on trial right now? Oh yeah, yeah, So we had
an episode about how rap lyrics are used in court
to say like.

Speaker 2 (26:25):
Yeah you did this, he murdered somebody else. Super problematic.

Speaker 7 (26:28):
Right, there's some great key and sketches thinking about with
this now that's been coming up more and more lately,
that that whole idea, it seems a little bit of
a reach too or overreach.

Speaker 2 (26:39):
I don't know what your thoughts are on that.

Speaker 5 (26:41):
Yeah, I mean we talked to a documentary filmmaker and
artist who looked at Atlanta, Chicago, New York, LA and
London just trying to get people's take on it, and
it does seem like a reach, especially when you look
at the other forms of music where they're talking about
like shooting people and.

Speaker 2 (27:03):
I wrote a short story about a school shooter. You know,
does that mean that? I'm like, where does the creative
artistic license coming. I shot a man just to see
him dye, right. I took some cocaine and then I
like shot that something down. Yeah. Yeah, well I'm sure
that's great on kicks one oh five or whatever.

Speaker 5 (27:25):
Yeah, but because it has like a trap beat to it,
it's like it's true, it's true.

Speaker 3 (27:29):
So yeah, we definitely see that now.

Speaker 1 (27:31):
And this brings us to our earlier question. The prompted
the exploration of ragtime and jazz right the So we've
established that coon songs are starting to die out right
and ragtime continues afterward for what a good like five years.

Speaker 3 (27:50):
For lag tens.

Speaker 4 (27:51):
So around the early nineteen or to late nineteen tens
is when ragtime starts giving way to jazz. In the
nineteen twenties, you get into more jazz situation. So yeah,
I love a good jazz. That's a wide range of things.

Speaker 2 (28:06):
I completely agree.

Speaker 4 (28:11):
But yeah, so ragtime was very influential in the rise
of black music, and kind of what we were talking
about earlier, NOL is that ragtime was the first black
music of the United States to achieve why commercial popularity,
which is why I was emphasizing the importance of ragtime
because like like Ernest Hogan gave not to, and other
entertainers at the time would give nod to. It's like

(28:32):
if it weren't for coon songs gave black entertainers an
avenue to put their workout right, so we think in
rag time. So then we get into Ragtime. So now
we see black entertainers being able to put their music
out in front of people and get in front of
audiences they wouldn't have been in front of before because
white folks were like not so high in that black
folks stuff. A lot of them were until Ragtime came

(28:54):
around and they're like, oh, this has some merit, and
then they were able to start They Now black people
were able to reach a different kind of commercial.

Speaker 2 (29:02):
Level open closed doors.

Speaker 6 (29:04):
Open closed doors.

Speaker 4 (29:05):
So that didn't delegitimize the fact that the music that
they were doing before they didn't need outside approval for it.
But the reality is that outside approval got them put
in front front of larger audiences.

Speaker 2 (29:16):
Well, and while you might not have heard of Ernest Hogan,
you've probably heard of Scott Joplin. Yeah you know, I
mean that's like a megastar of the Ragtime movement.

Speaker 4 (29:25):
Yes, yeah, and people have probably heard their music even
if they don't know there exactly.

Speaker 1 (29:30):
Yeah, and this is this is I think some of
the more important things we're hitting on here. This shows us,
like you were saying, the cyclical nature of the of
the explorations, the way art will tackle the real world,
and the way the real world will influence art. And
our story is not completely over yet, isn't that right?

Speaker 3 (29:51):
That is right?

Speaker 4 (29:58):
So I will say that in the book The Art
of Ragtime, the authors say that Ragtime affected a total
musical revolution. That's how serious they said it was, and
that it was the first great impact of black folk
culture and the dominant white middle class culture of America.

Speaker 6 (30:13):
So it was just huge.

Speaker 4 (30:16):
Yes, it can be considered like a precursor to jazz,
but it wasn't just that jazz grew out of it totally.

Speaker 3 (30:22):
It was just it was the next thing that happened.

Speaker 4 (30:24):
And of course, as we think of how different eras
of culture or different genres spring out of things, the
origins of that are so huge, like they did come
from so many different places, and I think that was
the case for a jazz as well. But yeah, ragtime,
it just referred to this kind of like broken rhythmic

(30:45):
features and that came out of some of the same
elements that the coon songs had, and.

Speaker 6 (30:53):
It morphed into.

Speaker 4 (30:56):
This really huge popular It was a really big explosion basically,
and so these rags were at first, in terms of
the history of ragtime, the word rag referred to these
simple black folk melodies. So these songs were usually really brief,
and they were simple, and they were repetitive, and the

(31:17):
songs weren't that complex. So as we can see, that
alignes really well with coon songs, and it grew out
of that history of blackface minstrel shows. But also there
was that element of black dance music that was in
ragtime as well. So yeah, it kept going, but then
it was it didn't last that long, So it ended

(31:37):
in the nineteen teens, and that did, as we were
talking about, jazz come back later on. So in the
nineteen forties and in the nineteen fifties, ragtime had a
kind of resurgence because there were jazz musicians who were
looking back to ragtime and using that in their shows.

(32:01):
And then also previous ragtime songs were being recorded so
that they were able to be released and published. So
there was a resurgence that came back from ragtime, but
as a popular and dominant genre that kind of faded
out around the.

Speaker 1 (32:18):
Nineteen So twenty twenty five is not the year for
RAGTIME's big comeback.

Speaker 2 (32:23):
You never know, you never know, sampling and who knows, right,
I mean, I think that's so interesting too, the idea
of I mean, when I think of ragtime, it does
feel a little dated to me, just and it's used
in that way in movies or whatever. It like evokes
this time and place kind of vibe where jazz to
me feel a little more universally.

Speaker 3 (32:43):
Kind of time. Yeah, I think so.

Speaker 5 (32:45):
I wonder if there were people that made coon songs
and then made ragtime and then made jazz.

Speaker 1 (32:50):
People who just sort of adapted to the prevailing taste. Yeah,
I imagine there had to be, right, just because at
that point you're like a full time musician.

Speaker 3 (33:01):
Yeah, you're just going with it.

Speaker 1 (33:03):
You're just trying to go with whatever, whatever will still sell.
And I'm very conscious when I say that, I'm very
conscious of the fact that we roasted Drake a little
bit for doing the exact same thing. But I guess
you'll just have to cry on a pile of money,
you know.

Speaker 3 (33:18):
And also there's lyrics. Yeah, oh he does.

Speaker 2 (33:22):
Yeah, that's right.

Speaker 3 (33:24):
Maybe those will be using court.

Speaker 2 (33:25):
Do you know if Drake's bed costs one hundred thousand dollars, Yeah,
it's made of horse hair. It's like some German bed
manufacturer custom made this mattress. A fool and his money.

Speaker 3 (33:39):
Congrats to him.

Speaker 2 (33:40):
Yes, yes, a good night's sleep is important. Sorry, but
where where does this leave us? Where does this take us?

Speaker 4 (33:48):
This exploration, Well, just going to Katie's point of kind
of this negative these negative ideas that were.

Speaker 3 (33:54):
Coming upround around jazz and being evil.

Speaker 4 (33:57):
There were people who two things about that. On one side,
there were people who saw ragtime now as like this
new image of black people. So now the general public
were starting to understand ragtime artists is like true artists
in a way, rather than looking at them as like, oh,

(34:18):
they're just people who write these simple melodies and coone songs.
So that idea of the coon song and the unrefined
artists kind of started to transform as they moved into
later ragtime.

Speaker 2 (34:30):
They acknowledged the talent.

Speaker 6 (34:31):
They acknowledged the talent.

Speaker 2 (34:32):
Yeah, same thing happened with hip hop. The early era
of hip hop, where things were a little simpler maybe,
and it was almost given short shrift by popular culture
and like you know, white critics and stuff. But then
you started to see the emergence of true universally recognized artists,
you know, in the hip hop world exactly.

Speaker 4 (34:50):
And the people who were pro ragtime were like, it's
this new and innovative frontier. It's one that hasn't happened
with American musicians and composers before.

Speaker 6 (34:59):
So they saw that as a really good thing.

Speaker 4 (35:00):
But then there were other anti ragtime people who thought
it was like vulgar, it was noisy, it was unrefined,
and then it was associated with these morally indecent themes.
So an example of that is Samuel Colerich Taylor, who
in a nineteen oh four interview said that coon songs
were the worst sort of rot and taking extrapolating that

(35:21):
to rag time. There is also a quote from Booker T.
Washington in nineteen oh five that prefaced a book of
spirituals So there were distinctions made between spiritual music that
black people created and the coon songs that they created
in terms of that history or ragtime. So there were
black people who felt that these spiritual songs were where

(35:44):
we should be headed like we should be doing spiritual songs,
because that was a more elevated practice than the coon
songs and the ragtime and all these simple melodies. Were like,
this is a higher form of artistry that were creating
in these spirituals and Booker T. Washington kind of nodded
to that in his quote when he says that when
the Negro song is in too many minds associated with
rad music and the more reprehensible coon song, that the

(36:07):
most cultivated musician of his race, a man of the
highest esthetic ideals to seek to give permanence to the
folk songs of his people by giving them a new interpretation.

Speaker 6 (36:15):
And that goes on.

Speaker 4 (36:16):
He was referring to like Samuel Colerich Taylor and the
people who were doing this more spiritual music.

Speaker 1 (36:22):
Also that sounds like classic Booker T. Washington, but does
sound like one of his quotables. And Samuel Coleridge Taylor,
I believe is British.

Speaker 2 (36:31):
No, he's not, lest he be confused, not to be
confused with Samuel Coleridge. And like an opium at it.
That's totally like I had to look it up and
I'm like, that can't be the guy yeah. Yeah, so
we've got that, We've got that sorted. And we also
have to one thing I think that's very important for

(36:53):
people to remember as we're learning about this sort of
stuff is that with every iteration of these genres of
music or approaches there there was not monolithic approval. Right
Like when jazz came out.

Speaker 1 (37:06):
I imagine there were many black critics who also there's
always someone who's like, I liked the other stuff, right,
you know what I mean, like jazz too experimental, bring
the banjo back?

Speaker 2 (37:17):
Where's the rag time? Right?

Speaker 3 (37:19):
Yeah? For sure.

Speaker 1 (37:20):
How prominent were those voices.

Speaker 6 (37:23):
The voices that said bring back ragtime?

Speaker 1 (37:25):
The voices the voices who were like the voices who
seemed to look as scance at things like jazz.

Speaker 3 (37:35):
As it emerged multitudinous.

Speaker 2 (37:38):
Yeah, okay, the right.

Speaker 3 (37:40):
Thank you. Yeah, there were a lot of them.

Speaker 4 (37:43):
And I also must say that there are people who
talked about in the contemporary press back then about how
rag time as it fizzled out, it gave way to
other forms of racism, like orientalism was on the rise
at the time, so there was a lot there were
a lot of America were really into Indian culture, so
then they were into Indian music at the time, so

(38:04):
some of these other ring exoticizing fascinations turned into different directions.

Speaker 2 (38:10):
As it does as it does. So I did just
want to point out maybe I'm just this is just
in my head, but it feels to me like Ragtime
heavily influenced a lot of Broadway musical theater styles like
Leonard Bernstein and stuff like Bernstein, Like just that kind
of theatricality of piano driven ragtime music and the syncopation.

(38:31):
It's very like a Broadway in the head.

Speaker 3 (38:34):
For some reason, Ragtime fel this is show business.

Speaker 1 (38:39):
They write songs, Yeah, they write songs about doing songs
on stage, you know what I mean. It's not too
much of an artistic leap. I'm a sucker for Broadway,
I'll say it. I feel like we've gotten to know
each other well enough now that I can admit it.
Have a stupid love of musical too.

Speaker 2 (38:55):
I saw I just have the Sufian Stevens Illinois musical
UH in New York, and I cried the whole time.
It was awesome.

Speaker 3 (39:02):
So I have a question for y'all.

Speaker 4 (39:04):
If a Ragtime show were put on today and it
was the same as it would have been back then
like coon songs and in all, would you go.

Speaker 2 (39:12):
To it only if I got permission from the black community.
I don't know. I don't think so well, it depends, right,
like is it satire? Like as a young white dude
watching Bamboozled, it made me feel a way like I
was like, should I feel really bad for watching this?

Speaker 4 (39:29):
Like?

Speaker 2 (39:29):
Am I in trouble for even sitting and watching this?
Does that make me a bad person? And that's the
whole point of the movie. If anyone hasn't seen it, it
really is about kind of like I mean, I'm sure
watching it as a young black person feel different in
a whole other way. But I don't know. It did
feel like a thing that I wasn't supposed to be watching,
but I did learn a lot from it. And you know,
it is satire. So if it was a satire and

(39:51):
it felt like it was done thoughtfully, then I would go.
But I wouldn't go just to just to see it.
And I mean I think that would.

Speaker 3 (39:58):
Be for the giggles.

Speaker 1 (39:59):
Yeah, No, I don't, No, No, It's kind of one
of those things where, God, what an excellent question. Is
it is a really good thing it's kind of one
of the good things. No, no, no, you're doing great,
like I think it was. I think one of the things.
And this is this is kind of a cheat code
answer is I would want to know.

Speaker 2 (40:18):
Who who this was for. That's what I'm the audience, right.

Speaker 1 (40:21):
It reminds me of some interviews I read with the activist,
a musician no name who was saying, you know, she
was like, look, I am I am an activist. I
am also a musician. I don't like looking out into
the audience and seeing, lack of a better phrase, a
ton just a bunch of white people rights like, so

(40:42):
this is I want my music for a specific amount
of people. I don't know what I would do to
see what is essentially an historical reenactment of a Ragtime show.
You know, I don't know. I don't know if I
would have enough information, and I'd be really worried that people
might raptionalize it. You know, like when Dave Chappelle was

(41:02):
talking about, uh, he's talking about doing stuff on The
Chappelle Show, and he would realize people were laughing for.

Speaker 2 (41:09):
It the wrong wrong. I love that black landsman, you know,
going back to I don't think you got the point.

Speaker 1 (41:16):
The Ernest Hogan thing we're talking about when he gets
done with the show and some white guy from Kentucky walks.

Speaker 2 (41:21):
Up and is like, great job. That's that's I don't
know you like our non answers.

Speaker 6 (41:27):
I mean I liked it.

Speaker 4 (41:28):
Yeah, that what you were just saying reminded me of
I read in some sources I can't remember, but one
of the black performers he was on tour. He was
going around the country and he was talking about I
think he had been singing all Kunes luck alike to me,
but if it wasn't that song, it was another coon song.
And he talked about a white kid coming up to
him afterward, and just like I was like, I don't
know if I should be doing this anymore. So, yeah,

(41:50):
and these productions of things you mentioned. Scott Joplin earlier,
he had an opera that was It contained many different styles,
but it was referred to as a ragtime opera and
it was called tree Minisha or Tremonsha, I'm not sure
exactly how to pronounce it. But that was produced in Atlanta,
so a hometown alignment in January of nineteen seventy two,

(42:13):
So in that resurgence I was talking about earlier in
the nineteen forties and fifties and into the sixties and seventies.

Speaker 3 (42:18):
You see these.

Speaker 4 (42:18):
Little pockets of time when people are referring back to
the history of ragtime and of coon song.

Speaker 2 (42:23):
Well, what would be the in your opinion's opinion, to
turn it around an appropriate context for such a reenactment
like what you were described.

Speaker 1 (42:32):
And to add to that question back, we're just gonna
like direct the energy here.

Speaker 2 (42:37):
Would you all go, yeah, yeah, Now is there a
world or a reason why something like that should exist?
And if there's an answer to that separately, would you
go absolutely?

Speaker 6 (42:47):
And if I was the white person, I would go.

Speaker 2 (42:49):
To Katie, what about you?

Speaker 3 (42:52):
I don't think I would go because I feel like
that the it would just be outdated.

Speaker 1 (42:57):
To me.

Speaker 3 (42:58):
Give me some new stuff. Like to watch all the sitcoms.

Speaker 1 (43:03):
They usually usually I need to say it, they're usually
not good. All sitcoms. The best part is always the
theme song, especially when it's a theme song where they
explain the ridiculous set up and you know.

Speaker 2 (43:14):
We love that. Yeah, I was.

Speaker 6 (43:16):
I was enjoying Amos and Andy.

Speaker 4 (43:18):
I had like a d v D, like said of
it wasn't because I like stuff like that, Like I
also like collect.

Speaker 2 (43:25):
Andy's borderline minstrel it is it is fully literally. It
was a radio show, right, wasn't it.

Speaker 4 (43:31):
It was a TV show too. It was a radio
show first and then it became a TV show.

Speaker 2 (43:35):
But yes, that's why I remember the stock characters. It
was like sleep and eat or something like that. Yeah,
that's what's sleep eat?

Speaker 4 (43:44):
I think it was another one to Actually that's right. Yeah,
I think that might have been from bamboozl Sleep and Eat.

Speaker 2 (43:48):
It might have been, but it was referring to.

Speaker 4 (43:50):
Yes, but you're on it. But I oddly like, you know,
I collect. I collect things like that too, like I
actually meant to bring. I think I actually had some
sheet music. I don't know if it was specifically Coon songs,
but for y'all to see the covers, because I actually
have some of that old problematic music and some of
the old postcards that people will send of like these, uh,

(44:13):
what's the red lip characters?

Speaker 6 (44:15):
I'm forgetting.

Speaker 4 (44:16):
I have like like pickaninnies and mammies, and I have
the old coon banks like so I like stuff like that,
and I read like anti black propaganda too so I
think that's why I'm so in for it, and I
also understand, you know where Katie's coming from. So I
think it's just because of my particular proclivities.

Speaker 2 (44:36):
Absolutely, I pretreciate both of the sleeping also was a
real character. It was a TV character played by Willie Best.
So I think a lot of stuff in Bamboozo was
like pulled from history.

Speaker 1 (44:45):
And we have to we have to eventually, uh we
we will have to wrap this episode up. We have
to have we have to have you all back if
you'd like to. Because one of the things that I
think we're we're finding here, it's a point that's so true.
It verges onto cliche at times, but it's easy for

(45:06):
people to forget history and to do that quarts I
think some very dangerous things. This is an amazing exploration.
Thank you so much, Katie, Thank you so much.

Speaker 2 (45:18):
Eaves.

Speaker 1 (45:18):
You have to tell us where people can find on theme?

Speaker 3 (45:22):
Well, thank you so much for having us. This is fun.

Speaker 1 (45:26):
So also thank you for helping us get ahead and
our buffer.

Speaker 3 (45:34):
A struggle.

Speaker 2 (45:36):
Thank you'all. But yeah, where can we find all of
your work and the podcast, the book everything coming down
the Pipe?

Speaker 5 (45:43):
Yeah, so you can find on Theme on any platform
that you listen to podcasts, and then our instagram is
on theme show. Our website is on theme dot show,
and you can send us at email it hello at
on Theme dot show and we will write you back.
For the book, it's called Pros to the People. It's
out February twenty twenty five. You can pre order it

(46:05):
now if you just google pro to the People Katie
Mitchell and it'll show up on anywhere you want to.
You want to pre order.

Speaker 2 (46:14):
And this pre orders matter, y'all are important, big deal.
Publishers love to see that.

Speaker 3 (46:19):
Yes, I shut up for it.

Speaker 4 (46:20):
And if for whatever reason anybody wants to find me,
they can find me on Instagram at not apologizing, or
you can.

Speaker 3 (46:26):
Just go to my website, Eve's Jeffcote dot com.

Speaker 2 (46:29):
Serious yoga content. I'm not apologizing makes me feel terrible
a boy myself in the best way. I thank you.

Speaker 6 (46:35):
Yeah, I'll bringing all the people to yoga.

Speaker 3 (46:38):
Let them know. Yeah, that's it.

Speaker 4 (46:40):
Oh and if you want to know how to spell,
my name is y V S. Jeff like the guy's name,
COT likes the thing.

Speaker 1 (46:47):
You wear, j E, F F and H.

Speaker 2 (46:50):
This is uh.

Speaker 1 (46:51):
This is your opportunity, folks, to check out episodes of
on theme. We're excited to tune in any any fan
of history will agree. They're also just to be quite
quite honest, I'm impressed by the caliber of the literary
explorations that you all have on the show.

Speaker 2 (47:10):
Yeah, and if you don't don't like.

Speaker 1 (47:13):
Smart shows, you can also check Max and Nola myself
out every week on Ridiculous History. You're really the bus
the super producer, mister Max Williams. Big thanks to Jonathan
Strickland aka the Quizz.

Speaker 2 (47:28):
Yeah he's Jeff cot here in person, yeah, corporeally, and
also Christiraciotis, who is in fact here in spirit.

Speaker 1 (47:35):
Alex Williams who composed this slap and bop you here
at the beginning and end of every show, aj Bahamas
Jacobs aka the Puzzler, and Noel.

Speaker 2 (47:44):
Thanks to you how you tubo buddy. We'll see you
next time, folks. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your
favorite shows.

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