Brun Campbell

The Original Ragtime Kid

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About the Book

At fifteen, Sanford Brunson Campbell (1884–1952) became enchanted with the new sounds of ragtime and ran away from his rural Kansas home, hopping a train to Sedalia, Missouri, determined to take piano lessons from a black musician he had never met. Scott Joplin nicknamed his white protégé “The Ragtime Kid.” A composer and entertainer at the dawn of the ragtime era, “Brun” was a prime mover in the ragtime revival of the 1940s and helped establish Joplin’s prominence as one of America’s most innovative composers. Campbell’s own legacy was tarnished by his inability to tell a straight story and he was often dismissed as a liar and a clown.
Based on his memoirs, musical compositions and correspondence with music industry notables, this first comprehensive biography of Campbell reveals an engaging storyteller and a devotee wholly dedicated to a musical genre that had been largely forgotten. His firsthand account of life as an itinerant pianist in the Midwest provides a unique picture of life a century ago.

About the Author(s)

The late Larry Karp practiced perinatal medicine for 25 years, specializing in the care of high-risk pregnancies. His publications include eight mystery novels, a children’s book and three works of nonfiction. He lived in Seattle, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Larry Karp
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos & illustrations, appendices, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6345-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2383-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

I. When Ragtime Was Young 9

Ragtime in the Red Light Districts 55

“My Girl Taffy” 58

II. When the Ragtime Kid Grew Old 64

Interlude 64

1943: Hal’s Pal 72

1944: Pedal to the Metal 83

1945: A Shift in the Wind 97

1946–1947: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Pest 116

1948: The Kid at the Crossroads 123

1949–1952: Last Act: Spotlight on The Kid 134

III. Short Pieces 148

Otis Saunders and “The Maple Leaf Rag” 148

The Maple Leaf Rag 151

The First Ragtime Circuit 154

The Original Hot Men of the 90s 156

Ragtime in the Red Light Districts 169

How About You? 172

Cavalcade of Jazz, or “The ­Two-Four Beat” 174

It Has to Be Ragtime 178

Not the ­Best-Case Scenario: Scott Joplin and His “Maple Leaf Rag” 180

Joplin Biography 181

IV. Brun Campbell: An Appreciation 185

V. Recalibrating Brun: The 1940s Musical Composition by Richard Egan 191

The Rag 193

The Blues 196

The Love Songs 199

The Love Songs of Harold A. Campbell 202

Conclusion 204

Appendix 1: Musical Works by Brun Campbell 207

Appendix 2: Writings and Readings 213

Appendix 3: When Ragtime Was Young and When the Ragtime Kid Grew Old: Brun’s Organizational Variations 219

Appendix 4: Transcripts of Hal Nichols’ Memories ’N Melodies Radio Shows 223

Appendix 5: Interview of Cecil Charles Spiller by Galen Wilkes, January 26, 1992 231

Appendix 6: Brun Campbell Family Tree 241

Index 243

Book Reviews & Awards

“fans of the genre will find much to appreciate in this text”—ProtoView.