Olvasói levelek (5)
Magyar Jazzkutatási Társaság
1023 Budapest, Lukács utca 4.
Simon Géza Gábor

Alapítva: 1995. január

2011 mérleg és közhasznúsági jelentés:

A Magyar Jazzkutatási Társaság a jogszabály adta lehetőségekkel élő támogatói jövedelemadójuk egy százalékát utaltatták át egyszámlánkra. Az összeget jelen kiadvány költségeihez használtuk fel. Köszönetet mondunk mindazoknak, akik bennünket és ezzel lapunkat támogatásra érdemesítették.

1992-01-01 • Simon Géza Gábor
The Pre-History of Jazz In Hungary

This study, just as that of the European situation is, of necessity, simpler and more schematic than it should be because of the very limited space available. Also, it is most regrettable that musico-historical resarch in Hungary is still far from the level it could attain, if one just considers the bibliography of all the important material available.

Journals like "Storyville" from Britain. "The Black Perspective in Music" from the United States, the magazine "Doctor Jazz" from Holland und such series as "Jazzfreund-Publikationen" from Germany have all kept researchers vell briefed to follow the day-by-day careers of a particular musician or a band. To achieve this, the institutional background of an efficient library service in needed, in addition to the irreplaceable enthusiasm of the researchers involved.

Now, as I write this book, I feel that I am in a paradoxical situation, for there is hardly any material in Hungarian about either Hungarian musicians or bands. It holds especially true for the early years where no comprehensive writings have surfaced so far. Under such circumstances, my initial information had to come from the sources listed above, from other similar European and American journals as well as from books.

Deprived of local sources, some being totally inaccessible to me, I have had to rely to a great extent on the contemporary German-speaking trade press. Its publicity notices and reviews gave many details of the coloured and white performers who came to Hungary, mostly to Budapest, whit their vaudeville, spasm band, spiritual, cake walk and ragtime performances and paved the way for the local acceptance of jazz. This process was, in fact, not dissimilar to that which place both in the United States and Europe.

In total, I have gathered information about several hundred perfomers who came to Hungary. Among them were truly world-class stars, first-rate musicians and dancers. Quite a few, on the evidence from notices and reviews, were important with regard to this pre-history period. The reactions of the foreign musical press allowed me to sort the chalk from the cheese with certainty. Because of what the limitations of time and alternative research material allowed me, it could well be that later researchers, bettler equipped whit locally-based material, will be able to make further contributions to the understanding of the early decades of Hungarian jazz and perhaps paint a different picture. I believe the picture I paint to be just one possible picture, based on the available evidence.

The First Coloured Artists In Hungary

We must accept that, as a basic fact, in the so-called civilised Europe of the 19th century, the arrival of coloured people on the scene was a sensation in itself. Even in Britain and Holland who both had extensive colonial empires, the appearance of the Black caused considerable comment. True, it was the cusom amonst the rich, upper classes to have coloured valets and housemaids. They also played music and learned and even fought for their masters. We learn sofrom books such as "Under The Imperial Carpet" and its 18 precise and well-ducumented essays how the serving classes lived and fought for the British empire. This volume could serve as a model for a future work dealing with the history of Hungarian light music from the middle of the 19th century to that of the 20th century.

Vaudeville, literally meaning "the city sound," takes its origin from the same root as French "shansons." It has gone through many changes over its 300 years history. In the 19th century it gained ground and spread in the English music halls a nd American touring theatre companies through French influence. In its performance, there are many different branches, such as dance, acrobatics, songs (the colourful imbroglio of English ballads, French chansons and ditties, amreican street songs and such, even within one single composition) and the minstrel as the caricature of black milieu, which all play an important role. Vaudeville is the oldest form of american performance art still alive. Many blues singers and early jazz musicians travelled around the United states with vaudeville troupes. It was from vaudeville that such branches as burlesque and sketch developed, which were especially popular in the era of silent film. Both ragtime piano-players and early jazz bands took part as a musical accompaniment to these films.

One of the inspired early vaudeville performes. Ira Aldridge, was introduced and had a great succes in Hungary, with a debut in the 1850s. He played the part of Othello and the of macbeth in the Pest Nemzeti Színház (National Theatre), and later the part of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice." He also appeared in Kassa (Kosice), Székesfehérvár and Győr.

Ira Aldridge was not, strictly speaking, a musical actor, but, even was his firm opinion that a short vaudeville should be performed following Shakespeare-performances each night. Thus, from March 31, 1853, Ira Aldrige also played and sung the of Mungo in Isaac Bickerstaffe's "The Padlock" besindes playing Othello, Macbeth and Shylock.

"The Padlock" was performed as a new production on August 1853 at the Nemzeti Színház. This time, Ira Aldridge had arrived without his usual company, and vaudeville was played with participation of Sándor Szilágyi, János Hubenay and various actressed. Thus, with the leadership of an authentic black performed, even Hungarian actors and singers could taste the mysteries of vaudeville for the first time. It was a definite success, as proven by the fact that Rózsavölgyi and Co., which had at that time been operating for two years amongst the Hungarian music publishers (who themselves were just getting their wings), put on market as its 108th publication three Ira Aldrindge pieces. These threesongs had been sung by Aldridge in "The Padlock". This is the first american score ever published in Hungary. So farm three different variations, or rather, editions are known from 1853 and 1858.

Im seems to me in Hungary the idea of colouredpeople is always associated with music. Most of us would not belive that a coloured person could be tone deafm musically speaking, Some coloured studens studying at present at various Budapest universities are, indeed, so afflicted.

I ask the reader not to consider it a sacrilege if Itreat colured and white american-style entertainers equally. All the more reason for doing so is that, contrary to popular belief, the "coloured" and "white" elements within the roots of jazze are present in almost equal proportions. The influence of these elements in a particular period upon an individual musician may vary considerably and be of divers effect.

If we try to sketch out a skeleton family tree of jazzthe fundamental elements in its roor system look something like this:

"Coloured" Main Line

"White" Main Line

Afro-American musical elements

Negro spirituals, worksongs,
African and other non-European musical instruments, etc.

European musical elements, in general
French military music

European instruments, etc.

In the 1860's, following the actor Ira Aldridge, white, creole and black strolling companies visited, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, as well as other European countries.

The reader should understand that those who were interested in such artists had great possibilities to hear them in many cities within the Monarchy. From our point of view, it is equally important to us whether they performed in the Imperial capital of that time, Vienna, or in Pest, or Buda, or later in the united Budapest, or in Győr or Kassa or where-ever.It is important ti know, that they could go and see it. The solvent stratum which had the desire to such exotics as a wandering minstrel company, in addition to the music of the "local" gypsy bands with their "national" character.

Local research data shows 1891 as the first appearance of Afro-american entertainers in the Monarchy. The were the "Sherman Morisey" duet. Thei leading amusement hall of the era, the Somossy Orfeum, announced, commencingDecember 1st, 1891:

"Sherman and Morisey, Amerikas Berühmteste Excentriques"

I surmise that their performance was on a par for the time, but from our viewpoint, they are mentioned because they brought with them their scores which the local to sight-read, if they were not lucky enough to have had one rehearsal beforehand. The American performers always played exclusively american compositions, unless otherwise was explicitly detailed in the programme.

Leo Bundick, one-time leader of the "American Negro singers" organised a new ensemble titled "The Ethiopian American Serenaders"in 1893. They toured the worl for two years, popularising the Afro-American cultural heritage. In this four-member group everybody sang and danced. Leo Bundick played clarinet and George Kelley played the drums. The two women, Anna Edwards and Carrie Granier excelled in singing. The group also played on brass, tambourine, banjo, guitar and mandolin. They perfomed in Budapest, at the Hotel Metropole, from 1st to 30th April, 1895, under the name "The Bundicks, Ethiopian Serenaders".

Following on from them many solo, duet, trio, quartet, quintet and larger groups visited Budapest, all evolving towards the real jazz performance. The Millennial Exhibition of 1896 is our next milestone because every amusement hall wanted to hire world-standard artists and productions for the occasion. And they did, because they could afford them.

The "Kreol Trio" peformed from 1st May, 1896, at the Somossy Orfeum, They were obviously a great succes because the German-language "Internationale Artisten Revue", in its 10th May issue, writes particularly about them:

"The performance of the "Kreol Trio" is rich in effects, three ladies singing american soungs with unique beauthy."

In its 1st June issue, the journal publishes a nez erview on the trio: "Pierre Krone's Kerol Trio' is an original one in which Miss Royah, the creole beauthy, and her two women companions sing and perform American songs and dances."

In that same issue, we find the first review of Miss Texarkansas who, at that time, had already been performing for some weeks at the Somossy Orfeum also:

"Miss Texarkansas is a skillful dancer who performs the American dances both with and without musical accompaniment."

The sensation of contemporary european musical life, "The 5 sisters Barrison" (originally "Lona Barrison and Her 4 Broadway Girls"), was a particularly great success performing American songs and dances. Their cake walk number received a tremendous reception and they were obliged to perform it over and again.

The appeared at the Somossy Orfeum from 20th July, 1896, and had a vaudeville show arranged by W. Fleron, the husband of singer Lona Barrison.

The overwhelming success ofthe Barrison Girls was proved, most eloquently, by the fact that, winthin a few days of their debut in Budapest, the rival Herzmann's Orfeum presented a vaudeville parody by anton Groiss called "The Five Sisters Barrisons". The composer was the conductor of Herzmann's Orfeum, Josef Schindler. It ran until the ened of august in Budapest and then wemt on tour, opening on 1st September at the Orfeum at Tátrafüred, followed by the Casinogarten at Nagybecskerek. The production returned to the Imperial Mulató in Budapest and played there from 20th September 1896 until the end of March the following year. As with other successes of that era, one supposes that a local company may have published the score of the pruduction, but to date we have not been able to track down such a copy.

After the sparkle and glitter of the Millennial Exhibition, the apparent silence of American performers was only on the surface. They continued to come and go. Some stayed for only a few weeks in Hungary while others, more successful in appealing to the local taste, stayed for up to half a year. Their appearances and guest-performances, though continuous, do not seem important enough to warrant exhaustive listing of names, dates, and places where they performed.

As we could see earlier from the reviews of European experts, American marches had an important role in both American and European jazz-prehistory. The military bands of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy slowly took to performing some of these pieces, particularly those of Sousa subsequent to his European tours. In this regard, it is most remarkable that the score-journal "Zenélő Magyarország" (Musical Hungary) had already published in its 1st April 1898, issue the piano transcription of Sousa's "Washington Post March".

During this time, of all the artists who visited Hungary and some were, indeed, of star rating, very few were remembered even decadens later. among the few were the "5 sisters Lorrisons" (or "The Five Lorrisons"). The singing and dancing ensemble, named the elderly Freenc impresario, Madame Lorrison, toured the world over two decadens. The five "sisters" were changed enduring. Between 1899 and 1913, their main attraction was the cake walk which they performed with memorable in Budapest, too. They appeared during three tours:

February 1-15, 1901 at Somossy Orfeum

June 16-30, 19í1 at Ős-Budavára Night Club

May 1-31, 1913 at Fővárosi Orfeum

The Ős-Budavára night club, opened during the Millennium festivies, was one of those amusement halls which liked engaging American productions presenting the American way og life and its music. The Lorrison Sisters performed there. a study of the programmes of this night club provides many remarkable contributions to the jazz-prehistory of the era. Comparing this information with that from other sources, we can soon find out whether we have hit the jackpot or the find is of little consequence .

In august, 1901, a vaudeville company from New York appeared at Ős-Budavára. The content of their programme and some of the members of the group played an important role in European jazz-prehistory, as we shall see. The group was called "The Louisiana amazon Guards" and consisted of seven coloured women. The main parts of their show were:

1. Life on the cotton plantation-plantation songs and coon songs, the latter being popular songs very close to the former (coon songs appearin in archaic jazz, too).

2. Banjo Serenade - in both early jazz and in ragtime, the banjo plays an important part.

3. Cake Walk - according to contemporary critics, this was the culminating point of the performance.

In 1904, the company toured the Russian Empire, to Moscow and St. Petersburg . Two of its members, Emma Harris and Coretta Alfred continued on with the tour, even after the others of the group had returned home. In 1911 Emma married ber Russian impresario.

The fate of Coretta Alfred was equally interesting.

She married a pianist, Boris Borisovich Tiz, from Harkov and they went on to performed with countless early russian jazz bands. Coretti Arle-Tiz, as she called from on, mainly sang spirituals.

In 1926, an excellent American jazz quintet, led by trombonist Frank Withers, arrived in the Soviet Union. Others in the group were Sidney Bechet, the pre-eminent soprano sax player and Benny Peyton on drums. On tour, Coretti Arle-Tiz was their singer.

Naturally, we cannot detail the european careers of every musician or dancer who performed in Hungary, but we make clearly understood that it was a parallel process throughout the whole of Europe. It is wholly unfounded to state that the prominent figures of pre-jazz and jazz only appeared in a select few countries. To the contrary, they everywhere. It is yet another question to say who appeared where, and when, and who stayed for a long time and who stayed for a shorter time.

Johnson and Dean

"Johnson and Dean" was the best-known and most-acknowledged duet of the prejazz era. Dora Dean (Dora Dean Babbige) was born in the 1870's in Kentucky. Her career started with the "Oriental america" singing in company with Belle Davie, Ollie Burgoye and Mattie Wilkers. Later, she joined "The Creole Show" based in St. Louis. Chas Johnson (Charles J. Johnson) was born about 1870 in Minneapolis. From 1889, the played in a local amateur show and then joined the dance ensemble of the St. Louis "The Creole Show". He became acquainted with Dora Dean and they formed the "Johnson and Dean" duet. In 1893, they were married and toured the world together. By 1897, their duet act was already the best of the coloured American performers, proved by the fact that, from then on, they bore the honorary title "King and Queen of Colorued Aristocracy". Dora became the idol of every woman, American and non-american alike. Even the unforgettable actress, Sarah Bernhardt, copied her costumes.

The "Johnson and Dean" duet made five long tours around Europe. The music for the dances they performed tended definitely towards jazz. The influence that they had on the evolving European jazz audience can be considered decisive. During their five tours, they spent the best part of a year in Budapest as the main attraction at the Ős-Budavár. The exact dates were:

1st tour May 16-June 30 and August 8-31, 1904

2nd tour July 1-August 31, 1906

3rd tour July 1-August 31, 1907

4th tour May 30-August 31, 1908

5th tour July 1-August 31, 1910

The brought with theam countless new American compositions which became immediate hits in Budapest. Two pieces by the black composer and lyricist, Bob Cole, were published as Op. 14 and 85 by the Gerő Music-House, mentioning the name of the American dance duet:

No 14 Molly! Molly! American Dance song performed by Johnson and Dean

No 85 egy szőke nő az ideálom! (My Idol is a Blonde Woman!) from the repertoire of Johnson and Dean

These are but just two examples of the immense amount of american material published in Hungary. American music publishers had a great interest to publish their scores on a world-wide basis, during the early ragtime era for example. But they are not those who published the works of the american ragtime composers who now are held in esteem, like Scott Joplin, Such pianists and composers were not generally accessible even to American audiences of their time. We should not ignore this fact when considering the European ragtime music and jazz-prehistory of the era.

In terms of the quantity of published material, at least in Budapest, Kansas composer Neil Moret, born Charlie N. Daniels, comes tops. The work which brought him world-wide fame, "Hiawatha", was published in the United States in 1901 and leads the listings. It was available in several arrangements on gramophone record as well. It is an undisputed fact that the "Grammophon" Company sold the "Hiawatha" recording by H.M. Coldstream Guards in Budapest.

A later reocording of this ever-popular number has even closer links with us. It was made in August, 1906, in Vienna, at time the imperial capital city, of the Austro-Hungaria Empire. The orchestra of the 51st "Barin Probst" Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment was conducted by Anton Kutschera. This particular recording is one of the earliest-known sound recordings made of an American composition in the monarchy by one of its own military bands. After "Hiawatha", known locally as Indian Serenade", the Gerő Company published further works of Neil Moret but these are, in reference to jazz, of lesser importance. Nevertheless, I must mention one of them. During my resarch work, I unearthed two versions of "Amerikai táncz-induló", (American Dance-March). One was published as "The New York Bummler", No .65 of the Gerő Music-House. The score was made by Simon Jámbor's music engraving company, which had own publishing house in, of all places, Moscow! And on the front page of the series published in Moscow, in Cyrillic, the publisher refers to "Hiawatha" as Moret's earlier piece. From the identical serial numbers and from the fact other issues published in Moscow and Budapest also bore identical serial numbers, we have very good reason to suspect that "Hiawatha" reached the Russian empire via Budapest.

And while speaking of the foreign connections of the Gerő Company, or rather those of Simon Jámbor, it is fitting to note that in the German-speaking world there was Gerő's Musikverlag which had subsidiaries in both Vienna and Leipzig and used the same repertoire as the Hungarian parent company.

But let us return to the Gerő Company's most remarkable music publications. Chas L. Johnson's composition "Jola" (Ilola), was issued as No 98 of the series. An early recording of it was made by the "Grammophon" agency in Budapest, using its own studio orchestra. It is a strange irony of fate that Iola, which brought its author world-wide fame, is hardly heard of today while "dill PicklesRag" and some of his later ragtime numbers are in the repertoires of traditional jazz bands.

There are some other pieces published by the Gerő Music-House worth mentioning. Of the ragtime, march and cake walk compositions of the American composer Geroge Michael Cohan, his march entiled "The Yankee Doodle-Boy" was issued in thr series. The Geiger Brothers orchestra, from Hungary , made a recording of it in Vienna in 1912 and it is still avaible on LP.

F.W. Meachen's "american Patrol" was already a big success at the time of the first publication of the score but it only reached the top in forties.

Qutie a few cake walks by Kerry Mills especially "At a Gerorgina Camp Meeting" and "Whistling Rufus", much played even today, were popular numbers in Hungary. The Gerő Company published Mills' "The Yankee-Girl-Marsch!" (= Whistling Rufus) under the title "Marsch Two Step" and it was performed by the Seidlers Orchestra of Berkin. It reached its Hungarian audience via the Hungarian "Grammopohon" agency.

The Quick Career of "Medvetánc" ("Grizzlybear-Dance")

Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting chapters of Hungaryan jazz-prehistory began inApril, 1912, in Budapest. At the end of the season , the management of the Király (King) Theatre decided to stage operetta which had already been performed in Budapest some 15 years earlier: the libretto for "The Geisha" was written by Owen Hall and translated into Hungarian by Béla J. Fái and emil Makai. The composer was sidney Jones and the arranger Géza Marton. Perhaps he chose the new hit from America which was to be a benefit performance for leading characters. Maybe, as did happen later as well, it was chosen by the principal male actor. anyhow, they musr have been astonished by its success.

The opening was on April 12th, 1912 and, only six days later, an advertisement appeared in the theatre magazine "Magyar Színpad", (Hungarian Stage), as follows:

"The complete recordings of the operetta 'The Geisha' are now released!
The Gramophone Company Ltd"

And as far as we can reconstruct it now, the relaese did not include the number about which a contemporary reviewer wrote on the first page of the journal that "Rátkay, acclaimed by the audience, had to repeat his grizzlybear-dance, performed with Sári Fedák, several times."

What a strange situation: Márton Rátkay and the goddes Sári Fedák heaping successupon success with a number that did not even appear on the recorings of the operetta. Business profit, however, was paramount at that time...

It is simply inconceivable to know what was going on behind the scenes. The very detailed biographies published recently on Rátkay and Fedák hardly give mention to the episode.

It seems that the first to remedy the situation was the Első Magyar Hanglemezgyár Company, the First Hungarian Record Company Ltd. Some eight weeks after the opening night performance, they recorded the first Hungarian versoin of "Grizzlybear-Dance" with Ernő Király, a typical Hungarian folk song and operetta singer, and Hermin solti, the outstanding music-hall singer. The lyrics were written by composer-songwriter István Weiner who reacted with great sensitivity to the new style of American music

Now, we can disclose to the reader that this American hit was really Irving Berlin's song, published the previous year, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" which bears the elements of ragtime mostly only in its title. Ever popular since then, the average Hungarian audience did not know for many decades that it was not a Hungarian composition. On the score, the name of the American composer appeared in much smaller print than that of the Hungarina songwriter. On records issued soon after, only István Weiner's name appeared.

On the recording, the Király-solti duo was accompanied by the orchestra of the First Hungarian Record Company. Some presume that the conductor was Alfréd Márkus, who then strongly in ascendancy. It was he who recognised, very early on, the potential of the vew American music and he enriched the repertoire of jazzy dance music with many, many numbers.

Because of its great success the record company published "Grizzlybear-Dance" not only on "Special Record" label, but licenced it to "Lyrophon" and "Diadal Records" as well. The latest release on the Hungarian Pannonton label (JL 104) in 1989.

Encouraged by this fantastic success, the Király-solti duo made, as, far as we know , two further recordings. One was with the Király Theatre orchestra and the other was with the orchestra of Imperial and Royal Court dance-musician Béla Berkes Jr. The former is listed in the publication of Metafon Record but, as Metafon did not its own recodings, the original record is still hiding somewhere. The Berkes recording is best know in international circles because he was already well-known world-wide at the time. That is why this version was released in 1985 by the English Harlequin label (HQ 2015),

The early Hungarian career of "Alexander's Ragtime Band", that is "Grizzlybear-Dance", still, is not complete. A further version was sung on record by Kornélia Parlagi and Imre Pintér for the Dacapo Company. Later, this recording became the property of "Szabadi Record", which, of course, did not miss the business oppurtunity, either.

Only from catalogue material is it known that yet another recording was made with "Grammophon"'s studio orchestra and an unknown singer. We have yet to find a two-side recording, presumably nearly ten minutes long titled "Alexander's Original Rag-Time". This was published by Columbia in 1912, at Christmas.

Richárd Hunyaczek, the Hungarian military bandmaster leading the 99th Infantry Regiment band and an unnamed (on the record label) Hungarian military bandmaster leading the 6th Infantry Regiment band directed "Grizzlybear-Dance. The unnamed person could well have been József Pécsi who was bandmester of the orchestra stationed in Budapest at the time.

I think this detailed listing demonstrates to the eader that already, even in 191, there was a significant interest in playing and listening to music differently, not in accord with the usual pattern of the time. The bulk of live musical event took place in Budapest, while out in the country, he gramophone record was favoured. The record could be played over and over again without having to tip the band to hear the same number several times over.

Grizzlybear-Dance, Ragtime. Step Dance, Or The Triumph of Jazz Dances In Budapest

It is without doubt that the countless gramophone recordings of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" created a very good atmosphere for live musical performances of grizzlybear-dance, ragtime and the like. At that time, these performances were accompanied by dancers, too. A list of some of the productions during 1912 and 1913 reads as follows:

January, 1912 Royal Cabaret, Dolly Sisters, dance duet

January, 1912 Royal Orfeum Empire Comedy Four, ragtime songs
(American white a capella ensemble)

April 12th, 1912 The Király Theatre presents "The Geisha" with the hit "Grizzlibear-Dance" ("Alexander's Ragtime Band")

May, 1912 Royal Orfeum - Oscar and Suzette, Turkey Trot (the original) grizzlibear-dance) Conductor: Alfréd Márkus

September, 1912 Royal Orfeum - Hermin Solti's new grizzlybear-dance (=George Botsford "The Grizzlibear Rag") Dancer: László Dezsőffy. Conductor: Alfréd Márkus

September, 1912 Royal Cabaret, Sáry Csattay, step dance

October, 1912 Folies Caprice, Duo Somogyi-László Grizzlybear-Dance.Conductor: Adolf Kmoch

November, 1912 Casino de Paris, Oy-Ra, Oy-Ra Dance Group, two male and two female dancers, Parisien apache-dances, cake walk

December, 1912 Royal Orfeum, This Grizzlybear-Dance dancers Irén Antal and László Dezsőffy

December, 1912 Royal Cabaret, Elly Nay, step dance

January, 1913 Fővárosi (City) Orfeum - William "Will" Bishop Jr. Gina Cormano, modern dance duet, salon and grizzlybear-dance

April, 1913 Royal Cabaret, The 6 Comedy Piccaninnies, ragtime group

May, 1913 Royal Orfeum, American songs, the newest musical numbers from Johnson and Dean

ibid. Johnson and Dean and 4 more black gentlemen (Ragtime Sextet). Conductor: Alfréd Márkus

June, 1913 Royal Orfeum - Hitchy-Coo, an English comedy film. The Royal Orfeum holds the exclusive rigts, accompanied by the Royal Orfeum Orchestra, conductor: Alfréd Márkus

August. 1913 Pavilon Mascotte, The 2 Massons, two-step

October, 1913 Royal Orfeum, Ida Crispy and Fred Farren, members or the London "Empire" Theatre, The Ragtime Gambling Man, dance fantasy

ibid. Mister and Mistress Jack Johnson as Ragtime dancers (at the time Johnson was boxing world champion)

ibid. Hermin Solti, Jó lenne férjhez menni (István Weiner), Hungarian ragtime, Conductor: Alfréd Márkus

The Ragtime Sextette in Budapest

In our view, the extremely popular "Johnson and Dean" duet, also well-known in Budapest, could not have chosen a better time when they decided to conquer Europe with a sixth tour. Looking back, Hungary was in a kind of ragtime fever and people could scarcely wait to see the next ragtime show. Under such circumstances, the news arrived that the "Ragtime Sextette", the first jazz ban to play in Europe" were about to hit the shores. Looking at it today, it was a very strange sextet: pianist Kid Coles and drummer Peggie Holland maade up the rhythm section and the other four members were all dancers! But what dancers!! The "Johnson and Dean" duet found very worthy partners in the "Greenlee and Drayton" duet. We have mentioned "Johnson and Dean" earlier, so let us now get acquainted briefly with the two natural talents, both born in 1893. "Greenlee and Drayton" who had begun to achieve joint success at that time. They continued to work together for almost half a century.

Thaddeus Drayton's mother was a ballroom dancer, his father a guitarist and tuba player. From the age of 13, Thaddeus worked as a professional dancer. Rufus "Rah Rah" Greenlee began his singing and dancing career with minstrel companies and a dancing family group. He was a typical Afro-American jig dancer. As a singer and entertainer, he sang and spoke in German, English, French, Russian, Italian, Gaelic, Yiddish and Hungarian (!!).

The "Rag-Time Sextette" played at the Royal Orfeum from the 1st May to the 31st May, for a whole month. Their programme was announced well in advance: "Johnson and Dean coming home!". the theatre programmes and newspaper announcements said. And it was certainly not untre - the "Rag-Time Sextette", as main attraction in the Royal Orfeum's programme, played to full houses.

There were only a few months left before the outbreak of First World War. The productions staged were very similar to those we have spoken about. According to some recollections, mostly oral, during that period in many Hungarian amusement halls, some pianists came into the limelight playing ragtime, cake walk and two-step numbers. The demand for such music is shown by the fact that local music-houses were publishing American compositions in surprising quantities.

Among them, we find several pieces which are respectable compositions, even by today's standars. Their compilation and a verfication of the contained data certainly cannot be included in this volumene. Private collection and the legacies of the elderly, libraies and archives may yet bring to the surface "lost" compositions and data. This is very true for the Hungarian authors' ragtime and ragtime-like compositions, as many numbers of this genre appear to have been written. Quite often, we do not know of the private publications issued single or in limited numbber, even by a search of contemporary periodicals. Also, we should realise that there were many abuses concerning the word "ragtime". As a business con, some hit compositions were labelled "ragtime". Equally, hundreds of numbers were labelled as "two step", "one step" or "foxtrot" when they should rally have carried the title "ragtime" or "ragtime-like". The same happened in the United States. Into this category also come compositions considered to be Indian, the so-called Indian Intermezzos in the "popular ragtime" grouping. The most important master of these was composer and music publisher Charles Neil Daniels, who worked mostly under the pseudonym Neil Moret. The jazz version of his world-hit "Hiawatha" was recorded by, among others, banjo player Vess L. Ossman in 1903 and by the Sousa Band several times. It was also Daniels who arranged Scott Joplin's "Original Rags", published in 1899, and which was Joplin's first music publication.

Charles Neil Daniels, Kerry Mills, Egbert van Alstyne, George Botsford and Percy Wenrich, whose compositions appeared in Hungary also, and their colleagues (e.g. Eubie Blake, Abe Holzmann, Tom Turpin, among others) whose works were not known to Hungarians in the early part of the century, all belong to the so-called second ragtime generation. What they did is considered important by professionals. Without them, ragtime would never have become really well-known and popular. Their compositions appeared in Hungary and other European states at the same time. Such pieces, recorded by Hungarian artists, show that special stage when performers know the musical form only from notation.

As for local composers, we have yet to collect many examples of their works, which will be mainly from the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. These pieces will need to be listened to without prejudice to decide whether they are worthy of inclusion.

Here we make note that, after the end of World War One, a ragtime revival began in Hungary. One reason that contributed to this was that, although many pieces had been composed before and during the war, there was no way in which they could be published. It is, therefore, advisable to examine closely allthe compositions appearing in Hungary from the end of the last century up to about the mid- or late twenties. We have classified the pieces which warranted examination into several headings: cake walk or ragtime according to the Opus numeration, the publisher's matrix number, and the year of copyright.

List of Hungarian Composers' Ragtime Pieces

Aladár Székely compositions:

Pension Rag. Op. 1 (1919) 7955

Lány, lány kicsi feketehajú lány (Episode Rag). Op. 2 (1919) 7954

Az utolsó levél (Last Letter). Op. 3 (1920). R. és Tsa 4095

Bent a szívem mélyén. Two Step Op. 7 (1920). R. és Tsa 3994

Van nekem egy tucat.Ragtime. Op. 8 (1920). R. és Tsa. 3995

Baba vigyázzon én rám. Op. 17 (1920). N.K. 2675

Tosca Rag. Op. 18 (1920). N:K. 2673

Nervous Rag. Op. 19 (1920). N.K. 2674

Ah, Sári, Saroltah. Ragtime Op. (1919). R. és Tsa 3977

Skeeper Rag. (1924) Rózsavölgyi 8984


Other Hungarian componists:

Lajos Barta: Exelsior Rag time (1917). Százezrek zenéje

Albert Hetényi-Heidlberg: Lilly-Rag. Op. 50 (1918). N.K. 2587

Sándor Rozsnyai: Dunapalota. Ragtime (1919). R & Co. 3920

Albert Szirmai: Florida. Ragtime (1919). R & Co. 3920


(December 1992)