Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Red Pepper, A Spicy Rag (1910)

My father-in-law, Bob, really introduced me to ragtime music. I'd heard a little of it growing up, mainly The Entertainer from the movie The Sting, but that was about it. Bob introduced me to the variety of the music and the wonder of the sheet music covers that I've featured so often in my blog. Right now, sitting at my keyboard, I can see no less than five framed covers that decorate my office walls, and I'm sure I'll add to the collection as time goes by.

The cover for Red Pepper is pretty simple in comparison to many covers. It reflects the arts and crafts movement, with stylized peppers jauntily running across the page. It was composed in 1910 by Thomas Henry Lodge of Lymansville, Rhode Island to distinctly non-musical parents. Thomas showed a talent for the piano, though, and got a job demonstrating pianos after high school. Red Pepper followed Lodge's breakout hit Temptation Rag. By 1912 Lodge and his family had moved to New York where Henry teamed with famous dancing duo, Irene and Vernon Castle. Lodge played piano for their lessons. He also began working on higher-end music, more complex rags like his waltz, Geraldine.

In November of 1917, Lodge got a contract with M. Witmark and Sons who owned the rights to much of his previous music. The family relocated to Atlantic City where his wife would die in August 1918, just a month before he found employment as a musician at the Martinique Cafe.

In 1920 Lodge worked in Manhattan, shifting his attention from composing to writing and working for the burgeoning New York movie industry. In May of that year Variety and the New York Times showed Lodge had formed Henry Lodge Photo Plays for the sum of $100,000 out of  an office at 1545 Broadway, but the venture disappears after that point and Lodge eventually started working with an orchestra in Palm Beach, Florida in the early 20's. For a short time Lodge would live in Los Angeles, California where the 1930 census shows him employed as an author of fiction (fist bump to Henry). Eventually he returned to Boston, though and spent his last years between it and Palm Beach where he unexpectedly died at the age of 49.

With that long intro, I chose a nice player piano version of Red Pepper as our veggie course selection today. I wanted to thank the contributor, mechanicmusic45, for posting this piece with the simple video of the amazing feat of engineering that is the player piano. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did!

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