You’ve been a Good Old Wagon but you Broke Down (1895) written by Ben Harney was the first ragtime song ever published. Music historians today recognize Harney as the father of ragtime. By 1896 Harney regularly played his popular rags like Wagon, Mister Johnson, Turn Me Loose, and Cake Walk in the Sky at the infamous Tony Pastor’s Music Hall.
By the late 1890’s ragtime became America’s music. Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag (1899) spread to music halls across the country becoming the iconic song of the ragtime movement. The song’s careful construction, up-beat bass line, and multiple deviating rhythms (syncopations) separates it from the other popular rags at the time.
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