Key to this scenario were the dedicated black music teachers
of Detroit who went to great lengths to train students in the
highest form of musicianship and to bring to their community
many examples of refined musical performance. It is unlikely
that these dedicated teachers embraced an enduring appreciation
for ragtime. Yet, in recollecting his first years in this thriving
musical center, Guy used to claim "Why, you might almost
say that ragtime was born in Detroit." What Guy meant by
this has kept us all pondering.
Detroit's proximity to important exposition fairs made attendance
possible for Detroit's musicians - most notably, the 1893 World's
Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where, peripheral to the official
events, ragtime supposedly "took off." There is scant
record of Detroit musicians visiting the Chicago fair, but some
were to publish popular syncopated pieces not long afterwards.
Perhaps Guy was recollecting the 1895 "Rastus on Parade,"
(penned by the young Frederick A. "Kerry" Mills in
his small Detroit studio on Washington Street) when he canonized
Detroit as the "cradle" of ragtime. Regardless, "Rastus
on Parade" was soon followed by the 1895 "Black America,"
by Harry H. Zickel, leader of the Zickel Orchestra of Detroit,
and, finally, in 1898 by the syncopated compositions of Harry
P. Guy and fellow musician and composer, Fred S. Stone, who was
a major contributor to Detroit's early role in the proliferation
© 1999 Nancy Bostick and Arthur LaBrew. The
complete text of our article continues for many pages, detailing
the life of Harry Guy and Fred Stone with dozens of never-before-seen
photographs, contemporary advertisements, and two complete rare
rags by Guy, not available in reprint collections.
It should be noted that Guy, Stone, and their contemporaries
represented a young generation of Detroit's musicians. This is
not to say that their predecessors, the leaders of Detroit's
prominent musical groups and societies, failed to keep abreast
of the latest musical trends. Clearly it was their business to
ensure that their bands and excursion-boat ensembles played what
their frequently all-white audiences desired. But considering
the decades they invested in cultivating highly skilled performers
and proving that Detroit's black musicians were fully capable
of demonstrating "musical intelligence," one can imagine
their feelings about that controversial cacophony the youngsters
were calling "ragtime..."
Above: A Steamer to Belle Isle,
upon which both Guy and Stone's musical grouops performed. Below:
The American Record Company's recording of Stone's "Belle
of the Phillipines."
an electrically transferred cylinder recording of the Edison
Concert Band playing Belle of the Phillipines
(recorded 1905, #8987) in "RealAudio" format. Again,
as per the previous page's instructions, click here
to acquire the most recent "RealPlayer" addendum to
your operating system. Be prepared to be disaappointed; not all
computer "servers" are perfect.