Twelfth Street Rag and Name That Tune no. 2!

We had a great time on facebook trying to find the right answer to last week’s Name That Tune. Finally it came from New Zealand. Thanks Jonathan for naming Winifred Atwell’s arrangement of the Twelfth Street Rag by Euday L. Bowman. Click on the picture to see the incredible Winifred Atwell playing the Black and White Rag and then the Twelfth Street Rag (12th Street Rag comes in at 1.30). I defy anyone to watch this and not smile.


It’s so interesting after all these years to hear what bits of what we played are actually the original tune, and what bits were fabricated by Grampy, or me, or more likely a bit of both.

We had some close guesses from my über mother friend; firstly the theme tune to Pot Black, which actually was Winifred Atwell playing the Black and White Rag, and then music for a Charlie Chaplain film, which is conformed when you look up the Twelfth Street Rag on Wikipedia. How does a mother of six and another one on the way have time to be a ragtime expert?

According to Wikipedia, here is the story of our mystery tune.


A friend of Bowman’s known only as “Raggedy Ed” declared his intention to open a pawn shop on Twelfth Street while the two were walking along it. Bowman is rumored to have said “If you get rich on those three balls I’ll write a piece on three notes to make myself rich”. The result was “The Twelfth Street Rag”, one of the most famous and best-selling rags of the ragtime era. It was more than 15 years before Bowman actually wrote the music down in manuscript form. He returned to Texas briefly and tried to sell the song to a company in Dallas, but only had an offer of ten dollars for it and was told it really wasn’t worth publishing. Returning to Kansas City, he sold it to Jenkins Music Company in 1913. The Jenkins company felt Bowman’s arrangement was too difficult and hired C.E. Wheeler to simplify it. With a big advertising push, “Twelfth Street Rag” began to sell better. In 1919, James S. Sumner added lyrics. It was popular with the early Kansas City bands and became a huge hit after Bennie Moten recorded it for Victor in 1927. It has since become an enduring standard of jazz.

I reckon if the three balls story is true, Bowman might have already been thinking of

his three note tune before he said it. Harry, my Granddad would have been seven years old when this tune became ‘a huge hit’. Wikipedia also has this little nugget of information-

More recently,a ukulele version has been featured as background music on the TV series SpongeBob SquarePants.

Here is a PDF of the sheet music, in Eb (as opposed to our key of C) and using, hmm, a couple more notes than the version me and Grampy played.


Now. On to mystery tune number two. This week we have a classical guitar piece to solve. A pupil’s mum played it to me one lesson, she had learned it years and years ago, it was the only thing she could play on the guitar, and had no idea what it is and where it came from. Neither did I! Can anyone name this tune? It’s pretty and is easy for beginners.


About Rosa Conrad

Teacher, writer, performer.
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