Ragtime Annie is a fairly common fiddle tune-its catchy beat makes it easy to see why the tune has stood the test of time. Not to mention the fact that it’s rhythm is perfect for the feet on the dance floor.
The Fiddler’s Companion website has some interesting information about the song’s history:
- The earliest appearance of “Ragtime Annie” that can be documented, in print or otherwise, is the recording by Texas fiddler Eck Robertson (along with Henry C. Gilliland) in 1923, and a few years later by the Texas duo Solomon and Hughes. Robertson’s release was backed with “Turkey in the Straw.” “Ragtime Annie” was later recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940’s.
- “Ragtime Annie” was the first tune learned by itinerant West Virginia fiddler John Johnson (1916-1996), originally from Clay County, from fiddler Dorvel Hill who lived in a coal-mining town called Pigtown, not far from Clay, W.Va. Left handed fiddler Walter Melton played all three parts at square dances around Dunbar, W.Va., in the 1930s.
“I was bashful back then and wouldn’t go in anybody’s house hardly. I’d sit on the railroad and listen to Dorvel play the fiddle at night. And I learned most all of Dorvel’s tunes. I just set down there and listened to all his tunes and then go home and play them.” (Michael Kline, Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed. 1999).
The Fiddler’s Companion website also discusses all the various ways and parts to play the song-and let me tell you they are varied! Take a listen to our version.
We recently added Ragtime Annie to our line-up for performances. We’ve been playing the song for several years, but it was one that Chitter sometimes wanted to play and sometimes claimed she wasn’t a good enough fiddler to figure it out. We’d always tell her that was hogwash, but she had to gain her own confidence on playing the song.
I actually wrote about her frustration over the song a few years back. I’ll always remember the way Pap encouraged her on the day we filmed that version. If I had to make a wager, I’d say she hears his encouraging words in her head on a regular basis. I know I do.