2007-06-27 / Features

Jazz At Gravesite…Fulfill Wish 68 Years Later

Western Queens Gazette, April 10, 1985

In 1917, near death, Scott Joplin, the most famous and enduring of the early ragtime composers,

The Ragtimers Band breaks into a second round of "Maple Leaf Rag" and "The Entertainer" at Joplin's gravesite while Theresa Merritt, Ed Pierson, a singer, and Rinaldo Tazzini, co-producer of the movie "Hot Rags" look on. The Ragtimers Band breaks into a second round of "Maple Leaf Rag" and "The Entertainer" at Joplin's gravesite while Theresa Merritt, Ed Pierson, a singer, and Rinaldo Tazzini, co-producer of the movie "Hot Rags" look on. expressed the wish that his composition,

"Maple Leaf Rag", first sheet music to go over a million copies, be played at his funeral.

He went to his grave in St. Michael's Cemetery in Astoria on Apr. 5, 1917, his wish unfulfilled because his widow, Lotte Stokes Joplin, thought that it would be "inappropriate". The omission haunted her, and later, to a confidant, she said:

"How many, many times since then I've wished to my heart that I said yes."

Last Friday, (Apr. 5) at 11 a.m. at a special ceremony, Scott Joplin's desire and Lotte Stokes Joplin's belated wish were fulfilled, 68 years later to the day, at his grave.

A group of musicians assembled and played "Maple Leaf Rag" over his grave, just as "The Ragtime King" wished.

The musicians, all seasoned sidemen associated with well-known jazz bands, are a combo called The Ragtimers. They were brought together to play the score of "Hot Rags," a new musical using Joplin tunes, which will open in Brooklyn in May before heading toward Broadway.

A portion of the proceeds from performances of "Hot Rags", co-produced by The Brooklyn Opera Society, will go toward establishment of a Scott Joplin Memorial Scholarship.

Participating in the graveside ceremony was singer-actress Theresa Merritt, star of the Broadway play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."

The "Maple Leaf Rag" musicians, their instruments, and some of their credentials follow:

Alex Foster, saxophone and clarinet, is now with the Mercer- Duke Ellington Band; Irvin Stokes, trumpet, is featured soloist at the Rainbow Room, with the Panama Francis Savoy Sultans; Tommy Benford, drums, who has played with Fats Waller and Jellyroll Morton, has just recorded the newest Jellyroll Morton album; Steve Bargonetti, banjo, did specialties in the Lena Horne Show on Broadway, and his music is in a new album executive-produced by Quincy Jones on the Quest label; Teddy Bragin, tuba and tenor trombone, has played for numerous Broadway shows, the Bill Cosby Show on TV, appeared in the film, "The Cotton Club", and plays now with the Mel Lewis Band; Joel Helleny, trombone, has sat in with the great bands like Benny Goodman and Roy Eldridge, was soloist in "The Cotton Club", and plays now with Bob Wilbur; and Patience Higgins, tenor saxophone, has solo'd in three scenes in "The Cotton Club", been featured in the movie, "The Wiz", provided his talent for many Broadway shows, and has played with Stevie Wonder.

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2018 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.