Who was Tom Turpin?
May 15, 2007

Tom Turpin was a composer of Ragtime who lived 1873-1922. He is credited with publishing the first rag by an African-American, the “Harlem Rag” of 1897. He also published the Bowery Buck, Ragtime Nightmare, St. Louis Rag, Pan Am Rag and The Buffalo Rag.

Listen to the Harlem Rag

Tom Turpin

He was the owner of the Rosebud saloon in St. Louis, Missouri. He was also friends with Scott Joplin and other early rag composers.

Turpin’s rags are all very catchy. Although he didn’t write a lot, he left a mark on the Ragtime world. Almost all of his rags are in C so if you’re a budding ragtimer, these are a good introduction to this style.

I’ve played all of Turpin’s rags over the years and I just recorded my favourite, the Ragtime Nightmare. Gary Barratt(Dr. Drums) accompanied me as did double Bass player Bob Arlidge. It’s a short and fast rag that’s musically accessible to just about anyone. He calls it the “Nightmare” because there are a few “crazy chords” near the start of the piece. By today’s standards they’re not very crazy. If you only want to learn one Turpin rag, I recommend this one.

Listen to the Ragtime Nightmare