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Joseph F. Lamb — The Humble Ragtime "Sensation"

Featuring Bohemia Rag (1919) and Other Rags by Joseph F. Lamb

 

By Ted Tjaden

(originally published June 2006 and updated periodically)

 

 

Recommended reading:

 

Carol Binkowski, Joseph F. Lamb: A Passion for Ragtime (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2012).

 

Joseph Francis Lamb is rightfully regarded as one of "The Big Three" composers of classic ragtime music, along with Scott Joplin and James Scott. Unlike Joplin and Scott, however, Lamb outlived the era of classic ragtime and briefly took part in the ragtime revival in North America in the late 1950's. Lamb's compositions are highly regarded for their melodic harmonies and sophistication. The Library of Congress has a short biography on Joseph Lamb; in addition, the Library of Congress also has recently recorded an interview with Lamb's daughter, Patricia Lamb Conn, in which she describes her father's music. In 2012, Carol Binkowski published Joseph F. Lamb: A Passion for Ragtime (McFarland & Company).

Set out on this page below is more information on Joseph F. Lamb, divided into the following topics:

1)  Introduction
2)  Life of Joseph F. Lamb
3)  Sheet Music of Joseph F. Lamb Compositions
4)  Recommended Commercial Recordings of Joseph Lamb Compositions
5)  Bibliography

 

1)  Introduction   [top]

That Joseph Lamb was a white man composing such intricate ragtime music is not that significant since there were a number of important white composers of ragtime (George Botsford, George Cobb and Percy Wenrich, for example), and it would be debatable in any event to argue that ragtime composition is somehow race-dependent. What is significant about Joseph Lamb is his relatively late introduction to ragtime (at the age of 18) and his isolation from the ragtime community other than a brief meeting and friendship with Scott Joplin. In addition, unlike many ragtime composers, it would seem that writing ragtime was merely a hobby for Joseph Lamb who otherwise worked full-time in the garment industry and did relatively little live performing. Lamb also was able to live a relatively long life (he passed away at age 72) which meant that he was able to partake in the ragtime revival, if only briefly; to this extent, he is alone with Eubie Blake being the only other original ragtime personality to have taken part in the renewed interest in ragtime music.

Jasen and Tichenor in Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History (1978: 124) argue that "Lamb was the consummate ragtime composer, the genius who possessed the ability to synthesize the best from all of the Folk, Classic and Popular ragtime music worlds into stirring works of his own great originality." Schafer and Riedel (1973: 85) in the Art of Ragtime: For and Meaning of an Original Black American Art echo these comments:

 . . . Lamb wrote very lively and completely organized rags; their thrust not toward technical or emotional complexity but toward lyrical flow, transparent vitality, and constant motion. Rags like "Cottontail Rag," "Reindeer Rag," and "The Ragtime Nightingale" show a powerful consistency of lyrical and rhythmic invention. Lamb's work is fully worthy of Scott or Joplin, and his rags are as "Negroid" and as individualized as anything written in ragtime.

 

2)  Life of Joseph F. Lamb (6 December 1887 ~ 3 September 1960) [top]

Much has been written on Joseph Lamb's life (see the bibliography below for more detailed information). Here are a few fast facts about his life:

  • Lamb had a brother James and two sisters, Anastasia and Katharine, from whom Lamb claims to have learned the piano.
  • In 1901, Lamb went to school at St. Jerome's College (now St. Jerome's University) in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, after death of his father on October 4, 1900.
  • Lamb took lessons from a priest at the school but quit after six weeks or so because "the good father had nothing to offer Joe" (Scotti 1977: 15-16).
  • Lamb is quoted as having said "I never took lessons, and I can't explain how I happened to be able to write the rags I did. At about eight I started to fool around on the piano, but didn't know one note from another - on the piano or on the music": from Cassidy (1961: 4) cited by (Scotti 1977: 15).
  • McCarthy (1974: 20) quotes Mrs. Amelia Lamb as follows on her husband's school days in Canada:

Joe used to laugh when he remembered those days at the college. He was so homesick that he wrote his mother and told her that if she didn't send him the fare home, he'd walk to New Jersey. I'm surprised he didn't . . . he was so strong-willed.

  • In addition, Amelia mentions that Lamb grew tired of eating sauerkraut, a regular staple in Kitchener, Ontario, which was (and remains) a major centre for German immigrants (and home of Schneider Foods, a major sausage and food producer founded in 1890 in Kitchener). Amelia Lamb also recounts in that article a story of how Lamb broke his nose while a student in Canada:

    Apparently in those days, the boys used to have to go without butter once a week but it was the custom that everyone took turns buying some on those days. One day, Joe was running back to school with the butter when he ran right into a brick wall and broke his nose.

  • Lamb stayed in Canada in school likely to around 1904 (when he would have been 17 years old) since he had been accepted at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey for an engineering course in 1904 (although he did not attend there): Scotti (1977:19).
  • According to Morriss (1959), in 1907, Lamb  walked into the offices of H.H. Sparks in Toronto and sold Celestine Waltzes (below) for $5, since according to Lamb, "[h]e generally sold his compositions for anything between $25 and $50 because he wanted to see them in print." Scotti (1977: 73) confirms the $5 fee for the sale of Celestine Waltzes. The 1907 date suggested by Morriss would seem, however, to be in error since Lamb most likely left Canada around 1904 and there is no evidence that he returned to Toronto, and it would seem unlikely that he would return to Toronto to "walk into the offices" of H.H. Sparks in 1907. More likely than not, Lamb made visits to Toronto and to Sparks while he was resident in Berlin (Kitchener). Most scholars agree that most if not all of the Lamb pieces published with Sparks in Toronto were written by Lamb while he was resident in Canada and that publication was delayed by Sparks. Most of the early pieces by Lamb published by Sparks are extremely rare and hard to locate; for a listing of these pieces, see below.
  • Scotti (1977: 73) quotes a letter written by Lamb to a friend in which Lamb describes his relationship with Sparks, a relationship that was more of a friendship than a business relationship:

You know that my first compositions were published by Harry H. Sparks of Toronto. Well, he published several before I even met him. On one of my vacations after leaving college my first thing was to meet him.  He invited me to his home to meet his family and have dinner with them. As soon as we got in the house his wife was there to greet us. Here's the exact wording of his introduction of his wife to me: "This is my wife and Sweetheart." It was so unusual I shall never forget it. He was not a newlywed - he had children going to school. From observation then as well as in later years they lived the kind of life together that you would expect from an introduction like that.

  • In Lamb's compositions published by H.H. Sparks in Toronto it appears that Sparks used the spelling of "Josef" for Lamb's first name, a practice not realized for any other (American) publications. I could find no specific discussion of this issue in the literature on Lamb. I would speculate that one possible reason for using "Josef" on the Spark publications was perhaps due to the German influence of living in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario, with "Josef" being a Germanic spelling of "Joseph" since Lamb, as an Irish Catholic, appeared to have used "Joseph" on all other publications.
  • Pseudonyms: not widely known is the possibility that Lamb used the pseudonyms of "Harry Moore" and "Earl West" (and "Gordon Hurst" as publisher of Love in Absence, below). Scotti (1977:55-56) recounts a December 28, 1975, interview he had with Amelia Lamb to confirm the use of these pseudonyms for some of the compositions published in Canada with H.H. Sparks (and for Love in Absence). The reason for using pseudonyms for the Sparks publication is not that unusual. Many ragtime publishers would use pseudonyms for their composers to give the impression that they had more composers under contract than they actually did.
  • After graduating from St. Jerome's College in 1904, Lamb returned home and went to work for a dry good store in New York; he was an avid purchaser of sheet music from Gimbel's and Macy's where sheet music was discounted on Saturdays to seven or eight cents each (Scotti 1977: 35).
  • Lamb visited his brother in California in 1906 (Scotti 1977:36).
  • Lamb formed an orchestra circa 1906-11 - "The Clover Imperial Orchestra" - that played for church and lodge dances, hayrides and other local affairs: Scotti 1977:41.
  • Blesh and Janis note that Lamb was a regular customer of John Stark's music store in New York, where he was offered a discount: Blesh and Janis (1966:235).
  • During the period 1910 to 1913, Lamb married Henrietta Schultz in 1911 and tried "song plugging" on Tin Pan Alley for a short time for J. Fred Helf. Scotti speculates that Lamb may have tried the song-plugging out of a partial sense of panic since this was shortly after John Stark left New York in 1910: (Scotti 1977:79).
  • In 1914, Lamb went to work for L.F. Dommerich & Company Inc., where he worked until he retired in 1957 (Scotti 1977:86). Scotti describes the company as being in the import, customs and "factoring" business. Joe Lamb's draft card from this era has recently been made available on the website of Monrovia Sound Studio; in addition, Ed Berlin has written a short blurb on Joe Lamb on this page.
  • Scotti (1977:49) suggests that Lamb became close friends with Scott Joplin during their chance encounter 1907 in John Stark's music store in New York (Joplin died in 1917).
  • Joe Lamb Jr. was born (to Henrietta) on July 23, 1915. Henrietta died on February 6, 1920, of influenza: Scotti (1977:106).
  • Lamb married Amelia Collins on November 12, 1922. The couple had four kids: Patricia (Feb 6, 1924), Richard (Mar 19, 1926), Robert (November 20, 1927) and Donald (July 18, 1930).
  • During the 1920's, Lamb wrote novelty rags or novelettes with the following names: All Wet, Apple Sauce, Banana Oil, The Berries, Brown Derby, Chime In, Cinders, Crimson Ramblers, Knick Knacks, Ripples, Shooting the Works, Soup and Fish, Sweet Pickles, and Waffle (Scotti 1977:111-12). Unfortunately, these compositions were lost when the publisher moved offices in 1935: Scotti (1985:249).
  • During the period 1928 to 1935, Lamb presented minstrel shows at St. Edmonds Catholic Church in Brooklyn. These shows involved skits jokes and songs, where Lamb supplied much of the music and was also the rehearsal pianist but apparently did not perform: Scotti 1977:113; Wilkes.
  • As part of the overall "ragtime revival" in North America, and due to the efforts of Blesh and Janis to track down and interview Lamb, Joseph Lamb was brought to Toronto by Ragtime Bob Darch and others for a tribute in October 1959 at Club 76 where Lamb was prevailed upon to play several of his rags, one of his very few public performances. More than 400 persons attended the event: McCarthy (19). During this trip, Lamb also visited the gravesite of his Canadian publisher, Harry Sparks (Morriss 1959).
  • Joseph Lamb died in Brooklyn, New York, of a heart attack at age 72.
  • Scotti (1985:254-55) eloquently places the contributions of Joseph Lamb in these terms:

When Joe Lamb died in 1960 at the age of 72, he left a rich legacy. A composer almost solely by avocation, he in fact produced thirty-six piano rags, seventeen piano novelties - including the rag/novelties Hot Cinders and Arctic Sunset, twenty-odd miscellaneous pieces, and forty-three songs. Lamb was a composer of imagination, craftsmanship, experimentation, and longevity. He synthesized the widely divergent styles of Joplin and Scott with the idioms of commercial ragtime, manipulated disparate musical materials into organic wholes, and utilized a tremendous diversity of textures. By thinning out its texture, Lamb distilled and culminated the legato piano rag style. He was able to break through the rag's convention of four-measure phrase lengths, and brought tonal and structural sophistication to the piano rag. A white emulator of a black musical tradition, Joe Lamb took for granted the very respectability of ragtime, which his black hero, Scott Joplin, died proving.

Selected Notes on Compositions:

  • Scotti (1977: 28) analyzes Celestine Waltzes (below) and Liliputian's Bazaar (below) in these terms:

    These two publications of 1905 are convincing substantiation of Lamb's claims to being innately talented and self tutored. Composing and notating multipartite forms with fairly acceptable tonal plans, melodic contours, harmonic/rhythmic accompaniments, and appreciable variety of texture after about ten years of unsupervised musical study indicates not only innate potential but a high degree of motivation. At the same time these examples contain awkward voice leading, monotonous harmonic rhythm, and slipshod notational grammar, lending credibility to the composer's assertion that he was self tutored.

    The Florentine Waltzes of 1906 exhibits considerable improvement.

  • Celestine Waltzes (below) was named after one of Joe Lamb's sisters.
  • There appears to be a typo on Liliputian's Bazaar (below), with the cover using the spelling of "Liliputian" and the first page of the music using the more orthodox spelling of "Lilliputian." Most library catalogues use the (incorrect) spelling from the cover.
  • Lamb likely wrote Walper House Rag around 1903; the composition was likely named after the Walper House Hotel in Kitchener, Ontario (Scotti 1977:34).
  • Three Leaves of a Shamrock describes mixed marriage between an Irish man and an African-American woman, which, according to Scotti (1977:56) is perhaps the first and only song of that era to openly discuss mixed marriage.
  • Mary O'Reilly, who wrote the lyrics to Love in Absence (below), was a lifelong friend of Lamb's mother; Joseph Lamb wrote the music and published the piece using the pseudonym "Gordon Hurst".
  • My Fairy Iceberg Queen (below) was originally intended to be a cowboy song but was changed to take advantage of the current popularity of Eskimo songs (Scotti 1977:72).
  • Contentment Rag (below) by Joseph Lamb was written to commemorate the 50th wedding anniversary of his main publisher, John Stark, who Lamb considered more a personal friend than a business acquaintance: Scotti (1977:71). The original cover for the piece depicted an elderly couple by the hearth; however, publication was delayed and by the time is was published, Mrs. Stark had passed away and the cover used on the published version shows instead an elderly gentleman by himself smoking a pipe.
  • Topliner Rag (below) was renamed from Cottontail Rag by Stark to better accommodate the use of unused sheet music cover art (depicting clowns) that Stark had on hand. Scotti also notes that many sheet music covers during this time (during WW I) used smaller paper due to paper shortages (Scotti 1977:95).
  • The title for Sensation (below) was suggested by Theodore (Teddy) Gatlin, the black elevator operator in the building where Lamb worked in 1906 (Scotti 1977:37). Stark paid $25 to Lamb for Sensation, along with a promise of $25 more if a thousand copies were sold. According to Blesh and Janis (1966: 40), "Lamb got the second $25 in four weeks but nothing further."
  • Lamb considered American Beauty (below), Topliner Rag (below) and Patricia Rag (below) his best rags: Blesh and Janis (1966:239). Citing a letter written by Lamb to a friend, Scotti (1977:102) documents that Lamb thought that the Gladiolus Rag by Joplin (available here) was the "most beautiful rag I have ever heard."
  • An unpublished song by Lamb from 1914 is named after a greeting between Italian Americans that is otherwise considered derogatory: Wal-Yo, see below).
  • Many people, myself included, mistakenly assume that Lamb named Patricia Rag (below) after his first daughter, Patricia. On close inspection, however, this would not be possible since Patricia Rag was published in 1916 and Pat Lamb was born in 1924 (nor was Pat Lamb named after the rag).
  • Lamb's Ragtime Nightingale (below), intended in part to mimic the sounds of a nightingale, was written in response to James Scott's Ragtime Oriole (available here) even though it is likely that James Scott did not intend his work to be birdlike: Scotti (1977:90).
  • The opening arpeggiated chord from Ragtime Nightingale (below) is likely based on Chopin's Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, no. 12, a piece of music Lamb was likely familiar with through Etude magazine.
  • Lamb himself described his rags in terms of "heavy" and "light" rags based, in part, on the complexity and harmonies present in the rags, with the heavy rags synthesizing the styles of Joplin and Scott (Scotti 1985:245). The "heavy rags, which tend to be more complex and difficult to play, include: Sensation,  American Beauty Rag, Ethiopa Rag, Excelsior Rag, Ragtime Nightingale, and Top Liner. The lighter rags, which are more in the cakewalk tradition, include: Bohemia Rag, Champagne Rag, Cleopatra Rag, and Reindeer: Ragtime Two Step. (Scotti 1985:245) suggests that the remaining two Stark compositions - Contentment Rag and Patricia Rag - fall in between these two groups.
  • Jasen and Tichenor in Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History (1978:123-24) describe Lamb's works in these terms:

    The strength of Joplin's ideas in ragtime is best exemplified by the rags of Joe Lamb. Rags written before 1907 (which is to say before he became aware of the Joplin rags) . . . show a rather mediocre attempt at composing rags, using all of the overworked devices of the cakewalk, Popular rag and song. From the twelve works published between 1908 and 1919, we find that his rags are more predictable, as he synthesized the Joplinesque legato melody style with Scott's expansive keyboard work. Then, Lamb replaced Joplin's phrase structure, making the first half of a section contrasting rather than parallel. He also avoided the short, motivic phrasing of James Scott, but used Scott's echo effect and rhythmic exuberance. Among Lamb's greatest original stylistic features are his use of sequences for developmental purposes and his diversity of texture, not only from light to heavy rags, but from section to section and even phrase to phrase . . . .

  • Scotti (1985:247-49) discusses some of Lamb's musical influences in these terms:

[Lamb's] esoteric commitment to classic ragtime isolated him from Tin Pan Alley exploitation, and his residing in New York City precluded his participation in the Midwestern ragtime community; yet, he became familiar with much published ragtime and with other music as well. As a lad he had listened to German folk singers in Berlin, Ontario, and late he learned the music of Sissle and Blake, amassed an impressive library of popular songs and all types of rags, listened to black religious singing at a camp meeting ground, and participated in family sings and parish minstrel shows. His experience with music was multifaceted.

 

3)  Sheet Music of Joseph F. Lamb Compositions    [top]

Set out below is a complete listing of Joseph F. Lamb compositions, published and unpublished. For those compositions in the public domain, the sheet music is provided (for free). Also included are Lamb's early "Canadian" ragtime-era compositions published by H.H. Sparks of Toronto, including those composed by Lamb under his known pseudonyms of Harry Moore and Earl West.

 

a) Joseph F. Lamb's H.H. Sparks Compositions

It is likely that Lamb wrote many of these pieces between 1901 and 1903 when he was a student in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario and that publication was delayed by Sparks (see Scotti 1985:244).

 

Celestine Waltzes Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Celestine Waltzes (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1905)

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal photocopy  [top]

The Lilliputian's Bazaar: A Musical Novelty Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. The Lilliputian's Bazaar: A Musical Novelty (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1905).

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal copy  [top]

Florentine Valse Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Florentine: Valse (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1906).

[view sheet music]

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

The Lost Letter Sheet Music Cover

Josef F. Lamb. The Lost Letter: She Tho't Him False, He, Her Untrue (words by Margret Anga Cawthorpe) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1907).

[view sheet music]

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

Dear Blue Eyes: True Eyes Sheet Music Cover

Dear Blue Eyes: True Eyes. Joseph Lamb (words by Llyn Wood) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal photocopy from Pat Lamb Conn  [top]

If Love is a Dream Let Me Never Awake Sheet Music Cover

If Love is a Dream Let Me Never Awake. Joseph Lamb (words by Llyn Wood) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal photocopy provided by Pat Lamb Conn  [top]

Love's Ebb Tide Sheet Music Cover

Josef F. Lamb. Love's Ebb Tide (words by Samuel A. White) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: University of Toronto Music Library   [top]

Three Leaves of Shamrock on the Watermelon Vine Sheet Music Cover

Josef Lamb. Three Leaves of Shamrock on the Watermelon Vine (words by Harry Moore) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: Photocopy from Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Twilight Dreams: Reverie Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb, arranger (composition by Charles Wellinger). Twilight Dreams: Reverie (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: University of Toronto Music Library   [top]

The Homestead Where the Suwanee River Flows Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. The Homestead Where the Suwanee River Flows (words by Joseph F. Lamb) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1909).

[view sheet music]

Source: Photocopy from Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Love in Absence Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Love in Absence (words by M.A. O'Reilly) (Gordon Hurst, 1909).

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal copy provided by Pat Lamb Conn  [top]

I Love You Just The Same Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. I Love you Just the Same (words by Joseph F. Lamb) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1910).

[view sheet music]

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

My Fairy Iceberg Queen Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. My Fairy Iceberg Queen (words by Murray Wood) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1910).

[view sheet music]

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

Playmates Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Playmates (words by Will Wilander) (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1910).

[view sheet music]

Source: Personal photocopy provided by Pat Lamb Conn  [top]

 

b) "Canadian" compositions believed to be written by Joseph Lamb using a known pseudonym

In Joe Lamb: A Study of Ragtime’s Paradox, the 1977 thesis from the University of Cincinnati (55-56), Joseph Scotti recounts a December 28, 1975, interview he had with Amelia Lamb, wife of Joseph Lamb, about his use of the pseudonyms "Harry Moore" and "Earl West". The reason Sparks published compositions by Joseph Lamb using these pseudonyms was to give the impression he had more composers under contract than he actually did (a common tactic by other sheet music publishers). As such, it is believed that Joseph Lamb is the composer of the pieces below. In fact, Scotti (1977:18) writes that Amelia Lamb gave him a copy of In the Shade of the Maple by the Gate (below) by "Earl West", it being a composition by her husband). Of note, all of the pieces are published by H.H. Sparks except for The Ladies' Aid Song (1913) (below), which was published in Toronto by Musgrave Bros. & Davies "on behalf of the composer." One possible explanation for this is that H.H. Sparks is thought to have gone out of business around 1910; as such, Sparks would not have been able to publish this piece. It is reasonable to surmise that Lamb had shopped the piece around and eventually had it published "on his behalf" by Musgrave Bros. & Davies. As far as I know, I am the first person to document the possibility that The Ladies' Aid Song is a "lost Lamb" composition.

 

Sweet Nora Doone

Moore, Harry (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). Sweet Nora Doone (Toronto, ON: Harry H. Sparks, 1907).

[view sheet music]

Source: British Library [top]

The Engineer's Last Good Bye Sheet Music Cover

Moore, Harry (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). The Engineer's Last Good Bye (Toronto, ON: H.H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

I'm Jealous of You Sheet Music Cover

Moore, Harry (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). I'm Jealous of You (Toronto, ON: Harry H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: British Library [top]

She Doesn't Flirt Sheet Music Cover

Moore, Harry (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). She Doesn't Flirt (Toronto, ON: Harry H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music]

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

he Ladies' Aid Song Sheet Music Cover

Moore, Harry (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). The Ladies' Aid Song (Toronto, ON: Musgrave Bros. & Davies, 1913).

[view sheet music]  

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Somewhere a Broken Heart Sheet Music Cover

West, Earl (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). Somewhere a Broken Heart (words by Samuel Alexander White) (Toronto, ON: Harry H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

In the Shade of the Maple by the Gate Sheet Music Cover

West, Earl (likely pseudonym for Joseph Lamb). In the Shade of the Maple by the Gate (words by Ruth Dingman) (Toronto, ON: Harry H. Sparks, 1908).

[view sheet music

Source: Toronto Reference Library Special Collections

 

 

c) Joseph F. Lamb's Classic Rags published by Stark    [top]

Between 1908 and 1919, Joseph Lamb published 12 classic rags with John Stark, the ragtime publisher of Scott Joplin and James Scott. The Joseph Lamb "Stark" rags below are all in the public domain and are set out below.

 

Sensation: A Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Sensation: A Rag (New York, NY: Stark Music Company, 1908). Copyrighted: 8 October 1908.

[view sheet music]

Source:  Cover from Library of Congress, Music Division  [top]

Ethiopia Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Ethiopia Rag (New York, NY: Stark Music Company, 1909). Not copyrighted.

[view sheet music]

Excelsior Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Excelsior Rag (New York, NY: Stark Music Company, 1909). Not copyrighted.

[view sheet music]

Champagne Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Champagne Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1909). Copyrighted 15 September 1910.

[view sheet music]

American Beauty Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. American Beauty Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1913). Copyrighted 27 December 1913.

[view sheet music]

Contentment Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Contentment Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1915). Copyrighted 10 January 1915.

[view sheet music

Source: Indiana University Sheet Music Collections  [top]

The Ragtime Nightingale Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. The Ragtime Nightingale (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1915). Copyrighted 10 June 1915.

[view sheet music]

Source:  Cover from Library of Congress, Music Division  [top]

Cleopatra Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Cleopatra Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1915). Copyrighted 16 June 1915.

[view sheet music]  

Source: Indiana University Sheet Music Collections  [top]

Reindeer: Ragtime Two Step Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Reindeer: Ragtime Two Step (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1915). Not copyrighted.

[view sheet music]

Topliner Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Top Liner Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1916). Copyrighted 4 January 1916.

[view sheet music

Source:  Warren Trachtman  [top]

Patricia Rag

Joseph Lamb. Patricia Rag (St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Company, 1916). Copyrighted 19 November 1916.

[view sheet music]

Bohemia Rag Sheet Music Cover

Joseph Lamb. Bohemia Rag (New York, NY: Stark Music Co., 1919). Copyrighted 17 February 1919.

[view sheet music

Source:  University of Colorado Digital Sheet Music Collection  [top]

 

d) Joseph F. Lamb, Ragtime Treasures Piano Solos (New York, NY: Mills Music, 1964) [top]

This now out-of-print folio was published shortly after Lamb's death and contains 13 previously unpublished rags by Lamb, most of them written during the ragtime era and revised or updated right until the composer's death. These works likely remain protected by copyright. The Table of Contents, in alphabetical order, is as follows:

  1. Alabama Rag
  2. Arctic Sunset
  3. Bird Brain Rag
  4. Blue Grass Rag
  5. Chimes of Dixie
  6. Cottontail Rag
  7. Firefly Rag
  8. Good and Plenty Rag
  9. Hot Cinders
  10. The Old Home Rag
  11. Ragtime Bobolink
  12. Thorough Bred Rag
  13. Toad Stool Rag

e) Joseph F. Lamb, Brown Derby #2, a.k.a. Untitled Rag (St. Louis, MO: Penny 3, Robinson & Wells Inc., s.d.).

Available for purchase from: Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation. A previously unpublished rag made available by Joseph Lamb's daughter.

f) Joseph F. Lamb, Ragtime Reverie (St. Louis, MO: Penny 3, Robinson & Wells Inc., s.d.).

Available for purchase from: Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation. A previously unpublished rag made available by Joseph Lamb's daughter.

g) Joseph F. Lamb, A Little Lost Lamb: Piano Music by Joseph F. Lamb (Oak Forest, IL: Ragtime Press, 2005) [top]

This wonderful folio of previously unpublished rags and songs by Joseph F. Lamb is available for purchase from Ragtime Press, P.O. Box 630, Oak Forest, IL 60452 (Attention: Sue Keller). Sue Keller has recorded a CD of the pieces (with some of the vocals sung by Patricia Lamb Conn, a daughter of the composer). Both are highly recommended. These works remain protected by copyright. The Table of Contents, in alphabetical order, is as follows:
  1. The Alaskan Rag (1959)
  2. The Beehive Rag (1959)
  3. Chasin' the Chippies (1914)
  4. Gee, Kid! But I Like You (1909) [published 1909, Shapiro Music, NY?]
  5. Greased Lightening Rag (1959)
  6. I Want to Be a Bird-Man (1913)
  7. I'll Follow the Crowd to Coney (1913)
  8. The Jersey Rag (1959)
  9. Joe Lamb's Old Rag (1959)
  10. Lorne Scots on Parade (1904)
  11. Mignonne (1901)
  12. My Queen of Zanzibar (1904)
  13. Ragged Rapids Rag (1905)
  14. The Rag-Time Special (1959)
  15. Rapid Transit (1959)
  16. Red Feather (1906)
  17. Spanish Fly (1912)
  18. Walper House Rag (1903)
Cover to "A Little Lost Lamb" Folio

 

h) Unpublished Compositions by Joseph F. Lamb    [top]

The 1977 University of Cincinnati dissertation by Joseph R. Scotti entitled Joe Lamb: a Study of Ragtime’s Paradox (273-85) contains a list of works by Joseph F. Lamb. In his thesis, Scotti identifies the following additional compositions possibly by Joseph Lamb not already included above:

Title Date Composed Sent to Library of Congress
Meet Me at the Chutes 1900 4 September 1961
Idle Dreams 1900 August 1962
Lenonah 1901 August 1962
Dora Dean's Sister 1902 August 1962
Muskoka Falls, "Indian Idyll" 1902 4 September 1961
Golden Leaves (Canadian Concert Waltzes) 1903 4 September 1961
Le Premier - French Canadian March 1903 4 September 1961
Midst the Valleys of the Far off Golden West 1903 August 1962
When the Winter is Over 1903 February 1962
The Ivy Covered Homestead on the Hill 1904 4 September 1961
Tell Me that You Will Love Me as I Love You 1904 4 September 1961
The Eskimo Glide 1905 4 September 1961
Florida 1905 August 1962
A Rose and You 1905 February 1962
My Little Glow Worm 1905 August 1962
Sourdough March 1906 August 1962
Samuel Coon Song 1908 4 September 1961
Dear Old Rose 1909 4 September 1961
Let's Do It Again 1912 February 1962
A Little Girl Like You 1913 4 September 1961
Romance Land 1913 February 1962
That Wonderful Melody 1914 February 1962
Wal-Yo (words by Mrs. Joseph F. Lamb) 1914 August 1962
I'd Give the World to Have You Back Again 1915 February 1962
Just for You 1915 October 1962
For the Cause of Liberty 1916 August 1962
Oh! You with Hair Like Mine 1916 October 1962
Love me Like I Like You 1926 4 September 1961
It Breaks My Heat to Leave You Melie Dear 1959 4 September 1961
Wanda ? October 1961
Only You ? October 1962
The 22nd Regiment March ? October 1962
Ilo-Ilo ? October 1962
The Dying Hero ? October 1962
She's My Girl (Intro Playmates) ? ?
I'd Like You to Love Me ? ?
I Should Have Known ? ?
Since You Took Your Heart Away ? ?
I'm Going to Go Somewhere ? ?
Don't You Be Lonely ? ?
Our Emperor ? ?
Our Empire ? ?
Nemesis ? ?

Scotti (1977:278) also mentions the following titles from a list held by Ragtime Bob Darch as possibly being compositions by Lamb:

  • Jennie Song
  • Farewell My Love
  • Cheese It
  • Down in Dear Old Florida
  • In Gay Old Golden Gate

Scotti also lists the following three pieces as being published; these pieces are also contained in Keller's A Little Lost Lamb. If Scotti is correct, as he is with the first title below, then these three pieces are likely in the public domain as being pre-1923:

Gee, Kid! But I Like You Sheet Music Cover

Joseph F. Lamb. Gee, Kid! But I Like You. New York: Maurice Shapiro, 1909.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library of Congress, Music Division  [top]

 

Joseph F. Lamb. I Want to Be a Bird-Man (1913) (G. Satterlee, Satterlee Music Company)

Available from A Little Lost Lamb, above.

 

Joseph F. Lamb. I'll Follow the Crowd to Coney (1913) (Satterlee, Satterlee Music Company)

Available from A Little Lost Lamb, above.

There is some discussion in the ragtime literature that Joplin and Lamb collaborated on a composition circa 1910 and that a piece entitled Scott Joplin's Dream is the result. However, most scholars now doubt that is the case - see, for example, Scotti 1977:46.

"Perfessor" Bill Edwards lists the following two compositions as being co-written by Lamb with Gus Collins, an in-law:

  • Purple Moon (1930)
  • So Here We Are

Finally, journalist Mary Jukes in a July 20, 1963, Globe & Mail newspaper story at page 15 entitled "Designers Collect Music in Ragtime" mentions Joseph Lamb who "went to school in Berlin (now Kitchener) and composed such old-time pieces as The Humber Rag and The Muskoka Rag." In 2006 when I was writing this essay, this was the only mention I had uncovered of possible Lamb compositions entitled The Humber Rag and The Muskoka Rag, although Scotti does mention Lamb as a possible composer of Muskoka Falls, "Indian Idyll" (1902), which is also mentioned as being composed by Lamb in the "Rivers in Canadian Music" entry in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (an entry which, among other things, discusses Canadian music on the theme of rivers). In the Fall of 2006, the composer's daughter provided me with a photocopy of a handwritten, unpublished manuscript called Muskoka Falls, "Indian Idyll." 

 

4)  Recommended Commercial Recordings of Joseph Lamb Compositions     [top]

Set out below are some of the better compact disc (CD) recordings of Lamb's compositions. Below this list are links to a number of MIDI recordings available on the Internet, recorded by various artists.

  • Arpin, John. Champagne Rags (ProArte - Feb 1993):
  1. Sensation: A Rag
  2. Ethiopia
  3. Contentment Rag
  4. Topliner Rag
  5. Cleopatra Rag
  6. Champagne Rag
  7. American Beauty Rag
  8. Reindeer Ragtime Two-Step
  9. Ragtime Nightingale
  10. Excelsior Rag
  11. Patricia Rag
  12. Bohemia
  • Eskin, Virginia. American Beauties: The Rags of Joseph Lamb (Koch Int'l Classics, May 2000) [amazon entry]
  1. Walper House Rag
  2. The Alaskan Rag
  3. Ragtime Reverie
  4. Brown Derby No. 2
  5. Alabama Rag
  6. Arctic Sunset
  7. Bird-Brain Rag
  8. Cottontail Rag
  9. Hot Cinders
  10. Ragtime Bobolink
  11. The Old Home Rag
  12. Firefly Rag
  13. Thoroughbred Rag
  14. Toad Stool Rag
  15. Sensation
  16. Ethiopia
  17. Excelsior
  18. American Beauty Rag
  19. Patricia Rag
  20. Nightingale Rag
  • Keller, Sue. A Little Lost Lamb (with vocals on select songs by Patricia Lamb Conn) (Oak Forest, IL: Ragtime Press, 2005) [see: http://www.rtpress.com/lamb.htm]
  1. Jersey Rag
  2. Chasin' the Chippies
  3. Greased Lightening Rag
  4. Mignonne
  5. Gee, Kid! But I Like You
  6. Lorne Scots on Parade
  7. Rapid Transit
  8. I Want To Be A Birdman
  9. Red Feather
  10. Ragged Rapids Rag
  11. Walper House Rag
  12. My Queen of Zanzibar
  13. Beehive Rag
  14. Joe Lamb's Old Rag
  15. Ragtime Special
  16. Spanish Fly
  17. Follow the Crowd to Coney
  18. Alaskan Rag
  • Lamb, Joseph. 1960. Joseph Lamb: A Study in Classic Ragtime (Folkways Recordings 03562) (Recording by Joseph Lamb) [see http://www.folkways.si.edu]
  1. Cottontail Rag
  2. Excelsior Rag
  3. Cleopatra Rag
  4. Meeting with Scott Joplin
  5. Sensation - A Rag
  6. Arthur Marshall, Artie Mathews, James Scott
  7. Topliner Rag
  8. Alaskan Rag, The
  9. The Composition of "Nightingale"
  10. Ragtime Nightingale, The
  11. American Beauty Rag
  12. The Naming of Contentment
  13. Contentment Rag
  14. Patricia Rag
  • Nielson, Guido. Complete Stark Rags of Joseph F. Lamb (Basta Records) [Amazon entry]
  • Teck, Kathy Teck. On Track! Ragtime Music of Joseph Lamb [CD Baby]

 

MIDI Recordings of Joseph Lamb Compositions

There are a number of MIDI recordings of Lamb compositions available on the Internet:

 

5)  Bibliography on Joseph F. Lamb   [top]

In 2006, when first writing this essay, I tried to compile below the most complete bibliography of books and articles about Joseph F. Lamb. This bibliography was created through a combination of my own index searches and by consulting the various bibliographies in books on ragtime. I have not been able to obtain copies of every item in the bibliography below so have not been able to verify every entry (but I hope to do so some day). Readers are encouraged to consult Carol Binkowski's book (listed below).

  • Balliet, Whitney. "Ragtime Game." (2 July 1960) New Yorker 20-21.
  • Blesh, Rudi and Harriet Grossman Janis. 1966. They All Played Ragtime. 4th ed. New York, N.Y.: Oak Publications.
  • Blesh, Rudi, "Notes on an American Genius." Foreword to Joseph F. Lamb, Ragtime Treasures Piano Solos. New York, NY: Mills Music, 1964.
  • Borgman, G.A. "Joseph F. Lamb, Classic Ragtimer" (Aug 2001) 28 The Mississippi Rag 1-2.
  • Borgman, G.A. "Joseph F. Lamb, Classic Ragtimer, Part 2" (Sept 2001) 28 The Mississippi Rag 23-27.
  • Cassidy, Russ. 1961. "Joseph Lamb: Last of the Ragtime Composers" (1961) 7 Jazz Monthly (August, 1961), 4-7; (October, 1961), 12-15; (November, 1961), 9-10; (January, 1962), 1-6; (February, 1962), 1-4; (March, 1962), 1-3' (April, 1962), 7-8.
  • Charters, Samuel B. 1960. Notes on "Joseph Lamb: A Study in Classic Ragtime," Folkways FG 5363 [liner notes].
  • "The Compositions of Joseph F. Lamb." (January 1963) Ragtime Society 2, 5-6.
  • Eccles, William. "Mr. Ragtime Comes Home: After 50 Years, Ragtime's Pioneer Makes a Canadian Comeback." The Toronto Star Weekly (21 November 1959).
  • Freilich-Den, Marjorie. 1975. Joseph F. Lamb, A Ragtime Composer Recalled (thesis, Brooklyn College, CUNY).
  • Hutton, Jack. 1984. "Chatting with Amelia" (Nov-Dec 1984) The Ragtimer.
  • "Inside Stuff - Music." (7 October 1959) 216 Variety  65.
  • Jasen, David A. and Trebor Jay Tichenor. 1978. Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History. New York, NY: Dover Publications 122-133.
  • "Joseph Francis Lamb Dies" (1961) Second Line No. 3-4, 15.
  • Jukes, Mary. "Designers Collect Music in Ragtime" (20 July 1963) Globe & Mail 15. [articles mentions Joseph Lamb who "went to school in Berlin (now Kitchener) and composed such old-time pieces as The Humber Rag and The Muskoka Rag"].
  • Massey, D. 2001. "Unifying Characteristics in Classic Ragtime" (Fall 2001) 22 Indiana Theory Review 27-50.
  • McCarthy, Eugene. 1974. "Joseph F. Lamb: Ragtime Great Started Composing at Kitchener, Ontario" (21 October 1974) The Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Reprinted in (November/December 1974) The Ragtimer 19.
  • Montgomery, Mike. 1957 "A Visit with Joe Lamb" (December 1957) 19 Jazz Report.
  • Montgomery, Mike. 1961. "Joseph F. Lamb: A Ragtime Paradox, 1887–1960" (1961) Second Line No. 3-4, 17–18.
  • Morriss, Frank. "Visit in a Rainswept Cemetery: Ragtime Composer Recalls a Debt" (8 October 1959) Globe & Mail 15.
  • Morriss, Frank. "What's This? A Cult Among Ragtime Fans" (14 October 1959) Globe & Mail 22.
  • (Obituary): 6 Jazz Monthly (December, 1960), 16; Jazz Report, I (October, 1960), 12; Variety, CCXX (September 28, 1960), 79.
  • "Rag Composer Remembered" (Jan-Feb 1979) The Ragtimer 4-5.
  • "Ragtime Aids United Appeal" (3 October 1959) Globe & Mail 16 [describes efforts by Bob Darch to raise money to bring Joseph Lamb and his wife to a ragtime benefit in Toronto].
  • Schafer, William J. "Joseph F. Lamb: 'Sensation." (September 1975) 2 Mississippi Rag,  6-7.
  • Schafer, William J. and Johannes Riedel. 1973. The Art of Ragtime: Form and Meaning of an Original Black American Art. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Scotti, Joseph R. 1977. Joe Lamb: a Study of Ragtime’s Paradox (diss., U. of Cincinnati, 1977).
  • Scotti, Joseph R. 1985. ‘The Musical Legacy of Joe Lamb" in Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music, ed. J.E. Hasse (New York, 1985).
  • Tichenor, Trebor Jay. 1961. "The World of Joseph Lamb: An Exploration." 7 Jazz Monthly (August, 1961), 7-9; (October, 1961), 15-17; (November, 1961), 10-11; (December, 1961), 16-17.
  • Wilkes, Galen. "The Black Lamb of the Family: Joseph F. Lamb's Minstrel Shows" Vol. 1 The Ragtime Ephemeralist. Excerpt available online.

 

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