The invention of jazz music is generally credited to the American south. But Canada also played a role in the revival of ragtime music during the 1960s, with Toronto’s Club 76 and the Canadian Ragtime Society leading the way.
These two establishments provided entertainment for thousands of Canadians, who flocked to see high-profile performers such as John Arpin and ‘Ragtime Bob’ Darch, along with many others.
The following is a small handful of essential albums from this exciting period.
John Arpin: ‘Broadway Baroque’
This virtuoso is affectionately referred to as ‘the Chopin of ragtime.’ His extensive discography covers a broad range of genres.
Arpin gave enthralling solo performances and was also occasionally backed up by orchestras. One of his compositions, ‘Jogging Along,’ was used as the theme song for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Morningside’ radio show.
‘Ragtime Bob’ Darch: ‘Gold Rush Daze’
Darch is an unsung national treasure, having played a significant role in keeping ragtime alive. He is largely remembered for booking the most talented acts for Toronto’s Club 76.
He is also credited with bringing many American ragtime legends to Canada. You can experience ‘Ragtime Bob’ at his best in the celebrated album ‘Gold Rush Daze.’
Lou Hooper: ‘Lou Hooper, Piano’
Lou Hooper’s ragtime career was based in the United States, but he was born in Ontario. He started out by performing with small Detroit bands and orchestras.
Hooper later played in a US military band, entertaining the troops during World War 1. He is credited with a number of ragtime hits and maintains a loyal fan-base to this day.
Mimi Blais: ‘Taxi!’
Mimi is a contemporary pianist and composer from Quebec, whose music has deep ragtime influences. She has produced several highly acclaimed albums, and makes regular appearances at festivals and concerts.
She is especially known for her excellent renditions of Jéan-Baptiste Lafrenière’s classic ragtime numbers. Mimi is also credited with reviving ragtime music in the 1990s with her album ‘Taxi!’