GET MIDI "Back To Life" LISTEN

Performer:John Roache
Composer:Charles Hunter
Arranged by:John Roache

A classic rag by another Joplin contemporary, Charles Hunter. Rudi Blesh in his book "They All Played Ragtime" describes the life of Charles Hunter as follows:

"Charles H. Hunter of Nashville, Tennessee, is a white pioneer of rag- time whose life, by contrast with the lives of Charles Johnson and his worldly and successful [white] group, reads like that of a Negro composer. The short span of his years in some ways parallels the brief story of Louis Chauvin. One cannot say that in 1878 at Columbia Tennessee, Charles H. Hunter saw the light of day, for he was born almost totally blind. Hunter was a red-haired, freckled youth, muscular, and of medium height when he left the School for the Blind and went to work for the Jesse French Piano Company in Nashville at the piano tuner's trade which he had learned in school. Amoung the pianos he was free to learn an art, too, that of the self-taught pianist. There was no classical training, no technique of roulades and trills or intricate fingering to stand between the blind, good-natured, but keenly sensitive boy and the folk music that filled the streets of Nashville and the small hill farms that surrounded it.

"The pure strains of the people are in Charles Hunter's music, and the evocations too of the scenes his blind eyes never saw, of possum and sweet-potato feast on the rough table of the log cabin, of hunting amoung the hackberry trees, the sumacs and the aromatic sassafras on the slopes, of cotton bolls gleming white on the bushes amoung the laborers' black hands and faces.

"F.G.Fite of Nashville published Hunter's first rag in 1899. "Tickled to Death" bespeaks in its archaic and very raggy measures a genuine talent, one much akin melodically to that of Tom Turpin. This first Hunter number became very popular throughout the country and is to be found on a number of early piano rolls as well as early phonograph cylinders and disks. The fine rag, "A Tennessee Tantalizer" appeared the following year under the Nashville imprint of H.A.French. The same firm brought out two Hunter works in 1901, "'Possum and 'Taters" and "Queen of Love - Two Step". The latter number, it is true, is arranged without syncopation in the score, but it rags very easily and there is no reason to douby that as played by Hunter it was a ragtime number.

"In 1902 Charles Hunter was transfered to Jesse French's St. Louis store. The same year saw Fite's publication of his "Just Ask Me. Why We Smile". Although it may have been composed in St.Louis, it is a fine folk rag full ot Tennessee memories.

"Two years elapsed before another Hunter rag appeared, this one published by Charles K. Harris of New York. Its title "BACK TO LIFE", signalizing its composer's return to the lists, was one of bad omen otherwise, for in less than two years the gifted blind man was dead. One further tune remains from Hunter's pen. This is "Seraphine Waltzes", a 1905 Stark publication.

"Before all this, however, the free life of the St.Louis District had opened its doors for Hunter as it had for Louis Chauvin. He forsook his job to spend his time there. Led from wine room to wine room, he played for the underworld and received in return the gift of thoughtless living. Liquor and women hastened his steps down the road that Chauvin was following. Some time in 1906, Hunter straightened himself out and married, but it was too late. Tuberculosis possessed his body and that year or early in 1907, only six weeks after his marriage, he died."

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