Kansas City’s Edward Harry Kelly became a nationally recognized ragtime composer just as ragtime became the most popular music in the country. Ragtime, jazz, and musical comedy have often been called Americans’ gifts to music. Ragtime gave birth to Dixieland music and contributed to early jazz. When ragtime is played on the piano, it has a ‘ragged’ sound because the pianist plays regular rhythmic bass with the left hand and a complex melody with the right.
Charles Johnson was one of just a few white men who studied and mastered the African American ragtime music of the turn of the twentieth century. Although his early music training was not in this type of music, he found his musical talent well suited for ragtime piano playing and composing.