Jelly Roll Morton, Inventor Of Jazz, Online Book by Alan Lomax

with Some sheet music & lyrics.

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tough tunes. They bought sheet music just to learn the words of the songs.
This George Reynolds, that couldn't read, played for me while I sang. Of course, George was a little bit chesty, because all the girls around were making eyes at him (he was a fairly nice-looking fellow); but I thought, if this guy's the best, the other piano players must be very, very terrible. So I asked George to play me one of the numbers I was going to sing. He played it, although he didn't seem very particular about doing it. I told him, "One of these parts here you don t play right. I'd like a little more pep in it." I forget what tune it was, some popular number of that time.
"Well," he said, not knowing I could play, "If you don t like the way I'm playing, you do better/'
"Okay," I said, "If you don*t play my tunes right, I can play them myself." So I sat down and showed him his mistakes.
Immediately he had a great big broad smile on his face. Seeing that I was superior to him, he wanted to make friends with me. I didn't object and we gotten to be friends right away. He asked me did I read music. I told him a little bit. So he put different difficult numbers on the piano—he thought they were difficult, but they were all simple to me. I knew them all. By that time he started getting in touch with the different musicians around town that was supposed to be good and they started bringing me different tunes. They brought me all Scott Joplin's tunes—he was the great St. Louis ragtime composer—and I knew them all by heart and played them right off. They brought me James Scott's tunes and Louis Chauvin s and I knew them all. Then Audie Mathews (the best reader in the whole bunch) brought me his Pastimes and I played it. So he decided to find out whether I could really read and play piano and he brought me different light operas like Humor-esque, the Overture from Martha, the Miserery from III Trava-dore and, of course, I knowed them all.
Finally they brought me the Poet and the Peasant. It seems like in St. Louis, if you was able to play this piece correctly,