John W. Boone, also known ‘Blind’ Boone, was a successful concert pianist, in spite of, or perhaps even partly due to his infirmity. His hearing and musical perception were so keen that he was able to immediately play back entire compositions after just one listen. Boone favored classical music in his programs and wrote his own compositions in a florid romantic style. However, he also pieced together some folk ragtime tunes to create his Southern Rag Medleys #1, Strains from the Alleys, and #2, Strains from the Flat Branch. As the titles suggest, Boone was acting more as a collector of folk tunes in this case rather than a composer, and so the content is especially authentic to the sources.
Rag Medley #2 is of particular interest to the development of blues styles because of the I’m Alabama Bound and So They Say segments which contain a walking bass figure, which was the closest thing in print at this time (1909) to a boogie woogie bass. The I’m Alabama Bound section is also slightly bluesy in it’s harmony.
Since Boone was indeed blind, he was not able to notate music and reportedly had to play his music for someone else to write down in order for them to be published. As a result there are rather obvious inaccuracies in the notation, in Southern Rag Medley #2 especially. Any pianist wanting to learn Medley #2 is advised to listen to Boone’s own piano roll of the same tune to get the general idea. Another piano roll that Boone made but without an accompanying score is Camp Meeting #1, which is similar in style to the rag medleys. Fortunately a transcription has been made by ragtime expert Richard Egan. Visit Richard Egan’s Discography and Publications page to order a copy.
The reprinted scores of Southern Rag Medleys #1 and #2 are included in Ragtime Rarities, compiled by Trebor Jay Tichenor.