Taken From Life, The Pussy Cat Rag

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Zipping back to the world of cat themed sheet music today. I especially like the bit above the title – Taken From Life. What does that mean? Where are these tuneful cat choruses that I seem to have missed? (See prior post, Kitty Sextette Singers for illustrated speculation on that subject.) Referring clearly to noisy cats in the backyard, it could also refer to the seemingly real cat and dog chorus used – at least in the youtube I have supplied below. The first time I played it Blackie woke from a sound sleep and wandered over to frown at the computer which was cheerfully spewing these cat and dog sounds.

The drawing on this cover is spirited indeed – throwing not only shoes and cans (Prize brand tomato), but a stool at said kitties! Seems a bit extreme. A close look at this also shows the item throwing humans to be racist depictions of people on those fire escapes. I was surprised to find this bit of racism hidden in my new acquisition. I put it up in my office and my assistant, Farzana, said she had never encountered this before. Another colleague, who has an advanced degree in early American music, talked about history and use of such imagery. It led to a discussion of racist sheet music and cartoons. If anything she seemed more distressed when we finished than when we started. I think I will need to swap it out – perhaps for one of the sheets I keep at home which I covered in this early post Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that William Gill was born in 1839 to Manx parents – I needed to look that up and it turns out that it is those who are of The Isle of Man.  His bio neglects this ditty and focuses on Manx related music. Although he gets top billing here, Harry Taylor who wrote the words but also has the misfortune of a common name, does not seem to rate a Wikipedia entry. I was unable to locate him online. It is unclear to me what year the music was written, Will Rossiter of Chicago seems to be the publisher here, but no date.

I offer a few versions of this for comparison and there is some debate about the date of the first recording. A remark on Youtube pegs it for 1928 since Polk Miller’s group seemed to do two sets of recordings – 1909 and 1928. The first is here on Youtube:  Polk Miller & His Southern QuartetteA somewhat lesser recording is Ada Jones, 1914, in Ada Jones & The Peerless Quartet in the Pussy Cat Rag – this is the one that had Blackie going although both are sleeping through it as I play it now. How quickly kitties become jaded.

 

 

Musical Interlude

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a snowy sleety March day here at Deitch Studio and I have been rummaging around in the flat files, looking for some hidden gems in the line of sheet music, which I had a vague memory of tucking away. I was not disappointed as this splendid item jumped out at me. I know I purchased it on eBay,  but I have no memory of when or the specifics around it. I showed it in one of my first posts, Meow! Kitty Sing-a-long three years ago. Hotsy-totsy kitty illustrated here, doing his dance to a rollicking piano rag! I especially like his big tongue lolling out and the little lines of electric energy around him. That cat is taking off!

Strangely, if you search Youtube you pretty much find a pile of videos about cats on hot bricks. I didn’t watch any, despite the descriptions as hilarious. There were also several options for learning English, odd. Lastly there was just this one rendition of what we will assume this piece actually is and it does not really come across as my idea of rollicking, but you can make up your own mind if you wish here – Cat on Hot Bricks. Give a shout out if you can find a publication date and/or a better rendition!

Not surprisingly, the expression cat on hot bricks is akin to like a cat on a hot tin roof, meaning skittish, restless or anxious. Our friend Mr. Google also reveals an even earlier rendition of the expression, like a cat on a hot bake-stone (nope, doesn’t roll off the tongue, I agree) which evidently dates back to John Ray’s proverbs of 1678. Poor kitties! Cat on a hot tin roof is an expression I use frequently, but not without an unpleasant image coming to mind.

Ezra Read, the person who is credited with penning this ditty, lived from 1862 until 1922. He was born into “humble circumstances” to a master lock maker who had him and his brothers apprenticed to a blacksmith, which evidently was considered a step up. Ezra and his brothers, James, John Colley and Eber, also worked in the lock shop. However, their father found the money for piano lessons for John who in turn taught Ezra to play. John became an organist of note. Ezra married Beatrice Ida Hampton (known as Ida) who played piano and violin, and together they composed over 4000 pieces under a pile of pen names. Their biggest hit seems to be something called Cinderella Waltz (1910). How popular is questionable as I cannot find a recording of it despite the sheet music having sold millions of copies. (Although, in all fairness, this may be due to the popularity of Cinderella theme music in general.) Ezra and Ida led a somewhat itinerant life until Ida’s death in 1912 at age 45. He eventually settled in Derbyshire where he played for silent films at a local theater. At his death it is said that barrow loads of music were taken from his house. (We collectors all have visions that are a variation on this in our future!)

This fine piece is officially getting dusted off and, along with a few other gems, such as this one below featured in Felix – Here He is Again, will be framed up and brought to my new office at Jazz at Lincoln Center!

Felix sheet music

Felix sheet music, my collection, Pams-Pictorama.com