It's Saturday, March 24, 2018; 106 days until the fourteenth annual...RAGTIME TO RICHES FESTIVAL!
COME ON IN...THE MUSIC'S FINE! First Central Congregational United Church of Christ, in Omaha, NE, is the site for the fourteenth annual Ragtime to Riches Festival, scheduled to take place July 8, 2018. Proceeds from this year's festival will go to...the Great Plains Ragtime Society.
Scheduled to appear at this year's festival: FAYE BALLARD (Champaign, IL), seven-time Regular Division finalist- and now contest coordinator- at Illinois'-turned-Mississippi's World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival; DIANA STEIN (Memphis, TN), two-time Regular Division contestant at the same event; JIM BOSTON (Omaha, NE), seven-time finalist at Iowa's National Old-Time Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival and Contest.
The phone number for the Great Plains Ragtime Society is 402 556-3340. Check it out!
First Central Congregational Church's phone number is 402 345-1533.
COME REJOICING! features 21 hyms/spirituals done in ragtime: Swing Down Chariot; It's Me, It's Me, O Lord (Standing in the Need of Prayer); Bringing in the Sheaves; Faith of Our Fathers; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; This Is My Father's World; He's Got the Whole World in His Hands; Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound; God of the Ages (AKA God of Our Fathers); Kumbaya; To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King; On a Hill Far Away (AKA The Old Rugged Cross); This Little Light of Mine; For the Beauty of the Earth; Down in My Heart; That Old-Time Religion; Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation; Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me; Let Us Break Bread Together; We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder; Jesus Loves Me. (Originally an audiocassette released 2-14-1999; now available on CD since 7-8-2005)
BE ALERT FOR STRONG WINDS AND SIX WHITE HORSES gives you 16 folk songs played as rags: I've Been Workin' on the Railroad; Red River Valley; Cape Cod Girls; Kansas Boys; The Yellow Rose of Texas; Cindy; How Can I Leave Thee; Santa Lucia; Oh My Darling Clementine; Stodola Pumpa; She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain; Barbara Allen; Cape Ann; The Erie Canal; Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill; Sally in Our Alley. (Available since 7-8-2005)
LET THE "AMEN" SOUND FROM THIS OLD PIANO AGAIN: If you liked Jim's first CD, you're sure to enjoy this one, too! It's got 16 hymns/spirituals, honky-tonk style: All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name; Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above; One More River to Cross; Shall We Gather at the River; Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life; Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow; Nearer, My God, to Thee; O Worship the King; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; To God Be the Glory; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; Do Lord; This Train; O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing; When the Saints Go Marching In; Onward, Christian Soldiers. (Available since 7-8-2006)
THERE'LL BE A BUNCH OF NEW TUNES ON THIS OLD PIANO shows that Jim writes 'em, too! Here are 16 of the rags he's written since he caught the bug in 1999: I Wanna Shout; Hello There; Antiquarium Rag; Confessional Rag; Split Brains; Wild Rose Rag; Fantasy Rag; Stompin' at the Children's Museum; The Saloon; Sockhop; Totally Improvisational; Ragtime Meadowlark; James Byrd; Good Fortune; Here Comes Tinkerbell; White Oak Rag. (Available since 7-8-2006...and by the way, the front insert folds out to reveal stories of just how those rags came about!)
MERRILY, MERRILY: You don't have to be a kid to enjoy what Jim did with these 11 traditional children's songs. They include: Chopsticks; Skip to My Lou; Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt; Alouette/Frere Jacques; Eensy, Weensy Spider; Old MacDonald Had a Farm; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands; The Farmer in the Dell/Turkey in the Straw/Three Blind Mice/The Little Dog; Polly Wolly Doodle. (Available since 5-30-2009)
LOOK WHAT THIS CRAZY AMERICAN HAS DONE TO OUR SONGS! In this one, Jim takes on the classics...11 classical numbers performed as rags: Fur Elise; Sonatina (by Muzio Clementi); Joy; Country Dance (by Jacques Aubert); Clair de Lune; Scarf Dance; To a Wild Rose; Lily of the Valley; The Year's at the Spring; Humoresque; Two-Step of the Bumble Bee. (Available since 5-30-2009)
"WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME!" It's Jim's first CD featuring rags written by other composers...13 selections, in fact: Tickled to Death; Johnson Rag; Maple Leaf Rag; Tiger Rag; Mockingbird Rag; 12th Street Rag; Funny Folks; Take Me Out to Lakeside; Rag-Alley Dream; Bohemia; Hoosier Rag; Robardina Rag; The International Rag. (Available since 9-5-2014)
JIM BOSTON BACKSLIDES...well, actually, Jim tackles a church pipe organ to deliver 10 rags written by other composers: Everybody Rag with Me; Trouble; The Frisco Rag; Whoa You Heifer; Sweetheart Time; Peacherine Rag; Snowball; The Harlem Rag; A Totally Different Rag; Everybody's Rag. (Available since 9-5-2014)
Jim's CDs are $10 each, or any two for $15. Send check or money order to: Jim Boston, 1312 N. 48th Ave., #324, Omaha, NE 68132. [You can email your requests, too, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can phone Jim at 402 556-3340. (And while you're at it, check out www.cdbaby.com/jimboston.)]
Jim Boston (born 11-11-1955 in Des Moines, IA) got the ragtime bug in 1976; since then, "It's gotten easier," as he likes to put it.
Jim cites a "false start" and a "real start" when it comes to any sort of interest in the piano. The "false start" ran from 1965 to 1967, when he lived in Cedar Rapids, IA. (The music teacher at that city's Polk School, Betty Debban, had her students go to the piano in threes whenever it was time to give her students a new song to play.)
At that time, though, Jim considered the radio his favorite "instrument," with the record player a close second.
It stayed that way through 1976- nine years after Jim last touched a piano. By America's bicentennial year, he was a student at Iowa State University...and he was ready to try out for the school's talent show, "Varieties." He wanted to go in with his own rock band (as its lead singer)...but its members kept dropping out.
So, as a musical survival tool, Jim decided to give the piano another chance. The first one he wanted to touch was a beat-up Haddorff upright in the basement of Ames' Lord of Life Lutheran Church. [This early-20th-Century piano had lion's head legs, markings on the middle white keys (one of them a smiley face!), and...a horribly tinny sound. But Jim really loved playing it.]
For the next 17 years, Jim learned the ivories in this fashion. After reacquainting himself with the 88s in Ames, Jim moved to Omaha, NE in 1980, only to switch to Sioux City, IA in 1988...and following that up with a return to Omaha in 1997.
All that time, he kept looking for old uprights in church basements.
Jim also learned by watching other people play, whether in person or on TV; what's more, he listened to lots of records and tapes. And then there was "the Nike method."
That's right..."Just do it."
Jim found a musical direction in 1993, the year he started participating in Illinois' World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (He finished DEAD LAST...but still had lots of fun!)
He vowed to buckle down...and did so. Matter of fact, he earned a spot in the contest's Regular Division Top Five in 1994.
Five years later, Jim added Iowa's Old-Time Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival and Contest as a target event; he's had more success at that get-together's ragtime piano competition than at the Illinois outing. In fact, in Iowa, Jim placed third in 1999, 2000, 2004, and 2006, fourth in 2007, and fifth in 2002 and 2003.
In 1996, he started playing at nursing homes; the next year, Jim launched a nine-year stint playing those keys at the Omaha Children's Museum. (The museum had a yellow-painted Schmoller and Mueller upright from early in the 20th Century; the piano got replaced in 2001 by a 1908 Howard upright.)
Best thing Jim liked about performing at the OCM was when the children themselves (and some grown-ups) took turns showing what they could do on those ivories.
Jim helped get the Ragtime to Riches Festival started in 2005; the following year, he helped found the Great Plains Ragtime Society, a group out to run the R to R fest and to help promote old-time piano in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area. And to that end, Jim agreed to let a film crew shoot footage of him in 2009 and 2010 for "The Entertainers," a documentary about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. (The movie made its debut at the Wisconsin Film Festival on 4-20-2012, and has since gone on to win six awards at the various film festivals where the film's been shown.)
Speaking of movie...late in 2011, Jim added the title of accompanist to his resume when he got the chance to cue a showing of Buster Keaton's 1926 silent classic, "The General," at Omaha's specialty theater Film Streams.
And in 2013, Jim got involved with helping the Omaha Creative Institute bring Luke Jerram's famous "Play Me, I'm Yours" street-piano art project to the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area.
Jim says he had a ball during the two-week-long exhibit: "I saw a lot of smiling faces."
All in all, Jim Boston looks forward to every chance he's offered to play his unusual brand of old-time piano: "Just as long as I don't make Scott Joplin turn over in his grave, I'm satisfied."