Charles L. Johnson

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A composer known for ragtime as well as American popular song standards, Charles L. Johnson did not spend as many years in Kansas City as the Missouri River. His presence can be said to have been constant…
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A composer known for ragtime as well as American popular song standards, Charles L. Johnson did not spend as many years in Kansas City as the Missouri River. His presence can be said to have been constant in the same sort of way, however. He was born there, died there, and spent the time in between keeping track of his music circulating throughout the world, often at the hands of brilliant pianists. This aspect of his career continued after his death, with performers such as the popular Max Morath regularly presenting his compositions, such as the sweet and sour "Dill Pickles."

Johnson began composing as a teenager, his earliest known published work being "Scandalous Thompson," which sounds more exciting but is less well known than "Snowshoe Thompson." He came up with more ragtime numbers than it was considered wise for one man to take credit for, so he came up with pseudonyms such as Raymond Birch, under which additional material was published. He had another motive for doing this (almost blandly typical of the music business of that era): getting around various restrictions that might have been placed on his activities by publishing contracts, in this case with Harold Rossiter. Perhaps the largest collection of his pieces to be found in one place is a recording released by pianist Miguel Pineda Van Gelder.