Willie the Rock Knox and Slugger Ryan were both pseudonyms for Dick Hyman when he made a series of 10" budget LPs during the honky tonk piano craze of the late 1950s. While many of the pieces on this CD compilation date from the ragtime era or were actually ragtime compositions, honky tonk differs in that it utilizes an instrument that has worn out the felt on many of the hammers, is out of tune, or both. Though Hyman was not identified on the original discs, reissue producer Bill Edwards' research confirmed his presence on all tracks, though the bassist and drummer are unknown. While a heavy dose of honky tonk piano may not appeal to ragtime purists, Hyman's inventive approach to oldies like "Darktown Strutter's Ball," Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," "Tiger Rag" and Jelly Roll Morton's "The Naked Dance" make this music worth investigating. Hyman's one original on this CD is the cheerful "New Orleans Rag," which fits in perfectly, sounding as if it was written in the early part of the 20th century. Edwards painstakingly remastered the tracks from original vinyl since master tapes were lost or unavailable, describing in detail how he achieved optimum sound in his liner notes, while reproducing many of the individual record jackets and liner notes as well. This is easily one of the best collections of music recorded during the heyday of honky tonk piano.
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