Various Artists | Chip Deffaa's Irving Berlin Ragtime Rarities

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Chip Deffaa's Irving Berlin Ragtime Rarities

by Various Artists

An all-star New York cast performs rare ragtime-era songs (including some that have never before been recorded) by the greatest of all songwriters, Irving Berlin. Produced by ASCAP award-winner Chip Deffaa
Genre: Easy Listening: Nostalgia
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. He's a Rag Picker
Jon Peterson
2:39 $0.99
2. Ephraham Played Upon the Piano
Mary Cantoni Johnson
1:32 $0.99
3. Stop That Rag (Keep on Playing, Honey)
Dea Julien
2:15 $0.99
4. The Ragtime Jockey Man
George Franklin & Katie Buddenhagen
1:53 $0.99
5. Oh, That Beautiful Rag
Jonah Barricklo & Analise Scarpaci
3:02 $0.99
6. Alexander's Ragtime Band
Emily Bordonaro & Jeffrey Sewell
2:37 $0.99
7. Anna Liza's Wedding Day
Emily Bordonaro & Timothy Thompson
2:08 $0.99
8. Yiddle, On Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime
Kelsey McCabe
2:27 $0.99
9. Ragtime Violin!
Peter Charney
1:33 $0.99
10. When I Hear You Play That Piano, Bill!
Chloe Brooks
2:12 $0.99
11. The Whistling Rag
Desi Waters
2:19 $0.99
12. That Opera Rag
Eric Johnson
3:58 $0.99
13. That Mysterious Rag
Mary Cantoni Johnson
2:25 $0.99
14. The Haunted House
Jonah Barricklo & Mariah Hill
3:04 $0.99
15. Ragtime Mockingbird
Katherine Paulsen
1:47 $0.99
16. Everybody's Doin' It Now
Ryan Muska
2:23 $0.99
17. They've Got Me Doin' It Now
Julia Franklin
2:24 $0.99
18. The Dance of the Grizzly Bear
Mary Cantoni Johnson
2:07 $0.99
19. Sweet Marie, Make-a Rag-a-Time Dance Wid Me
Michael Townsend Wright
2:22 $0.99
20. When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam
Jack Saleeby & Emily Bordonaro
1:49 $0.99
21. Draggy Rag
Marcus Bedinger
2:29 $0.99
22. While the Band Played an American Rag
Alec Deland
1:59 $0.99
23. Ragtime Soldier Man
Dylan Adams
3:59 $0.99
24. That Dying Rag
Magnus Tonning Riise
2:01 $0.99
25. The Syncopated Walk
Matthew Nardozzi & Emily Bordonaro
2:39 $0.99
26. The International Rag
Dea Julien
2:58 $0.99
27. Mr. Jazz Himself
Jenn Spottz
2:38 $0.99
28. Everything in America Is Ragtime
Jon Peterson
3:09 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes


including never-before-recorded songs... with an All-Star New York Cast ...


Musical Numbers ... Richard Danley is the musical director/pianist on all tracks)...

1. “He’s a Rag Picker”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Jon Peterson

2. “Ephraham Played Upon the Piano” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin and Vincent Bryan) ... Mary Cantoni Johnson

3. “Stop that Rag (Keep on Playing, Honey)”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Dea Julien

4. “The Ragtime Jockey Man”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... George Franklin and Katie Buddenhagen

5. “Oh, That Beautiful Rag”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Jonah Barricklo and Analise Scarpaci

6. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Emily Bordonaro and Jeffrey Sewell

7. “Anna Liza’s Wedding Day” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Emily Bordonaro and Timothy Thompson

8. “Yiddle, on Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Kelsey McCabe

9. “Ragtime Violin!” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Peter Charney

10. “When I Hear You Play that Piano, Bill!” ... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Chloe Brooks

11. “The Whistling Rag” .... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Desi Waters

12. “That Opera Rag” ... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Eric Johnson

13. “That Mysterious Rag”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Mary Cantoni Johnson

14. “The Haunted House” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Jonah Barricklo and Mariah Hill

15. “Ragtime Mockingbird”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Katherine Paulsen

16. “Everybody’s Doin’ It Now”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Ryan Muska

17. “They’ve Got Me Doin’ it Now”... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Julia Franklin

18. “The Dance of the Grizzly Bear”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by George Botsford) ... Mary Cantoni Johnson

19. “Sweet Marie, Make-a Rag-a-time Dance Wid Me”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) ... Michael Townsend Wright

20. “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Jack Saleeby and Emily Bordonaro

21. “Draggy Rag” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Marcus Bedinger

22. “While the Band Played an American Rag” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Alec Deland

23. “Ragtime Soldier Man” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Dylan Adams

24. ”That Dying Rag”... (words by Irving Berlin, music by Bernie Adler) ... Magnus Tonning Riise

25. “The Syncopated Walk” (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Matthew Nardozzi and Emily Bordonaro

26. “The International Rag” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Dea Julien

27. “Mr. Jazz Himself” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Jenn Spottz

28. “Everything in America is Ragtime” ... (words and music by Irving Berlin) ... Jon Peterson

* * *

This album, cheerfully and appreciatively, is for Ibby.
– Chip Deffaa

* * *


A bit of background info, from the producer...

No one ever had a career quite like Irving Berlin’s. He emigrated from Russia to America as a young boy. He spoke no English when he arrived in New York City, where his family lived in dire poverty. He had little formal education, and was on his own–supporting himself as best he could--by age 13. He never learned how to read music or write music. Throughout his career, he required musical secretaries to set down on paper the songs he created–songs he could play, sing, and hum for them. And yet he became, for some 50 years, a major contributor to popular culture.

Berlin composed the scores for 18 Broadway shows and 19 Hollywood musicals. (And he did it all without an agent. He negotiated and signed his own contracts.) He wrote countless pop songs. Jerome Kern famously declared that Irving Berlin had “no place in American music–he is American music.” In the first half of the 20th century, Berlin wrote more hits–and made more money–than any other songwriter in the world.

Teddy Roosevelt was the President when Berlin published his first number in 1908. Lyndon Johnson was the President when Berlin scored his last noteworthy songwriting success, creating “An Old-Fashioned Wedding” for the 1966 Broadway revival of “Annie Get Your Gun.” And that first-rate song stopped the show; the audience just couldn’t get enough of it. (I witnessed that first-hand, greatly admiring the man and his work.) Berlin continued creating songs—if only for himself at the end--until he was 99. He died at the age of 101 in 1989, leaving a legacy of more than 1,200 songs.

The musical numbers on this album were all created within the first decade of Berlin’s fabulous career. (Most were created within the first five years!) He was young then–just in his 20s–and extraordinarily prolific. He was creating songs with abandon--flooding the marketplace with them, week after week. At any given moment, multiple numbers that he wrote or co-wrote were vying for attention. Inevitably, some fine songs simply fell through the cracks. When Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” became the great hit of 1911 (and one of the biggest successes in the history of pop music), publishers of other songs complained that it was impossible to compete with Berlin. For month after month, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was the one song heard everywhere, crowding others out of the marketplace. And Berlin, too, found it hard for some other intriguing songs he wrote that same year (from “That Dying Rag” to “Ephraham”) to gain the attention he’d hoped they might get. As often was the case, he was competing with himself!

Berlin was considered a voice of the young generation back then; to some older Americans, used to the more genteel songs of the Victorian Age, he seemed awfully fresh, impertinent. When he was coming up, some of the older, more straitlaced Americans looked down on everything connected with ragtime. They were no more interested in this brash new songwriter Berlin, who was fresh “from the gutter” (as his first publisher put it), than some older Americans of today might be interested in checking out young singer/songwriters in the rap idiom, with names like Fetty Wap or Killa Taleb. But Berlin connected well with a large proportion of the American public, and he maintained his connection for an incredibly long time. Even he was surprised by how long his career flourished.

Berlin was still at the top of his game—and still turning out hits--when, in his 60s, he completed the scores of such huge successes as the Broadway musical “Call Me Madam” and the Hollywood film musical “White Christmas.” In his final years, he withdrew from public life, living in seclusion at his home on Beekman Place in New York City. But as a songwriter, he certainly had an amazing run.

Berlin has always been–along with George M. Cohan, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwins–one of my all-time favorite songwriters. And I’ve always taken inspiration from his rags-to riches life-story. I’ve written five different published shows about Berlin. (All are available for licensing.) And I’ve shared his life story in talks, lectures, and clinics I’ve given everywhere from Paterson, New Jersey, to Moscow, Idaho, to Seoul, Korea.

Berlin created some richly rewarding songs at every stage of his career. But I’ve always had a special fondness for his early work–the vitality, the freshness, the ardor! He wasn’t as smooth and polished a writer as he would later become. But, oh! His best early songs were irresistibly infectious. There was a playfulness, and a swagger, and an impudence in much of his early work that I just love.

This album (which is being distributed in the US exclusively by CDBaby) is a celebration of Berlin’s very earliest work. These are representative songs he wrote or co-wrote during the Ragtime Years. This album includes some very rare songs. Oh, I’ve also included a few famous songs, just for the sake of variety. But most of the songs in this collection will be brand new to most listeners.

There are some Ragtime Era songs here that have never before been recorded, like “Sweet Marie, Make-a Rag-a-time Dance Wid Me,” “Anna Liza’s Wedding Day,” “The Haunted House,” “Ephraham Played Upon the Piano,” and “When I Hear You Play that Piano, Bill!”

There are other songs that might have been recorded just once--by a single artist more than a century ago--that have gone essentially unheard since their initial release; songs like “The Ragtime Jockey Man,” “Ragtime Mockingbird,” “That Opera Rag,” and “The Whistling Rag.” They’re now getting their first recordings in a century or more!

There are some other rare songs–personal favorites of mine–that I’ve previously included in shorter form in shows about Berlin that I’ve written/directed, songs that are finally being done in complete, uncut form here.

Some of these numbers are such great fun, they really deserve to be much better known. Oh, I’m not going to claim that all of the songs here are masterpieces. Some are great, some are good; some are more like curios, novelties. But there’s certainly lots to enjoy here. And these songs open a window onto another time... the Ragtime Years.

I’m proud of our cast of performers. Some are seasoned pros from the worlds of Broadway, Off-Broadway, film, and TV—artists like Jon Peterson, Michael Townsend Wright, Eric Johnson, Desi Waters…. Some are younger veterans of Broadway shows and national tours--like Matthew Nardozzi, Dea Julien, Analise Scarpaci, George Franklin….

I’ve got actors, young and old, who’ve been standouts in shows of my own in New York City--Emily Bordonaro, Jonah Barricklo, Mary Cantoni Johnson, Chloe Brooks, Jack Saleeby…. And artists-to-watch who are just making names for themselves via work in clubs, in shows, and on recordings–like Magnus Tonning Riise, Dylan Adams, Jeffrey Sewell, Jenn Spottz, Alec Deland, Peter Charney, Julia Franklin, Ryan Muska, and more.... I appreciate all of the members of my theatrical family, young and old. They work with zest, and open hearts, and get well into the spirit of this music.

This is the 23rd album I’ve produced, and the 10th relating to Irving Berlin. It’s gratifying to me that there’s an audience for this music. In presenting tributes to Berlin–whether I’m mounting musical productions on stage or producing albums like this–my aim is always to both entertain and to educate. After performances of shows that I’ve staged celebrating Berlin, I’ll often hold talkbacks, so audience members can ask any questions they’d like about Berlin and the roots of American popular music. (Sometimes experts in the audience, like Michael Biel, will add to my store of knowledge with their comments.) And even after the formal talkbacks are over, audience members will come up, seeking autographs, and telling me which songs particularly spoke to them.

And whether I’m signing autographs for someone who’s younger (like, say, Maya Echevarria, who’s a student) or older (like Jhon Marshall, a retired director who’s bought a copy of every album I’ve released), I get a kick out of being part of this process. I’m remembering helpful experts on Berlin’s music, now gone, from whom I learned a lot when I was younger–like John Wallowitch, Jack Gottlieb, James T. Maher, Bob Dahdah. And I’m remembering sitting in front of the TV as a youth, and recording–with my Wollensak tape-recorder–the “live” all-star celebration of Berlin’s 80th birthday, hosted by Ed Sullivan. And buying sheet music of rare, never-recorded Berlin songs, like “The Ragtime Jockey Man,” and wondering, way back then, what they sounded like. I was dying to know.

I’m grateful I get to do work like this, which I really love, with people I love, today.

* * *

The singers and the songs...

1. George Burns used to tell me words to this effect: If you’re putting together a show, the most important thing is to have a strong start and a strong finish. Well, I couldn’t think of a stronger way to start this album or to close it than with performances by Jon Peterson. For my money, there’s no greater song-and-dance man working in the theater today. And he gets things rolling with a spirited Berlin rarity from 1914 that will surely be new to virtually all listeners today, “He’s a Rag Picker.” Peterson projects irresistible joie de vivre.

Originally from England, Peterson trained with the Royal Ballet and performed in many shows on the West End before finally making his way to the US.

As I write these notes, Peterson is criss-crossing the U.S., starring as the Emcee in the 2017 national tour of “Cabaret.” He starred as the Emcee in the 2000-2001 national tour of “Cabaret,” as well. And he’s covered the role on Broadway. He’s just brilliant as the Emcee–as good as it gets.

In addition, for more than a decade, on-and-off, Peterson has starred in productions of my show “George M. Cohan Tonight!”–portraying that quintessential American entertainer everywhere from New York, to New Orleans, to Hollywood, to London, and beyond. (Peterson became an American citizen while portraying Cohan on stage for me in New York. I had the pleasure of announcing to the audience, after Peterson’s performance that night, that he’d become an American citizen that day.)

I managed to get Peterson into the studio to record “He’s a Rag Picker” just after we’d gotten back from Seoul, Korea, where he was doing “George M. Cohan Tonight!,” and just before he went to work on the current tour of “Cabaret.” As I write these notes, he’s performing “Cabaret” in St. Louis. Who know what city he may be performing in when this CD is released in a few months? But Jon loves his life “out on the road”–and promises he’ll be back in the studio to record more Berlin rarities as soon as he gets a few days off in the current tour.

2. “Ephraham Played Upon the Piano” was written by Irving Berlin for Fanny Brice, who introduced it in the Ziegfeld Follies. (Incidentally, it was Brice’s brilliant performance of another Berlin song–“Sadie Salome, Go Home”–that brought her to the attention of Ziegfeld in the first place. So it was only natural that Ziegfeld wanted Berlin to write more for her.) Brice never got around to recording “Ephraham.” (And neither did anyone else back then, for that matter.) If you wanted to hear the song, you had to buy a ticket and see Brice perform it in person in the Follies.

The indomitable Mary Cantoni Johnson, who’s portrayed Brice so vividly in my show “One Night with Fanny Brice” in New York (and elsewhere), has the honor of being the first person to ever record “Ephraham.” I love Johnson’s singing generally–her work in “One Night with Fanny Brice” is masterly--and she and this song are a good “fit.”

In her career, Johnson has played many of the great roles in musical theater. Over the years she has starred, at one venue or another, in such shows as “Gypsy,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “My Fair Lady,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Man of La Mancha,” and “Evita.” But there’s no show she enjoys doing more than “One Night with Fanny Brice.” And when I invited her to record “Ephraham,” she loved the idea of being the first person to ever record this Fanny Brice specialty.

3. The infectious “Stop that Rag” is one of my favorites out of all of Berlin’s Ragtime Era numbers. And I can’t imagine anyone singing it with greater authority than Dea Julien, who puts it over with aplomb here. Dea Julien is a terrific talent–one of very few actors I’ve worked with who is equally strong at both musicals (like “West Side Story”–she did the last national tour, directed by Arthur Laurents) and straight dramatic plays (like “Intimacy,” which she co-starred in, Off-Broadway). She was a key performer in my musical comedy “The Seven Little Foys” at the Schimmel Center in New York City, and she’s also done assorted readings and recordings for me. It’s always a joy to get her into the recording studio. We’ll be hearing more from her, I’m sure, in this series of albums of rare Irving Berlin songs.

4. “The Ragtime Jockey Man” is a really cute Berlin number. It was recorded only once–by Maurice Burkhart and the Peerless Quartet, back in 1912. I’ve owned the rare sheet music for years. I was waiting to find just the right person or persons to record this song. I was delighted when George Franklin--whose work I’ve admired since I first saw him on Broadway in “A Christmas Story”--and Katie Buddenhagen--his longtime friend and frequent singing partner (personality aplenty!)--agreed to do it. They have such good chemistry together. (I loved the medley of “I Like It”/”You’d Be Surprised” they recorded for me, for a previous album in this series, “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.”) I gave them copies of the sheet music and asked them to create their own vocal arrangement--which they did, turning this solo number into a charming duet.

5. “Oh, That Beautiful Rag” (words by Irving Berlin, music by Ted Snyder) is one of the loveliest of the early Berlin/Snyder collaborations. The song is a great favorite of mine. I included a shorter version--just the chorus, no verses--as a group number in my show “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue.” But I wondered how it might sound as a duet for that dapper singer/tap-dancer Jonah Barricklo--who’d been in my “Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue” and often works with me; he’s just great--and Analise Scarpaci--whose terrific singing I’ve appreciated so much both on Broadway (“A Christmas Story,” “Matilda”) and on YouTube videos. I asked them if they’d like to record this duet. They were both game. Jonah and I helped teach the song to Analise. And they went for it! I think their recording is delightful.

“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was one of the most enduringly popular songs Irving Berlin ever wrote. My great-grandmother recalled “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” becoming a hit three different times in her lifetime: in 1911, when the song first came out; in 1938, when the film musical of the same name and a popular recording by Connee Boswell and Bing Crosby helped revive the song; and in 1947, when Al Jolson and Bing Crosby’s performances of the song on the radio and on a million-selling Decca record, brought it back big once again. But I learned, when we included “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” as an ensemble number in my show “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” there are still plenty of people in today’s audiences for whom the song is brand new. And there’s always room for a new rendition.

For this album, I invited two of the best younger singers working today--Emily Bordonaro and Jeffrey Sewell–to team up. This is the first time they’ve ever recorded together--and I sure hope it won’t be the last, because their voices complement each other beautifully. I have to thank Broadway star Andrew Keenan-Bolger (of “Newsies” and “Tuck Everlasting” renown) for calling Jeffrey Sewell to my attention when Sewell was just a promising youth making videos at his home up in Massachusetts; he’s become a key member of my repertory group, singing on one album after another, including “Irving Berlin & Co.,” “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” and “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.” As for Emily Bordonaro, I simply don’t know anyone her age with better pipes. Its always a joy to work with her, whether on stage or in the studio. I’m delighted that she’s represented by several different recordings on this album.

7. The sprightly “Anna Liza’s Wedding Day” is something of a find–a catchy, cheerfully exuberant, old-fashioned musical number by a very young Irving Berlin that can still put a smile on listeners’ faces, more than a century after it was written. It’s never before been recorded. (A lot of fine Berlin numbers went unrecorded back then. Berlin didn’t much care. In the Ragtime Era, sales of sheet music were greater than sales of records in America, and were a more important source of revenue for songwriters. And no one was selling more sheet music, overall, than Berlin.)

Emily Bordonaro and Timothy Thompson have the honor of making the premiere recording of “Anna Liza’s Wedding Day.” And their youthful high-spirits serve the material well. Bordonaro and Thompson were both in my show “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” which broke box-office records at the 13th Street Theater; but although they sang on group numbers in that show and on the cast album, and also on the album “Irving Berlin & Co.,” they’ve never before sung a duet together. I figured it was time to rectify that situation. And “Anna Liza’s Wedding Day” is fun! (Incidentally, for those who are curious about such things... although both of these recording artists like these older songs and sing them with great zest, they both also like contemporary music. Emily Bordonaro records contemporary originals under the stage name of “Emily Victoria”; and I first discovered Timmy Thompson in a production of Jonathan Larson’s rock-opera “Rent”; he did a superb job playing “Angel.”)

Reviewer Rob Lester, writing an overview of my work as a playwright, director, and producer in the March 2017 issue of “Cabaret Scenes” magazine, noted that in my shows and on the albums I produce, youthful voices sometimes “add the kind of appropriately unspoiled enthusiasm for plucky vaudeville numbers... that might sound coy if approached by vocalists more sophisticated and polished..” I think he’s got that exactly right.

I might add that younger artists, giving 100%, will sometimes produce more satisfying results than jaded older players who are “just doing another job.” I recently went to a secondary-school production of the musical “The Adams Family,” and Lawson Saby and some other youths in the cast performed with more conviction than some of the older journeymen actors I saw in the national tour of that same show, and actually gave more fulfilling performances.

8. “Yiddle, on Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime” (from 1909) is sung by Kelsey McCabe. A New York-based performer, McCabe studied musical theater at the prestigious Elon University. She’s no stranger to Berlin’s music; she’s not only starred in a production of his show “Annie Get Your Gun,” she’s also made the very first recording of his song “Call Again”--a duet with Broadway’s Charlie Franklin), which may be found on a previous album in this series, “Irving Berlin Revisited.” Like many talented people I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the years–including Missy Dreier, Jillian Wipfler, Jack Saleeby, Michael Herwitz, Ian Palmer, Hawkins Gardow, Gabriella Green, Alec Deland–Kelsey McCabe is also an alum of the famed theatrical camp Stagedoor Manor; they train actors well there.

9. “Ragtime Violin!” gets a fine, true reading from Peter Charney, who’s been an invaluable member of my theatrical family for a decade. Charney originated the role of “Eddie Foy Jr.” in my musical comedy “The Seven Little Foys.” He may be heard on the cast album of that show, as well as on such albums as “The Chip Deffaa Songbook” and “Irving Berlin & Co.” He’s also done readings for me, and he’s served as Assistant Director on such shows of mine as “Theater Boys” and “Irving Berlin’s America.” I’ve enjoyed seeing him, as an actor, featured in productions of musicals ranging from “Oliver” to “Fiddler on the Roof.” He’s currently collaborating with Jack Saleeby (who’s heard on track 20) on a new musical.

10. “When I Hear You Play that Piano, Bill!” .... In this 1910 ditty, Berlin has the gal in the song enthusing to her piano-playing beau: “When you start in tearing rag by the streak, / I could hear you play that box for a week, / For it does most anything but speak, / When you play that piano, Bill.” Berlin knew: Who could resist a guy passionately playing ragtime?

This rare Berlin song is recorded now, for the first time ever, by Chloe Brooks, who’s also graced my “Irving Berlin Songbook” CD…. In the script for my show “One Night with Fanny Brice” (published/licensed by Leicester Bay Theatricals), I give a special appreciative shout-out to “the astonishing Chloe Brooks,” who’s performed that show of mine many times, off-and-on, over a period of several years, and still dazzles me each time she does it.

I remember vividly the day Chloe Brooks showed up, out of the blue, to audition for “One Night with Fanny Brice.” I was searching for a possible eventual successor to Mary Cantoni Johnson, who was then starring brilliantly in the show but--due to other obligations–could not stay in the production indefinitely. When Brooks walked in to our open-call audition, I told her she appeared far too young; the role required a mature, seasoned actress, and Brooks was then still in high school. (One of her high-school teachers, incidentally, happened to be a granddaughter of Irving Berlin–good karma!) I said I’d let her audition simply as a courtesy--but I couldn’t imagine any teenager being able to execute that demanding role. However, Brooks’ audition was so startlingly strong–one of the best auditions I’ve ever witnessed in my life--I told her immediately that, despite her youth, she could serve as Mary Cantoni Johnson’s understudy, and take over the role if/when Johnson chose to leave the production. Brooks quickly learned that challenging 60-page script; and eventually, when Johnson moved on, she took over the role in New York. She found her own take on the role–completely different from Mary Cantoni Johnson’s, but equally satisfying in its own way. I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of different actresses do my show “One Night with Fanny Brice,” in productions in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, the Catskills, Virginia, etc. But Chloe Brooks, Mary Cantoni Johnson–they’re in a class by themselves; they do the show better than anyone else. I hope they both get to do productions in all different places, as opportunities may arise, for years to come.

11. Berlin’s “Whistling Rag,” from 1911, is put across with verve by Desi Waters. TV viewers have seen her on “Sesame Street,” “Speak from the I,” and “CityKids.” She’s sung at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall. Her stage credits include “Speakeasy” (Theater for a New City), “Searching for Peace” (Lucille Lortel Theater), “Die!” (Manhattan Rep), and “Fame” (European tour). And I’m always glad when I get a chance to work with her. I
wanted her for my last production of my show “Mad About the Boy” but the timing didn’t work out. I hope to include her in a future production.

12. “That Opera Rag” was written by Berlin in 1910 for one of Booth Tarkington’s shows, which was initially titled “Mrs. Jim” during out-of-town tryouts; the show’s title was changed to “Getting a Polish” by the time it opened on Broadway. “That Opera Rag” is recorded here, for the first time in history, by Eric Johnson, who’s appeared in such Broadway shows as “Aspects of Love,” “Chess,” and “For Me and My Girl,” and in such Off-Broadway shows as “Ruthless” and “The Consuming Passions of Lydia Pinkham & Reverend Sylvester Graham.” He was also heard on a previous album in this series, “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” singing with assurance “Cohen Owes Me $97.00.”

13. “That Mysterious Rag,” written by Irving Berlin and Ted Snyder in 1911, was an international hit in its day. It is sung in full here–complete and uncut–by Mary Cantoni Johnson, who sings the song in shorter form in my musical play “One Night with Fanny Brice.” (You can hear how she does it in the show on the recently released cast album.) I’ve enjoyed hearing Mary Cantoni Johnson sing this song many times in performances of “One Night with Fanny Brice.” And I hope I get to hear her sing it many more times, as she takes the show to other venues. In “One Night with Fanny Brice,” she never gets to sing the verses to this song, only the refrain–that’s all that’s needed for the dramatic purposes of the show. (And when she sings “Are ya listenin’, are ya listenin’?,” you listen!) But Berlin’s lyrics for the rarely heard verses are so intricate and intriguing--and Johnson is so fond of this unusual song--I invited her to record the entire number for this album.

14. There’s a reason I’ve programmed Berlin’s “The Haunted House” right after his earlier hit “That Mysterious Rag.” If you listen carefully to his lyrics, you’ll note he suggests that the house is haunted by, among other things, the spirit of the fellow who wrote–in that very same house–the song “That Mysterious Rag”! And Berlin’s lyrics briefly echo those of the earlier song (“Listen! Listen! / Tell me, can’t you hear him whistling / ‘That Mysterious Rag’....”).

[Making the first-ever recording of “The Haunted House” are the ebullient Jonah Barricklo and Mariah Hill. They sounded so good, performing “Mandy” together on my last album in this series, “Irving Berlin Rediscovered,” I wanted to include another sample of their work here. They have a great rapport, and I hope to record them together again on future albums. Besides working together with me, they’ve also worked together in Wingspan Arts productions in NYC, with music-director Brett Kristofferson.

15. The rare “Ragtime Mockingbird”–which was recorded just once (by one Dolly Connolly), the year that Berlin wrote it, 1912--is performed cheerfully here by singer/actress Katherine Paulsen. Educated at Yale, she’s a member of the Actors’ Project in NYC. She’s been heard on such albums as “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” “Irving Berlin & Co.,” and “The Chip Deffaa Songbook.” She was featured in my show “Mad About the Boy” at the 13th Street Theater in NYC, and may also be heard on that show’s original cast album which has just been released.

16. Irving Berlin’s memorable “Everybody’s Doin’ It Now” (sung here by Ryan Muska) was a big hit in 1912. As Berlin explained to a contemporary interviewer, the words “everybody’s doin’ it” and the accompanying notes came to him all at once, out of the blue. That year, people all across America were singing: “Everybody’s doin’ it, doin’ it, doin’ it....” But what exactly did the words “everybody’s doin’ it” mean? Berlin merely responded: “As a line that suggests something, it is unlimited in possibilities....That was the great catch line of that song... the spark of the song.” Lydia Barry sang the song with gusto at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway. Arthur Collins, Byron Harlan, Arthur Pryor, and the Peerless Quartet made popular recordings in 1912. In later years, this number helped enliven such movies as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (starring Alice Faye), “The Fabulous Dorseys” (starring Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey), and “Easter Parade” (starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire). It makes he happy to hear it again.

I like the youthful spirit of Ryan Muska’s singing, and the great joy he takes in singing (which is his gift). I’ve relished seeing him star in productions of “Urinetown,” “Catch Me if You Can,” and “Pippin.” (He was about as perfect a “Pippin” as I could ever hope to see.) He’s sung on such albums of mine as “The Chip Deffaa Songbook,” “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” and “Irving Berlin Revisited.” With more to come. He always brings a good vibe to the recording studio.

17. “They’ve Got Me Doin’ it Now” was Berlin’s follow-up to his great hit “Everybody’s Doin’ it Now.” And while sequels are almost never as good as the originals, this is a fun song in its own right–an “unknown” song that is well worth hearing again. And Los Angeles-based actress Julia Franklin just sparkles, singing it. She’s done Irving Berlin’s musical “White Christmas”--among assorted other shows--regionally. A graduate of Pace University, Julia Franklin’s as good-looking as she is talented. Along with her performing brothers George and Charlie, sister Emily Louise, and mother Lisa–she’s a member of the remarkable Franklin theatrical family. On an earlier album in this series, “Irving Berlin Revisited,” she delivered a smart, showmanly performance of Berlin’s “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I hope to get her into the studio again, the next time she’s in from L.A.

18. Oh, I love “The Dance of the Grizzly Bear” (which is sung here by Mary Cantoni Johnson). A 21-year-old Irving Berlin set these fascinating lyrics to a melody by George Botsford (1874-1949), early in 1910, and the results were magical. Berlin could often be self-deprecating, kvetching that he didn’t have the formal education or the sophistication of some other songwriters he admired. And, in later years, he was often especially critical of his early efforts, suggesting he was just a poor kid from the streets learning his craft. But his best work–right from the start of his career–remains fresh and vivid, and compels our attention, more than a century later. Consider these lyrics from “The Dance of the Grizzly Bear”: “If they do that dance in heaven, / Shoot me, hon, tonight at seven. / Hug up close to your baby, / sway me everywhere; / You and me is two, / I’ll make it one when we get through, / Doin’ the Grizzly Bear.” Those lyrics are smart, surprising, sexy, and irresistible. Performers from Sophie Tucker to Mae West relished doing “The Grizzly Bear” in vaudeville. (Even in her golden years–some six decades later--Mae West could still pull out this beloved number for a special occasion.)

When I first wrote “One Night with Fanny Brice,” “Doing the Grizzly Bear” was part of the score. If you happened to have caught Mary Cantoni Johnson doing an early production of the show up in Connecticut (for the Phoenix Stage)–before the show opened in New York–you would have heard her singing this number. But the show was a little longer than I liked; I had to make some cuts. And, as much as I loved “The Grizzly Bear,” the song had to go. If you saw Mary Cantoni Johnson doing “One Night with Fanny Brice” in New York City, or if you saw her do the show elsewhere since then, the song was not part of the score. And it’s not on the cast album we’ve made. But I always loved the way Johnson performed this number, and I’m glad she’s getting a chance to perform it here.

And who knows... maybe the next time Johnson does a production of “One Night with Fanny Brice” somewhere or appears in concert, you can get her to do “The Grizzly Bear” as an encore. It’s a great, great song and she sings it with panache..

19. “Sweet Marie, Make-a Rag-a-time Dance Wid Me”–in which an immigrant fellow is trying to persuade his gal to do the up-to-date ragtime dance that the young Americans do--gets its first-ever recording by Michael Townsend Wright. My association with the wonderfully versatile Wright--whose career includes work in legitimate theater, film, TV, and burlesque--goes back 25 years. Wright was—among many other credits—a regular on television’s “The Uncle Floyd Show”; comedian Joey Faye’s last burlesque partner; a guest star on TV programs ranging from “Emergency” to “The Naked Brothers Band”; an actor in such motion pictures as “The Rat Pack,” “Scorcher,” and “Lansky”; and the star of several musical productions of mine. Michael Townsend Wright’s love of Berlin’s music is hardly new; he wrote to Berlin himself of it! Wright has been heard on such albums as “Irving Berlin’s America,” “The Seven Little Foys,”“The Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Presenting Fanny Brice,” “The Chip Deffaa Songbook,” “Irving Berlin & Co.,” “The George M. Cohan Revue,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” and “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.”

20. “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” is one of Irving Berlin’s all-time great songs. I first fell in love with this number when I saw Judy Garland and Fred Astaire perform it in the classic Berlin film musical “Easter Parade.” And my parents had a recording of the number by Tommy Dorsey and his Clambake Seven that was kind of fun, too. Putting the song over with elan, here, are two of my favorite younger performers, Jack Saleeby and Emily Bordonaro, who’ve done assorted shows, reading, and recordings with me. I love hearing their voices together. (You can also hear them together, singing “Simple Melody”/”Musical Demon” on the last album in this series, “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.”) They’ve both appeared in productions of my “Seven Little Foys,” as well. Saleeby and Bordonaro–along with such other key artists on this album as Peter Charney, Matt Nardozzi, and Mary Cantoni Johnson–have roots in Connecticut theater. As do assorted other valued members of my theatrical family who are not on this particular album but have recorded memorably for me in the past--and hopefully will record again, when opportunities arise--such as Bailey Cummings, Jillian Wipfler, Devon Eddy, Brianna Leigh Smail, Nina Paganucci. As theater reviewer Nancy Sasso Janis has noted, it’s a tribute to the vibrancy of Connecticut’s theater scene that so many of my performers got their start in shows in Connecticut, learning from such pro’s as directors Sharon A. Wilcox and Foster Evans Reese, and music director/vocal coach Marianna Vagnini-Dadamo (who taught their charges well). Bordonaro studies with Tony Award-winner Betty Buckley (none better!) today. Saleeby, a recent graduate of Hofstra University working as an actor/writer/director in New York, is currently working with Peter Charney (heard on track nine) on a new musical, “Bright and Brave.”

21. Berlin’s languorous “Draggy Rag” was published in 1910, but was not recorded back then. I included a shorter rendition of the song as a group number in my show “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” and the recording we made for the cast album was the first recording ever made of that number. I like the song a lot, and thought it also deserved a solo recording, complete and uncut; but was not sure who might sing it. Then I went to see Marcus Bedinger perform at the Duplex in New York City. It was the evening that I arrived back from Korea, where I’d directed a production of one of my shows; I made it to the Duplex from the airport–breathless, jetlagged--just in time to meet a friend, director Angie Thacker, and catch Bedinger’s show. I appreciate that lovely voice of his. (His career began with him singing solos in church as a young boy of 11. His vocal abilities helped earn him a full scholarship to Bowling Green State University, where he won their annual art-song competition.) And as I listened to his sensitive, soulful interpretations of early 20th century material by William Grant Still and others, I knew I wanted him to record “That Draggy Rag.” I’m glad he said yes

22. “While the Band Played an American Rag”.... It was 1915. Europe was immersed in the first World War. America was still hoping it could avoid being drawn into the conflagration. A young Irving Berlin optimistically wrote “While the Band Played an American Rag”–fantasizing that the warring nations, realizing that they all shared a love for American ragtime, could somehow set aide their differences. Of course, that was not to be. And before long, America would be sending its troops “over there.” (And this song–an artifact of a very specific point in time–would not survive.) But it was an appealing dream on Mr. Berlin’s part, back when American’s still hoped to avoid “The Great War.”

Alec Deland offers an engagingly chipper rendition of “While the Band Played an American Rag.” I like his singing. I just got back from seeing him starring in a production on “Les Miz”–which I enjoyed more than any other production of the show I’ve seen to date (and I’ve seen that show far too many times). I’m remembering, too, the first time I chanced to see him on stage, co-starring with Gabriella Green in a production of “Mack and Mabel” at Stagedoor Manor in the Catskills; I was so impressed with them both, I created a 10-minute musical sketch especially for them, “A Stagedoor Kind of Love.” (You can hear them perform with flair that special material on the album “The Chip Deffaa Songbook.”) Alec Deland has also sung on such albums of mine as “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” and “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.” He has a bright future.

23. “Ragtime Soldier Man” is performed with characteristic purity of spirit by Dylan Adams.
When he arrived to audition for one of shows, a few years back, I had him sing song after song. Not because I needed to hear more to evaluate his talent–I knew as soon as he’d sung eight bars that I was going to offer him a job–but because I just loved that sincere, innocent sound of his. I treasure Dylan Adams’ singing. He’s been featured previously on such albums as “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” and “Irving Berlin Rediscovered.”

24. ”That Dying Rag” is such a beautiful song, and Magnus Tonning Riise has such a beautiful voice, I wanted to bring the two together. Riise, who demonstrated his sensitive way with a Berlin ballad by singing “Lady of the Evening” on the “Irving Berlin Songbook” album and “Tell Me, Pretty Gypsy” on the “Irving Berlin Rediscovered” album, sings “That Dying Rag” tenderly here. Originally from Ilseng, Norway, Riise is a recent transplant to NYC. I’m indebted to Brady Chin for connecting me with Riise, who’s quickly winning a following via his appearances at clubs like Feinstein’s/54 Below and Birland, and his recordings. He’s got a sound and style all his own.

25. “The Syncopated Walk” is rendered here with appealing offhand charm by Matthew Nardozzi and Emily Bordonaro. Oh, I always love working with these two, separately or together. It’s not just that they’re both talented, they’re both good-natured, easy to work with. Their youthful enthusiasm and kindness are nice to be around. And they have such a good rapport together. She sounds like the girl next door; he, like the boy next door. And there’s a warmth between them, offstage and on. They played brother and sister when we did my “Seven Little Foys” at the York Theater in NYC. And they’ve both worked with me many times, over the years. (I was particularly delighted with recording they made last year of my song “All-American Sweetheart,” which opens the album “The Chip Deffaa Songbook.”) Emily’s won “The Betty Buckley Award.” Matt’s got Broadway and Hollywood credits, and has won the national “Young Artist Award.” And as we go to press, he’s just won the “Young Entertainer Award” in Hollywood for his work in my show “Irving Berlin’s America.”

26. “The International Rag” was a huge international success the year Berlin wrote it, 1913. And Berlin revived the song in his 1954 Hollywood musical, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Dea Julien got to sing it as a group number when she was in my show “The Seven Little Foys,” and also on the original demo recordings that we made for the show. I’m delighted to have her sing this classic Berlin rag–solo--now.

27. Always keeping up with the trends, Berlin wrote the timely “Mr. Jazz Himself” in the same year that the very first jazz record was made, 1917. “Jazz” was the latest thing. “The Jazz Age” was coming. And the Ragtime Era would soon be but a memory. “Mr. Jazz Himself” is the newest song on this album. No one recorded it back in 1917. But it’s a charming transitional song–a hint of things to come. (I first learned of this little-known number–long before I acquired the sheet music--from my friend, ragtime pianist/entertainer Max Morath, whose knowledge of early 20th century music is encyclopedic. I’ve learned so much from that wonderful man,) Jenn Spottz puts this song over with great flair. I love Jenn Spottz’s singing. She’s enhanced such albums of mine as “Irving Berlin Rediscovered,” “Irving Berlin Revisited,” “Irving Berlin &Co.,” and “The Chip Deffaa Songbook.” And I’ll record her, any chance I get. She’s studying at Northwestern University, part of a remarkable group of theater students they currently have there, including Maxwell Beer, Michael Herwitz, and Gabriella Green. She’ll go far.

28. “Everything in America is Ragtime,” from 1916, is arguably the last great ragtime number Berlin wrote. Oh, some of his later efforts in that vein–like his topical 1919 number “The Revolutionary Rag”-- are clever or cute. However, they’re not really top-drawer Berlin. But this song, which Berlin wrote for the insouciant French star, Gaby Deslys–who was the toast of New York at the time–is excellent, a spirited summing-up of the whole Ragtime Era, which would soon be gone.

And I’m glad my favorite living song-and-dance man, Jon Peterson, gets to put this number over. For a moment it feels as if, once again, everything in America is indeed ragtime.

– CHIP DEFFAA, March 2017

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CHIP DEFFAA (producer/writer/arranger) is the author of 16 published plays and eight published books, and the producer of 20 albums. For 18 years he covered entertainment, including music and theater, for The New York Post. He is a graduate of Princeton University and a trustee of the Princeton "Tiger" magazine. He wrote and directed such Off-Broadway successes as "George M. Cohan Tonight!" and "One Night with Fanny Brice." His shows have been performed everywhere from London to Edinburgh, to Seoul. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, and ASCAP. He’s won the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, the IRNE Award, and a New Jersey Press Association Award. Please visit:

RICHARD DANLEY (music directorUSE /pianist) is Chip Deffaa's first choice among music directors and has worked on many shows and/or albums of Deffaa's, including "Irving Berlin's America," “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” "One Night with Fanny Brice," "The Seven Little Foys," "George M. Cohan Tonight!," “Mad About the Boy,” “Irving Berlin: In Person,” “The Irving Berlin Songbook,” and "Theater Boys." Danley has performed everywhere from daytime dramas on television, to cruise ships, to clubs, to Carnegie Hall. He is on the faculty of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA).

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Chip Deffaa has written five different musical plays celebrating Irving Berlin. All are available for licensing. “Irving Berlin: In Person” is a one-man play. “Irving Berlin’s America” is a two-character play. “Irving Berlin & Co.” is a biographical musical written for 12 or more players. “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” featuring more than 40 ragtime songs, is a revue written for 10-14 players. “The Irving Berlin Story” is a full-sized biographical musical, written for 24 or more players.

Playwright/director/producer Chip Deffaa is represented by The Fifi Oscard Agency (attention: Peter Sawyer, President), 1440 Broadway, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10018, Email:, tel. (212) 764-1100.

For additional information on any of Deffaa’s shows, please feel free to contact Chip Deffaa Productions LLC, 50 Quartz Lane, Paterson, NJ 07501-3345, telephone: 973-684-3340; Email:;

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Our thanks for the help provided, in various ways, by Carol Channing, Stephen Bogardus, Alex and Alec Deland, Matthew Broderick, Ellis Gage, Lee Roy Reams, Jeremiah Cruz, Deborah Deffaa, Jeff-Bob Issa, Max Deffaa, C. M. Heinzelman, Jed Peterson, Yunis Alibrahimi, Adam Barki, Louis Deffaa Sr., C. Hernandez, Josh Schaller, Ava Schaller, Mohammed Hammad, Logan Saby, Lawson Saby, Victor Calatayud, Adrian Carbajal, Brick Greenbean, Hassam Al-Hussan, the late John Wallowitch, the late Jack Gottlieb, the late Bob Dahdah, and Prince Julius Taibor, Connecticut Department of Inspiration. Public relations assistance by Abraheem Abdelhaq. Music preparation by Don Brown and Richard Danley; graphic design by Frank Avellino; all work completed for Chip Deffaa on a work-made-for-hire basis.


Chip Deffaa’s “Irving Berlin: Ragtime Rarities” (p) and © 2017 by Chip Deffaa.

If you’ve enjoyed this album, you might also enjoy these 19 other Chip Deffaa albums (available from,, iTunes, etc.): “Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin Rediscovered,” “The Chip Deffaa Songbook,” “Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin Revisited,” “Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin Songbook: Rare and Unrecorded Songs,” “The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue,” “George M. Cohan Tonight!,” “Irving Berlin’s America,” “One Night with Fanny Brice,” Irving Berlin: In Person,” “The Seven Little Foys” “Theater Boys,” “Presenting Fanny Brice,” “George M. Cohan: In his Own Words,” “Mad About the Boy: The Festival Cast,” “The George M. Cohan Revue,” “Mad About the Boy: 13th Street Theater Production,” “Irving Berlin & Co.,” “The Johnny Mercer Jamboree,” “George M. Cohan: Rare Original Recordings.”

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with an all-star New York cast...

Jon Peterson, Michael Townsend Wright, Emily Bordonaro, Matt Nardozzi, Dea Julien,
Mary Cantoni Johnson, Jonah Barricklo, Jenn Spottz, Jeffrey Sewell, Chloe Brooks,
Alec Deland, Julia Franklin, Peter Charney, George Franklin, Analise Scarpaci,
Ryan Muska, Eric Johnson, Dylan Adams, Desi Waters, Magnus Tonning Riise,
Katherine Paulsen, Katie Buddenhagen, Marcus Bedinger, Mariah Hill,
Timothy Thompson, Jack Saleeby, Kelsey McCabe

Produced by CHIP DEFFAA; Musical Director: RICHARD DANLEY

Music prep by Don Brown, Richard Danley; Historical consultant: Jessee D. Riehl; Proofreader: M. S. Cardona
Assistants to the Producer: Sukhee Jun, M. Aqaq, Peter Charney, Malik M. Jmhour, Max Galassi
Technical advisor: R. I. Dalalsheh; International advisors: Byeong hyo Son, Gabriel Beer, I. Khader
Recording engineer: Slau Halatyn; Graphic Design: Frank Avellino; Interns: Max Beer; Michael Herwitz

This album is being distributed in the US exclusively by CDBaby.





Twenty-eight musical numbers by America’s number-one songwriter,
selected by the foremost authority on Berlin’s music,
performed by an all-star New York cast...

Jon Peterson, Michael Townsend Wright, Emily Bordonaro, Matt Nardozzi, Dea Julien,
Mary Cantoni Johnson, Jonah Barricklo, Jenn Spottz, Jeffrey Sewell, Chloe Brooks,
Alec Deland, Julia Franklin, Peter Charney, George Franklin, Analise Scarpaci,
Ryan Muska, Eric Johnson, Dylan Adams, Desi Waters, Magnus Tonning Riise,
Katherine Paulsen, Katie Buddenhagen, Marcus Bedinger, Mariah Hill,
Timothy Thompson, Jack Saleeby, Kelsey McCabe

Produced by CHIP DEFFAA; Musical Director: RICHARD DANLEY

Chip Deffaa Productions
Garret Mountain Records CDP MJ 0314
“Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin: Ragtime Rarities” (P) and © 2017 by Chip Deffaa for Garret Mountain Records.



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