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Ernest Hogan, the Father of Ragtime

In Bowling Green, a historical marker on Kentucky St. stands in honor of Ernest Hogan, a native of the city who had a successful career in music and theater.

Born Reuben Crowdus in 1865, he left home at age 12 and began his stage career performing in minstrel shows. By the 1890s, he had become a prominent songwriter of the era.

Hogan’s greatest claim to fame really started with his song La Pas Ma La, published in 1895 and considered to be the first published song in a new genre called ragtime. Prior to La Pas Ma La, most ragtime performers played by ear, and so not much sheet music for that musical style existed. From there, Hogan earned his unofficial title as The Father of Ragtime.

Hogan’s passion and talent for performance extended to vaudeville, comedy, and musical theater. In 1898, he was center stage in the epicenter of American theater. He had the starring role in Clorindy: or the Origin of the Cakewalk, the first African-American show to appear in a major Broadway venue.

Hogan died from tuberculosis in 1909 and is buried in Bowling Green’s Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2013, which originally aired on April 4, 2015. Watch the full episode.