Scott Joplin was 'the King of Ragtime Writers', a composer who raised banjo piano playing, a lowly entertainment associated with saloons and brothels, into an American art form loved by millions. Born in Texas around 1867 or 1868, Joplin was brought up in Texarkana, the son of a labourer and former slave. As a child, Joplin taught himself piano on an instrument belonging to a white family that granted him access to it, and in due course studied with a local, German-born teacher who introduced Joplin to classical music.
Joplin's first published rag dates from 1895 and the last from the year of his death, 1917, although an important 1914 piano roll of an unpublished rag was discovered as late as 1971.
Joplin's death did not make the headlines for two reasons: Ragtime was quickly losing ground to jazz and the United States would enter World War I within days. He was buried in St. Michael's Cemetery in the Astoria section of Queens.