Inducted: April 16, 2016
Ragtime virtuoso Max Morath was born in Colorado Springs on October 1, 1926. His mother had lugged a piano bench full of music west from the family farm in Iowa; as a youngster, Max said he discovered “the beat in my fingers” for ragtime, the tunes that pre-dated jazz as America’s first distinctive music.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from Colorado College, Morath embarked on a varied career.
Appearing in melodrama productions in southwest Colorado, he studied American popular music and theater. Finding inspiration in his ragtime heroes Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin, he became fascinated with the accompanying fads from the turn of the century.
Morath logged hundreds of appearances in the Gold Bar Room in Cripple Creek during the summers in the 1950s. He also did radio announcing and moved into TV, where he wrote, announced, edited, acted and sang at Colorado’s new KKTV in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
In the years between 1959 and 1961, he wrote, performed and co-produced 26 half-hour television programs for NET (National Educational Television), the precursor to PBS. Produced by KRMA/Channel 6 in Denver, they were fed nationally to the nascent public broadcasting network, combining Morath’s seemingly offhand, colloquial approach to early American popular music, comedy and social history.
The Ragtime Era series, followed by the Turn of the Century series, were in syndication through the 1960s and are considered classics of the genre.
Moving from Colorado to New York, Morath performed nationally at colleges and in nightclubs with his Original Rag Quartet. His off-Broadway one-man show Max Morath at the Turn of the Century was a hit (he spent seven weeks back in Durango rehearsing his performance ), and similar productions followed—The Ragtime Years, Living a Ragtime Life, The Ragtime Man and more.
“Mr. Ragtime” retired from touring in 2007 and continued to be active as a lecturer and consultant.
Max Morath Discography
1977 – The Ragtime Women
1963 – That Celebrated Maestro
1995 – Drugstore Cabaret
1979 – In Jazz Country
Plays and Sings at the Mighty Gold Bar Piano
1969 – At The Turn of the Century
1979 – The Great American Piano Bench
1977 – These Charming People
1978 – Don’t Give the Name a Bad Place
1977 – Living a Ragtime Life
1973 – Ragtime Favorites of Scott Joplin
1959 – Gold Bar Rag
1976 – Ragtime
1976 – Jonah Man
1973 – The World of Scott Joplin
1975 – The World of Scott Joplin Vol. 2
2004 – The Ragtime Man
1972 – The Best of Scott Joplin
1959 – Honky Tonk in Hi-Fi
1959 – More Morath
1954 – Plays at the Gold Bar Room
1974 – Irving Berlin The Ragtime Years
1964 – It’s All Yours
1968 – The Entertainer
1964 – Oh, Play That Thing