chapter  7
25 Pages

Early Ragtime

Eugene Stratton's career and repertoire provide a key resource for explaining the broader popularity and appeal of 'coon' songs and acts in Britain, and not least because he was regarded as having 'no rival in his line'. This chapter considers the description of Stratton's appearance on stage: The limelight throws a circle of light directly in front of the wing on the 'prompt' side of the stage. By the 1890s, the metropolitan music hall had changed considerably from its emergence around the mid-century when it had coalesced from such varied places of entertainment as the supper room, the tavern free-and-easy, the pleasure garden, the singing saloon and the penny gaff. The music hall of the 1890s also contributed to the spirit of the 'new imperialism', with a new emphasis on 'claptrap patriotism' and a populist enthusiasm for Empire. Stratton's various 'coon' personae were a means by which a cultural unconscious could reoccupy the stage, could be staged.