The Ragtime Era with Max Morath
Max Morath was a trailblazing pianist who revived ragtime and showed America that public television could be fun with his show “Ragtime Era.”
In 1960, Morath, working with KRMA-TV in Denver (now Rocky Mountain PBS), wrote and produced “The Ragtime Era” for National Educational Television (NET), which was the predecessor of PBS. The show provided not only music, but a deep dive into the history of ragtime, musical comedy and Tin Pan Alley.
“Ragtime Era was everything educational television was not supposed to be: upbeat, fun and entertaining,” former NET President James Day wrote in his book, “The Vanishing Vision.”
But make no mistake: “Ragtime Era” was highly educational. It had to be, or else NET would not have picked the series up.
“NET wanted to get away from the professor in front of the gray drape, but not too far away,” Morath told Current in 1996. “It’s worth a reminder that in those days all NET programs had to have some sort of educational cachet. There was a consultant from the Colorado College music department built into our budget.”
It was Morath’s passion for the music that made the show engaging. In a 1961 article published in The New York Times, critic Jack Gould wrote, “for some ears, this corner’s included, a little ragtime is a lot but Mr. Morath’s affection for the oldtimers proved contagious. And when he sat down to illustrate rag piano his zest and craftsmanship asserted themselves informatively and entertainingly.” Enjoy The Ragtime Era with Max Morath, below: