Texas Piano Professors



The term “Piano Professors” was first given to Eubie Blake at the turn-of-the-century in Baltimore. The term was soon picked up by the music business and applied to Blake, Scott Joplin, and others who were creating the ragtime piano sound. This jaunty, infectious music was the forerunner to boogie-woogie and barrelhouse piano.

In the beginning, the music was unstructured and took on whatever form the player chose extemporaneously — four bars, eight bars, twelve, sixteen — but gradually a few principles emerged. The most useful seemed to be the twelve-bar chorus, in which a phrase was states on the tonic chord, repeated on the subdominant, and then repeated again in a slightly altered form on the dominant chord, resolving back into the tonic. Using this very simple concept, the early “Piano Professors” developed an astounding variety of devices and patterns.

Many jazz pioneers and old-time pianists recall hearing boogie-woogie played when they were children by traveling musicians. The Texas Blues Piano Professors represent one of the most significant threads in the tapestry of piano blues. Men like Alex Moore, Robert Shawn, Lavada Durst, Roosevelt T. Williams (Grey Ghost), and Sammy Price spread the music throughout the world. Women like Katie Webster and recently Carol Fran have also kept the style alive. Texas barrelhouse piano incorporates the blues, boogie-woogie, stride, ragtime, jazz, and popular music into a unique rhythmic instrumental sound with vocals sung or spoken between solo piano segments.