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BOWMAN, EUDAY LOUIS

BOWMAN, EUDAY LOUIS (1886–1949). Euday Louis Bowman, composer of the famed "Twelfth Street Rag," was born in Fort Worth on November 9, 1886, the son of George A. Bowman and Marguerite Olivia Estee Landin. Bowman was raised with his older brother and sister on his grandfather Isaac Gatewood Bowman's farm east of Mansfield, Texas. He most likely attended Webb School or Lloyd School in eastern Tarrant County. He apparently told many people that, when his parents were divorced in 1905, he left home and went to Kansas City. But the evidence indicates that he moved to Fort Worth to live with his sister, Mary. Mary Bowman, a school and piano teacher, taught her brother to play the piano, after which Euday played at local night spots and worked as a junk dealer. In 1920 he married Geneva Morris, but she left him after a couple of months and they were divorced in 1926.

Bowman was a local celebrity and entertained by invitation in private living rooms and fire halls, as well as at such public venues as the Meadow Brook and the Garland. He wrote sheet music and made a few trips to Kansas City to promote his songs and attempt to sell his music. He probably wrote "Twelfth Street Rag" while playing in a Main Street shoeshine parlor located between Tenth and Eleventh streets in Fort Worth. Though he wrote several original compositions between 1914 and 1917, including "Fort Worth Blues," "Tipperary Blues," and "Kansas City Blues," the unusual combination of a repeating three-note melody and duple-metered bass made "Twelfth Street Rag" his most popular hit. It inspired jazz musicians for decades. Despite the popularity of the catchy tune, Bowman made very little money from it. In 1916 he had sold the copyright and royalties to Jenkins Music Company for a small price--at most a few hundred dollars. By 1942 he renewed the copyright and sold it to Shapiro, Bernstein and Company of New York City.

Although first published in 1914, "Twelfth Street Rag" had a profound influence on jazz from the late 1920s through the 1940s. Among the dozens of musicians, groups, and arrangers to interpret Bowman's rag are Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven (1927), the Bennie Moten band (1927), Duke Ellington with Benny Payne (1931), Fats Waller and his Rhythm (1935), Count Basie with Lester Young (1939), Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams (1940), Sidney Bechet and his New Orleans Feetwarmers (1941), and Walter "Pee Wee" Hunt (1948). Jazz critics and enthusiasts credit "Twelfth Street Rag" with helping reignite an interest in ragtime. Because of their musical features—descending and ascending arpeggios, exaggerated syncopation, call-and-response motifs, sophisticated swing and stride styles, cool and bop interpretations—the various recordings of the piece chronicle the progression of jazz over the decades. Besides the more than 120 versions recorded by other artists, Bowman recorded his rag in 1924 and in 1938, although his interpretation was never issued until he released his own recording of the song in 1948.

Other pieces published or copyrighted by Bowman include "Colorado Blues," "Petticoat Lane," "Old Glory on Its Way," "Shamrock Rag," "Eleventh Street Rag," "Water Lily Dreams," and "Jubilee Ball." Bowman's songs appear on many albums by various artists, including Albert Ammons, Louis Armstrong and his All Stars, Count Basie, Teddy Bucknerqv and his Dixieland Band, Al Caiola, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller, Bob Wills, and Lester Young.

Bowman married again on February 6, 1949, but filed for divorce the next month, claiming that his wife, Ruth Emma Thompson, treated him cruelly. In May 1949 he made his only trip to New York City to appeal for royalties earned by "Twelfth Street Rag." After three days he caught pneumonia and died on May 26, 1949. He is buried in Fort Worth's Oakwood Cemetery. He left an automobile and royalties amounting to about $11,000 to his sister, Mary. A Texas A Texas Historical Marker was erected in his honor in 1988. Most of his hand-notated sheet music, along with his piano, was in an extensive Bowman collection at the Pate Museum of Transportation, near Cresson, Texas, until that facility closed in 2009.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

ASCAP Biographical Dictionary (4th ed., New York: Bowker, 1980). Bill Edwards, "Euday Louis Bowman" (http://www.ragpiano.com/comps/ebowman.shtml), accessed September 6, 2011. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 20, 1992, January 7, 2001. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (New York: Macmillan, 1986). Dave Oliphant, Texan Jazz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). Popular Music 1900–1919: An Annotated Guide to American Popular Songs, Including Introductory Essay, Lyricists and Composers Index, Important Performances Index, and List of Publishers (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988).

Cheryl L. Simon

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cheryl L. Simon, "BOWMAN, EUDAY LOUIS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fboam), accessed July 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 6, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.