Guitarist Napoleon “Nap” Hayes and mandolinist Matthew Prater recorded this instrumental gem in Memphis, Tennessee in February of 1928. “Easy Winner” combined elements of ragtime and blues into a string band format, borrowing freely from Scott Joplin’s most famous piece, “The Entertainer.” Though biographical information about Hayes and Prater is scarce, we do know they performed as the Blue Boys and also as the Johnson Boys, leaving behind a handful of brilliant instrumental recordings on the Document Records label for us to enjoy.
You can trace much of American popular music back to the blues. This is most obviously evident in Rock n’ Roll. But in tracks like Gus Cannon’s “Madison Street Rag,” you can also hear the roots of Rap and Hip-Hop. Released on the Paramount label in 1927, Gus Cannon’s gravelly voice sounds like he’s freestlying on the street corner as a passerby looks on in amazement. The banjo pickin’ is brilliant too. Ragtime folk blues goodness with a great lyric. Enjoy!