Tap Dance Rhythms
Johnny Maddox is a Ragtime piano player, who hit the big time back in the 50's, when Ragtime's popularity suddenly grew in America and around the world. Although these albums carry the title "Tap Dance Rhythms", it is hard to imagine they were really intended to be used by dancers. The tunes are not arranged with dancers in mind. They feature Maddox on piano with the most basic of rhythm sections. The beat is steady, that's one thing I can say. Perhaps they were used occasionally by dance studios to set the mood for beginners; more likely these records were aimed at setting the mood at home for folks to tap their feet and think about the possibility of getting up there on the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show, or better yet, Lawrence Welk.
Some good reading can be found on the back of the jackets. The liner notes offer a history of tap dancing from Irish clog dancing to minstrel shows to the "current trends." Click the images to read the liner notes.
The two records themselves are exactly the same except for the jackets. I didn't realize this until I came home and actually played them both. Back in the 1950's it was particularly common to release a record a second time with a different jacket. Perhaps in this case, the record company wanted to update the graphics, who knows. Dot Records issued this album in 1956 as DLP-3008, and many other records by Johnny Maddox.
Early in 2005, I acquired yet another Johnny Maddox record, a 45rpm EP, released by Dot in 1954 (DEP-1013). Perhaps this EP is really the first version, to be followed a little later by the LPs above. The EP is titled Tap Dancing Music and 3 of its 4 tracks can also be found on Tap Dancing Rhythms. A version of Swannee, arranged as a soft shoe number, didn't make it to the LPs.
The back of this record jacket contains details of Johnny Maddox’s life and it is interesting on several levels beyond that, touching on how dance studios were operated at that time and the role that “tap” records were beginning to play.
“Johnny, a native of Gallatin, TN, has been pounding the ivories since he was three years old. He loves to play and puts his whole heart into it. A number of years ago he began to play at a local dance studio, The Boyers school of Dancing, playing special numbers and also playing for Miss Boyer's annual recitals.”
“Johnny and Miss Elizabeth Boyers worked on several tap dance numbers at her studio and later these were recorded. His first popular tap dance record was Peggy O'Neil and Miss Boyers says she wore out any number of records of this peppy tune. Miss Boyers, a veteran of over twenty years of teaching dancing, says that formerly a dance studio could hire a good accompanist, but that those days are gone, and now a studio has to rely on records and good tap-dance records are hard to find. Miss Boyers, a former teacher at Miss Hutchison's school in Memphis, Tennessee, says that Johnny's records are the best. Continuing, she states that the reason his records are the best is that the piano music is so pleasing to the ear. He has records for waltz tap, soft-shoe, rhythm tap and swing tap.”
“Johnny Maddox began piano lessons at the age of four, after showing great interest a year before in the piano. The following year he gave his first recital, and since that time he has entertained local groups in his home-town. For a number of years he played the piano with a Gallatin orchestra and in May, 1950, he made his first recording for Dot Records. This was "Crazy Bone Rag", backed by "St. Louis Tickle". At the time this record was made Johnny was working at Randy's Record shop in Gallatin and the idea of making a recording was formed in Randy's Record Shop, by Randy Wood. This was one of the first of numerous recordings for Dot Records which have been played in juke-boxes all over the country. His records are found in more juke-boxes, in greater numbers, than any other artist.”
— Shinichi Matsumoto