I grew up in a poor country and I have travelled most of my life. I know what it is like to be able to carry all you own. I am fortunate in that I have always had something to carry and even now, when I have enough to store away and come back to, I try always to remember that there are still so many who carry all they own.
When I first came to America I was amazed at the personal weekend sales people would hold—You call them Yard sales and Garage sales—Not because they needed the money, but because they had too many things... And the estate sales held by unconcerned relatives... Lifetime accumulations of treasures sold at whatever price will make them go away in two days. Lucky for me I had not enough money then to get myself into too much trouble.
I was at one of these estate sales in Ohio when I came upon a box. It was filled with journals and handwritten musical manuscripts. When I asked the lady who was taking the money, she said the journals belonged to the dead man's father or grandfather, (she talked so fast and my English was not so good) who was a travelling sales man around 1900. For a small sum I bought the box and it's companion and figured I could spend a few weeks looking through it in the evening.
I discovered wonderful things. The gentleman's work caused him to travel from New Orleans to Kansas City to Chicago to St. Louis and in his off time he would go to places where they were playing this new musiccalled Ragtime. Since he couldn't record the music on his cell phone, he notated it in his journals. He developed a shorthand where he could write down the songs and melodies quickly. Sometimes he would go back and transcribe his notes onto the manuscripts. Other times it appears he would sit and talk with the player and get more complete versions.
His writing was not easy to read, and it took a number of years to feel comfortable that I understood his short hand. Many of the songs have only the right hand or melody and scribbled chord changes or rhythmical points.
It is good to keep in mind that at the time Mr. Brogger was collecting songs Ragtime was still a living musical form. It was not not strapped into the straight-jacketed structure it often takes today. The music changed from town to town. Writhing to different beats and melodic strains. Every player/composer had had their own idea of what Ragtime should be or, at least, was to them. Mr Broggers journals, to me, is like travelling in the rainforest and finding thousands of new plants and animals no one had ever known existed before, some quite familiar, some strange and beautiful, others difficult to love but treasured nonetheless.
To paraphrase Guns 'n' Roses: Welcome to my jungle. These are some of the beauties I have discovered here. Strange and lovely specimens that, without the attention of a lonely salesman who had the strange hobby of filling out notebooks in barrooms and other locals, might have been lost forever.