Tomorrow in New York City – Bob Roberts

Uncle Dave Lewis and I will again be speaking about Bob and Nick Roberts and we have some exciting new discoveries to present! The flyer for the program is below.


ARSC New York Chapter

FEBRUARY 2016 Meeting

7:00 P. M. Thursday, 3/17/16

(At the CUNY Sonic Arts Center)

West 140th Street & Convent Avenue, New York

Or enter at 138th Street off Convent Avenue

Shepard Hall (the Gothic building) – Recital Hall (Room 95, Basement level)

An elevator is located in the center of the building

“I May Be Crazy but I Ain’t No Fool”

The Legacy of Funnyman “Ragtime Bob” Roberts


Many collectors of vintage records need no introduction to Robert S. “Ragtime Bob” Roberts, one of the most charismatic and mysterious figures in the early phonograph industry, his name appearing on nearly 500 discs and cylinder releases. Researcher Rebecca Forste and I have been looking into the Bob Roberts story from the context of his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio and have made new discoveries in the life of this key entertainer. We have discovered a new birthdate for him and have made inroads into his family history, particularly in regard to his illustrious father, minstrel show entertainer and circus entrepreneur Nick Roberts (1841-1905). This will be a joint presentation where the Nick Roberts-related material will be presented by Rebecca Forste, with Uncle Dave Lewis joining in on Roberts’s recording activity, and later, career in early radio.

the original and only nick roberts

David N. “Uncle Dave” Lewis has been an ARSC member since 1999. He has presented at several ARSC Conferences since giving his first talk in Santa Barbara in 2002 on the subject of the obscure bandleader, Harry Spindler. Lewis ran the underground record label Hospital Records out of Cincinnati in the 1980s and has had a long presence in public radio, appearing in years-long programs on WAIF (Cincinnati) and WCBN (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan). He worked as a classical music buyer for West Coast Tower Records and Virgin Megastore locations in the 1990s and spent a decade as an editor for the All Music Guide, now RoviCorp. Today he presents monthly lectures at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on topics relating to the music and recording industry in the Ohio Valley, and is an historian and producer for WVXU, the NPR affiliate in Cincinnati. His radio piece on bandleader Earl Fuller won an “Excellence in Journalism” award from the Society for Professional Journalists.


Rebecca Forste has worked as a contributor and editor for a variety of publications. Her background and interest in sound recordings is largely the legacy of her late mother, who was an audiophile and longstanding collector.

She contributes reviews to the ARSC Journal and returns to these meetings following her initial appearance last year in the Hal Kemp program.


Subway: Take the 1 train to 137th Street City College and walk north to 140th St. & Broadway,

then go east to 140th St. & Convent Avenue. Take the A, B, C, or D trains to 145th St, go south on St. Nicholas to 141st St, (one long block), then west one block to Convent Avenue, and south one more block to 140th & Convent Avenue.

Bus: M4 and M5 on Broadway; M 100, 101 on Amsterdam Ave. (one block West of Convent Avenue)

All ARSC NY Chapter meetings are free and open to the public.

Voluntary contributions to help defray our expenses are welcome!

To join ARSC, visit


Genuine Georgia Gal

Featuring an additional composition by Robert S. Roberts: “My Genuine Georgia Gal.”


Artie Hall, pictured above and in the previous post, had a hit singing “I’m Certainly Living a Ragtime Life” by Robert S. Roberts.

artie hall - Edited

She is also reported to have had a hit as early as 1900 with another Robert S. Roberts composition, “My Genuine Georgia Gal.” Afterwards, she was consistently billed as “the Genuine Georgia Girl.”


It was widely reported that she was crushed to death in the collapse of the Orpheum Theater during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This was even reported in her Wikipedia article (citing  a New York Times report.)

However, there are many reports of her performing on stage after this date. She survived the earthquake.

As Wikipedia tells you, she performed in blackface, and I need to state here that I do not condone racial stereotyping.

Artie Hall married Robert Fulgora. Here is another song she sang in 1899:

Here she is described as  a “Georgia Coon Shouter.” After performing the Roberts song, she seems always to have been “The Genuine Georgia Girl.”

More songs composed by Robert S. “Ragtime Bob” Roberts

At the time of our recent presentation, we knew of three published musical compositions by Bob Roberts, son of Nick Roberts.They are:

The Pride Of Bucktown,  1897

A Bundle of Rags, 1897

These two pieces are historically significant not only because they add to our understanding of Bob Roberts as an artist, but also because they are among some of the very earliest ragtime pieces published. Moreover, they help us to make a bit more sense of how Roberts came to be known as “Ragtime Bob.”

The other piece of which we knew, probably the best-known, is:

I’m Certainly Living a Ragtime Life, 1900


An article in the March 12, 1900 edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes this song’s success. However, the article also describes Roberts as the composer of “a number of songs which have gained wide circulation.” The term “a number” seemed to indicate to me more than the two other songs that we knew, so I went searching. I found a few things.

Two songs are listed in the Catalogue of Title Entries of Books and Other Articles Entered in the Office of the Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress, at Washington: Volume 34, both published by Howley, Haviland and Dresser of New York in 1903. The first is “The College Girl” with words by Joseph C Farrell.

college girl 

The second is “One Thing That Money Cannot Buy” with words by Thomas C. MacDonald.

Another song that turned up is “The Absent-Minded Beggar” published in 1900 by Sol Bloom of Chicago.

This came out at around the same time as the song of the same name with words by Rudyard Kipling and music by Sir Arthur Sullivan.  Is there any connection? We hope to find out!

We also hope to find more songs by Roberts. I have a feeling they are out there.