West Coast Ragtime Society

Trebor Tichenor

January 28, 1940 - February 22, 2014

Fond memories and gratitude abound for the musical treasures generously given us by Trebor Tichenor, the "King of Folk Ragtime." Whether you knew Trebor, or heard him play, or just simply enjoy ragtime, your life has been touched by his. We miss you, and give thanks.

By David Thomas Roberts

Even the most brief discussion of the vast and varied accomplishments of Trebor Tichenor is a whopping task; his work as composer, pianist, writer, collector, researcher and teacher comprises a legacy that will be available for study and inspiration in perpetuity. What is more challenging to evoke is something less tangible but no less affecting for those who knew him well: his unique *mystique*. He would be laughing at my choice of this word, of course (and may well be!). But it *is* the perfect word for that singular aura of a man whose scholarly-musical reputation was not only never questioned, but who was invariably described in affectionate, superlative, *radiant* terms by all who knew him. Anyone familiar with Trebor was invariably impressed by the *significance* he lent to everything he pursued and cared about. It was part of what made what he thought and did always matter; it was intertwined with that atmosphere of quiet, unassailable knowing that we all understood to radiate from him. And for those who knew him only by his work, the mystique took on a towering, daunting, even legendary character, which also had its foundation, if only for the absolute preciosity of what he had been demurely doing for American music and culture since his teens. Trebor Tichenor always was and *is* a gently galvanic force, and we all know that, however we've chosen to refer to it. 

For me, he held the position of being a friend and confidante who treated me with as much encompassing kindness and profound concern as anyone I've ever known. Many years ago, my parents had an inkling of this, though they barely knew Trebor, and only by phone. It was clear that all was well when I was with him, that he embodied a special decency and certainty, and that my visiting the Tichenors possessed a distinctive rightness and consoling character. Indeed, I have never been more welcomed and more comfortably ushered into the life of a family as I was at 3801 Federer Place, which I will always remember as a beloved home. Those smiling times I've known with Jeanette, Virginia and Andrew remain vibrant, cherished episodes of my life as a younger man, and will always console me. 

Like many of us, I've learned of more underappreciated, near-lost gems of ragtime from Trebor Tichenor than can be recounted. Our shared obsession with small town/folk/country ragtime provided a central foundation for our friendship from the time I was twenty-three and Trebor was thirty-nine, and that devotion never disappeared, no matter our other pursuits. Trebor's sharing of his massive, rarefied knowledge, including access to his collection, was one of the most supportive developments of life in my twenties, and I will always be profoundly appreciative of that. In conjunction with this affinity, our love of the land itself, and especially rural Missouri, became an immovable anchor for our friendship form the beginning, and I have no doubt it will remain important to both of us far beyond the deaths of either of us.

Lastly, I want to express to all of you that I have become resolutely convinced that we are all far more than bodies, that our greater existence vastly exceeds that of the physical. I believe that accumulating evidence will leave increasingly little doubt of our individual permanence in the cosmos. At one level, then, I don't see Trebor as removed from us. More importantly, I am as certain as I am of anything that he *is somewhere*, and likely in a far more serene and fulfilling state than is yet available to any of us. I miss him greatly, but embrace that missing with the inescapable conclusion that *we will meet again*.

By Ed Berlin

M r. Ragtime has passed, and there is no one to succeed him; Trebor was one-of-a-kind. He developed a passion for the music when barely out of his childhood and retained a lifelong fidelity to the art. He was a link to the past. Aside from making music in the most authentic fashion, he sought out survivors from the period--Charlie Thompson, the Stark family, Arthur Marshall, and others--befriended and interviewed them, preserving their words for future generations, perspectives that would otherwise have been lost. His collection of ragtime period artifacts--sheet music, piano rolls, etc.--is legendary, and is something he was always willing to share.

As an individual, Trebor was modest, soft-spoken, kind, and exceedingly generous. I was fortunate to be a guest in his home on several occasions, usually with other musicians. These were wonderful events, with constant music of a very high order. I have memories of Neville Dickie at Trebor's living room grand piano (one of several pianos in the house), playing with his thunderous and extraordinarily accurate left-hand, Bob Ault, with a variety of vintage instruments . . . even a harp guitar! I don't recall where I slept…perhaps, with so much going on, we didn't sleep.

In recent years we didn't have much opportunity to meet, but kept in telephone contact. (He never migrated to email, but telephone was from the period.) I would tell him of research discoveries, knowing that he would appreciate them, would ask the right questions, and make perceptive suggestions. An era has ended. [First printed on Facebook and reprinted here with the permission of the author]

From the St. Louis Jazz Notes, Feb 25, 2013

Trebor Tichenor, the St. Louis native who became internationally known as a ragtime pianist and historian, has died. He was 74. An obituary in Tuesday's Post-Dispatch says he died Saturday at Laclede Groves in Webster Groves after having suffered a stroke in December.

As pianist for the St. Louis Ragtimers, Tichenor (pictured) was a regular performer on St. Louis stages and at ragtime and traditional jazz festivals across the country for five decades. He accumulated what was said to be one of the world's largest collections of ragtime, totaling more than 10,000 piano rolls and pieces of sheet music.

Tichenor also wrote a noted book, Rags and Ragtime, on the history of ragtime; composed a series of original rags that were published in three folios; and for many years hosted radio programs and taught college classes about the music he loved. To paraphrase the title of an article former Post-Dispatch music critic James Wierzbicki wrote about Tichenor for Ragtimer magazine in 1978, he "lived, breathed and collected ragtime music."

The Post-Dispatch obit, linked above, has a good overview of Tichenor's life and career, and there are more details at Tichenor's Wikipedia page. Tichenor discussed his youth, early influences, and St. Louis' ragtime history in a November 2010 article for St. Louis magazine. Also, St. Louis Ragtimers fan Bob Whiteside has compiled some vintage photos and audio of the group at a tribute website.

Survivors include a daughter, Virginia Tichenor, also a ragtime pianist, of Oakland, CA; a son, Andy Tichenor, a trumpeter living in Edwardsville; a brother, Bruce Tichenor of Concord, CA; and two granddaughters. His wife Ethel Taft Tichenor died in 1986.

Visitation will be from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. Thursday at Kutis Affton Chapel, 10151 Gravois Road. The funeral will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday at same location, with burial at Sunset Cemetery.

In the first embedded video window below, you can see and hear Trebor Tichenor playing "Maple Leaf Rag," one of the most famous compositions by one of his favorite musicians, Scott Joplin. The second clip shows the St. Louis Ragtimers performing "Red Rose Rag" for the Saint Louis Jazz Club in July, 2011. In addition to Tichenor, the band includes Al Stricker (banjo & vocal), Don Franz (tuba), Bill Mason (cornet), Eric Sager (clarinet), and Joe Thompson (trombone).

The third video window features a recording of Tichenor playing "Boomtown Echoes" from his LP of the same name, accompanied by a slide show of photos of the pianist, his family, friends and fellow musicians, which according to the accompanying notes were taken by George C. Willick at Tichenor's home between 1979 and 1981.

Video produced and edited by Lewis Motisher (unigonfilms)