I came across a research challenge in Ragtimers Club, a Facebook special interest group. A series of posts hinted that an obscure young pianist, unfamiliar to everyone in the group, had posed as Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime, during several 1913 performances across Southeast Kansas.
After two partial days of trying to pinpoint the pianist's identity, beyond the partial name available to me in Ragtimers Club, I identified a suspect. I also had a problem.
My suspect was another piano-playing con-man active during the 1930s and '40s. Joplin's Southeast Kansas impersonator, if indeed there was one, had only first and middle initials and a last name--C. W. Wilburn. My suspect shared the Wilburn surname but had a given name beginning with C and no middle name or initial.
I had to admit, if only to myself, that the odds were against me. Yet the more I struggled to piece together what looked like the right biographical records, ruling out other men's records who shared the name, and the more I researched this other Wilburn's performance history, the more convinced I became that I needed to see if I could connect the two men. Anyone with the audacity and skill to assume a false identity as a public performer and to get away with it for nearly two decades would not have hesitated to pose for a few weeks as Scott Joplin in small-town Southeast Kansas.
This is the story of my search--of my effort to link the Southeast Kansas King of Ragtime with the Prince of Music.
I am a retired community college professor and the great-granddaughter of composer, orchestrator, arranger, organist, and teacher William Christopher O'Hare.
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