High Born lady
The song My Gal is a High-Born Lady had everything needed to make it a ragtime hit;
great melody, good lyrics, and something altogether unique--ragtime
syncopation. The song is
significant not only because it was the first true popular ragtime song,
but because it influenced many songs that came after it.
The unusual dance step that it produced was very much like a fox
trot. However, its
slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm was not to get an appropriate name for
another 17 years, when Harry Fox introduced his famous fox trot dance
step. The ragtime trend
that My Gal started was to continue for the next 20 years.
Soon after its popularity came even bigger hits such as Hello,
My Baby and Bill Bailey.
Barney Fagan got the inspiration for this song from, of all things, a broken bicycle pedal. He was riding home on his bike, dividing his attention between the song he was trying to complete and the worries he had about finding enough money to buy his wife a birthday present. He was immediately struck by the unusual floppidy-flop rhythm that the loose bike pedal created. Barney suddenly realized that he could make the music he was working on fit into this crazy “ragged” floppidy-flop rhythm. He stopped, sat down by the side of the road, and composed several measures around the words that had been repeating themselves in his head. When Barney got home he finished the first popular ragtime song, sold the piece for $100, and bought his wife a birthday present.