Thomas Million John Turpin (November 18, 1871 – August 13, 1922) was an African-American composer of ragtime music.
Tom Turpin was born in Savannah, Georgia, a son of John L. Turpin and Lulu Waters Turpin. In his early twenties he opened a saloon in St. Louis, Missouri which became a meeting-place for local pianists and an incubation point for early folk ragtime, such as musician Joe Jordan. Turpin himself is credited with the first published rag by an African-American, his "Harlem Rag" of 1897 (it was composed by 1892, a year before ragtime's introduction to the world at the 1893 Worlds Fair). His other published rags include "Bowery Buck," "Ragtime Nightmare," "St. Louis Rag," and "The Buffalo Rag".
Turpin was a large man, six feet (1.83 m) tall and 300 pounds (136 kg); his piano had to be raised on blocks so that he could play it standing up, otherwise his stomach would get in the way. In addition to his saloon-keeping duties and his ragtime composition, he controlled (with his brother Charles) a theater, gambling houses, dance halls, and sporting houses. He served as a deputy constable and was one of the first politically powerful African-Americans in St. Louis. His influence on local music earned him the title "Father of St. Louis Ragtime."
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