ED. NOTE: The following obituary was published on the American Music Research Foundation website (www.amrf.net) and is reprinted with the AMRF's permission. We rarely run reprints, but John Penney's obituary so beautifully captures what was so special about Charlie Booty that we feel honored to make this article available to our readers. The AMRF is dedicated to the promotion, documentation and preservation of American Music, particularly the blues, ragtime, boogie woogie, jazz, and rhythm and blues. A primary mission is to present an annual festival called the Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival. Details may be found on the AMRF website, which we encourage readers to visit.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Charlie Booty. Charlie died last week at his home in Milan, Tennessee. Charlie performed at three of our festivals: 2000, 2001 and 2002. In the years that he didn’t perform, he would make the long drive from Tennessee just to be with us for the festival weekend.
A truly remarkable man, Charlie was not only an amazing piano player, he was a pilot, an Air Force Veteran a recording artist and a gifted prankster. Charlie barely survived a plane crash during the oil crisis of the 1970s. The crash was caused by mechanical failure; it was discovered that fuel had been siphoned from his plane and replaced with water. As a result of the crash, Charlie suffered from a brain injury that left him without a memory of ever having played the piano. After his recovery, he re-learned the piano from scratch and would shy away from air travel if possible. He would come to prefer a long drive to a short flight. He would always say that he liked his travel "low and slow."
A bout with throat cancer left Charlie without vocal chords and Charlie would struggle to speak. Nevertheless, Charlie was a gifted storyteller and loved to talk about music and life. It was through his music that Charlie really communicated best. He was expert at a now-rare form of blues piano called the "Santa-Fe style." His playing style was best described as sweet and swinging. Charlie was also a one-man recording company. He formed his own label and recorded, mixed and distributed his own CDs through his own website and mailing list.
Despite the many setbacks in his life, Charlie was one of the most positive souls you could ever hope to meet. Charlie seemed to love every minute of every day that he had on this planet. He leaves us with an impressive legacy of recorded music and many wonderful memories. To say that Charlie will be missed is a gross understatement.
We last heard from Charlie in December 2007 and can think of no better tribute to his spirit than the words he wrote:
This year has been a year of reflection of times past and I find so much I can be very happy about, and give thanks for, especially all the people whom I love, and who have brought so much happiness into my life. Of course, I miss all those times on the Goldenrod Showboat, the Toronto Ragtime Bash and other events which have now become history. I miss all the people who have passed through my life, even if briefly, because they helped make me what I am and who I am. I am especially thankful for those who are still a part of my life.
Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing bad has happened in my life, and all things have worked for my good. I wouldn't change a thing, even if I could, because that would change the sum total of my life; who I am, what I am and where I am. It has all been a blessing, even if sometimes in disguise.
I am thankful for everyone in my life. Peace, Love, Health and Happiness to you all.
Joe Scotti, 71, a pioneering researcher in the life and works of ragtime composer Joseph Lamb, died Jan. 17, 2008. His study of Lamb began as an academic thesis, which culminated in his receiving a Ph.D. at Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. He previously attended DePaul University and the University of Illinois. He had a number of interesting jobs in music, such as a staff organist at Wurlitzer and as a consultant and arranger for Baldwin, manufacturers of pianos and organs. Later, he was a professor of music and coordinator of the business of music program at Fontbonne College, and, more recently, taught at Maryville University, both in St. Louis. He taught private students on keyboard and was still working as an organist in two churches at the time of his death.
Scotti first came to the attention of ragtime enthusiasts with his participation as a seminar attendee at the 1974 Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Mo. We were offering our opinions on some very basic topics at this historic first meeting. Among my recollections was a discussion about simply defining the word ragtime. With Rudi Blesh, Addison Reed (whose Ph.D. thesis was on Joplin) and other luminaries offering various ways to construct definitions and a general framework for future historians, Scotti's comments were always a call toward simplicity and the clarity of a final description. In later seminars, he offered the results of his various investigations and challenged other speakers with interesting and provocative questions. He presented a seminar of his own in the mid-1990s titled, with typical Scotti humor, "Ragtime Scholars, Ragtime Collectors: War, Romance or Shotgun Marriage." He was possibly the first person to suggest that there should be seminars for piano teachers on how to teach ragtime, an idea that has taken hold in recent years.
An essay about Joe Lamb was written for the 1985 book compiled by John Hasse, Ragtime: Its History, Composers and Music (Schirmer Books). The essay, "The Musical Legacy of Joe Lamb," still stands as a good introduction to the composer's music, especially as it relates to the music of Joplin and James Scott. Scotti's work on Lamb was considered for publication by the Smithsonian Institution, but that project did not develop. He was successful, with the help of a lawyer, in his goal of arranging copyright clearance for the publication of lesser-known Lamb compositions (though this took 15 years to accomplish). He continued to work on other topics in ragtime, notably a lengthy article on the issue of race.
In an interview with me for The Ragtime Machine in 1997, Scotti described himself as a heretic in school because of his preference for older popular music and early Broadway shows. Gershwin and Porter were among his favorite composers. When he was a Ph.D. candidate, it was suggested to him by Trebor Tichenor that Joe Lamb might be a good subject for research. With no job, married, and looking for some leads for research, he called Larry Melton, a Sedalia resident who was organizing the Joplin Festival. At the seminars there he met New Orleans writer Al Rose and others who were an inspiration to him. When I asked for his thoughts about the future of ragtime composition, he replied that as long as young pianists were playing the music, composition would naturally follow.
Scotti lived with cerebral palsy, which caused a severe distortion of his speech. This did not at all dissuade him from speaking his mind. Though I wondered about broadcasting my interview with him because I thought the audience might not carefully listen or be able to understand him, I was very glad I did it. What he had to say, his humor, intensity and personality all came through loud and clear.
Scotti died of a pulmonary embolism, according to his wife, Carol, whom I thank for help in gathering details for this article.