Worrall’s guitar music revived
Lawrence, Kansas, guitarist Brian Baggett is bringing the music of Henry Worrall to life through interpretive performances of Worrall’s original music manuscripts held by the Kansas Historical Society (KSHS). Video and audio recordings of Baggett’s performances are now available on kansasmemory.org.
Henry Worrall moved to Topeka, Kansas, in 1868 and became widely known for his illustrations of the American west. But decades earlier in Cincinnati, Ohio, Worrall was a musician and composer of popular guitar instrumentals. Worrall’s “Sebastopol” and “Spanish Fandango” were widely published as parlor guitar music promoted primarily to young women. They also became standard pieces in many self-instruction manuals for the guitar through the early Twentieth Century.
Through these compositions, Worrall’s open-tuned, finger-picked style of guitar playing influenced guitar players for many decades. Some contemporary musicians and music historians think Worrall’s compositions provided the foundation for the development of nascent country and blues guitar styles in the American rural south in the last century.
The wife of Henry Worrall’s grandson, Anton Worrall, donated Henry Worrall’s personal music collection to the Kansas Historical Society in 1968. The collection remained unknown for nearly forty years. Then, in 2007, a researcher from Atlanta, Georgia, helped explain why the collection is important to understanding the development of early country and blues music. KSHS described the collection and published it on kansasmemory.org the same year. Since then, the collection’s availability online has led to a renewed interest in Worrall’s compositions and their influence on popular music in the Twentieth Century.
Baggett is focusing on Worrall’s original manuscripts because they likely document the way Worrall actually performed the pieces. Published sheet music was often simplified to make it accessible to a broader public. Baggett has interpreted “Sebastopol” and “Carmencita” from original, undated manuscripts in the Worrall collection. Sebastopol is Worrall’s most famous composition and was published in Ohio as early as 1856. By contrast, Carmencita appears to be a later composition, the only known printed copy having been published in 1896 by E. B. Guild in Topeka, Kansas.
Recordings of Baggett’s performances are now available on kansasmemory.org. For more information, or to contact Brian Baggett, see his website at www.brianbaggettband.com . More information on the Worrall collection is available on the KSHS website at Henry Worrall Collection. View Henry Worrall materials on Kansas Memory by selecting the category People - Notable Kansans - Worrall, Henry, 1825-1902.