Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Where Detroit's History Endures
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Harry P. Guy

Harry GuyHarry P. Guy (1870 - 1950)                

Harry P. Guy was one of Detroit’s greatest contributors to ragtime music.  He was born in Zanesville Ohio and came to Detroit in 1895.  He became an arranger for Whitney-Warner.  He was a prolific composer and many of his ragtime compositions and songs are considered among the most important examples of the genre.  His 1898 composition, “Echoes from the Snowball Club,” is a ragtime classic that remains in print to this day.  Some historians believe its title refers to the days when Detroit’s best jobs went to the black bands.  It is thought that disgruntled white musicians referred to this “dynasty” as the Snowball Club. Perhaps Guy was using his title as a jab at the “sore losers.”

Guy, an accomplished pianist, played sheet music of the day in the Willard Bryant Music Store and other storefronts in Detroit.  He also was an organist at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church for 12 years.

Herb Boyd wrote a groundbreaking essay on the early, pre-jazz history of African American music in Detroit.  He said Guy was a musical genius – pianist, organist, composer and arranger, a bridge between European classical music and the music of the African American church.  Guy wrote arrangements for vaudeville stars such as Sophie Tucker and Bert Williams and for the local Theodore Finney’s Orchestra.  He was also an accompanist for the internationally known Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Guy died in 1950 and is buried in Section 10, Lot 63.

Harry Guy2