John Cowles

John Cowles John Cowles was born on June 11, 1944 in North Carolina and spent most of his childhood in the Allegany Mountains of West Virginia and Western Maryland. John's discovery of banjo ragtime on old cylinder recordings in the 1950's was the beginning of a lifetime interest in ragtime. After a vague career as an underfed writer and wandering folksinger in the 1960's, Cowles discovered that a computer career was not only more rewarding, but didn't have publisher's deadlines or drunken audiences. Since 1969 he has worked in the high-end technical computation field, most recently with Hewlett-Packard. Although Cowles currently lives in Texas, most of his life since 1982 has been spent in Japan. In 1987 John began the study of piano to augment his work on guitar and banjo. Because he is by no means a stellar player, he began writing his own midi sequencing programs to 'help out' with his deficient technique and has managed to preserve more than one hundred rags in this way. Cowles is a collector of original ragtime sheetmusic and currently has over 900 authentic rag pieces from the early 1900's in his collection. He still writes and sings, but as there are few deadlines, this activity is much more enjoyable than it was in the 1960's. Cowles' hobbies include banjo history (he has been a member of the American Banjo Fraternity for forty years), history of recorded popular music (he delivered a radio program on this subject in China at the request of the Chinese government in 1996), and medieval Latin and French poetry. When he is not playing ragtime, he can often be found at a local pub, playing Cape Breton fiddle music and singing the Scottish folksongs he learned from his mother.

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