Boogie-woogie, or barrelhouse, is a kind of blues cousin to ragtime in which the pianist maintains a rolling rhythm with the right hand (akin to a banjo player strumming at a dance) while the left underpins it with bass notes.
The style, which was first developed in the late 19th century, reached a peak of popularity in America in the 1930s and 1940s, in part due to the frequent playing by the bandleader Tommy Dorsey of a number called Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie.
This had been written by Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, a pianist shot dead at the age of 25 in a dance hall fight in 1929. Thereafter it became the signature tune of Perkins, who acquired the nickname “Pinetop” by association, and cut a memorable version of the song for Sun Records — the future label of Elvis Presley — in 1953.
The rollicking riffs of barrelhouse, epitomised by the playing of pianists such as Meade “Lux” Lewis, influenced first the direction of swing in the 1930s and 1940s and later rockabilly acts such as Presley and Carl Perkins.
Dead at 97. Playing to the end.