Louis Chauvin

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Louis Chauvin
Louis Chauvin Colorized.png
Background information
Born(1881-03-13)March 13, 1881
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedMarch 26, 1908(1908-03-26) (aged 27)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Louis Chauvin (March 13, 1881 – March 26, 1908) was an American ragtime musician.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in St. Louis, Missouri of a Mexican Spanish-Indian father and an African-American mother, he was widely considered the finest pianist in the St. Louis area at the turn of the century. He was part of the ragtime community that met at Tom Turpin's Rosebud bar, along with Joe Jordan and others.


Chauvin left only three published compositions and died without having recorded, so his ability is hard to judge today. However, he was long remembered by his peers as an exceptionally gifted performer and composer. He is primarily remembered today for "Heliotrope Bouquet", the rag in which he shares compositional credit with Scott Joplin: the nature of the music seems to indicate that Chauvin provided the basis for the first two strains, while Joplin wrote the last two, and edited the work into a cohesive piece, due to the debilitating effects of Chauvin's illness.[1]

His published works are:

  • "The Moon is Shining in the Skies" (with Sam Patterson, 1903)
  • "Babe, It's Too Long Off" (words by Elmer Bowman, 1906)
  • "Heliotrope Bouquet" (with Scott Joplin, 1907)

Later life and death[edit]

Chauvin died in Chicago at the age of 27. His death certificate lists causes of death as "multiple sclerosis, probably syphilitic", and starvation due to coma, although a modern diagnosis would probably conclude he had a neurosyphilitic sclerosis and not link it to multiple sclerosis.[2] He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.[3] He is considered the second member of the 27 Club, after Alexandre Levy died at that age sixteen years earlier.


Further reading[edit]

  • They All Played Ragtime by Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis. Knopf, 1950.
  • Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats by Frederick J. Spencer. Mississippi, 2002.
  • Jasen, David A.; Tichenor, Trebor Jay (1978). Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History. New York, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 101–103. ISBN 0-486-25922-6.