29 April 2013


A super little tune called Dill Pickles was composed by Charles Johnson as a piano rag in about 1906 and re-issued as a song (with words by Alfred Bryan) in 1910.
The composer, Charles L. Johnson, lived from 1875 until 1950, spending practically all his life in Kansas. As a composer of light music, he produced many songs, rags, waltzes and marches.
Charles Johnson in about 1902
What I specially like about Dill Pickles is that it is a very pleasant example of the quintessential popular syncopated music of the time. Somewhat mechanical, repetitive and based on a simple chord structure, it succeeds in being pretty too.

All these qualities make it a good number for traditional jazz bands to play. But I don't know of any bands with it in their current repertoire as a full band number rather than as a pianist's party-piece.

I entered it into my filofax collection of tunes, making my own leadsheet. You will note that it has two parts (let's call them Verse and Chorus), each with 32 bars that are essentially 16 repeated. As you can see, improvisation on this tune would be very simple. I hope I may this year hear a band somewhere playing it.