Playing guitar wasn't very cool in 1904 

Love's Dreams Waltz was the first guitar solo published by BMG Magazine. This appeared in the April 1904 issue. It came out at a time when guitar was not a very popular instrument when compared to the banjo and mandolin. Editor Home Gordon introduces this piece and gives some clarification about just how rare the guitar was at the turn of the 20th century. Here’s his column:

Our Guitar Number


I have been asked to give the guitarists their turn, and in the present issue I can fairly claim to have done so. Will mandolinists graciously wait until the next number for me to redress the balance? Unfortunately, the printers can only do music on four pages, which this time are absorbed by the guitar and banjo solos. 

Banjoists, mandolinists, and guitarists are among the supporters of “B.M.G.” in the order named, and roughly, I should say, in the proportion of 6, 3, and 1. Of course as Editor it is my duty to cater for the taste of the majority. Various suggestions have been made to me on the part of individuals, but the fact really remains that there are not enough guitarists in the country to justify publishers in producing new pieces for the instrument. When Mr. Ernest Shand wanted to produce his fine Concerto, he had to publish it by subscription, and this magnificent performer has now practically abandoned his instrument. I am always glad to receive the views of my readers, but when one writes proposing the publication of adaptations of popular banjo pieces for the guitar, he shows utter ignorance of what is suited for his instrument, as well as of the commercial aspect of the matter. In my opinion, if it were not for banjo and mandolin orchestras there would be even fewer guitarists than there are. What do other people say?

To break this down a bit, Mr. Gordon is saying that for every 6 banjoists, there are 3 mandolinists, and just 1 guitarist. I’d be very curious to know what the ratio is today. I’ve personally only ever had one mandolin student and just a handful of banjo students. The most popular instruments for me to teach have been guitar and piano. 

The ratio must have been true at the time because another guitar solo wouldn’t appear in BMG until December 1928. This was the debut of the plectrum guitar era in BMG Magazine. I have 40 of those plectrum solos prepared in tablature at the following link:

I’m also wondering if the editor was making digs at the American magazines at the time. S.S. Stewart’s Banjo & Guitar Journal, The Cadenza, and The Crescendo all had adapted banjo tunes for the guitar at some point or another. I certainly wouldn’t claim that those magazines displayed “utter ignorance”, but I can sort of see the validity in defending the original compositions for guitar. 

The song itself, Love’s Dreams Waltz, is a really nice one to play. It can feel a little like classical guitar in places, but this is definitely in the style of parlor music of the time. (I wrote about an American parlor guitar tune from 1915 recently.) There’s nothing too difficult, although the stretch in measure 13 to get the Eb6 chord can be a little challenging at first. Will E. Papworth, the tune’s composer, is somewhat of a mystery to me. This appears to be his only composition for BMG. A possible relative named Sanders Papworth was a well known and prolific composer for the mandolin, guitar, 5-string banjo, and tenor banjo. 

You can get the tablature pdf and mp3 of this tune on my Patreon page. Free trials are available for 30 days and get this and all kinds of other rare guitar tabs. 

I really enjoy playing things like this on guitar because they can really defy all genre descriptions we have today. Sometimes music that hasn’t been played for a few generations can start to sound fresh again. What do other people say?

Click here to get the pdf & mp3 for Love’s Dreams Waltz!

Thanks for reading,


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