Harry P. Guy

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Circa 1898

Ragtime Piano: Echoes from the Snowball Club (1898)


Harry P. Guy was born July 1870 in Zanesville, Ohio to Samuel (b. 1843, Ohio) and Lucy A. Guy (b. 1847, Virginia), he was about eight years old when he began the study of piano, violin, and pipe organ. As a youth, he peddled the black-owned Cleveland Gazette, and along with his brother Erin and sister, Ella M. Guy, he participated in a variety of musical events sponsored by his school, Hill High (class of 1886) and church, St. Paul A. M. E. He apparently had the opportunity to meet members of Donavin's Original Tennesseans when they appeared in Zanesville, including the black tenor and composer H. M. Wilson, as well as Alexander Luca of the famed Luca Brothers.

"During that period when Detroit was known as the 'City Beautiful' and 'where life is worth living'" wrote historian and Afro-American reporter Fred Hart Williams in his unpublished memoirs on Detroit, "Harry P. Guy was one of Detroit's unique and unusually gifted musicians. Guy's extreme modesty, his obvious efforts at self-effacement withheld from him the fame and wealth which should rightfully have been his. His superb arrangements of music compositions, his ability to infuse them with the magic of his inborn melody and harmony of tone, quite often were the measure of success of an otherwise mediocre composition. He was equally at home with arrangements of serious dimensions and with so-called popular forms of musical output. Harry P. Guy was the soul of music. Money seemingly mattered little. It was nothing unusual for him to neglect to place his name on manuscripts as the arranger. In consequence scores of musical successes carried only the name of the composer and lyricist."

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