In 1986, a group of Northeast Ohio jazz fans led by Jean and Paul Huling (known as Sister Jean, the Ragtime Queen and Laundry Fat) formed a club called EARLYJAS (The Earlville Association of Ragtime Lovers Yearning for Jazz Advancement and Socialization). The club produced the popular Fall Dixieland Jazz Festival in Strongsville, Ohio (replaced in 2012 by the GRUGELFEST). Sister Jean passed away on June 26, 2016 at the age of 85.
A classically trained musician who received her BA in Music from Wellesley College, Jean was well known throughout the United States and Brazil for her bold and lively mastery of ragtime. She received the Scott Joplin Foundation Award for Contributions to Ragtime in 1996. GRUGELFEST 2016 will honor her memory and her contribution to American jazz.
Jean and Paul Huling’s grandson, Kenan Leslie, continues the musical tradition of his grandparents; he appears at GRUGELFEST 2016 on both washboard and piano. Kenan began performing with Sister Jean at the age of eleven, just months after his grandfather died in 1996. The duo of “Sister Jean and Kenan” made its debut at the Washboard Music Festival in Logan, Ohio. For the next 10 years they performed at retirement communities, libraries, churches, holiday parties and civic events – sharing their talents and joy to brighten the lives of others. Kenan has now focused on ragtime piano; be sure to show him your support throughout the festival.
Kenan, who is now 21, has graciously agreed to join Cincinnati’s Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band for a special tribute to his grandmother on Saturday afternoon, when one of the festival’s youngest and oldest musicians will play together. The Buffalo Ridge trombone man is Bob Butters, who will be 87 this November. Bob has worked hard as a champion for traditional American jazz, and it is heartwarming to know that our music lives on throughout the generations.
Kenan Leslie and Bob Butters have been officially named “Co-Festival Kings” for GRUGELFEST 2016. Sister Jean would indeed be proud!
Sister Jean, the Ragtime Queen &
Kenan Leslie (“Li’l Laundry”)