Joplin was born in Northeast Texas into a musical family of laborers. Local teachers including Julius Weiss provided him with his musical education.
Early in life he gave mandolin and guitar lessons and founded a vocal quartet. In his early teens, he quit his job on the railroad and made his living as an traveling musician. He visited Chicago for the World's Fair of 1893 which was instrumental in launching ragtime.
In 1894, he moved to Sedalia, Missouri where he taught future ragtime composers like Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. He started publishing his compositions in 1895. "Maple Leaf Rag" which he wrote in 1899 became a super hit of the day and brought him an income for life that supported his future composing.
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