Since the middle of the 19th century, Americans purchased pianos in increasing numbers. Families and friends gathered around the piano for evenings of musical fun. Piano players needed sheet music to learn the latest songs and publishers quickly printed everyone's favorite pieces, first in black and white and later with detailed chromolithographed color covers. The advent of radio and even television simply increased public awareness of hit songs, and the production of sheet music still grew. Eventually, use of sheet music lessened along with the popularity of home pianos in the middle and later 20th century. Radio, phonographs, and personal listening devices began to replace the piano in the parlor. Despite its title, "Alexander's Ragtime Bang" is not an example of the ragtime genre. Instead, it tells the story of the advent of ragtime music by African Americans and their ideas of playing popular music with a faster, up-beat tempo. The song was Irving Berlin's first major hit, and was introduced by singer Emma Carus, who was known for her "female baritone" voice. The song has been covered by many musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald.