Features » New Orleans Stories » An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans - Chapter 4

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 4

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans

With an introduction by Nat Hentoff

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Featuring the complete text of chapters 1 – 5 from Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It, a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

(Published with the consent of Nat Hentoff)

Chapter

1  2   3   4   5

   

Nat Hentoff’s Introduction

*

Chapter 4

Bunk Johnson, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Freddie Keppard,
Buddy Petit, Manuel Perez, Clarence Williams, Chris Kelly, Buddy Bolden
they all called the children home.

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Among those featured in Chapter 4:

Mutt Carey

Bunk Johnson

Bud Scott

George Baquet

Kid Ory

Louis Armstrong

Zutty Singleton

Jelly Roll Morton

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Buddy Bolden’s Band

*

Top row: William Warner, William Cornish, Charlie “Buddy” Bolden,
James Johnson

Seated: Frank Lewis, Jeff “Brock” Mumford

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The Great Buddy Bolden , comments by Jelly Roll Morton

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  DANNY BARKER

When I was growing up, Jelly Roll was a legend and the same with Bechet.
You’d hear of Jelly Roll, how he’d left and how he’d set the pace. Somebody
would see him in Chicago and bring back the news of how successful he was
there. And he was often importing some New Orleans musicians.

 It was Jelly Roll who brought Buddy Petit to California,
but Buddy didn’t like it and came back to New Orleans.

 A dozen books should have been written about Buddy Petit.
The way people rave over Dempsey, Joe Louis, or Ben Hogan today, that’s how
great Petit was when he played. The kids would come up and say, “Can I shake
your hand, Mr. Petit?” And on parades, they’d be ten deep around Buddy as
he walked along blowing. He was a little, Indian-looking sort of guy. He
talked broken patois.

 It’s this country’s fault that he didn’t record. They
were recording Caruso at that time, but this country didn’t want to accept
its heritage in the music of men like Buddy Petit. But those rich millionaires
– the Fords and those people – will go over to Paris and buy a
Cezanne or a Goya, pay fifty thousand dollars for it, and put it in a museum.
But we’ve got our own cultural heritage here and we ignore it.

 Or like the guy in Philadelphia who has that fabulous
art collection and just lets certain people come to see it. You dig what
I’m talking about? When here, in jazz, is something you can hear and enjoy
here, right now.

 Papa Celestin should take weeks and weeks and tell about
his career in detail from day to day, as much as he remembers. And there’s
a whole story, Picou tells me, about the Negro symphony that used to be in
New Orleans. It’s not too late to get some of the older men to tell their
stories.

 The story of jazz should be in all the schools, so the
children would know where their music comes from. They should give money
so that people could go out West and study and record cowboys and Western
folklore. The kids in the schools today think their country has nothing.

 You take CBS and NBC and them kind of people. They have
hours and hours of putting Tyrone Power and Ingrid Bergman to portraying
some French story that happened years ago, while right here they have John
Henry, Stack O’Lee, Casey Jones, and all them kings of fabulous stories that
American kids know nothing about. So they spend millions of dollars for all
that other kind of foolishness.

 You remember that movie, NEW ORLEANS, that had Louis
Armstrong and Billie Holiday? Well, them people took pictures of every segment
of New Orleans. They made their pictures as authentic as they could get them,
but they didn’t put any of it in the movie, any of the authentic stuff, because
they wanted the movie commercial. They showed the leading man posing for
fifteen minutes, fixing his tie, while they should have been showing the
people, the real thing.

  MUTT CAREY

When you come right down to it, the man who started the big noise in jazz
was Buddy Bolden. Yes, he was a powerful trumpet player and a good one too.
I guess he deserves credit for starting it all.  

Buddy Bolden

photo by Myra Menville

Bunk Johnson, 1949

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Make Me a Pallet on the Floor , by Sidney Bechet

Tiger Rag , by Louis Armstrong

  BUNK JOHNSON

King Buddy Bolden was the first man that began playing jazz in the city of
New Orleans, and his band had the whole of New Orleans real crazy and running
wild behind it. Now that was all you could hear in New Orleans, that King
Bolden’s Band, and I was with him. That was between 1895 and 1896, and we
did not have any “Dixieland Jazz Band” in those days. Now here is the thing
that made King Bolden’s Band the first band to play jazz. It was because
they could not read at all. I could fake like five hundred myself, so you
could tell them that Bunk and King Bolden’s Band were the first ones that
started jazz in that city or anyplace else.

 I went with Adam Olivier’s band, my first band, played
with them just a short while, and I had the opportunity of hearin’ King Bolden’s
Band at Lincoln Park. And I got crazy to play with Bolden and Bolden played
my style of music. I liked to read, but I played that head music better –
more jazz to it. I liked to read, and I could read good, but Bolden played
pretty much by ear. And made up his own tunes, but everything that he played,
I could whistle, I could play. And I jumped Olivier’s band and went with
Bolden. That was in 1895.

 I was crazy to play blues. Bolden was playing blues of
all kinds, so when I got with Bolden, we helped to make more blues. Make
Me a Pallet on the Floor
, that was played in 1894 by King Bolden. And
quadrilles, I was crazy to play quadrilles. This quadrille, the first eight
bars of what the bands are usin’ today, Tiger Rag, that’s King Bolden’s
first eight bars we would play to get your partner ready for quadrille. And,
in later years, ’twas taken and turned into Tiger Rag by musicians
that could read. Had Bolden knew music, probably Bolden would have made
Tiger Rag. The Dixieland Jazz Band is one that taken Tiger Rag,
the first eight bars, and turned it into the dance number what we dancin’
today we call Tiger Rag.

 And King Bolden was one fine-lookin’ brown-skin man,
tall and slender and a terror with the ladies. He was the greatest ragtime
cornet player, with a round keen tone. He could execute like hell and play
in any key. He had a head, Buddy did!

 

The John Robichaux Orchestra, c. 1896

(Robichaux is seated, second from right)

  BUD SCOTT

I joined John Robichaux in 1904. There were seven men in the band (no piano):
guitar, violin, Jim Williams on trumpet (he used to use a mute), cornet,
Battice Dellile on trombone, Dee Dee Chandler on drums, and the greatest
bass player I ever heard in my life – Henry Kimball. They played for
the elite and had the town sewed up. In about 1908, Robichaux had a contest
with Bolden in Lincoln Park and Robichaux won. For the contest, Robichaux
added Manuel Perez. Bolden got hot-headed that night, as Robichaux really
had his gang out. On other occasions, when Robichaux was playing in Lincoln
Park and Bolden in Johnson Park, about a block away, Bolden would strip Lincoln
Park of all the people by slipping his horn through the knothole in the fence
and calling the children home.

 Each Sunday, Bolden went to church and that’s where he
got his idea of jazz music. They would keep perfect rhythm there by clapping
their hands. I think I am the first one who started four-beat for guitar,
and that’s where I heard it (all down-strokes – four straight down).
Bolden was still a great man for the blues – no two questions about
that. The closest thing to it was Oliver and he was better than Oliver. He
was a great man for what we call “dirt music.” Let me tell you, he was plenty
powerful. Even with all that power, the trumpet players of that day would
have their notes covered, and they would not hurt the ear the way rebop does
now. You could hear every instrument in these bands – every instrument.
The drummer had his drums tuned – he would tune those drums like they
were a piano.

  GEORGE BAQUET

I was out celebrating with some of my friends, when we went to a ball at
the Odd Fellows Hall, where Buddy Bolden worked. I remember thinking it was
a funny place, nobody took their hats off. It was plenty tough. You paid
fifteen cents and walked in. When we came in, we saw the band, six of them,
on a low stand. They had their hats on, too, and were resting – pretty
sleepy.

 We stood behind a column. All of a sudden, Buddy stomps,
knocks on the floor with his trumpet to give the beat, and they all sit up
straight, wide awake. Buddy held up his cornet, paused to be sure of his
embouchure, then they played Make Me a Pallet on the Floor. Everybody
got up quick, the whole place rose and yelled out, “Oh, Mr. Bolden, play
it for us, Buddy, play it!”

 I’d never heard anything like that before. I’d played
“legitimate” stuff. But this! It was somethin’ that pulled me! They got me
up on the stand that night, and I was playin’ with ’em. After that, I didn’t
play “legitimate” so much.

The Tuxedo Brass Band.  Manuel Perez is standing, second from
left

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Cafe
Capers , by Elgar’s Creole Orchestra, c. 1926, one of the only recordings
of cornetist Manuel Perez
   

The Great Buddy Bolden , music and comments by Jelly Roll Morton  

  ALPHONSE PICOU

Buddy Bolden was more of a ragtime cornet player at that time than Manuel
Perez. He didn’t use music. Manuel did use music. Buddy was very big and
had a loud tone. You could hear him for a block. Sure, Buddy was louder than
Armstrong. The loudest there ever was, because you could hear Buddy’s cornet
as loud as what Louis Armstrong played through the mike.

  KID ORY

I used to hear Bolden play every chance I got. I’d go out to the park where
he was playing, and there wouldn’t be a soul around. Then, when it was time
to start the dance, he’d say, “Let’s call the children home.” And he’d put
his horn out the window and blow, and everyone would come running.

  DANNY BARKER

They talk about Buddy Bolden – how, on some night, you could hear his
horn ten miles away. Well, it could have happened, because the city of New
Orleans has a different kind of acoustics from other cities. There is water
all around the city. There is also water all under the city, which is one
of the reasons why they would bury people underground – in tombs, mounds,
et cetera – because if you dug over three feet deep, you would come
up with water.

 Adding to this dampness, there was the heat and humidity
of the swamps, of the bayous all around New Orleans. From the meeting of
the dampness and the heat, a mist, a vapor comes up into the air there, and
there are continuously changing air currents. And, because of all this, because
sound travels better across water, and because of all those moving air currents,
when you blew your horn in New Orleans – especially on a clear night
– when guys like Bolden would blow their beautiful brass trumpets, the
sound carried.

   

 ALBERT GLENY

When I first met Bolden, he came at my house. He asked me if I was playing
regular. I told him no. He asked me to be a member of his band. So I played
in his band for four or five years.

 Bolden was a strong trumpet player. You couldn’t help
from playing good with Bolden. He was crazy for wine and women and vice versa.
Sometimes he would have to run away from the women. I used to take his horn
away from him sometimes and bring him to my house. When he went mad, he would
walk up and down the street talking to the wrong people – foolish –
about his gal and that gal.

  LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Buddy got drinking too much. . .staying up two or three nights a week without
sleep and going right on to work like so many hot musicians. They get low
in their minds and drink some more. People thought he was plumb crazy the
way he used to toss that horn. The sad part is Buddy actually did go crazy
a few years later and was put away in an insane asylum in Jackson, Mississippi.
He was just a one-man genius that was ahead of ’em all. . .too good for his
time.

 Now Bunk, he’s another man they ought to talk about.
What a man! Just to hear him talk sends me. I used to hear him in Frankie
Duson’s Eagle Band in 1911. Did that band swing! How I used to follow him
around. He could play funeral marches that made me cry.

© Louisiana State Museum

Albert Gleny

 

Mutt Carey

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Ostrich Walk , by Mutt Carey and His New Yorkers

   MUTT CAREY

Of course, Bunk Johnson deserves credit for what he used to do. He has marvelous
ideas and I used to like to hear him play. He wasn’t quite the drive man
that Joe (Oliver) and Freddie Keppard were, however. He always stayed behind
the beat instead of getting out there in the lead like those other men. Bunk
was good, and he was solid when he was playing. Bunk had plenty of competition
on his way up and he never was the king down there.

  PRESTON JACKSON

Most everybody has heard of Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong but few had ever
heard of Mutt Carey in his prime. Mutt Carey, in his day, was equal to Joe
Oliver. Mutt is the first trumpet player or cornetist that choked his horn.
He used a drinking glass in the bell of his horn, and how he did swing! Mutt
wasn’t a high-note player; he wasn’t as strong as Louis Armstrong or Joe
Oliver. Buggsy reminds me a lot of Mutt. Mutt hardly ever played as high
as B-flatt or high C; that was out of his range. Mutt had a very mellow tone
and a terrific swing. The softer the band played, the better Mutt played.
The drummer used sandpaper, there being no wire brushes at that time. You
could hear every instrument. They seemed to blend better than the average
band nowadays. Whenever the band became noisy, Mutt would look back and sideways
and say, “Sh, sh,” meaning get down softer. That didn’t stop them from swinging.
Some cats can’t swing soft. Mutt could make many pretty runs and changes.
He was strictly gutbucket or barrelhouse. Nothing technical about his playing.
Just swinging all the time, pretty diminished chords. He choked his cornet
and made it moan just like Joe Oliver did later. I never will forget Mutt
Carey.  

   MUTT CAREY

I was the youngest of seventeen children in my family. You know, my brother
Jack had the Crescent Band in those days and was a pretty good trombone player,
as was my brother John and my brother Milton. Pete and myself played the
trumpet.

 I was twenty-two when I started playing the trumpet.
Lots of boys had a head start on me because they began playing earlier, but
I caught up with them. You see, I first learned the drums but got tired of
packing those drums around, so I switched over to the trumpet. My brother,
Pete, gave me my first lessons on the horn. Later, John taught me also.

 I got my first job with Jack’s Crescent Band in 1912.
They had a lot of good bands in those days and a lot of fine musicians playing
with them. I played with almost all of them during my years in New Orleans.

 There was Frankie Duson’s Eagle Band. I played with them.
Baby Ridgley had the Tuxedo Band, which I also played with. I played with
Kid Ory’s band too. Jimmy Brown had the Superior Band, and I also played
with them. I played with Joe Oliver in a brass band too. Old Joe could really
play his horn.

 In my brother Jack’s band, Sidney Bechet was playing
the clarinet and Jim Johnson was on bass. Charles Moore was the guitarist
and Ernest Rodgers played drums. Then there was my brother Jack and I.

 My first job was in Billy Phillips’ place. We played
anything we pleased in that joint; you see, there was no class in those places.
All they wanted was continuous music. Man, they had some rough places in
Storyville in those days. A guy would see everything in those joints and
it was all dirty. It was really a hell of a place to work.   

  PRESTON JACKSON

Mutt never could play high, but he made Joe Oliver throw his trumpet away
once. There was a big parade in New Orleans and Mutt was with the Tuxedo
Brass Band, while Joe was with the Onward Brass Band. His outfit was a few
feet in front of the Tuxedo Band in the parade, and Mutt was playing some
grand stuff. Joe couldn’t take it long. He just threw his horn away and went
into a pawnshop and bought another.

 Later on, about 1914 I should say, Joe began to improve
a lot. He used to practice very hard. I remember he once told me that it
took him ten years to get a tone on his instrument. He use a half-cocked
mute, and how he could make it talk! He played the variation style too; running
chords I mean. His ear was wonderful – that helped a lot.

 One of the best numbers I ever heard Joe play was
Eccentric. He took all the breaks, imitating a rooster and a baby.
He was a riot in those days, his band from 1915 or ’16 to 1918 being the
best in New Orleans. The La Rocca boys of the Dixieland Jazz Band used to
hang around and got a lot of ideas from his gang. The boys playing with Joe
then were Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Edward Ory, trombone; Ed Garland, bass
viol; Henry Zeno, drums; Eddie Polla, violin; and a guitar player whose name
I have forgotten. He didn’t use a piano. How those boys could swing, and
it was jazz they played, too, not ragtime music.  

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, 1921

Ram Hall, Honore Dutrey, King Oliver, Lil Hardin-Armstrong, David
Jones, Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Palao, Ed Garland

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Just Gone , by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

   MUTT CAREY

Joe Oliver had a few numbers that were on sheets of music, but he got away
from it as quickly as he could. You see, Joe was no great reader. Joe Oliver
was very strong. He was the greatest freak trumpet player I ever knew. He
did most of his playing with cups, glasses, buckets, and mutes. He was the
best gut-bucket man I ever heard. I called him freak because the sounds he
made were not made by the valves but through these artificial devices. In
contrast, Louis played everything through the horn.

 Joe and I were the first ones to introduce these mutes
and things. We were both freak trumpet men. Some writers claimed I was the
first one to use mutes and buckets, but it wasn’t so. I got to give Joe Oliver
credit for introducing them. Joe could make his horn sound like a holy-roller
meeting; God, what that man could do with his horn! Joe’s band followed me
in San Francisco, and it didn’t go over because I had come there first with
cups and buckets, and the people thought Joe was imitating me. Joe and I
used to get a kick out of that whenever we talked about it. He sure got his
laughs from it.

 I’ll tell you something about Joe’s records. I haven’t
heard a single one that comes close to sounding like Joe’s playing in person.
I don’t know what it was, but I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t believe that
it is Joe playing on the records sometimes. It never sounded to me much like
Joe.  

 

LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Storyville had a lot of different characters. . .People from all over the
world made special trips to see what it looked like. . .There were amusement
for any type of person. . .Regardless of some of the biggest pimps who lived
there at that time Storyville had its nice spots also. . .There were night
clubs with all of that good music that came from the horns of the great King
Joe Oliver (my my whatta man). . .How he used to blow that corner of his
down in Storyville for Pete Lala. . .I was just a youngster who loved that
horn of King Oliver’s. . .I would delight delivering an order of stone coal
to the prostitute who used to hustle in her crib right next to Pete Lala’s
cabaret. . .Just so’s I could hear King Oliver play. . .I was too young to
go into Pete Lala’s at the time. . .And I’d just stand there in that lady’s
crib listening to King Oliver. . .And I’m all in a daze. . .That was the
only way we kids could go into The District – I mean Storyville. . .I’d
stand there listening to King Oliver beat out one of those good ol good-ones
like Panama or High Society. . .My, whatta punch that man had. . .And could
he shout a tune. . .Ump. . .All of a sudden it would dawn on the lady that
I was still in her crib very silent while she hustle those tricks –
and she’d say – “What’s the matter with you, boy?. . .Why are you still
there standing so quiet?” And there I’d have to explain to her that I was
being inspired by the King Oliver and his orchestra. . .And then she handed
me a cute one by saying – “Well, this is no place to daydream. . .I’ve
got my work to do.” So I’d go home very pleased and happy that I did at least
hear my idol blow at least a couple of numbers that really gassed me no end.
. .

 King Oliver was full of jokes in those days. . .Also the days before he passed
away (bless his heart). He had a good heart.

Louis Armstrong

 Whatta band he had at Pete Lala’s. . .Oh that music sounded so good.
. .In that band he had Buddy Christian on the piano – Professor Nicholson
on the clarinet – Zue Robertson on the trombone – himself on cornet
and Henry Zeno on drums. . .ahh – there was a drummer for ya. . .He
had a press roll that one very seldom hear nowadays. . .And was he popular.
. .With everyone. . .With all the prostitutes – pimps – gamblers
– hustlers and everybody. . .Of course they called gamblers “hustlers”
in those days. . .Most of the pimps were good gamblers also. . .And Henry
Zeno was in there with them. . .He even had several prostitutes on his staff
working for him. . .By that he would handle more cash than the average musician.
. .And he as a little short dark sharp cat – and knew all the answers.
. .He even was great in a street parade. . .He also played in the Onward
Brass Band which was made up of the top-notched musicians and featuring on
the cornets Manuel Perez and King Oliver. . .And you never heard a brass
band swing in your whole life like those boys. . .Ump Ump Ump. . .I’ll never
be able to explain how they would swing like mad – coming from the cemetery
– after playing funeral marches to the cemetery with the body and after
the Preacher sez – ashes to ashes and dust – et cetera – Henry
Zeno would take his handkerchief off of the snare under the bottom of his
snare drum so’s every member could get in his place and get ready to march
back to the hall with some of the finest swing music pushing them. . .And
with Black Benny on the bass drum and Henry Zito laying that press roll on
the cats (the second line) that was a musical treat in itself. . .P.S. the
second line (cats) was consisted of raggidy guys who hung around poolrooms
and et cetera.

 Henry Zeno died a natural death. . .He lived up in Carrolton – a section
of the city that’s miles away from Storyville. . .Yet – still –
when he died everybody all over the city including Storyville were very sad.
. .The day of his funeral – there were so many people that gathered
from all sections of the town until you couldn’t get within ten blocks of
the house where Henry Zeno was laid out. . .There were as many white people
there to pay their last respect for a great drummer man and his comrades,
and the people who just loves to go to funerals no matter who dies. . .Although
I was only a youngster – I was right in there amongst them. . .I had
the advantage of the other kids – by meeting great men as Henry Zeno
and King Oliver, et cetera. . .So it broke my heart too. . .

 MUTT CAREY

Now, at one time, Freddie Keppard had New Orleans all sewed up. He was the
king – yes, he wore the crown. Then Louis got in and killed the whole
bunch of them. Freddie really used to play good. He could have been as big
as Louis, since he had the first chance to make records, but he didn’t want
to do it because he was afraid that other musicians would steal his stuff.

 Keppard was the first man I ran into in a hand battle,
and it was just my hard luck to run into the king. We had a big audience
on the street. It was on Howard and Villare Streets in New Orleans. The crowd
knew I was a younger musician and they gave me a big hand mostly to encourage
me. It certainly was an experience for me I’ll never forget. Freddie had
a lot of ideas and a big tone too. When he hit a note you knew it was a hit.
I mean he had a beautiful tone and he played with so much feeling too. Yes,
he had everything; he was ready in every respect. Keppard could play any
kind of song good. Technique, attack, tone, and ideas were all there. He
didn’t have very much formal musical education, but he sure was a natural
musician. All you had to do was play a number for him once and he had it
– he was a natural! When Freddie got to playing, he’d get devilish sometimes
and he’d neigh on the trumpet like a horse, but he was no freak man like
Joe Oliver. Freddie was a trumpet player any way you’d grab him. He could
play sweet and then he could play hot. He’d play sweet sometimes and then
turn around and knock the socks off you with something hot.

 

  RICHARD M. JONES

Freddie Keppard was playin’ in a spot across the street and was drawin’ all
the crowd. I was sittin’ at the piano, and Joe Oliver came over to me and
commanded in a nervous harsh voice, “Get in B-flat.” He didn’t even mention
a tune, just said, “Get in B-flat.” I did, and Joe walked out on the sidewalk,
lifted his horn to his lips, and blew the most beautiful stuff I have ever
heard. People started pouring out of the other spots along the street to
see who was blowing all that horn. Before long, our place was full and Joe
came in, smiling, and said, “Now, that ———– won’t bother me no more.”

 From then on, our place was full every night.

Freddie Keppard

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Stockyards Strut , by Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals

Salty Dog , by Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals

 

Frank Driggs Collection

Louis Armstrong and Joe Oliver, c. 1923

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Dippermouth Blues , by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

  “Canal Street Blues, by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

MUTT CAREY

Who was the greatest trumpet player in jazz? Louis Armstrong – there’s
no question there! Louis played from his heart and soul, and he did that
for everything. You see, he tried to make a picture out of every number he
was playing to show just what it meant. He had ideas, enough technique to
bring out what he wanted to say, and a terrific lip. You know, when the ideas
struck him, he had the technique to bring them out right there on the horn.

When I left New Orleans, Louis was just a beginner. He had
just gotten out of the Waifs’ Home, and he was a coming trumpet man then.

 I remember once when Louis came out to Lincoln Park in
New Orleans to listen to the Kid Ory Band. I was playing trumpet with the
Kid then and I let Louis sit in on my chair. Now, at that time, I was the
“Blues King” of New Orleans, and when Louis played that day he played more
blues than I ever heard in my life. It never did strike my mind that blues
could be interpreted so many different ways. Every time he played a chorus
it was different and you knew it was the blues  – yes, it was all
blues, what I mean.

 When he got through playing the blues, I kidded him a
little. I told him, “Louis, you keep playing that horn and some day you’ll
be a great man.” I always admired him from the start.

 I give Freddie Keppard and Joe Oliver credit too. They
were great boys but there’s no one who ever came close to Louis. No, Louis
was ahead by a mile! Louis makes you feel the number and that’s what counts.
A man who does something from the heart, and makes you feel great. You see,
Louis does that for everything. And one thing, Louis never rehearsed a blues
number; he played them just as he felt at the time he was up there on the
stand.

 Louis sings just like he plays. I think Louis proves
the idea and theory which hold that if you can’t sing it, you can’t play
it. When I’m improvising, I’m singing in my mind. I sing what I feel and
then try to reproduce it on the horn.

 Then Louis’ tone is so big and he fills all those notes
– there is no splitting them when he plays. There’s nothing freakish
about Louis’ horn. He fingers what he wants to play, and there are no accidents
in the notes he brings out. You know, it’s a pleasure just to hear Louis
tune up. Why, just warming up, he blows such a variety of things that it
is a wonder to the ears, and a real pleasure. Louis set the pace for the
whole world for trumpet players. Joe and Freddie did their bits but they
never could touch Louis. God knows, both of them were good but, what the
heck, man, they never could touch Louis.

   BUNK JOHNSON

When I would be playing with brass bands in the uptown section (of New Orleans),
Louis would steal off from home and follow me. During that time Louis started
after to show him how to blow my cornet. When the band would not be playing,
I would let him carry it to please him. How he wanted me to teach him how
to play the blues and Ball the Jack and Animal Ball, Circus Day,
Take It Away,
and Salty Dog and Didn’t he Ramble?, and
out of all those pieces he liked the blues the best.

 I took a job playing in a tonk for Dago Tony on Perdido
and Franklin Street and Louis used to slip in there and get on the music
stand behind the piano. He would fool around with my cornet every chance
he got. I showed him just how to hold it and place it in his mouth, and he
did so, and it wasn’t long before he began getting a good tone out of my
horn. Then I began showing him just how to start the blues, and little by
little he began to understand.

Now here is the year Louis started. It was in the latter part
of 1911, as close as I can think. Louis was about eleven years old. Now,
I’ve said a lot about my boy Louis and just how he started playing cornet.
He started playing it by head.

  ZUTTY SINGLETON

The first time I ever saw Louis was when he was about twelve, thirteen years
old. He was singing with three other kids in an amateur show at Bill and
Mary Mack’s tent show in New Orleans. Louis was singing tenor then, and they
broke it up that night. The other three boys were Red Happy, Little Mack,
and a guy by the name of Clarence. This happened just before Louis got sent
to the Waif’s Home, and so I didn’t see him again for a while. But I heard
about him at the Home. Some of the fellows that were sent there would come
back and say how fine this Louis Armstrong was playing.

 Then I saw Louis playing in a band at a picnic. He was
marching along with the band, so we got up real close to him to see if he
was actually playing those notes. We didn’t believe he could learn to play
in that short time. I can still remember he was playing Maryland, My Maryland.
And he sure was swingin’ out that melody.

Frank Driggs Collection

Louis Armstrong

_____

Oh! Didn’t He Ramble
, by Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band

Salty Dog , by Johnny Dodds

Ballin’ the Jack , by Bunk Johnson

 

  KID ORY

The first time I remember seeing Louis Armstrong, he was a little boy playing
cornet with the Waifs’ Home band in a street parade. Even then he stood out.
In those days I had a brass band I used for funerals, parades, and picnics.
Benny, the drummer of my brass band, had taken Louis under his wing.

 One evening, Benny brought Louis, who had just been released
from the Waifs’ Home, to National Park, where I was playing a picnic. Benny
asked me if I would let Louis sit in with my band. I remembered the kid from
the street parade and I gladly agreed.

 Louis came up and played Ole Miss’ and the blues,
and everyone in the park went wild over this boy in knee trousers who could
play so great. I liked Louis’ playing so much that I asked him to come and
sit in with my band any time he could.

 Louis came several times to different places where I
worked and we really got to know each other. He always came accompanied by
Benny, the drummer. In the crowded places, Benny would handcuff to himself
with a handkerchief so Louis wouldn’t get lost.

 In my dance band at that time – around 1917 –
Joe (King) Oliver was my trumpet player. I received an offer to take my band
to Chicago, but I was doing too well in New Orleans to leave. Joe, however,
along with Jimmie Noone, who was my clarinetist, decided to go up to Chicago.
Joe told me before he left that he could recommend someone to take his place.
I told him I appreciated his thought but that I had already picked out his
replacement.

 There were many good, experienced trumpet players in
town, but none of them had Louis’s possibilities. I went to see him and told
him that if he got himself a pair of long trousers I’d give him a job. Within
two hours, Louis came to my house and said “Here I am. I’ll be glad when
eight o’clock comes. I’m ready to go.”

 I was doing one-nighters all over New Orleans in yacht
clubs, country clubs, and promoting my own dances at Pete Lala’s hall Sundays
and Cooperative Hall Mondays. These were the top jobs in New Orleans. After
he joined me. Louis improved so fast it was amazing. He had a wonderful ear
and a wonderful memory. All you had to do was to hum or whistle a new tune
to him and he’d know it right away. And if he played a tune once, he never
forgot it. Within six months, everybody in New Orleans knew about him.

 

  DANNY BARKER

There are some trumpet players who died that you never hear about. Now, Chris
Kelly was a master and played more blues than Louis Armstrong, Bunk, and
anybody you ever knew. Manuel Perez was different. He was a military man,
played on a Sousa kick. He was a great street-parade trumpet player. Perez
had a reddish complexion. He was on a Spanish kick, his father and his
grandfather Spanish and his mother colored. And he had a beautiful head of
hair. He had a stocky build, like a middleweight or light-heavy, could blow,
blow real loud – High Society, Panama. Nobody could top him in
the street parades because he could hit those high notes. He always had a
stomach full of food, while most of them fellows who played the street parades
were full of whiskey. About two hours later, they pooped out, but Manuel
Perez didn’t; he had eaten two pots of gumbo before he left.

 New Orleans, through the years, had some thirty-odd halls,
each one incorporated, and most of them are active and standing today. Each
of these halls had a different class distinction based on color, family standing,
money, and religion. The most exclusive was the Jean Ami, which very few
jazzmen ever entered – down to the Animal Hall, where even a washboard
band was welcome if they could play the blues.   

photo by Myra Menville

Manuel Perez, 1946

 So, Chris Kelly, who was dark of color, low on finance, Baptist from
birth, and cultured in the canebrakes, never gave a thought to ever blowing
his blues in the Jean Ami Hall and a dozen other amusement places.

 Chris could play slow, lowdown gut-struts until all the
dancers were exhausted and dripping wet. His masterpiece was Careless
Love
, preached slow and softly with a plunger. He always played it at
twelve o’clock, just before intermission. He’d blow a few bars before knocking
off, and his fans would rush about, seeking their loves because that dance
meant close embracing, cheek-to-cheek whisperings of love, kissing, and
belly-rubbing.

 The dance would always end in a fight by some jealous
lover who was dodged or couldn’t be found at Chris’s signal. The moment the
fisticuffs started, he would knock off a fast stomp that sounded like
Dippermouth Blues.

 Now, there was a caste system in New Orleans that’s died
out now. Each one of those caste systems had its own trumpet player, and
Chris Kelly played for those blues, cotton-picking Negroes, what they called
in the old days, “yard and field” Negroes. They were real primitive people
who worked in the fields, worked hard. They wore those box-backed suits and
hats with two-colored hands on them, shoes with diamonds in the toe, or a
two-dollar gold piece in the toe. Shoes cost them around twenty dollars,
and the shoemakers put that in the toe. And they put that silver stuff on
when they shined the shoes. When the sun was shining, it would light you
up. Chris Kelly played for those people. They would give a ball at the New
Hall, which was the young men’s charity hall, and every time they gave something
there, the undertaker would be glad because there were three or four bodies,
and sometimes women’s titties would be chopped off. They featured that in
New Orleans. They had special instruments for doctoring breasts and would
come up with a razor to do that. Chris Kelly played for people like that.
He looked like Sidney de Paris, but lighter, and he always had three or four
stooges with him. They idolized him and he would never have to touch his
horn. You see, Cootie Williams, that style he plays, he got that style from
Chris Kelly. Chris used to go to Mobile, where they had the same caste system
as New Orleans. He played a dicty dance there one night and played nothing
but barrelhouse with that plunger. He was the first one I saw play with the
plunger. Although New Orleans never featured it, he could play with it. And
he also played church music, especially Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
He really moved the people. He should have been a preacher. But he preached
so melodiously with his horn that it was like somebody singing a song, and
he would go into the blues from there. When he went to Mobile and did that,
nobody else could go to Mobile any more. They only wanted Kelly.

 Chris would come on the job with a tuxedo, a red-striped
shirt, a black tie, a brown derby, and a tan show and a black shoe. Whatever
he picked up in the house before he left, that’s what he wore. And nobody
said anything to him because they wanted to see him.

 He just played for a certain element in New Orleans and
couldn’t play for the people that Piron played for, and he couldn’t play
the cabarets, but he played for those people. He worked all the little towns
and worked every night and always made the job. He talked a real, broken
patois, African almost. The Creoles couldn’t understand him. They didn’t
like him and they didn’t want to see him in the street, because he played
for what was supposed to be the bad element. When he would play a street
parade, mostly advertising, all the kitchen mechanics would come out on the
street corner, shaking. The Creoles would hate to see that. I wanted to work
with that man so badly, but he would never hire me. I used to hang around
him and try to sit in his band, but he would look at me with a frown, because
he knew my uncle was Paul Barbarin and he knew my grandfather. And the cats
in his band would say, “He shouldn’t play with us. He’s from another caste.”
But I loved him. Also, everywhere he played they had to fry fish and have
gumbo, especially for him. He wouldn’t eat it because he was suspicious and
he’d bring red beans and rice or chicken in his bucket. King Oliver was
suspicious too. They wouldn’t eat anybody’s food, but they had to feed their
bands. That was in the contract. Musicians like Chris Kelly were very
temperamental, and if they weren’t taken care of, there was no telling what
would happen.

 Everybody acknowledged the cornet player as leader because
he carried the lead, and everybody improvised around him. But they had some
wonderful trombone players, too. Kid Ory had a wonderful band, and Jack Carey,
who used Tiger Rag as a theme. He’d play it all the day in the street
to announce his coming – “Jack Ca-rey! Jack Ca-rey!” Zue Robertson was
a hell of a trombone player, but he wasn’t a leader. He played in the circuses
and carnivals, too, like a lot of the New Orleans musicians. There was Honore
Dutrey, too.

 And then there was Black Benny, the drummer – six
foot six – nothing but muscle. He was handsome in a sort of African
way. He was all man, physically. He feared nobody. He was raised in the Third
Ward – Perdido and Bolivar Streets – that was called “the
battleground.” It was one of the toughest neighborhoods in New Orleans other
than the “Irish Channel.” Black Benny was a great drummer. He had an African
beat. He was something to see on the street with his bass drum that looked
like a snare drum in front. You’d have to ask all the drummers how he did
it, but he could move a whole band with just that bass drum. All the drummers
could do it, but he had the reputation for being best at it. Everybody in
New Orleans – for it was a very competitive city – had the reputation
for doing something best. Benny was also a ladies’ man, a bouncer, and a
prizefighter. He was a man who didn’t like to see anybody take advantage
of an underdog. He would also win the battle royals.

 The battle royals were when they’d pub five men in the
ring, one in the center, and blindfold them. The bell would be hit, and everybody
would start punching. Whoever stayed the longest won the prize – five
or ten dollars. These were men. Those five cats in the ring – just before
the bell was hit – would look to see in what position each other was,
and then, after the blindfolds were on and the bell sounded, they’d be punching
like mules kicking. You’d have to be an awful brave man to get in that ring.
And Black Benny won them all.

Jelly Roll Morton

_____

New Orleans Joy , by Jelly Roll Morton

*

Tony Jackson

_____

Pretty
Baby , by the Louisiana Rhythm Kings (written by Tony Jackson)

  JELLY ROLL MORTON

A lot of bad bands, that we used to call “spasm” bands, played any jobs they
could get in the streets. They did a lot of “adlibbing” in ragtime style
with different solos in succession, not in a regular routine, but just as
one guy would get tired and let another musician have the lead.

 None of these men made much money – maybe a dollar
a night or a couple of bucks for a funeral, but still, they didn’t like to
leave New Orleans. They used to say, “This is the best town in the world.
What’s the use for me to go any other place?” So, the town was full of the
best musicians you ever heard. Even the rags-bottles-and-bones men would
advertise their trade by playing the blues on the wooden mouthpieces of Christmas
horns – yes sir, play more low-down dirty blues on those Kress horns
than the rest of the country ever thought of.

  New Orleans was the stomping grounds for all the greatest
pianists in the country. We had Spanish, we had colored, we had white, we
had Frenchmens, we had Americans, we had them from all parts of the world,
because there were more jobs for pianists than any other ten places in the
world. The sporting houses needed professors, and we had so many different
styles that whenever you came to New Orleans, it wouldn’t make any difference
that you just came from Paris or any part of England, Europe, or anyplace
– whatever your tunes were over there, we played them in New Orleans.

 I might mention some of our pianists – Sammy Davis,
one of the greatest manipulators of the keyboard I guess I have ever seen
in the history of the world; Alfred Wilson and Albert Cahill, they were both
great pianists and both of them were colored. Poor Alfred Wilson, the girls
taken to him and showed him a point where he didn’t have to work. He finally
came to be a dope fiend and he smoked so much dope till he died. Albert Cahill
didn’t smoke dope, but he ruined his eyes staying up all night, gambling.
Albert was known as the greatest show player in existence as I can remember.
Then there was Kid Ross, a white boy and one of the outstanding hot players
in the country.

 All these men were hard to beat, but when Tony Jackson
walked in, any one of them would get up from the piano stool. If he didn’t,
somebody was liable to say, “Get up from that piano. You hurting its feelings.
Let Tony play.” Tony was real dark and not a bit good-looking, but he had
a beautiful disposition. He was the outstanding favorite of New Orleans,
and I have never known any pianists to come from any section of the world
that could leave New Orleans victorious.

 Kid Ross was the steady player at Lulu White’s. Tony
Jackson played at Gypsy Schaeffer’s, one of the most notoriety women I’ve
ever seen, in a high-class way. She was the notoriety kind that everybody
liked. She didn’t hesitate about spending her money and her main drink was
champagne, and, if you couldn’t buy it, she’d buy it for you in abundance.
Walk into Gypsy Schaeffer’s and, right away, the bell would ring upstairs
and all the girls would walk into the parlor, dressed in their fine evening
gowns and ask the customer if he would care to drink wine. They would call
for “the professor” and, while champagne was being served all around, Tony
would play a couple numbers.

 If a naked dance was desired, Tony would dig up one of
his fast speed tunes, and one of the girls would dance on a little narrow
stage, completely nude. Yes, they danced absolutely stripped, but in New
Orleans the naked dance was a real art.

 

  CLARENCE WILLIAMS

At that time, everybody followed the great Tony Jackson. We all copied him.
He was so original and a great instrumentalist. I know I copied Tony, and
Jelly Roll too, but Jelly was more influenced by Albert Cahill. Yes, Tony
Jackson was certainly the greatest piano player and singer in New Orleans.
He was on the order of how King Cole is now, only much better. About Tony,
you know he was an effeminate man – you know.

 He was of a brown complexion, with very thick lips. Tony
was a sensible dresser, not too flashy, except when he went on drinkin’ sprees.
He went up to Chicago, and I remember when I got there that he worked at
an after-hours place where all the big actors and show folks would come to
see him. Tony was the best – and the most popular song he wrote
was Pretty Baby.

 Tony played all the best places in The District. Lulu
White’s and Countess Willie Piazza’s. In fact, I followed Tony into Willie
Piazza’s.

  BUNK JOHNSON

Jelly was one of the best in 1902 and, after that, noted more so than Tony
Jackson and Albert Cahill because he played the music the whores liked. Tony
was dicty. But Jelly would sit there and play that barrelhouse music all
night – blues and such as that. I know because I played with him in
Hattie Rogers’ sporting house in 1903. She had a whole lot of light-colored
women in there, best-looking women you ever want to see. Well, I was playing
with Frankie Duson’s Eagle Band on Perdido Street and sometimes after I’d
knock off at four in the morning, Jelly would ask me to come and play with
him – he’d play and sing the blues till way up in the day.

 

CLARENCE WILLIAMS

I became manager of a cabaret in 1913, a place on Rampart Street right across
from Union Station, a very rough place where the railroad fellows would hang
out. The kind of a place where, from time to time, they would break it up
when there was a fight. The man who owned the place came to me and asked
me to run it. He told me, “I’ll furnish the liquor, and you furnish the
entertainment and the girls.”

 Well, I put my brother in charge and hired a floorwalker
six feet tall and carrying a police stick. I had the place cleaned and scrubbed
and painted and made a strict rule. Nobody was allowed in ‘less they would
wear a coat and a collar. It turned out to be a respectable place, and if
anybody got rough, the floor-walker would knock those fellows out and throw
’em outside.

 I made more than fifteen hundred that Mardi Gras week.
I had different musicians, all top-notchers, and girls to sing, Creole girls.
I would give them fifty per cent on all the drinks they sold. They were
cocktails, only the girl’s drink would be some soda with a cherry in it.
Of course, the guys would get the real thing. Some of those girls made as
high as twelve or fifteen dollars a night.

 A lot of the best musicians worked for me there, among
them King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, and young Louis Armstrong, who was about
twelve or thirteen years old, a happy kid, just like he is today, and workin’
on a coal cart. Most all the musicians in New Orleans worked with me. Do
you know that I took Bunk Johnson away from home, and he played with me in
a sportin’ house in Alexandria? And I took Bechet when he was in knee pants.
We went all over Texas. Joe Oliver came with me, too, in my own show. About
those fellows that “discovered” Bunk a few years ago. They came to me and
I told them, “Listen, there’s one boy you forgot about,” and I told them
where to find Bunk. I gave the man his address in New Iberia.

Clarence Williams

_____

Candy Lips , by Clarence Williams

 

 

Armand Piron

_____

Royal Garden Blues , by Edmond Hall (composed by Clarence Williams and Armand
Piron)


*

Sidney Bechet

_____

Sister Kate , by Sidney Bechet, (composer credit,
Armand Piron)   

Brown Skin (Who, For You)
, by Clarence Williams (vocal by Daisy
Miller)

  SIDNEY BECHET

Clarence Williams and I toured through Texas with Louis Wade. Louis played
piano, I played clarinet, and Clarence sang. Much of the time, we plugged
early numbers that Clarence had written, numbers that everyone knows today.
We played every kind of date – dances, shows, and one-night stands.
We even played in ten-cent stores to sell sheet music.

  CLARENCE WILLIAMS

You might say that I was the first Negro music publisher in New Orleans,
and I went into partnership with A.J. Piron. Piron, at that time, was what
you might call the Paul Whiteman of New Orleans, his having one of the best
orchestras in the city, playin’ at the best hotels. Piron was important to
me because he could write the songs down for me.

  LOUIS ARMSTRONG

When I was young and very green, I wrote that tune, Sister Kate, and
someone said that’s fine, let me publish it for you. I’ll give you fifty
dollars. I didn’t know nothing about papers and business, and I sold it outright.

  CLARENCE WILLIAMS

Well, in 1916 I was sittin’ in the studio one day by myself and somebody
sticks a long envelope under the door. It was a check from the Columbia Record
people for sixteen hundred dollars! Up until then, we had gotten royalty
checks, oh fifteen or twenty dollars for piano rolls, at the most. I looked
at that check and actually thought it was for sixteen dollars. It was for
a song called Brown Skin, Who You For? and the Columbia people had
sent a representative down and they recorded it there and the next thing
I knew, I got this check. I believe it was the most money anybody ever made
on a song in New Orleans. After that, everybody was writing songs down there.
The news got around and, in the Mardi Gras, all the bands were playin’ Brown
Skin, Who You For?
Canal Street was decorated with brown-skin leather,
and all the children were singin’ it. Walkin’ down Rampart Street, it was
the biggest day of my life. You ask George Brunies about it. He was the youngster
then, but he was at the head of the parade in one of the hottest bands down
there, playin’ my song.

 Another thing, I was the first to use the word, “jazz,”
on a song. On both Brown Skin, Who You For? and Mama’s Baby Boy,
I used the words, “jazz song,” on the sheet music. I don’t exactly remember
where the words came from, but I remember I heard a woman say it to me when
we were playin’ some music. “Oh, jazz me, baby,” she said.

 I didn’t bother none with music stores then. They would
always be tellin’ you, “We don’t have any calls for it.” Instead, I would
go from door to door with my music. I’d knock on a door and say, “I’ve got
a new song. It’s only ten cents.” And they’d say, “Come on it.” I’d sit down
at the piano and play and sing, and pretty soon the neighbors would be in
and I’d be sellin’ plenty of copies. I’d also go around from park to park
and to all the dance halls pluggin’ my songs, and sometimes Lizzie Miles
would go around with me to sing.

 

 ARNOLD LOYACANO

Can’t truthfully say who had the first white jazz band in New Orleans. Don’t
know. But I do know Jack Laine had the most popular band at the that time.
He was more in demand, around 1900, and he developed fellows like Nick La
Rocca, Tom Brown, Raymond Lopez. They all played with him. In Laine’s own
words, he put a horn in their hands! He had two or three bands at that time,
so popular that he couldn’t fill all the dates. Many times, Bud, my brother,
and I subbed for him. Bud is seventy-two now, and he played often with Laine.
He remembers, too.

 We were playing on a tailgate wagon here. They plastered
signs on the side and we’d stand in the wagon and play while it crept down
the streets. We’d been playing as a group for about ten years, I guess.

The Reliance Brass Band in 1910, Jack Laine is seated

 

  JACK WEBER

It was in a saloon that Leon Rappolo first picked up a clarinet. Leon’s father
owned a Negro saloon, and every now and then a colored band would drop in
to play a chorus as a ballyhoo for a colored dance coming up or a prize fight.
Late at night, they’d serenade the saloon for free drinks. And once in a
while these musicians would stop off and shoot a game or two of pool. Rappolo’s
kid would tease the clarinet players in these bands to teach him some licks.
And they did. Later on, playing with Eddie Shields at Toro’s Cabaret, he’d
learn from Eddie the things Eddie’s brother, Larry, had shown him.

 Those clarinetists who gave Rappolo tips on clarinet
playing were fakers, every one of them. Some of them thought that if they
learned how to read, it would ruin their ability to improvise! There just
two classes of musicians in New Orleans in those days — high-class musicians,
who read music and who played in the opera house and similar spots, and dance
musicians. The dance musicians played in honky-tonks or took one-night jobs
when they could. The best men in the dance bands were fakers, playing ragtime.

 Their tunes came from a million sources. Many of them
were stolen from old marches (High Society, for instance) and were
the leader’s interpretation of the old marches. Because he couldn’t read,
the band played it differently from the original. Other band leaders stole
it in turn, and, because they couldn’t read either, the tune was played with
many variations. After the leader had shown the trumpet man the melody (or
what he thought was the melody), the trumpeter would play it for the band,
and the men would come in, making a complete arrangement. It was “every man
for himself,” with the trumpeter taking the lead and everyone else filling
in the best he could. The order, “Don’t take down,” was a signal to everyone
in the band to play all the time — no laying down the horn for a minute.

 There was another difference between the “high-class”
musician and the dance musician. The latter was proud of his status and didn’t
want to sound like an opera-house tooter, so he tried to get as honky-tonk
a tone as possible to avoid a “legit” tone. They built up the honky-tonk
tone with mutes, of which they had an endless variety. Sharkey Bonano, when
he traveled north to New York, astounded Manhattan natives by showing them
the New Orleans trick of putting the bell of the trumpet into a bucket of
water! They had endless gadgets in those bands – kazoos, plunger mutes,
half-cocoanut shells at the bell – as well as the regular theater mute.

 I remember talking with an old circus trumpeter in New
Orleans back in 1915 on a dance date, a fellow named Sam Rickey. He told
me that they had been playing ragtime down there for thirty years. New Orleans,
too, was the spot where bands first started off a tune with two warning beats.

Fate Marable’s New Orleans Harmonists aboard the S.S. St. Paul

_____

Frankie and Johnny , by Fate Marable

*

Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1916

_____

Bluin’ the Blues

Clarinet Marmalade

 Fidgety Feet

Livery Stable Blues

 The riverboats on the Mississippi played ragtime numbers almost
exclusively, except for numbers the Original Dixieland Band had published.
We used numbers like Raggin’ the Scale, Maple Leaf Rage, Tiger Rag,
Sensation
, and Eccentric. But they didn’t have the same names
then. Tiger Rag was called No. 2, and Sensation was
known by the name, Meatballs.

 Different bands had different names for the same tune,
but they used variations and played the tunes in different keys. Blues they
made up or stole from the Negro bands. A number like No. 2 (Tiger Rag)
was played in different keys and had only two parts until the Original
Dixieland Band added parts for dance dates and recordings.

 Their instrumentation was different, too. Most bands
used two trumpet players, not for first and second parts, but because a job
would last from nine A.M. to four A.M. It took two good men, taking turns,
to hold up under the strain of playing melody that many hours. The general
instrumentation was first and second trumpet, trombone, clarinet, guitar,
bass fiddle, and drums. Piano was added only in night clubs, as the budget
never included anything extra for moving a piano in for a job.

 Before the World War, there were several orks playing New Orleans cabarets.
Jimmy Brown, pianist, and his ork were at the Oasis; Louis Armstrong was
at Anderson’s cabaret; Leon Rappolo and a band without a name at Toro’s –
Leon’s dad placed him there to keep him out of mischief – with Eddie
Shields at the piano and Santo Pecora on trombone.

 Down on one side of Lambert Street was Basin Street (now
known as Saratoga), where all classes of people congregated in cabarets –
even respectable citizens, although the majority were anything but that!
Many of the musicians in these cabarets played left-handed. Nick La Rocca
played left-handed trumpet, for instance, and Jack Loyacano played left-handed
trombone.

 But outside the cabarets, the jazz bands were playing
too. Negro funeral bands went down the streets, and white musicians gathered
on the sidewalk to listen. Colored bands played dance dates, and white boys
watched from outside and “sweat” the band to get ideas – they never
went inside. And when white bands played a dance, the Negroes listened outside
and danced in the street.

 As late as 1923, the bands in New Orleans were playing
the same as they had before the war. The trumpeter would more or less make
up a tune, the others would ask, “What key?” and they would start. If it
sounded good and was worth a repeat (judging by the applause) they couldn’t
repeat – because they didn’t remember how they played it. Repeating
was especially tough on blues. We used to play four-change blues like Beale
Street
, but we would be careful not to use the original melody. It was
the same way with pop tunes; they were played differently than they were
written. They called these variations, “obligatos.”

 Many of these tunes were published and copyrighted by
the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and some of the songs were specifically
their own. Blueing the Blues, for instance, was written by Ragas;
Clarinet Marmalade, by Shields; Fidgety Feet – which includes
part of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody – as it was played by Edwards.

 Edwards, incidentally, was the only reading musician
of that band. In 1921, when I heard them in New York, Edwards had to play
the melody first so that La Rocca could lean the lead on Rose of Washington
Square!
The personnel of the band, at the beginning, included Ragas,
fake piano player; Larry Shields, clarinet; Nick La Rocca, trumpet; Eddie
Edwards; and Tony Sbabaro.

 One of the odd things about the New Orleans
ragtime musicians was their tendency to influence their brothers and sons
to be musicians. Or maybe they were born that way – who knows? Anyhow,
there were a lot of brother teams tooting horns in those days. The Brunies
family, for instance. George, trombone, began his musical career with an
upright alto which he bought for three dollars in a hock shop. Henry, his
brother, played trombone. Abbie, another brother, played trombone. Merritt,
the fourth brother, played cornet for some time; he’s now police chief in
Biloxi, Mississippi. Their uncle or cousin was Iron Lip (Richard) Brunies.
And another uncle, called “Double-Head,” played bass fiddle when he wasn’t
working in a New Orleans brewery.

 The Shields are a great family of musicians. I used to
live across the street from Larry Shields, and I remember hearing his clarinet
playing along with the music of an older brother, Jim, the only music reader
in the family. Larry has other brothers – Pat, Lawrence, and Eddie,
all musicians.

 Another brother was Tom “Red” Brown, trombone, and Steve
Brown, bass. Red’s band was known as Brown’s Ragtime Band. It was he who
brought the first band to Chicago for Harry James of Schiller’s Café,
who had gone to New Orleans to get an orchestra. That band included Red,
trombone; Raymond Lopez, cornet; Lambert, drums; Arnold (Jack’s brother)
Loyacano, bass; and Larry Shields, clarinet. They went to Chicago in 1915,
or possibly 1916, and played at another spot before going into the Schiller.
But it was at the Schiller that the sign “JAZZ MUSIC,” was set up for the
first time.

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An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans

Chapter

1  2   3   4   5

   

Nat Hentoff’s Introduction