An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans
With an introduction by Nat Hentoff
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)
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.
Among those featured in Chapter 4:
Jelly Roll Morton
Buddy Bolden’s Band
Top row: William Warner, William Cornish, Charlie “Buddy” Bolden,
Seated: Frank Lewis, Jeff “Brock” Mumford
The Great Buddy Bolden , comments by Jelly Roll Morton
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
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.
When you come right down to it, the man who started the big noise in jazz
photo by Myra Menville
Bunk Johnson, 1949
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
I went with Adam Olivier’s band, my first band, played
I was crazy to play blues. Bolden was playing blues of
And King Bolden was one fine-lookin’ brown-skin man,
The John Robichaux Orchestra, c. 1896
(Robichaux is seated, second from right)
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.
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
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
The Great Buddy Bolden , music and comments by Jelly Roll Morton
Buddy Bolden was more of a ragtime cornet player at that time than Manuel
I used to hear Bolden play every chance I got. I’d go out to the park where
They talk about Buddy Bolden – how, on some night, you could hear his
Adding to this dampness, there was the heat and humidity
| ALBERT GLENY
When I first met Bolden, he came at my house. He asked me if I was playing
Bolden was a strong trumpet player. You couldn’t help
Buddy got drinking too much. . .staying up two or three nights a week without
Now Bunk, he’s another man they ought to talk about.
© Louisiana State Museum
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
Most everybody has heard of Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong but few had ever
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
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.
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
Just Gone , by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
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
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.
| 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
| MUTT CAREY
Now, at one time, Freddie Keppard had New Orleans all sewed up. He was the
Keppard was the first man I ran into in a hand battle,
RICHARD M. JONES
Freddie Keppard was playin’ in a spot across the street and was drawin’ all
From then on, our place was full every night.
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
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
When I left New Orleans, Louis was just a beginner. He had
I remember once when Louis came out to Lincoln Park in
When he got through playing the blues, I kidded him a
I give Freddie Keppard and Joe Oliver credit too. They
Louis sings just like he plays. I think Louis proves
Then Louis’ tone is so big and he fills all those notes
| BUNK JOHNSON
When I would be playing with brass bands in the uptown section (of New Orleans),
I took a job playing in a tonk for Dago Tony on Perdido
Now here is the year Louis started. It was in the latter part
The first time I ever saw Louis was when he was about twelve, thirteen years
Then I saw Louis playing in a band at a picnic. He was
Frank Driggs Collection
Oh! Didn’t He Ramble
Salty Dog , by Johnny Dodds
Ballin’ the Jack , by Bunk Johnson
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
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
New Orleans, through the years, had some thirty-odd halls,
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
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
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
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
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
| JELLY ROLL MORTON
A lot of bad bands, that we used to call “spasm” bands, played any jobs they
None of these men made much money – maybe a dollar
New Orleans was the stomping grounds for all the greatest
I might mention some of our pianists – Sammy Davis,
All these men were hard to beat, but when Tony Jackson
Kid Ross was the steady player at Lulu White’s. Tony
If a naked dance was desired, Tony would dig up one of
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
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.
I became manager of a cabaret in 1913, a place on Rampart Street right across
Well, I put my brother in charge and hired a floorwalker
I made more than fifteen hundred that Mardi Gras week.
A lot of the best musicians worked for me there, among
Candy Lips , by Clarence Williams
Royal Garden Blues , by Edmond Hall (composed by Clarence Williams and Armand
Sister Kate , by Sidney Bechet, (composer credit,
Brown Skin (Who, For You)
Clarence Williams and I toured through Texas with Louis Wade. Louis played
You might say that I was the first Negro music publisher in New Orleans,
When I was young and very green, I wrote that tune, Sister Kate, and
Well, in 1916 I was sittin’ in the studio one day by myself and somebody
Another thing, I was the first to use the word, “jazz,”
I didn’t bother none with music stores then. They would
| ARNOLD LOYACANO
Can’t truthfully say who had the first white jazz band in New Orleans. Don’t
We were playing on a tailgate wagon here. They plastered
The Reliance Brass Band in 1910, Jack Laine is seated
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
The riverboats on the Mississippi played ragtime numbers almost
Different bands had different names for the same tune,
Their instrumentation was different, too. Most bands
Before the World War, there were several orks playing New Orleans cabarets.
Down on one side of Lambert Street was Basin Street (now
But outside the cabarets, the jazz bands were playing
As late as 1923, the bands in New Orleans were playing
Many of these tunes were published and copyrighted by
Edwards, incidentally, was the only reading musician
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,
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
An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans