Speculation on the early days of jazz in New Orleans is rampant. Stories and myths abound, but there is not much historical documentation. Except for the musicians busy making it—and people who enjoyed listening to it—nobody paid much attention to jazz in the first decades of the 20th century. One of the most fascinating resources on the New Orleans music scene in the years between 1880 and 1920 are oral histories collected from musicians, often by musicians, in the 1940s.
Native New Orleans guitarist and banjo player Danny Barker was a long-time sideman with Cab Calloway’s orchestra and a pioneering jazz researcher. In the 40s, when the first generation of jazz musicians was still alive, Danny returned to New Orleans and started his Jazzland Research Guild. He sent out questionnaires and interviewed the older generation of musicians. He talked with hundreds of musicians including clarinetist George Baquet, a member of the Imperial Brass Band, and Hamp Benson who recalled playing in Storyville in the early 1900s. Others remembered Lincoln Park as a focal point of New Orleans social and musical life. Buddy Bolden played for late night 'open air' dances, but there was music of every kind—
Lincoln Park catered to every kinda people. You had real Respectable, influential colored people -- school teachers, lawyers, the cream of the city's upper crust. They had social affairs in the main dance hall. Brass bands played; and elderly folks sat, listening or dancing to schottisches, quadrilles, one-steps and waltzes. - Danny Barker, The Last Days of Storyville
In his book, The Last Days of Storyville, Danny Barker shares reminiscences from the first generation of jazzmen in New Orleans, and tells their stories through a composite character he dubbed Dude Bottley. On this edition of Riverwalk Jazz, Vernel Bagneris offers scenes of the Crescent City through the eyes of Dude Bottely as The Jim Cullum Jazz Band provides the musical backdrop with traditional New Orleans favorites “My Bucket's Got a Hole In It,” “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor,” and “Oh, Didn't He Ramble.”
Photo credit for home page teaser image: Danny Barker, photo courtesy lastfm.jp
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick © 2006