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Jack Sohmer

jazz trumpeter, was born Thomas Carey in Hahnville, Louisiana, a small town west of New Orleans. Nothing is known of his parents, but of seventeen siblings, five of his brothers, including the legendary trombonist and bandleader Jack Carey, were also musicians. His first instruments were drums, guitar, and alto horn, but around 1912 he started playing cornet, working in his brother Jack's ragtime marching band and other similar groups. In 1914, along with the clarinetist Johnny Dodds and the bassist Pops Foster, he played in the trombonist Kid Ory's band and in 1917 toured with Billy and Baby Mack's Merrymakers revue in a group that included Dodds and the pianist Steve Lewis. After leaving the Merrymakers, on the suggestion of the cornetist King Oliver Carey took a job with the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé s Original Creole Band at the Pekin Café in Chicago but not ...

Article

Ronald P. Dufour

trumpeter, was born William Geary Johnson in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of William Johnson and Theresa (maiden name unknown), a cook, both former slaves. Though his early life remains shrouded in obscurity, Johnson claimed that he learned to play the cornet from Professor Wallace Cutchey, a music teacher at New Orleans University. His mother bought him an inexpensive cornet when he was about fourteen, and he played his first job with Adam Olivier's band in 1904 or 1905. Johnson also claimed that he played with Buddy Bolden during this period, but this seems unlikely. He did play with the popular Eagle Band in parades, and in 1908Pops Foster heard him playing with the Superior Orchestra, a ragtime band.

Johnson s tenure with the Superior Orchestra was cut short by the excessive drinking habits that plagued him his entire life Over the next few years he ...

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Barry Kernfeld

cornetist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was a cook; his parents' names are unknown. His older brother, the guitarist and tuba player Louis Keppard, claimed that Freddie was born in 1889 and first played violin, then mandolin and accordion, though he is known to have played guitar. He took up cornet at the age of sixteen. According to Alphonse Picou, he first played cornet in public at a picnic when Manuel Perez became ill. Picking up Perez's cornet, he played blues. It was well received, and thereafter he put aside the guitar. Keppard studied cornet with Adolphe Alexander Sr.

Details of Keppard's activities are confusing. Accounts are casual and conflicting, bands shifted personnel to suit the circumstances of day-to-day life, and musicians and historians have tried to give contributions an enhanced significance by moving the chronology forward. Early on Keppard played with Pops Foster ...

Article

Clifford Edward Watkins

circus minstrel, vaudeville bandleader, soloist, and entrepreneur, was born Perry George Lowery in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of eight children of Rachel (Tucker) and Andrew Lowery. “P. G.,” as he was known, was so proficient on the cornet that he was called the “World's Greatest Colored Cornet Soloist” by his teacher, Boston Conservatory Professor H. C. Brown (Indianapolis Freeman, 22 Feb. 1896).

During Reconstruction land promoters led wagon trains of newly emancipated black citizens to settle the recently opened former Indian Territory The Lowery family was among these and settled in Reece near Eureka Kansas on a 180 acre plot on Spring Creek in Greenwood County Soon after their arrival the Lowery family who were singers and instrumentalists organized the Star of the West Brass Band which became popular in the area How P G learned to play the cornet so well ...

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Barry Kernfeld

cornetist and bandleader, was born in Bertrandville, Louisiana, the son of a railroad worker. The names of his parents are unknown. Although Morgan's year of birth has been given as 1895, his tombstone in Holt Cemetery offers exact dates, together with the inscription “age 48 years.” His parents sang in a Baptist church, and his brothers Isaiah, also a cornetist, and Andrew, a clarinetist and saxophonist, played with Sam. His youngest brother, Albert, a string bassist, also played with Isaiah's group but had a separate, distinguished career in jazz.

After playing in brass bands in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, in 1915 Sam Morgan moved to New Orleans, where he led the Magnolia dance band and the Magnolia brass band while working as a track laborer for the Grand Island Railroad. He suffered a stroke in 1924. By autumn 1926 he was sufficiently recovered to ...

Article

Lawrence Gushee

cornetist and bandleader, was born Joseph Oliver in or near New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Jessie Jones, a cook; his father's identity is unknown. After completing elementary school, Oliver probably had a variety of menial jobs, and he worked as a yardman for a well-to-do clothing merchant. He appears to have begun playing cornet relatively late, perhaps around 1905. For the next ten years he played in a variety of brass bands and large and small dance bands, coming to prominence about 1915. Between 1916 and 1918 Oliver was the cornetist of trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory's orchestra, which was one of the most highly regarded African American dance orchestras in New Orleans. Early in 1919 Oliver moved to Chicago and soon became one of the most sought-after bandleaders in the cabarets of the South Side black entertainment district.

In early 1921 Oliver accepted ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

brass band and dance band cornetist, was born Emile Emanuel Perez in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Catholic and a Creole, he was the son of a Hispanic father and an African American mother, whose names are unknown. His parents ran a grocery on Touro Street, and his father was also a cigar maker. Manuel was educated in a French-speaking grammar school, and he was raised on European classical and popular music. He took up cornet at age twelve, after which he entered the emerging world of syncopated music that later became ragtime and jazz.

While working steadily as a cigar maker Perez played in brass bands and dance bands in New Orleans, and he recalled that he was already playing ragtime on cornet in 1898. He married Lena (maiden name unknown) in 1900 they had at least one child That same year he joined the Onward Brass ...

Article

Jack Sohmer

jazz cornetist, was born Rex William Stewart in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Rex Stewart, a violinist and singer, and Jane Johnson, a pianist, who taught him music from the age of four. In 1914 he started playing alto horn and then cornet in a boys' band in Washington, D.C., where his parents had settled sometime earlier. After three years' experience with this group he played on the Potomac riverboats and then in 1920 joined Ollie Blackwell's Jazz Clowns to tour with Rosa Henderson's blues revue, Go-Get-It. When the show folded in Philadelphia he found work with the Musical Spillers, a family vaudeville act whose code of behavior Stewart violated so often that he was dismissed in 1923. Instead of returning home, though, he stayed in New York City to freelance in dozens of small Harlem clubs.

In the fall of 1924 after an engagement ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz trumpeter, was born Joseph Lewis Thomas in Webster Groves, Missouri. His parents' names are unknown. His father was a church deacon, and his mother sang in the church choir. By about age eight Thomas was playing cornet in church and in a band organized by a Mr. Sims and directed by P. B. (or P. G.) Langford (or Lankford), a multi-instrumentalist from whom he took lessons. He attended high school and then Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Thomas played for one night in the riverboat bandleader Charlie Creath's band. He then worked for several years with far lesser known bandleaders in St. Louis, the upper Midwest, and New Jersey before joining the pianist Fletcher Henderson's big band from around March to May 1934. After working with the banjoist Ferman Tapp at Smalls' Paradise in Harlem in September 1934, Thomas joined the bassist Charlie Turner ...