Up and down the coast in the music business and other activities  ·  Tijuana to Alaska
New Orleans musicians in California  ·  First music notation in Morton’s own hand

Laurie Wright sends the following article from The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 10th November 1917, page 5, column 2.

The California Eagle


Heard or Seen in Passing

by Floyd G. Snelson Jr. — staff reporter.

Mr. Ferd Morton, former pianist at the Cadillac Café, has resigned and is contemplating a new orchestra in this city, which will arrive next week from New Oreans (Orleans), a real jazz orchestra.

Karl Ellison sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 23rd February 1918, page 2, columns 3—4.

The Chicago Defender


Little Willie Moorehead, formerly stage manager of the Moonlight on the Levee Co., is having fine success with the Creole Jazz Band at San Diego, Cal. The band is composed of Buddy Petee (Buddie Petit), cornet; Mack Lewis, clarionette; Fred (Ferd) (Jelly Roll) Morton, piano; Dink Johnson, drums; Willie Moorehead, trombone. Some Band, I’ll say. Mail will reach Willie if addressed to 422 4th street, San Diego, Cal.

A letter arrived on Monday from Jimmy Marshall, of Marshall & Covert, who are in the west. Jim has been sick, but is able to be work again. He says that the act was entertained at dinner by Bricktop, who has a fine home in Los Angeles, and among those present were Cora Green, Shep Allen, Dick Webb and a few others. Cora Green and Carrie Boyd are entertaining at the Cadillac and Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie LaBelle at the Waldorf.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 2nd March 1918, page 4, column 3.

The Chicago Defender


Tony Langston’s Drama and Movie Review

. . . Billy Ross, the Nutt, writes an interesting letter. He tells all about the big bunch from Chi who are at Los Angeles, and the list includes such well known names as Lucille Hagerman (Hegamin), Carolyna (Carolyn) Lillison-Williams, Ada Bricktop Smith, Leslie Shimee Walton, Messrs. Hagerman (Hegamin) and Ferd Jelly Roll Morton, besides popular Bessie LaBelle and Cora Allen. The California group includes Edward Rucker, Miss Ollie Fitzsimmons of Australia and Billie (Billly) Ross himself. Some lineup. Mail will reach Billy if addressed to 620 E. 4th street, care Waldorf Café, Los Angeles, Cal. . . .

played by Jim Turner


Click here to view reproduction of manuscript of FROG-I-MORE RAG

On 15th May 1918, Ferd Morton, 120X Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California, copyrights FROG-I-MORE RAG. The registration number is Class E 439269, and the copyright deposit is the first dated Morton manuscript we have.

A reproduction of this manuscript follows page 260 in James Dapogny’s Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton: The Collected Piano Music.

Peter Hanley and Millie Gaddini send the WW1 Draft Registration Card for Ferd Joseph Morton, dated 12th September 1918. © National Archives and Records Administration.


Click to enlarge front of WWI Draft Registration Card                             Click to enlarge back of WWI Draft Registration Card

Ferd Joseph Morton

WWI Draft Registration Card
12th September 1918

Jelly Roll’s WWI Draft Card eluded researchers for many years. When it was discovered in November 2005, it was easy to understand why. Jelly Roll registered at Draft Board #17 in Los Angeles on 12th September 1918 and the card was sent to Draft Board #50 in Chicago to be filed with the other cards registered at Draft Board #50. The reason for this is that Jelly Roll gave his permanent address as 545 Aldine Square, Chicago, Illinois, which gave Draft Board #50 in Chicago administrative control over his registration.

The birth date on the card of 13th September 1884 adds yet another variation to the number of different birth dates for Jelly Roll on the public record.

The location of the address of Jelly Roll’s residence at 545 Aldine Square (which leads off Vincennes Avenue, just south of 37th Street), Chicago has been identified by Millie Gaddini and independently verified by Prof. Gushee. Millie has provided the superb period photograph of apartments and street scenes in Aldine Square.

Jelly Roll listed his occupation as “Actor” and his employer as the “Levi Circuit, San Francisco, Calif.” It was not unusual for featured musicians on the vaudeville circuit to list their occupation as an actor (for example, Bill Johnson and Eubie Blake). The “Levi Circuit” was actually Bert Levey Circuit of Independent Vaudeville Theatres, which operated, as an agent for vaudeville artists and independent theatres, from the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco with branch offices in London, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Denver and Los Angeles. Bert Levey was born in California on 1st August 1885 and ran his theatrical agency business from about 1910 to at least 1930. He died in Los Angeles on 30th September 1972.
[PH 1]

© November 2005 Peter Hanley

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 22nd February 1919, page 14, columns 2, 4 and 5.

The Chicago Defender


Salem Tutt Whitney and J. Homer Tutt’s “Smarter Set” is cleaning up at the Grand Theater, Cleveland, Ohio, this week.

Jelly Roll Fred Morton is now mayor of Frisco — that is, neighborhood mayor — and he is driving a twelve-cylinder touring car that makes the natives sit up and take notice.

The Johnson and Dean Review is playing the present half at Marion, Ind.

Kelly and Davis are playing the present half at Racine, Wis., and are going over in the usual big manner.

Jelly Roll Morton has organized a Jazz band at San Francisco, Cal., where he is making his home. He sends regards to all friends and would like to have them write. Mail will reach him if addressed to 3119 Broderick Street.

A letter arrived from H. Alf Kelley, the famous arranger. He is now a member of the U.S. Aircraft Band, which has 160 members, and he says that it is some aggregation, and we believe it, because Alf is the man who knows . . .

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following advert, which was published in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 5th April 1919, page 2.

The California Eagle

The Hotel Gordon, of 750 Pacific Street (Avenue), Has Moved
606-608 JACKSON ST.


DIXIE HOTEL Bar and Cafe
Entertainment Every Evening by the Great Jelly Roll and his
Jazz Band – Now Open For Business – Ladies Entrance
Right Above Ke(a)rney Street
Will announce Grand Opening later.                 ALEX COCHRANE, Prop.

Note: Both 750 Pacific Avenue and 606-608 Jackson Street are located in the Chinatown district of San Francisco.

 Mark Miller sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 23rd August 1919, page 5, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Wm. Hoy, the Hoosier drummer, is playing with Oscar Holden’s Jazz band at Wm. Bowman’s New Cabaret, Vancouver, B.C. Mail will reach him at 102 Georgia street, East.

Note: Oscar Holden’s business card from the Patricia Hotel in this same period. It comes from Holden’s daughter, Grace, in the 1990s.  Holden’s address, 102 Georgia Street, East, should not be taken as that of “Wm. Bowman’s New Cabaret,” which was in fact the Patricia Café in the Patricia Hotel at 403 East Hastings Street. The café began presenting jazz bands in October 1917, at first drawing on local musicians, including the African-Canadian drummer George Paris. (Vancouver Daily Sun, dated 7th October 1917) [MM 1]

Note: The Patricia Hotel still stands (2012), and the Patricia Café is now known as Pat’s Pub.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 6th September 1919, page 9, column 2. The article mentions Jelly Roll Morton’s appearance at Will Bowman’s cabaret in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

The Chicago Defender


Here are few letters that tell all about what is doing in different sections of the country, besides a whole lot of other things. Get ’em:

[Then follows a letter from the famous black magician, ‘Black Carl’, from Topeka, Kansas, and a letter from Will Grundy, of the team of Grundy and Young, from London, England]

Vancouver, B.C. — Dear Tony: Just a few lines to let you know that we are still alive on the coast. I have lately been in Montreal on business and am glad to report that my mission was a success, as 92 percent of the dining car division of the C.P.R. secured a fine raise in salary and insurance that brings $200 in case of death. Well, Will Bowman has opened a cabaret here and is doing fine. He has an 8-piece jazz band with Oscar Holden, Leo Bailey, Jelly Roll, Ada Brick-top Smith and others, with Mrs. E.T. Rogers cashier. Tom Clark has a neat little cafe, Reg Dotson still has the Lincoln club, Jean Burt and Perkins have opened a nite club and cafe, so Grandell (Granville) street looks like some parts of the Stroll. Well, be good.

Yours as ever,
Edw. Rogers,
940 Main st.

 Mark Miller sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 27th December 1919, page 5, column 5.

The Indianapolis Freeman


The Patricia Orchestra, one of the best bands on the coast, is scoring a big hit in Vancouver. The band is composed of Oscar Holden, leader, pianist and clarinet; Charles Davis, banjo; Albert Paddio (Padio), trombone; Frank Odel, saxophone, and Williams (sic) Hoy, trap drummer and xylophonist. Misses Ada Smith (Brick Top) and Lillian Rose are the entertainers who are really pleasing in their work and money never fails to come after these clever girls get through. One of the band’s biggest hits is where they all stand and shimmie, featuring William Hoy, the clever Hoosier drummer, who wishes to say that he was made a Master Mason the 24th of November. Bunch sends best regards to all friends.

Note: Oscar Holden, a veteran of Chicago cabarets in the 1910s, remained in residence at the Patricia Café through 1920 and into 1921. He spent the rest of his career in Seattle. One of the other musicians mentioned above, Albert Paddio (Padio), appears to have stayed with Holden for the duration of the Patricia engagement. The International Musician, dated September 1920, identifies Holden, William Hoy and “H. Patio” as “Full members by transfer” of Vancouver local 145 of the American Federation of Musicians, corresponding with the first anniversary of their arrival in the city. Paddio/Padio/Patio’s subsequent activities are unknown. “Poor Padio,” Morton told Alan Lomax 18 years later, “he’s dead now.” [MJR 170]  [MM 1]

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert, which was published in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 10th January 1920, page 4, columns 3—5.

The California Eagle

Spikes Bros. & Carter
“So Different Music House”

The Season’s Latest Song Hit                                                     Our First Publication

Note: The Spikes Bros. & Carter So Different Music House was located at 1203 Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California. Selling sheet music, musical instruments, phonographs, records and piano rolls, made the establishment a powerful magnet for musicians of Southern California. The advert announces the publication of the season’s latest hit song “Some Day Sweet Heart.”

Karl Ellison sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 17th July 1920, page 6, column 6.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Cal.

Old Pal Tony: I trust the Fourth of July was a “daisy for you.” Motored down to the popular border city, Tia Juana, Mexico, where the soil is moist, and spent a wonderful two days, mostly with Jack Johnson and his manager, popular George Ramsey of San Diego, and take it from me, Tony we surely wished for you, especially whenever elbow crooking was in evidence. Every one was looking for Jack. He was surely some busy guy, and he is looking the picture of health. Also there’s not one word of truth in the reports circulating that they are going to deport him. He was to fight Al Norton on the Fourth, but it was postponed. The “Main Event cafe,” formerly owned by Dan Montgomery, a gentleman of the Race, is now known as the “Cardinal.” It is Jack Johnson’s headquarters, and all his friends can reach him by addressing him in care of the Cardinal cafe, Tia Juana, Mexico. Since the doors of “Hawkins Paradise” were first thrown open it has been one continual throng after another. It can truly be said that it’s the “swiftest” place of amusement on the Pacific coast — bar none. It is a second Royal Gardens. “Cookie” is one of the popular entertainers there. Also, Prof. Arthur Wells has charge of the floor and he certainly knows how to run a dance hall. The entertainers at the Dreamland continue to draw the crowds. Carolyn & Rucker always have something new for the patrons. The doors are still closed at the Cadillac cafe. The natives hero are still talking of Rucker & Winnifred. Hunter, Randall & Senorita are gracing the footlights at the Hippodrome the last half of this week and are making the natives sit up and take notice with their clean comedy and clever dancing. Buddy Brown has entirely recovered from his recent illness. Lee Langster has moved up a notch farther and is now in Portland, Ore. Mail will reach him if addressed in care of Golden West hotel. Prof. McKinny, the magic wonder, has opened a booking office here. Johnnie Mae Venton is still making the natives “like it” with her classy offering. Burns Bros. are organizing a companv to take on the road. “Yours truly” is working out of the Pat Casey office and will he later. Thurston Briggs couldn’t resist the temptation and has re-entered pictures. Plenty of work out here, “Old Top” but no one to do it. Regards to all.

Truly your old pal.
1217 Central Ave.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 31st July 1920, page 4, column 4.

The Chicago Defender


(One week late)

Los Angeles, Cal.

Dear Tony: “You’se my good friend.” Bill “Bojangles” Robinson is the honored guest at the Orpheum this week. “I mean, he sure knows his stuff,” and that ain’t all. He knows just how to execute it. . . .

[Then follows a list of the west coast doings of a number of black vaudevillians]

. . . Kid Jelly Roll and Ralph Love, the Whirlwind Entertainers, are doing their stuff in Portland en route to the Entertainer’s Cafe in Seattle. Word comes from Vancouver, B.C. that Bill Bowman’s Patricia Cafe is the talk of the town. Then, too, that’s a country where you can “crook your elbow” and never be molested. Manager B. F. Spikes has secured the services of Evelyn Joyner, who is “peeling a wicked onion” with Eddie Rucker and Carolyn Williams at “the land of jazz,” Dreamland Cafe. . . . Well, so long, Tony, Old Pal, until the next time.

Ragtime Billy Tucker,
1217 Central avenue,
Los Angeles.

 played by Jim Turner
vocalist Topsy Chapman

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following photograph of Edward J. LaMothe, who was Jelly Roll Morton’s natural father. The photograph is from the National Archives, Department of State, Passport Application No. 102083, dated 20th October 1920.

Edward J. LaMothe - click here to view enlarged photograph

Edward J. LaMothe

© 2001 Prof. Lawrence Gushee & National Archives, Department of State

The above photograph of Edward J. LaMothe is taken from his passport application No. 102083, dated 20th October 1920. The Navy Department letter, transcribed below, is of extreme interest.



Eighth Naval District,
New Orleans, La.

14 October 1920.

Department of State,
Washington D.C.


This is to certify that Mr. E. J. LaMothe of New Orleans, Louisiana, an American citizen, is an employee of the U.S. Navy and is proceeding abroad in pursuance of duties relating to his Government position, in both Haiti and San Domingo.

It is requested that a passport be issued in his favor entitling him to carry out these orders.

Very respectfully,                     
R. K. Awtrey                          
Lieutenant Commander, USN. 

It is also requested that the occupation on passport be shown as Contractor, so that his connection with the Naval Intelligent Service will not be known.

W. L. Naff                              
Asst District Intelligence Officer
8th Naval District                     


Note: “. . . Of course, I guess you wonder how the name Morton come in. Why, the name Morton being a English name it wouldn’t sound very much like a French name. But my real name is Ferdinand LaMothe. My mother also married one of the French settlers in New Orleans, out of a French family, being a contractor. My father was a brick contractor — bricklayer — making large buildings and so forth and so on. . . .” [AFS 1640-A]

Note: In Mister Jelly Roll, Alan Lomax has incorrectly noted Jelly Roll Morton’s father’s name as F.P. La Menthe.
[MJR 3]

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 30th April 1921, page 4, column 5.

The Chicago Defender

Tony Jackson Buried.

Funeral services for Tony Jackson, popular songwriter and pianist, who died last week, were held in the chapel of the Jackson Undertaking Parlors, 29th and State streets, on Saturday. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. H. E. Stewart, pastor of Quinn Chapel Church. Miss Lizzie Hart Dorsey sang “The Rosary.” Prominent among those present at the services were Lovey Joe (Joe Jordan), Lilly Smith, Teenan Jones, Clarence Williams, Glover Crump (Compton), Tom Lemonier and the members of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Interment was made in Oakwoods Cemetery.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 25th June 1921, page 7, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Tony, Old Pal: Los Angeles has just recovered from celebrating Decoration day . . . Thanks for your number. Tom Lemonier’s “Better Days Will Come Again” is a favorite around these parts now and I use it in my act; also several others of the performers have learned it off of my copy. Again I thank you. “Kid Jellyroll,” the pianist, just blew into town last week and has his band in Paradise Gardens already. “Jellyroll,” who is the composer of the Blues of the same name, is a favorite on the coast and his orchestra is one that will make a hit anywhere. The Vendome Cafe opened Tuesday night June 7th. It was packed to capacity . . .

Best wishes to all friends in and out of profession.
Your pal,
234 N. Bonnie Brae, Los Angeles, Cal.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 16th July 1921, page 4.

The California Eagle

Biggest Thing Ever Happened
Wednesday, July 20th
L.A. Grand Moving Picture Stars

Ball and a Bear Wrestling Contest Between Man and Bear, the World’s champion John Brown. 600 lb. any man staying the limit, which is 5 minutes, the premium will be $500.

JOHN BROWN has beat the best wrestlers in the world including Straler Lewis and Joe Strecker, the champion heavyweight of the world.

Anyone interested in wanting to be a Miving (Moving) Picture actor or actress, come out to register on this particular night. This is the chance you’ve been waiting for.

Admission, Including War Tax
55 Cents
Come out and have a Bear of a time
Watch for Street Parade Tuesday 19th with the Bear

Prof. Alan Wallace and Dan Vernhettes send the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 23rd July 1921, page 6, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


Hello Tony, old top. Missed last week, eh? Well, I’m not missing this one, as this missive will show. Los Angeles is all “agog” over the Elks convention that is being held here. The B. P. O. E.’s are holding full sway and there’s not enough available talent to fill the demand. Every entertainer, jazz band and act is working.

Daniels & Daniels (Arthur and Georgia) and their band, with entertainers, are preparing to go up to Santa Barbara for the summer to work at one of the resorts. Tucker & Briggs (Ragtime and Thurston) are working at the Turkish Gardens, one of the largest and most refined Ofay cafes in the city, working with an Ofay orchestra and entertainers.

Jesse Stancel, known profesionally (professionally) as Jolly Johnson, was united in the holy bonds of matrimony last week. Already he looks as if he’s been married ten years.

Tony, have you ever heard of a guy named Volstead? They say he has an act. Though I have never seen it I’ve heard lots of talk of the “Volstead act.” Well, he hasn’t got any pull out here, and there’s one guy in particular who defies him. His name is “Hamp” and he is the official of a syndicate known as the _____ Oh, never mind. I won’t name the organization. But nevertheless they are so numerous they have to wear badges.

Paradise Gardens is using two of the best jazz bands on the coast, the Black and Tan and Jelly Roll’s Famous Creole Band. They keep the Paradise Gardens packed nightly. Eddie Rucker and Mme. Peggy Massy (of Paris, France) and a troupe of peerless entertainers are the special added attraction for the B. P. O. E. week, and, believe me, “bo,” this gang never fails to “go get ’em.”

Buddy Brown and Morgan Prince are working vaudeville dates in and around Los Angeles and making good as usual.

Visitors, performers and strangers are extended an invitation to visit Paradise Gardens while in Los Angeles. The most up-to-date cafe and dance hall on the Pacific coast, where joy and jazz reign supreme.

Clem Raymon, clarinetist, just blew in town from Frisco, where he says everything in northern California is “on the blink.”

Jelly Roll has issued a warning to all “stools.” Remember what happended to one on the avenue? If you don’t, ask Ragtime. He’ll tell you.

Bismark Ferris and his Family Band are working at Marcell’s grill and they are a regular hit.

Leak(s) Lake, the only park on the coast owned and operated by members of the Race, is progressing rapidly. Spikes Bros. and Bennett are the owners and they make everything convenient for all visitors at Leak’s Lake. It is situated about eight miles out of Los Angeles, a nice auto ride. There are any number of concessions, besides dancing, boating, swimming and a merry-go-round. Palm City is also in evidence, which makes everything nice. . . .

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert from The California Eagle, dated Friday, 5th August 1921, page 5, columns 6—7.

The California Eagle

A Grand Picnic
Leak’s Lake, Watts, Cal.
August 10th and 11th
Music By The Spikes Bros. Novelty Orchestra – Don’t Forget
The Date And Place

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert from The California Eagle, dated Friday, 5th August 1921, page 4, columns 1—3.

The California Eagle

Labor Day Picnic
The Hod Carriers and Building Laborers
Union No. 1, will hold their
Fourteenth Annual Picnic Barbecue
At Leak’s Lake, Watts

Labor Day, Sept. 5th
Follow these boys who for the past 14
Years have satisfied the

of Los Angeles City and County – Look
for further announcements

Wm. JONES, Pres. – S.P. JOHNSON, Chairman – T.T. CRANK, Sec’y

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 6th August 1921, page 7, column 7.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Cal., July 28, 1921

Dear Pallie —

Paradise Gardens is favored this week by the presence of Prof. Bismark Ferris and his wonderful musical family, featuring “Litte (Little) Miss” Amie Louise Ferris, the 12-year-old wonder and Mamie Smith of the West.

Master W. Haywood Jones is also in evidence at Paradise Gardens. He boasts of 12 years, also, and a voice like any veteran. Sounds like a kindergarten, eh? but it’s a regular cabaret entertainment and the public is crazy about these two youngsters who boast of a dozen years. And they’ll be heard from in the future, too, take it from me, “Pops.”

Original Jelly Roll Morton and his Famous Creole Band are still holding forth at Paradise Gardens and will be later.

Leak’s Lake is growing rapidly and proving more popular every day it is open.

Karl Ellison sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 10th September 1921, page 6, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

. . . In Tia Juana I ran across Eddie Rucker, who is entertaining at the Kansas City bar and cafe and making ’em “like it,” while at the “Cardinal” Jolly Johnson and Peggy Massy are entertaining; also others, some of whose names I have forgotton. Work is plentiful there and they are still crying for entertainers. In San Diego I found Kid North, who is running one of the swellest hotels on the Pacific Coast.

Dr. Philip Pastras sends Jelly Roll Morton’s Mexican Visa, dated 7th October 1921. The visa allowed Morton to work in Mexico. This rare document is part of the Henry Villalapando (Villalpando) Ford Collection, which was donated to the Historic New Orleans Collection. Special thanks to Alfred Lemmon and Elaine Pastras.

Click to view full-size of the English side of visa                         Click to view full-size of the Spanish side of visa

Pictured above is Jelly Roll’s Mexican Visa (Visado), dated 7th October 1921, which allowed him to work in Mexico until its expiry on 7th October 1922. This rare document is part of the Henry Villalapando (Villalpando) Ford Collection, which was donated to the Historic New Orleans Collection.

It should be noted that this may not be the only Mexican Visa issued to Jelly Roll, nor does it indicate that 1921 was the first time he visited Mexico. He told Alan Lomax that he composed The Pearls in Mexico near the border (Sonora State) in 1918. [AFS 1677-A]

For further details about the discovery of the Mexican Visa and a 58-page scrapbook, compiled by Jelly Roll Morton, it is recommended that Dead Man Blues — Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West by Phil Pastras is consulted. [DMB]

The photograph was first published in Dead Man Blues — Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West, by Phil Pastras (2001), (enlarged portrait) frontis page and the English side of the visa, page 113. [DMB]

Not shown in Mr. Jelly Lord (1980) by Laurie Wright, or Oh, Mister Jelly (1999) edited by William Russell.

courtesy of Dr. Philip Pastras and Alfred Lemmon

© 2005 Historic New Orleans Collection

Jelly Roll’s Birth Year on the Mexican Visa

Jelly Roll Morton’s Mexican Visa (dated 7th October 1921) was issued as one sheet of paper, measuring 6-inch x 5-inch, with the details typed and hand-written in English on the front, and with dates of validity of the Visa (7th October 1921 to 7th October 1922) typed and hand-written by a Mexican consulate official on the Spanish side. The photograph on the English side of the Visa was pasted over an area where Jelly Roll had written his year of birth.

Jelly Roll filled out the hand-written parts in English with a steel nib pen and black ink, which was the usual procedure in those days. The ink writing was generally visible from the other side of the paper, but in mirror reverse.

In an attempt to see what Jelly Roll wrote for the year he was born, Mike Meddings hit upon a brilliant method of forensic investigation. Phil Pastras had supplied him with full size photographs of both the front and the back of the Visa. Taking the full size of the back of the Visa (written in Spanish), he made a mirror image of it, and selected the area on the back where the birth year would be, underneath the photograph on the front of the Visa.

The image of this small area was then enlarged by a magnification of 2. The result clearly showed a year of “1890”.

A scan of the small section, where the date was written, was immediately sent to Prof. Lawrence Gushee in the United States and to Peter Hanley in Australia for their opinion.

Both agreed with Mike that what Jelly Roll wrote on the Visa as his birth year contained the following:

1   —  a type-written “1” was on the original form
8   —  an “8” in Jelly Roll’s handwriting
9   —  a “9” again in Jelly Roll’s handwriting
0   —  a “0” again in Jelly Roll’s handwriting.

It is now almost certain that Jelly Roll wrote “1890” as his birth year on the Mexican Visa and then pasted the larger than required photograph on the form, over the area where the year had been written. This is the first statement in Jelly Roll’s own handwriting so far discovered documenting that he believed he was born in 1890.

© May 2005 Peter Hanley and Prof. Lawrence Gushee

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 15th October 1921, page 8, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Calif.

Tony, Old Pal: Received your letter. Awful glad to hear from you for you know it’s only at times you have these writing spells. The theatrical game is at a standstill at the present time: I suppose it’s that way all over now . . . Leak’s Lake, a popular resort near here, has been changed to the Wayside Amusement Park, with music by Wood Wilson’s Original Satisfied orchestra. Grand opening Sunday, October 9 . . . Johnny Spikes, of Spikes Bros. Record shop, has just been notified that his latest song hit is out on Black Swan records. That sounds nice for one of our “home town” boys, eh? . . . Was down in San Diego and Tia Juana last week. Everything was lovely except the rain. Saw the mayor of the town, “Kid” North, who says he’s going to stick “chilly” to San Diego. Can’t cool him for that. Eddie Rucker, original Jelly Roll, Jolly Johnson, Jesse Stansel and Peggy Massy are among the entertainers across the border, and believe me, boy, that stuff sure flows freely. Now, Tony, don’t forget the $10,000 Trail. Yours for it.

Rag Time Billy Tucker,
234 N. Bonnie Brae,
Los Angeles, Cal.

Jelly Roll was probably in Tijuana for the races and it is possible that during this stay he composed The Pearls and Kansas City Stomps. [MJR 173]

Ken Mathieson’s
Classic Jazz Orchestra

Tijuana City, northwestern Baja California Norte estado (“state”), northwestern Mexico. The city lies along the Tecate River near the Pacific Ocean and is 12 miles (19 km) south of San Diego, California, U.S. In 1915, the Tijuana Fair showcased bullfights, horse racing, boxing, cockfighting and casino gambling. Curious San Diegans flocked in droves across the border as word quickly spread throughout the Southwest about Tijuana’s reputation as the “wildest of the wild.”

In 1917, San Diego banned cabaret dancing . . . and Tijuana wasted no time in building more cabarets and casinos. By now the fledgling community of Hollywood had heard all about Tijuana and the short three-hour drive down the California coast.

That trek soon became a pilgrimage for tourists when, in 1920, the United States outlawed alcoholic beverages and Tijuana welcomed America’s thirsty citizens with open arms that have never closed.

Karl Ellison sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 29th October 1921, page 6, column 3.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

“Kid” North, the Mayor of San Diego is in town for a week and goes back for the races, which open up across the border in a day or two.

On 12th July 1905, the 35 year old Horton House is razed to make way for the U.S. Grant Hotel. Construction halts on the U.S. Grant Hotel after the San Francisco earthquake paralyses the West Coast building industry. The 15th October 1910 saw the $1.95 million U.S. Grant Hotel open. It contains 437 rooms, 350 of which have private baths. Other features include a rooftop garden (the Palm Court), a bivouac grill and a magnificent ballroom. Designed by Harrison Albright, the hotel receives world-wide recognition.

By 1919, Baron Long, an entrepreneur from Indiana, acquires a partial interest in the hotel, and essentially controls it during the 1920s and 30s. Baron Long is a co-developer of the Aqua Caliente Hotel and Spa in Tijuana, which proves to be especially lucrative during the prohibition years.

On 19th September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson addressed 50,000 San Diegans at Balboa Stadium. Following the address, the President and Mrs. Wilson attended a banquet at the hotel.

In November 1921 Jelly Roll Morton and a small orchestra, which included Dink Johnson, Wade Whaley and Willie Moorehead, were engaged to play at the prestigious U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, California. The engagement was set-up by Dink Johnson, who tells of the band being fired by the hotel management because Morton sat at the piano and played with his legs crossed. [OMJ 117] However, Morton gives a different version of this event. He discovered that a white band playing in the hotel was being paid double the fee that his band was receiving, so he pulled the band out of the hotel. [MJR 173]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 12th November 1921, page 7, column 5.

The Chicago Defender


A letter came from Jelly Roll Morton and in it he claims that the report of his death which is raging throughout the civilized world and the South, is exaggerated. He claims that he isn’t half dead nor even indisposed. This being the fact he wants to be remembered to his millions of friends and admirers everywhere. He would like to hear from Paul Wyer, the Pensacola Kid. Mail will reach him if addressed to 542 Sixth Street, San Diego, Cal.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 28th January 1922, page 8, columns 1—2.

The Chicago Defender


By “Ragtime” Billy Tucker

This week, gentle readers, I promised to write of the musicians, performers and motion picture artists in general. Perhaps you don’t know that we represent the profession by quite a few out here in “God’s Country.” First we will start with the musical end of it. The Black and Tan orchestra is in the lead with the following musicians: Harry Southen, trombone and manager; Paul Howard, saxophone; A. J. Jackson, piano; Ernest Johnson, cornet, and Leon White, drums. The Black and Tan is considered the best band on the coast, and that’s saying a mouthful. The Original Satisfied orchestra comes next, with Wood Wilson, manager and bass viol; Ashford Hardee, trombone; Buster Wilson, piano; Shell Green, cornet; Chas. Green, clarinet and Saxophone, and Ben Borders, trap drums. This is considered the “next best” in the west, likewise chirping a mouthful. “Jelly Roll” Morton has one of the jazziest of jazz bands and is considered among the top notchers and one of the best in the business. Then there is the Wayside Jazz band, the Black Cat Jazz band, Blue Jay orchestra, McVey’s Jazz band, West Side Jazz and, Harold Lee’s Jazz Five, and last, but by no means least, is Ragtime Billy Tucker’s California Jazz Dispensers, a newly organized orchestra of five pieces, setting a pace for all of them.

Leak’s Lake (Wayside Park) and Caldwell’s Recreation Gardens are only a few minutes away from Los Angeles. They are considered the White City and Coney Island of the Golden West and are owned and operated by and for Negroes. . . .

2142 South Los Angeles street,
Los Angeles, Cal.


Everybody knows of “Singing” Noble Sissle and his accompanist, Eubie Blake, but they are only now learning of their great release, “Arkansas Blues” (a down home chant), by Spencer (Blues) Williams, combined with “I’m Just Too Mean to Cry,” on Emerson records.

Record buyers who anxiously await recordings made by this inimitable combination are buying this number so fast that dealers are complaining of not being able to keep the record in stock.

Laurie Wright sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 25th March 1922, page 8, section 2.

The Chicago Defender

Jellyroll (Jelly Roll) Morton and his ‘Jazz Band’ are about to leave for a tour over the Pantages circuit, and it is some ‘outfit,’ too. They dispense everything from grand opera to jazz, and will prove a hit everywhere they go.

Dr. Robert Pinsker has obtained documentary evidence of the name of the Hotel at 542, 6th Street, San Diego. He also discovered the background of two friends of Jelly Roll — “Kid” North and Bob Rowe — together with details of the horse named Crowfield (Coffield). [MJR 175] He searched through the San Diego City Directory to find the names of Robert (Kid) North and Robert (Bob) Rowe, and he has documented the following about their activities in San Diego:

The 1921 San Diego Classified Business Directory, lists under Furnished Rooms (not Hotels), the name of the Hotel North, 542, 6th Street. Today it is called the Simmons Hotel. The Historic Building Nameplate indicates that the hotel has had several names during its history. It was, and still is, the two upper floors that formed the hotel part of the building.

Robert North lived at 542, 6th Street in 1920 and 1921, where he was head of a household that included at least his wife Helen.
[MJR 175] At the time North lived at that address, he listed himself as a salesman. However, in 1921, the upstairs apartments at 542, 6th Street were in fact listed as Hotel North, so it can be inferred that North had some part in the ownership of the hotel at that time.

By 1922, a Peter Robinson had become owner of the apartments at 542, 6th Street, which had no other name than Robinson’s from this time up to 1938 or 1939, when Robinson either died or moved away from San Diego, and those apartments became known as the Simmons Hotel, the name they retain to this day.

North and his wife Helen became owners of the furnished rooms in another building in the very same block, on the same side of the street, at 520, 6th Street. They lived in their building for a couple of years, moving to a home at 164, 17th Street in 1924, while they continued to operate the rooms at 520, 6th Street. It appears that they lost control of the property by 1926; at least one of the couple seems to have moved to a separate address, and it is not clear which of them lived at what was then known as the Hotel DeLuxe in that year, and which of them lived at 420, 16th Street. Robert North listed himself as a “horse breeder” in the 1933 San Diego City Directory.

Robert Rowe, the kingpin of the district in New Orleans
[MJR 49] who was known to Morton, appears as a salesman living in a room at 405, 4th Street in 1918. By 1922, he and his wife Mabel appeared to be in control of the rooms at that address. The Rowes’ disappear from the directories after 1925.

By 1930, it appears that the Norths’ were separated, and Robert was living in a room at 520, 6th Street while his wife Helen was living at a house at 2135 Irving Avenue, a few miles south-east of the downtown area. The last reference to Robert and Helen North was in the 1939 directory.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The San Diego Union, dated Monday, 3rd April 1922, page 11.

Tiajuana Racing Season Will End 23rd of April;
Coffield Wins Big Race

As there has been much dissension in New Orleans concerning its winter race meets, doubts have been expressed by well-informed persons as to there being racing in the Crescent City next winter. Should this prove true the influx of stables at Tiajuana would be so great that additional stalls would be necessary.


The select field of three which paraded to the post in the owners’ handicap at Tiajuana yesterday afternoon had everything in their favor — a lightning fast track, light weights and hot weather — yet Coffield, the winner, was unable to break the track record . . .

As they swung down the stretch little Hurn made his move and North & Rowe’s gelding picked up the Irwin train, passed him, and won with a length to spare . . .

Coffield, two years ago, raced with the cheapest kind of platers here. When the meet in 1920 closed, “Kid” Rowe, who trains the stable of North & Rowe, took Coffield (pronounced “Ko’—feel”) over to Imperial Beach and breezed him on the beach during the summer months. When the race meet started the next year, Coffield startled the turf world by his change of form, as he won quite a string of victories, each time advancing in class.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The San Diego Union, dated Monday, 10th April 1922, page 10.

Coffield Wins Sprint With Be Frank Second and Motor Cop Third . . .

. . . When the bugle was blown to call the field to the post only four starters left the paddock. They were Motor Cop, the odds-on favorite; Coffield, winner of the mile race a week ago yesterday; Be Frank, winner of the U.S. Grant Hotel stakes, and Kinglike . . .

. . . Two and a half lengths behind the Irwin horse came Coffield, the hope of “Dahktown”, and trailing . . .

Prof. Alan Wallace and Prof. Lawrence Gushee send the following article from The Chicago Whip, dated Saturday, 22nd April 1922, page 6, column 6.

The Chicago Whip

Race Turfmen Visit Chicago

Kid North and his partner, Bob Rowe of San Diego, Cal., two of the few existing colored race horse owners, paid Chicago friends a brief visit this week. At present the boys have several horses, the best of which is Coffeild (Coffield). Followers of the turf will remember Coffeild (Coffield) captured the owners meet in Tia Juana finishing ahead of Motor Cop the favorite. 1:38.5 was the official time recorded, but unofficial time registered in three different places showed he actually made the distance in 1:37.4/5 the latter mark would have been a record, and of course with the breaking of a record goes $500. Nuf sed.

The men are en route for New York where they plan to make several purchases of good horses, before the Cleveland meet in June at which time they hope to enter several ponies.

Started as Song Writer

Kid North at one time thought his calling was song writing, and like his accomplishments in the new field, what he did he did well. One of his numbers for which he never received credit, but actually wrote was: “I never knew I could love anybody, Honey like I am loving you.”

Besides being owners of considerable repute the men are breeders of no mean ability, having turned out some of the best colts in the country.

Note: Roger Richard sends the following: “The tune I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody exists. Apparently it was recorded by Paul Whiteman, in one of his first sessions for The Victor Talking Machine Co. The words and music are credited to Tom Pitts, Raymond B. Egan and Roy Marsh, © 1920 (Lissauer’s Encyclopedia of popular music in America, page 392, by Robert Lissauer © 1991). Of course, it is almost certain to be a different tune. . . .”

Kid North also wrote Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More, which according to Jelly Roll Morton, formed the basis of Someday Sweetheart. [MJR 175]

Morton, in Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll, mentions Bob Rowe, Kid North and his wife Helen. Notice how Lomax has incorrectly transcribed the name of the horse as Crowfield — should be Coffield. [MJR 175]

 played by Trebor J. Tichenor

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 22nd April 1922, page 6, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Cal.

Dear Tony: Received your letter and, as usual, was more than glad to hear from you. Yea, bo . . . Monday nights are usually taken up at Blanchard’s hall. At times the Black and Tan plays there. Then Wood Wilson’s Original Satisfied orchestra. I had the honor of working with the Satisfied orchestra last Monday night, and I want to stall right along here and gab it to the world. Wood Wilson has eight pieces of music that can make it anywhere. They are redhot. They are constantly working, and the orchestra is classified as one of the only two reliable bands in the city, though there are numerous others.

Wayside amusement park opened last week under new management. Jelly Roll Morten (Morton) is the manager. They are also using Jelly Roll’s band of six pieces, running four nights a week — Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday — and ought to make gobs of money at that rate, with good music and favorable weather.

. . .  Times are truly hard, not only here, but all over the country.   Every day letters come to me telling of the conditions throughout the country . . .

Kid North was in my office one day last week. He was on his way to Cleveland, Ohio, from San Diego and Tia Juana, Mexico, where he had been conducting a hotel and playing the ponies likewise. He had two horses down there, Coffield and Nan McKinney, which have been winning all of the races. Last week both horses won, securing a stake of $2,500. Nan McKinney will race under Kid North’s colors at Maple Heights park, Cleveland, Ohio, after April 15. Luck to you, Kid . . . So long, Tony, till next week.

Ragtime Billy Tucker
2142 So. Los Angeles St.,
Los Angeles

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 29th April 1922, page 8, column 4.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Cal.

Dear Tony: . . .

This is the eve of the opening of the Hiawatha Dancing Academy, and finds me very busy. . . The floor is in perfect dancing condition and I am featuring one of the fastest jazz bands on the Pacific coast. As an extra added attraction we are featuring “King” Joe Oliver, the world’s greatest cornetist, who is in town en route to Chicago. He has been up in San Francisco for a few months. When he came to Los Angeles a few days ago Jelly Roll Morton entertained him at Wayside park and I’ll “chirp” to the whole continent he set Los Angeles on fire. The public says he is the greatest that has ever been in Los Angeles, and some mighty “hot babies” have had the good fortune to visit Los Angeles in the past year. You’ll have to hand it to King Oliver. He’s there and he needs no introduction to “Chi.” I don’t think I could have secured a better drawing card for our opening night than Oliver. Matt Lewis (my partner) and myself have offered him all kinds of inducements to stay in Los Angeles and take charge of our band at the Hiawatha, but he has already made his contract. We are paying the highest salary ever known to a cornet player for a night’s work. . . .

Karl Ellison sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 1st July 1922, page 8, column 2.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Los Angeles, Cal.

. . . While we were in Tia Juana we were the guests of “Syl” Stewart who is the owner of the Newport bar and the Kansas City bar, and I’ll say that he treated us royally. Although slightly indisposed he had his right-hand man, G.W. Hidelburg, to show us the town and we enjoyed an old-fashioned Mexican dinner and visited the Tia Juana hot springs and also a German inn where you could sit down to the table and order it by the pint, quart or half-gallon served in a glass pitcher. The pints cost you 15 cents, the quarts 30 cents, and half-gallons cost 50 cents, and what I mean, boy you could see the collars on the stuff and it tasted like that we used to get in cans at “Kelly’s,” 31st and State. When you get a bottle of the stuff you can count on a real honest-to-goodness “swag.” Enclosed you will find two labels off of as many bottles of the Mexican beer, and I trust, Dear Tony, that you will get as much kick out of the labels as I got out of the bottles from whence they came. As I said at the start of this topic, we were the guests of one “Syl” Stewart. “Syl’s” places are the bright spots of the Mexican town, Tia Juana. Both of his saloons are running from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., and are packed at all times. He is using two three-piece jazz outfits. At the Newport bar we found James D. Carson on saxaphone (saxophone), Harold Washington at the piano and Earnest (Ernest) Powell on drums, and the noise that these birds kept up would make some of our six and seven-piece jazz bands look like a pet calf. At the Kansas City bar we found Billy Bentley at the piano, Jesse Stansel at the drums and Audley Smith “tootin’” a wicked cornet. This bunch is in a class by themselves when it comes to “three-piece jazz bands.” “Syl” Stewart is the proud possessor of two high-powered machines. He also owns three homes in Tia Juana and one in San Diego, so what more could a man want? At that he is just about the same as any other human. He treats everyone alike, and any time he sees where he can do you a favor he is “Johnny on the spot,” and a man any squarer than “Syl” has yet to be found. G.W. Hidelburg was our “chief de aide,” and if it hadn’t been for him Mat and Billy would have been lost many a time. He treated us royally and did all in his power to make the visit a pleasant one. . . .

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert, which was published in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 1st July 1922, page 7, columns 3—4.

The California Eagle

Fourth of July
Wayside Park, 2 p.m. Till 3 a.m.
Base Ball, Merry-Go-Round, Bathing, Boating
and many other interesting features --
Good Order the Main Issue.

Music by Mr. Jelly Roll’s
Incomparable Jazz Orchestra

ADMISSION                              FIFTY CENTS

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert, which was published in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 15th July 1922, page 6, columns 3—4.

The California Eagle

Under responsible management, – Good order always assured
We dance Every Thursday, and Saturday 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.;
Every Sunday Matinee 2 p.m. and night till 2 a.m. – Music
Jelly Rolls Incomparable Jazz.
All information will be thankfully received for better management.
We cater to ladies and gentlemen – Please act accordingly.
WOODMAN AND MORTEN (Morton) – Props.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 22nd July 1922, page 8, column 2.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

. . . Kid Ory’s Sunshine orchestra, with Kid Ory, Manager and trombone; “Mutt” Carey, leader and cornet; ‘Slockem’, clarinet; Buster Wilson, piano; Ben Borders, the drums; Earl Whaley, saxophone and a Mr. Davis, bass violin.

The latter has the distinction of being the only jazz band of the Race to play for the radio in this city, likewise the only jazz band of any race to make records of any kind. They have recorded several numbers for the Spikes Bros. and are slated to record some more in the near future.

. . . William Hansett, formerly cornetist with the Famous Georgia Minstrels, is a new arrival in the city, stopping at the Allan hotel. He came down from Seattle last week. Say what you will, when things get tight everywhere else, they will come to Los Angeles. Hansett is a welcome visitor to this town and he is now “tootin’” his instrument with the “Jelly-rolls” band at Leak’s Lake.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, Saturday, 12th August 1922, page 6, column 4.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Dear Tony: At this writing I am busy preparing for one of the grandest affairs that has ever taken place in the history of Los Angeles since I have known anything about the town. It will be in the shape of a benefit ball in the honor of Harvey Porter of the song-writing team of Bailey and Porter, who was injured in an automobile accident in this city on July 4th. . . . It will be many months before Porter will be able to play a piano again, so some of the boys here who are recognized as leaders of the amusement and theatrical game have arranged a benefit of which I herewith submit the program as outlined by “Yours Truly”: “Musicians’ and Entertainers’ Benevolent association presents a benefit ball Friday night, August 11, at the Hiawatha Dancing academy, Los Angeles, Cal., for the benefit of Harvey Porter.”

Among those who will appear and offer their services will be Jones and Cumby, who are touring the Pantages circuit; Bill Robinson, the world’s greatest single, playing the Orpheum circuit; Dainty Caroline (Carolyn) Williams, formerly of the Panama Trio and an entertainer of merit; Blanche Brown, another big timer who is rusticating in Southern California; Rozelle Roberts, the Blues singer . . . Pearl Briggs . . . Mantan Moreland and Honey-Boy Evans, those clever dancing boys . . . Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley, the record makers of the “Krooked Blues” and “Maybe Some Day” will sing the songs they recorded through the courtesy of the Spikes Bros.; Goldie Dancer . . . Eva Bates . . . Eddie Rucker, Tia Juana Pet will do his “Jones” to the edification of all. Everybody knows Rucker. Herman “Jazz” Higgs... Billie Harris, the little “Blues queen” . . . Richard Courtney . . . Will H. (Kid) Tolliver of minstrel fame . . . Mme. Sinclair will act as hostess, while “Yours Truly” will act as master of ceremonies. Besides the dancing is to be one of the main attractions. The music will be furnished by Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra (the record makers), “Jelly-Rolls” Incomparable Jazz band and the All-Star Syncopators . . . The committee of arrangements consists of Ragtime Billy Tucker, chairman; “Ham” Mayfield, Eugene Sorrell, Reb and John Spikes and M. T. Laws, the hustling promoter.

Your pal,
2142 South Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, Cal.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following pictorial advert, which was published in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 23rd September 1922, page 2.

The California Eagle

Oh! “The Green Bug”
Is Raring to Go With that
Famous Black and Tan Orchestra
Introducing Mrs. Caroline (Carolyn) Williams
Tuesday Eve, Sept. 26
Admission Fifty Cents

At Leake’s Lake
With a Grand Dance and Carnival
I Will Be There, Something New All in Green
Are You Raring to Go? YES PAPA
Dancing From 8:00 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Prof. Wells, Floor Manager

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 23rd September 1922, page 8, column 2.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

“Jelly-roll” and his incomparable jazz band left for a tour of Southern California last week and carried with them two entertainers. Mantan Moreland will be featured with the band.

Naturaly (naturally), Wayside Park has closed for the season.

Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. combined shows are holding forth for four days here and everyone is “circus crazy”. Seems as if I’ve caught the fever, too. Just left the show grounds, which is only a couple of blocks from where I live. I haven’t had very much time to spare, but I just had to run up and say hello to P.G. Lowery. I found P.G. had one of the best bands in the business; in fact, the best I’ve ever heard under canvass (canvas). They could play everything from ragtime to opera, everything from jazz to overtures, and made the natives like it. . . .

Prof. Alan Wallace and Dan Vernhettes send the following article, which appeared in The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 7th October 1922, page 8, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Dear Pal Tony: Everything seems to happen for the best. I have finally located my long lost typewriter. The detectives that were working on the case located it the early part of the week in a down town secondhand store. Now I don’t suppose you will have to tolerate the “Typewriter Blues” any longer.

There are amusements of every description going on in Los Angeles this month. There is a fall carnival for one week, located at 12th and Central avenue. It is been given for the benefit of the Urban league, the first carnival to be staged in the midst of the Colored East side for quite a long time, and the results are that they are doing a wonderful business, the grounds being packed every night.

A benefit dance for the Pilgrims’ home is being staged at Monrovia, Cal., on Oct. 9. The famous Black and Tan orchestra will furnish the music for the occasion. They are playing for the World War veterans also. Leaks Lake (Wayside park) was rumored closed for the season a few weeks ago, but it took “Green Bug, the Taxi Driver,” to show the natives that it was very much open as the dance he staged there last Tuesday night was one of the most up-to-date affairs of the season. The park is now under the management of Woodman & Morten (Morton), who are at present out on the road with their jazz band.

Kid Ory’s Sunshine orchestra goes to the Plantation Revue on Oct. 4 for a limited engagement. They are replaced at the Hiawatha dancing academy by “Sonny” Clay’s Eccentric Harmony Six. When we get anything at the Hiawatha, we always get the best. This coming week, Oct. 2, we are offering the public the first Mardi Gras and jazz fiesta staged, promoted and directed by the Negro in Los Angeles, for five nights and days. Under the direction of M. T. Laws and Ragtime Billy Tucker.

Tony, we mean to make this the greatest affair of the kind ever attempted anywhere. We are sparing no pains or money to put this over and put it over right. Wish you were here to help us “step on it.”

Will H. (Kid) Herman, the motion picture star, producer, musician, entertainer and all-round theatrical worker, was in the office to have a chat with the writer yesterday and I collected the following dope: That he has just finished three weeks with the Morosco Producing Co. at the Brunton United studios, with an all-star cast including Richard Dix, Noah Beery, Helen (Helene) Chadwick and Allan Hale. Herman did a bit as a 10th Cavalryman. . . .

Prof. Lawrence Gushee and Prof. Alan Wallace send the following article, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, dated Friday, 5th January 1923, part 1, page 13, column 1.

Los Angeles Times


Charged With Taking
Part in Murder of Austin
E. Hollis Tuesday Night

Charles Cowen, 28 years of age, a negro porter, was arrested yesterday and charged with having had a part in the murder of Austin E. Hollis, killed by robbers Tuesday night, in his grocery store at 1476 Central avenue.

While police were arresting Cowen, a Coroner’s jury was holding an inquest over Hollis’s body. They found he came to his death by a gunshot wound in the head.

There were several witnesses to the hold-up and shooting, and these will be asked to go to the Central Police Station to see if they can identify Cowen.

Note: For once, Jelly Roll’s memory was not infallible, assuming that Mr. Hollis’s murder and the one Jelly was (briefly) suspected of are one and the same. Still, this does place him in L.A. shortly after New Year’s Day. [LG 4]

Note: Readers are advised to consult the second paragraph of page 174 in Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll along with above article. [MJR 174]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article, which appeared in The California Eagle, dated Saturday, 6th January 1923, page 1, column 7.

The California Eagle


Charles Cowen and Lonnie A. Jones are held in jail suspected of the murder of Austin Hollis who was killed in an attempted hold-up on last Wednesday night.

Note: The California Eagle and Los Angeles Times (see previous article) have conflicting dates as to the murder of Austin Hollis.

Note: Readers are advised to consult the second paragraph of page 174 in Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll along with above article. [MJR 174]

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The San Diego Union, dated Monday, 5th February 1923.



Trouble Originated With Automobile Collision, Old Town, San Diego, Wednesday, When Mexican’s Car Damaged That of Reputed Slayer; Quarrel Renewed When Men Met Last Night When Negro Is Said to Have Fired.

SWIFT retribution was dealt out in Tijuana last night. Six hours after Chester Carleton, a negro, had shot and killed George Monteverde, a member of the police force of Tijuana, he was hanged in the city jail, according to reports brought back from the border by motorists.

Arrangements were made to burn the body this morning.

Monteverde was killed in a spectacular battle on the bridge over the Tijuana river late yesterday afternoon, the fight resulting from an automobile collision in Old Town, San Diego, Wednesday.

In the battle Monteverde, a brother of the slain man, and two spectators, whose names were not ascertained, were wounded. Carleton met Monteverde, who was driving in an automobile with his two brothers, in the center of the bridge. According to spectators, he drew his revolver and fired without warning.

Pursued, Captured by Brother

He left his automobile and fled, and was pursued by the unwounded Monteverde to the Monte Carlo casino, where he was captured.

Threats of lynching were rife on the streets of Tijuana after Carleton had been lodged in the city jail, and a special guard was maintained. Whether a mob overpowered the guards and took Carleton from the jail and hanged him or whether he was “unofficially” executed inside the jail, could not be learned last night.

The shooting and execution resulted from an apparently unimportant occurence. George Monteverde borrowed Carleton’s car in Tijuana Wednesday, it is said, and drove it to San Diego. At Old Town, Monteverde ran into another car and damaged Carleton’s automobile to the extent of $250. Monteverde was arrested on a charge of reckless driving, found guilty, and given a suspended sentence.

Monteverde and Carleton got into an argument Saturday over the amount of damages to the automobile and came across the border Saturday night to “shoot it out,” according to Deputy Sheriff Fraser, who is stationed at the line.


Fraser took their pistols away and put the men on a stage to San Diego, telling Carleton to get redress through the courts as the accident happened in San Diego.

Carleton and Fraser reached the police station shortly before midnight, Saturday. Henry Churchman, sergeant of police, told them it was a civil matter and advised them to come to San Diego Monday. Monteverde is said to have offered to pay for the damages, but Carleton, it is said, left the station in a disagreeable mood when Churchman refused to place the Mexican under arrest.

M. Monteverde, brother of the two men who were shot, chased Carleton over to the Monte Carlo. After firing at the negro three times, none of the shots taking effect, Monteverde is said to have beaten Carleton over the head, and then to have placed him under arrest.

The two Monteverde boys were rushed to Elwynn sanitarium, where George Monteverde died a few moments after his arrival. Porfirio Monteverde was said late last night to be dying.

Remarkably enough, a partial retraction was printed on page 18 in the following day’s edition of The San Diego Union.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The San Diego Union, dated Tuesday, 6th February 1923, page 18.


Threatening Demonstration At Tijuana, Sunday,
Gave Rise to Lynching Report

Chester Carleton, negro, who killed a Mexican policeman and wounded another in a gun battle at Tijuana, Sunday afternoon, was not hanged, as previously reported, but will be tried for murder under the Mexican law.

The negro, who got a bad beating while being taken into custody Sunday, was given medical attention yesterday and several bad cuts on his head caused by blows dealt with a pistol, were dressed. He was to have received a preliminary hearing yesterday, but as there was a fiesta on, the hearing was postponed. The hearing will probably be held this afternoon.

Carleton almost lost his life Sunday night when a number of Tijuana citizens, armed with knives, guns, and other weapons, made a demonstration. Mayor Mesina dispersed the mob by threatening to arrest its members. It was this demonstration that led to the report that Carleton had been hanged.

Feeling against the negro ran high Sunday night and the feeling extended to all members of the colored race resident in Tijuana. A number of negroes fled across the line into the United States, fearing mistreatment, officers at the border reported.

The pistol fight in which George Monteverde, Mexican policeman, was killed and his brother, Porfirio Monteverde, seriously wounded, occurred on the bridge which spans the Tijuana river. As the crowds were cheering at the Tijuana races, only a few hundred yards away, Carleton met Monteverde, with whom he had had some difficulties. The negro began the gunplay, witnesses said, and when his pistol was empty, had fatally wounded one of the Monteverdes and seriously wounded another. A third brother, M. Monteverde, started after the fleeing negro and overtook him near the entrance to the race track. Carleton put up a desperate struggle before he was overcome by Monteverde and a number of Mexican guards.

Carleton is said to be an American citizen but has spent much time recently at Tijuana and previously at Mexicali. He is reported to have had some difficulty with the authorities at the Imperial Valley town.

Mexican citizens living in San Diego, yesterday said that the negro would get a fair trial. Fernando Villasenor, a customs broker, emphasized this yesterday, pointing out that the authorities easily could have allowed Carleton to be taken by the mob Sunday night. Sénor Villasenor offered to escort newspapermen to the cuartel at Tijuana to prove that Carleton was a prisoner there.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 24th February 1923, page 8, column 3.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

. . . There has been a little trouble down Tia Juana (Mexico) way during the past two weeks, Tony, and many of the musicians and entertainers are now in Los Angeles or on the way here. From the meager information that I can gather, it seems that a Colored man shot and killed two Mexicans across the border and caused a great deal of excitement. Eddie Rucker, one of the coast’s favorite entertainers, came up last week and said that things were critical down there; all of the places where Colored were employed let them out until things cooled down a bit. There was some talk of a race riot. Fred (Ferd) “Jelly-Roll” Morton and Earl Whaley, who were down there, are also in town. I understand that if the boys raise $15,000 the man that did the killing would be set free on American soil. It seems that it was a case of self-defense, and that the Colored boy was the quickest on drawing the “smoke-pole”. Syl Stewart, who owns the only two saloons in Tia Juana conducted by the Race, has gone on a tour of California in hopes of raising the amount to set the boy free. They are planning a mammoth ball here for his benefit. All proceeds to go toward the amount required of the Mexican government. Practically all of the bands and entertainers of this city have donated their services upon the condition that if the Colored boy is not set free, the amount gained through the efforts of the professional colony will be turned over to some organization for the uplift of the Negro race. No date has been set as yet for the benefit, but it will go over with a “bang” whenever it is. Chester Carlton (Carleton) is the name of the boy who tried to protect himself and had to kill two Mexicans to do it. . .

Bob Pinsker thought this a rather fascinating true tale of the Wild West. So I have decided to post the three full reports shown above, which illustrate the very hostile environment in which Jelly Roll Morton and his colleagues found themselves during their “South of the Border” escapades.

Prof. Lawrence Gushee and Prof. Alan Wallace send the following article from the Los Angeles Sunday Times, dated Sunday, 11th March 1923, section 1, page 7, columns 3—4.

Los Angeles Sunday Times


Furnishings Not Paid for,
Merchants Say
Money or Goods Demanded
of Woman
Costly Articles Are Carted
Back to Stores

A carefully planned sortie by Hollywood and Pasadena tradespeople on the sumptuous home of a woman who is said to have given the name of Mrs. George M. McKinney, but who is said by police to be in reality Mrs. George E. Paddleford, resulted yesterday in the complete dismantling of the interior of her home.

The “raiders” stripped the house at 6864 Bonita Terrace of all its costly furnishings, and carted them off, asserting that they had not been paid for.

Mrs. Paddleford is the defendant in a divorce suit now pending filed by her husband, Dr. George E. Paddleford, wealthy Hollywood oil man, who charges in his complaint that his wife is a “masterful woman with a checkered career and a sinister influence.”

The “raid” began early Friday night soon after the woman appeared on the scene and continued throughout yesterday, drays, moving vans and touring cars being used to convey the goods away. Last night a phonograph and sewing machine were the sole remaining articles in what was once a luxuriously appointed home.


According to the assertions of the numerous tradespeople, the purchaser in almost every case, appeared at their store, selected the goods, usually the most expensive in the place, and had them delivered with the promise of a check the next day, “when her account was transferred from Pasadena.” Subsequent promises of payment failed to materialize, they said.

Friday night, headed by a delegation of Pasadena merchants, they demanded their money or their goods. It was said that the supposed Mrs. McKinney told them to take their goods and offered no objection to the removal.

Efforts to locate the woman yesterday were unavailing. The blinds of the house were drawn and neighbors said she had not been in the vicinity.

Raymond W. Smith, 6531 Bella Vista Way, owner of the house occupied by the woman, also appeared on the scene with a two years’ lease which he declared the occupant had agreed to sign. Mr. Smith said his tenant moved into the house without his knowledge, by permission of a former tenant. He said that he did not discover the change had been made until several days later. The new occupant, he said had made a small payment down.

According to Mr. Smith, “Mrs. McKinney” moved into the Bonita Terrace home about February 12.

Claims of Hollywood and Pasadena merchants are said to exceed $10,000. Among those from whom “Mrs. McKinney” is said to have received goods are the Economy Hardware Company, Franklin Art Gallery, Beverly Hills Nursery, Daynes Beebe Music Company, McClintock Jewelry Company, Cutler Baking Company, Kelling Millinery Store and others, all of Hollywood and the Home Furniture Company of Pasadena, which is asserted to have had the heaviest interest in furniture in the “McKinney” home.

Note: This is something of a long shot. I’m not claiming that this is definitely the case that Jelly Roll Morton spoke about. [LG 5]

Note: I quote here from the written materials dictated by Jelly Roll Morton at the Library of Congress (found in Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll page 174):

“a woman stole furniture in Pasedena (Pasadena) caretaker thyt (thought) and JR was arrested in connection with the case. Asked her who was her boy friend and she said JR. When confronted by JR in the jail she corroborated JR’s testimony that they were not acquainted.” [LG 5]

Note: Readers are advised to consult the first paragraph of page 174 in Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll along with above article. [MJR 174]

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 17th March 1923, page 8, column 1.

The Chicago Defender


“Ragtime” Billy Tucker

Dear Tony: The entire city of Los Angeles tried to turn out last Friday night to pay homage to one of the greatest causes of manhood — to help one who is unable to help himself. It was in the form of a benefit dance, staged for Chester Carrolton (Carleton), held in Mexico for murder. Though in this case it was a case of self-defense, he is held in default of $15,000 bond. The professional bunch around Los Angeles pulled this benefit for him and was able to raise $283.50 for the night. The affair was staged at the Hiawatha Dancing Academy, owned and operated by M. T. Laws.

At 10:30 the house was packed, and at closing time they were still coming. The committee takes this means of thanking the following for services donated. The Black and Tan orchestra and Sonny Clay’s Jazz Band for music furnished and donated; to Messrs. M. T. Laws and “Ragtime” Billy Tucker for donating hall; to the California Eagle and the New Age Dispatch for publicity advertising given; to the following entertainers who, with the above named bands, made the evening worth while: Herman “Jazz” Higgs, the Famous Bilbrew quartet, Eddie Rucker, Corriene Biglow, Mantan Moreland, Viola Warner, Thurston Briggs, “Jelly-roll” Morten (Morton) and many others, not leaving out the public, who responded like “real folks.” Many bought tickets that were never used. Thanks, a thousand times, folks.

Leak’s Lake has reopened again; this time under the management of Will Hefflin, though it only stayed open one night. It seems that this park is the “Jonah” of the town. As soon as it opens and starts doing well, it is closed again. Why? I don’t know. They have tried everything in every way, but it just won’t go.

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