U Street night-club  ·  Roy Carew  ·  Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress recordings
 Morton stakes a claim for his place in jazz history

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Washington Daily News, dated Tuesday, 23rd June 1936, page 24, columns 1—2.

The Washington Daily News

Networks Will Air Sen. Barkley’s Speech Tonight at 9

Ferdinand ‘Jellyroll’ Morton, One of the Original ‘Hot’ Bandsmen,
Invades Washington to Start History of Jazz
Program over WOL Next Week

Wonder how many of the “old” hot bands you remember? The old recording crowd, such as Fess Williams, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, and the like?

The disappearance of the Victrola from the place of honor in the living room killed plenty of them. Radio wanted something different. Jazz — the old style — gave way to sweet music, individual music of the Lombardo, Wayne King, sort. And only recently, spurred on first, it seems, by a unit originally from New Orleans — Louis Prima’s Band — has “hot” music come back. And now it’s something new — “swing” music, the music of Benny Goodman, Bonnie (Bunny) Berigan.

One of the old crowd is in Washington now. He’s a Negro, in his late 50s. one time king of his realm — really “hot” music. You might remember. He’s Ferdinand “Jellyroll” Morton. One of the first to play “stomp,” the first man ever to make a “hot” recording for Victor. One of the first in a lot of things when popular music is spoken of.

He’s moved here from New York to live. Friday afternoon he walked into WOL and asked for an audition. He gave no name. Just asked for a piano. He got it.

A few bars, and WOL knew he was someone. His name was asked and given. Result was much the same as if the inventor of the harp had asked St. Peter for a passport thru the gates.

So now, if you want to know where your present “swing” came from, you can hear “Jellyroll” regularly. He goes on tonight at 8:30 and will be heard every night this week at times governed by convention broadcasts. Next week he starts a series, “The History of Jazz.” It should make good listening.

Note: Program dates and times of Jelly Roll’s broadcasts on WOL 229M—1.310KC were scheduled as follows:

• Tuesday, 23rd June 1936 — 8:30 – 8:45 p.m.
• Wednesday, 24th June 1936 — 7:30 – 7:45 p.m.
• Monday, 29th June 1936 — 9:00 – 9:30 p.m.
• Thursday, 2nd July 1936 — 8:45 – 9:00 p.m. [CH 1]

Note: Alben William Barkley (1877-1956) was vice president of the United States during the Harry S. Truman administration (1949-1953).

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following obituary notice for Benson “Froggy” Moore from The Kentucky Post, dated Friday, 16th April 1937, page 16, column 4.

The Kentucky Post


Benson “Froggy” Moore Dies
at Home of His Sister

Funeral services for Benson “Froggy” Moore, widely known night club and cafe entertainer in northern Kentucky, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Allison and Rose Funeral Home, Covington. Burial will be in Highland Cemetery.

Mr. Moore died yesterday at the home of his sister, Mrs. C. O. Brownfield, 2720 Madison Pike, Covington, following illness of nine weeks. He was 44 (48).

He played in nearly every cafe in this vicinity in addition to working as an entertainer in many other cities in the United States. Possibly he is best remembered for his habit of reading a newspaper while playing the piano.

Besides his sister, he leaves his mother, Dine A. Moore, Covington; one son Charles Moore, Norwood O; and four other sisters, Mrs Joseph Ehmett, Mrs Cora Copple, and Margaret Moore, all of Covington; and Mrs Edward Benham, Ryland, Ky.

Note: See also Mike Meddings’ essay of Benson Foraker Moore accompanied by his WWI Draft Registration Card.

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following article from Down Beat, dated May 1937, Vol. 4, No. 5, page 11.

Down Beat


By Andy Andrusia

Washington, D.C. — To many who have wondered what has become of “Jelly Roll” Morton, this may be good news — Morton is featured at the Jungle Inn, local sepia spot, where he is billed as “The Originator of Jazz and Swing” in 1906. Page Mr. Stearns.

played by ‘Perfessor’ Bill Edwards

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following article from Down Beat, dated July 1937, Vol. 4, No. 7, page 2.

Down Beat



Winthrop, Mass. — On a visit to Washington a few weeks ago, guided by a tiny notice in a newspaper, I found the legendary Jelly Roll Morton playing in a low down dive called the Jungle Inn, at 1211 U St., smack in the center of the town’s jig district. And is not only playing but owning half-interest in the place, acting as an out-of-sight bartender and barrel opener, and, in between these duties, serving as M.C. and bouncer. How old Jelly is I don’t know, but it makes no difference because he is playing as competently and expressively as anyone in the business. His piano has the essential feeling and drive that is so often missing in the mere pretty style of a modern swing man. There have been few kicks more terrific than the sound and sight of Jelly playing the blues, his thumping heel beating out the slow rhythm, his eyes closed and his head thrown back, and the sad notes sprinkling from the keyboard into the low-ceiling, smoky din. Frankly, there are not many that listen.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from Down Beat, dated December 1937, Vol. 4, No. 12, page 17, columns 1—3.

Down Beat


Jelly-Roll Morton At 52
Has Ancient Jive To Spare!

Still Going Strong – Jelly-Roll Was
Swingin’ 15 Years Before Louie Blew In

By M. W. Stearns

This is the genuine story of Jelly-Roll Morton and the earliest days of swing-music yet recorded, made possible by the crack reporting of authority Lowell W. Williams of Washington, D.C. For Jelly-Roll is fifty-two years old today and still going strong with a gang of ancient jive to spare.

Ferdinand Morton was born in New Orleans, September 20th, 1885, fifteen years before Louis Armstrong blew into the world and just a little over a half-century ago. Man, that’s plenty far back! At the age of six, backed by parents who were intelligent and not too hard up, he took lessons on the guitar from a Spanish teacher and became the local prodigy overnight. Anybody could see the kid was gifted musically. But by the age of ten, young Ferdinand had heard those military bands carving each other on the river-banks, and he dropped the guitar like a hot potato for a set of drums. There was an instrument that beat out! He got over that, however, and went to work on the piano, taking regular lessons and learning faster than his teacher. Don’t lose that classical jive, was Morton’s reaction, give me rhythm. And so at the age of fifteen, the year Armstrong was born, he got his first job jumping the stomp-box in a house of ill repute, variously known as a honky-tonk or barrel-house, located on Rampart Street.

First Job Broke the Ice

That first job broke the ice, and Jelly-Roll played around town, in great demand as a soloist, for three years. In between he made a stab at going to school, and actually attended New Orleans University for a while. But why mess around with learning when everybody was yelling for that new kind of piano? His first band job was with Armand’s (Armant’s) orchestra, a little known New Orleans band. But then, only the colored people would have heard of this before. In 1903, he left New Orleans and went on the road with the Will Benbon (Benbow) shows. This lasted a year, and left Morton in Mississippi playing solo stuff for yelling audiences. There wasn’t much to worry about when you could land a job anywhere.

At this time, there was a great piano contest in St. Louis, advertised all over the colored South, to find the greatest of the stomp-box wizards. Jelly-Roll was just a punk and got scared out of the contest when he learned that ol’ Tony Jackson, the fast carving ace of the ivories was entering. Jackson was the composer of “Pretty Baby,” and had a wide rep. Morton was really brought down when he discovered that Tony didn’t show and that Alfred Wilson had copped the crown. He knew Wilson and was confident that he could have cut him down. That was one lesson.

Keppard Inaugs Modern Trumpet

From 1906 to 1908, Morton eased into Pensacola, Florida, and played at the Belmont theatre with a piano-drum combo. Meanwhile, the boys back in N. 0. were coming along fast. His old friend, Freddie Keppard, was at the top. According to Morton, Keppard was the first modern trumpeter. This was sometime before King Oliver, who learned plenty from Freddie. Before Keppard, there was nothing but ragtime, and it was ragtime that bands like John Robicheau’s (Robicheaux’s), Manuel Perez’s, and others played. Robicheau (Robicheaux) was the top in this field. But the first power-horn, preceeding Keppard, was Buddy Bolden. He was the real composer of “St. Louis Tickler,” but never got credit for it. And was he popular! Whenever he played at Lincoln Park, on the outskirts of New Orleans, all he had to do was turn his horn toward the city, and the crowd would start coming. Bolden blew his brains out while he was still young and was sent to an asylum. But Morton still says today that there never was a trumpeter that could carve Keppard. He had everything, from the trombone growl to the highest clarinet notes, and a bag of a thousand tricks.

Morton says the first Dixieland combo was Freddie Keppard’s. It consisted of Edward Vincent, trombone; Keppard, cornet; George Bacquet (Baquet), clarinet; D. D. Chandler, drums; and Bud Christian, piano. This five-piece outfit had formerly consisted of seven pieces, with James Palio, violin; Gigs Williams, guitar; and Bill Johnson, bass. But to save expenses they added a piano and dropped the guitar, violin, and bass. Make a note of the fact that the white musicians, later known as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, some of whom were still in short pants, hadn’t been heard of as yet. And remember these names of colored musicians who were beating it out every night down in New Orleans in various bands: on trumpet, Keppard, Oliver, Buddy Petite (Petit), and Mutt Carey; on clarinet, George Bacquet (Baquet), Lorenzo Tio, Big Eye Louis, Pops Humphrey, and little Sidney Bechet; on trombone, Frank Duson, Eddie Vincent, Kid Ory; on drums, D. D. Chandler, Ding (Dink) Johnson, Hil Aire (Hilaire); on bass, William Merrere (Marrero), Edward Garland, Bill Johnson, and Pop Foster. No fine violinist has ever come up out of N. O. At this time, John Robicheaux and Armand Piron were the best.

Morton Packs In Chicagoans

In 1908, Jelly-Roll Morton came North to Chicago which held out the possibility of bigger paying jobs. All the time, he was playing solo because there was more money in it. In Chicago, he played at the Pompeii Cafe, Little Savoy, Boston Oyster House (now the Morrison Hotel), Jim Colosimo’s, the Chateau, and Bill Lewis’, besides a great variety of one-nighters. A lot of times, police were called out to hold back admiring listeners. Then Morton organized a vocal trio with Harry Bernard and Bill (Willminor) Cooke (Cook). This lasted for a year, and when it broke up, he trekked back to N. O. A lot of jive had flowed under the bridge since he left, and Jelly-Roll was taking it easy. The great stomp artist then was Benny Frenchie (Frenchy) who was carving all corners with his key-work down on Beale Street. Jelly-Roll was plenty scared and left the piano strictly alone. One night he went to hear Frenchie (Frenchy) and jokingly made a crack to a bystander as to whether that was the best Frenchie (Frenchy) could do. He meant it as a compliment, but Frenchie (Frenchy) overheard him and left the piano, asking Morton loudly if he could do better. There was nothing to do but sit down at the piano and take it on the chin. So Jelly-Roll beat out a few for the boys. They liked it so much that they forgot about Frenchie (Frenchy), who never spoke to Morton again.

(To be continued)

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from Down Beat, dated January 1938, Vol. 5, No. 1, page 12, columns 1—3.

Down Beat


Jelly-Roll Morton
Grandpappy Of The Piano

Earl Hines Was Learning ABC’s When
Jelly-Roll Cut QRS Piano Rolls

By M. W. Stearns


(Continued from last month)

The rest of the saga of Jelly-Roll, who was beating out fine piano in the year Louis Armstrong was born, is a mixture of joy and grief. Here it is, as told by Morton himself to the well-known musician and critic, Lowell W. Williams. The peak of the keyboard wizard’s career came in the early twenties in Chicago, when there just wasn’t anyone around who could carve that ol’ killer Jelly-Roll. His fame had spread over the land, and old timers like Earl Hines were hanging around learning their ABC’s.

Morton had made records long before this. Way back in 1908 he had cut piano-rolls on QRS for the Wurlitzer company that are practically unknown today. And from 1909 on, he waxed platters for Gennett, Paramount, and later, Columbia, Okeh, Brunswick, Vocalion, and Victor. They say that on his records occurred the first bass-fiddle, the first drums, and the first washboard, played by Jasper Taylor. The story of how fly-swatters were first used by drummers is interesting. Out in Los Angeles from Chicago with his famous “Black and Tanners,” Jelly-Roll was making history with the following personnel: King Oliver, Mutt Carey, King Porter, trumpets; Al Woodward, trombone; Gerald Wells, Paul Howard, Leon Hereford, saxes; Ward (Wood) Wilson, bass; Ding (Dink) Johnson, drums. Johnson was fired later, and drummer Ben Border(s) took his place. Border drummed so loudly on his snare, that one night Morton bought a couple of fly swatters as a joke and gave them to him. Border tried them out, just for kicks, and got such a smooth lift with them that he kept them. And incidentally, Morton is supposed to have made the first movie short of a jazz band.

Didn’t Like Handy’s Blues

Before Jelly-Roll became a fixture in Chicago, he had a few more rare experiences. For example, he actually played in W. C. Handy’s band in the ’teens. The few platters of this band that have come down to us are not very good, and Morton reinforces this judgment by recalling that he never liked the way Handy’s band played the blues. He even remembers getting the boys to hear Freddie Keppard’s band one night in Memphis, as a sample of the real thing. Arriving in Chicago later, Jelly-Roll had to fight for the recognition that finally came to him. He started at the Elite Cafe with a five-piece pick-up band labeled “Jelly-Roll Morton’s Incomparables.” Then his own brother-in-law, Will Johnson, with the famous Creole Band, arrived in the Windy City and made Morton’s gang look like pikers. The Creole Band broke all records at the Grand Theatre in Chicago, and then left to open at the Palace in New York city where they again went to town. For a while they played in a show called “Town Topics.” Booked as just another act, the Creole gang broke up the show, Morton had left for Detroit meanwhile, where he soloed at the Fairfax Hotel.

Morton paints a rare picture colored musicians just coming into the ’twenties. The best piano players came from St. Louis. They were Tom Turpin, Scott Joplin (author of Maple Leaf), Louis Chivon (Chauvin), and Art Mathews (Artie Matthews). At that time, Morton himself had written arrangements for a lot of classical melodies, a cycle that is being repeated today. Other arrangers were Dave Peyton, Clarence Jones, and Will Cooke (Cook). “King Porter Stomp” had been composed by Morton fifteen years before.

White Cats Flocked to Hear Him

There has been a lot of doubt as to just what records of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Jelly-Roll played on. He was famous enough at that time to have the white musicians come flocking to hear him. He soon made friends with Rappolo (Roppolo), Brunies, Mares, and Pollack, who were in and out of the band. And of the many platters waxed by the NORK, he is positive that he played on “Milenberg Joys,” “Angry,” “Maple Leaf Rag,” and “Mobile Blues.” Be that as it may, the crowning of Morton in 1912 by his friends as “King of Jass,” was true at that time as far as piano was concerned. But that couldn’t last forever.

“Killed” ’Em On Bugle
In Jelly’s Band

King Oliver

King Oliver

From this time on, Morton made various unsuccessful attempts to quit playing and get into some kind of business. The irony of it was that the only thing that Jelly-Roll seemed to be successful at was playing the piano. On the tour to California, the band lived in style. Each musician of the “Black and Tanners” had his own car for transportation. Ding (Dink) Johnson had a racing job that cost ten grand. They played at the U. S. Grand (Grant) Hotel in Southern California five nights a week, for three hours a night, and were paid well. On Monday nights they played private jobs, and the money rolled in. Whenever Jelly-Roll tied into a roll he was tempted to quit playing and get into business. So one night he told the band that it was through and started out as a boxing promoter. In a short time he was flat broke. Just to top it off, he received a wire asking him to return home at once because of illness. That night he picked up enough to start with by playing at a dance, and eventually arrived home to discover that it was a fake.

Organized ‘Red Hot Peppers’

Once at home in New Orleans, Morton stayed there for several years. Then an offer to join the music publishing house of Spikes-Morton-Spikes brought him out of hiding. He left this firm to join the Melrose Music Publishing Co. He wrote “Wolverine Blues” for them. Again, things didn’t go so well, and he started to organize a band booked by the Ernie Young agency, with Jules Stein as territory man. This band was the famous “Red Hot Peppers.” And this band cut a gang of wax. Among the personnel at various times were Louis Armstrong, on “Kansas City Stomp” and “Shoe Shine (Shiner’s) Drag” (Victor), Johnny and Baby Dodds, Ray (Roy) Palmer and Fate (Fayette) Williams, trombones; Jimmy Noone, clarinet; Al (Albert) Nicholas and Johnny (Floyd) Townes, saxes; Mutt Carey, Muggsy Spanier (white and now with Ben Pollack), Eddie Vincent, and Freddie Keppard, trumpets; and Zutty Singleton and Paul Barbarin, drums. Barney Bigard, Kid Ory, (Andrew) Hilaire, and Bill Johnson were also with the recording bands. It was at this time that Morton’s band played a lot of college dates at Notre Dame and Northwestern.

Eventually, Stein organized the MCA, and Morton was booked by him until 1928, when he got tired of jumping two or three hundred miles a night in those old cars and quit. Transportation at that time was not as easy as it is now. Then came a series of disappointments, with a few terrific high spots.

Note: Much of the discography information shown above is inaccurate. Readers are advised to consult the Recordings and Discography page.

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from Down Beat, dated March 1938, Vol. 5, No. 3, page 13, columns 1—3.

Down Beat


The History Of Swing Music

A Gang Of Today’s Bigshots
Recorded with Morton

By M. W. Stearns


Did you ever latch on to the meaning of Morton’s nick-name? It’s not what you expect. The last installment carried Mr. Jelly up to 1928 when he quit MCA. He was then forty-three years old, which is pretty ancient in a young game like swing.

His next job was with the OCA (Orchestra Corporation of America) which promised a year’s job at the Alcazar, in York, Pa. After killing himself to round up a good band, the job lasted a week. Those burn kicks seemed to be coming faster and faster to Morton. But he bounced back and signed up Gordon Kibbler for his agent with Harrisburg for headquarters. And for a year and a half, Jelly-Roll Morton’s band played in and around Pennsylvania earning a reputation and just enough money for bread and butter.

It couldn’t last, and towards the end of 1929, after an engagement at the Roseland in Asbury Park, N. J., Morton trekked to the big city. There was no job available in New York, so the band folded. The game was nearly up. During 1930 to 1932, old Jelly played one-nighters with a pick-up band wherever he could wangle a job. And existence, even at this time, was not without glory. Duke Ellington had played the Reading, Pa., Country Club. Jelly-Roll, booked by Harry Moss, carved the Duke’s attendance record by a large margin. They still remembered the Red Hot Pepper’s in Pa. But those new bands were coming up fast. And Fate played some funny tricks with Mr. Jelly. Out in California, Ellington had been called in on a movie contract when Morton suddenly couldn’t make it. And the Duke stepped out into fame from then on. Morton couldn’t make an engagement at the Palace Theatre in New York, it was Cab Calloway who subbed and made his reputation. The old order was changing rapidly.

During the latter part of 1932, Mr. Jelly’s bad luck stuck to him like adhesive tape. He joined a show which folded in a week. The one bright spot was the cash coming in from his recordings. He had waxed a gang of them for Victor, and they were selling fine. A lot of them were made by a pick-up bunch, because he didn’t have a steady job at the time, but he had lined up some fine musicians and the records showed it. For the last time, Mr. Jelly decided to quit the music game while he could. Taking every dime he owned, he sunk it in a New York cosmetics business which promptly flopped. So he went back into the music game and played one-nighters for five more years. At different times, he engaged ace musicians like Henry Allen, Roy Eldridge, Dan Logan, George Foster, Joseph Thomas, Joseph Garland, Ward Pinkard (Pinkett), Omar (Omer) Simeon, and Luis Russel (Russell). And even at this late date, Mr. Jelly could sure get off on that rag-time stomp stompbox.

Morton’s last big-time attempt took place in 1935. A Russian and an American agency wanted to organize a band for a trip around the world, opening in Moscow. The salary was to be $175 a week per man, and a $10,000 drawing account. You can guess that this plan fell through. So today, Mr. Jelly is part owner of a night club, down in D.C., still furnishing the piano solos. And he’s still ready, so help him, to come back and carve the crowd, at the age of fifty-three.

Solo Platters Show Morton’s Stuff

It isn’t hard to judge Morton’s worth on the piano, after catching his solo platters for Victor. As a pioneer, he was beating out stuff when swing was born, and he hit his peak around 1920. That was the era of ragtime. And Mr. Jelly was, and still is, the undisputed King of Ragtime. It isn’t fair to compare him with Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, or any other kid who is young enough to be Morton’s grandchild. If Mr. Jelly hadn’t pioneered and paved the way, Hines and Wilson wouldn’t be playing so well as they do today. To say that any modern piano player is better than Morton, is like saying the Missouri River is better than the Mississippi. Because they’re connected, and the same water or musical tradition flows through both. But remember, a lot of the contents of the Mississippi came from the Missouri.

I am reliably informed by the critic George Beall that the personnel on Morton’s records is as follows: Of the Victor series, from number 20221 to 20434, the players were Joe Oliver cornet, Omar (Omer) Simeon clarinet, Kid Ory trombone, Al (Albert) Nicholas also sax, Paul Barbarin drums, John St. Cyr banjo, and Pop (Pops) Foster bass. Listening to these platters checks with this list, and presents some fine cornet and clarinet solos. The rest of the Red Hot Peppers’ stuff on Victor, from number 20948 on, varies considerably. “Beale Street (Blues)”, however, has the same bunch with John Lindsay in place of Foster. Then from number 20434 to 22681, including the V series, the personnel is Joe Oliver, Omar (Omer) Simeon, George Mitchell, Al (Albert) Nicholas, and Kid Ory or Santo Pecora on all of them. This gang was supplemented by Paul Barbarin, Bud Scott, John Lindsay, and Moore, on bass and drums at various times.

On one platter, “Blue Blood Blues” (Victor 22681), Bubber Miley cornet, J. C. Higginbotham trombone, Barney Bigard clarinet, are featured along with Jelly. And the Victors (23004 and 23334) feature Henry Allen. Bubber Miley plays cornet on “Little Lawrence.” The claim that Louis Armstrong played on any of these discs cannot be proved, nor can the work of Johnny Dodds or Jimmy Noone be recognized. For a finish, don’t forget that Jelly Roll waxed platters for other companies than Victor. Some of the names he used are the Bucktown Five on Gennett featuring Muggsy Spanier cornet, Volly Devoe (de Faut) clarinet, and Ben Pollack drums, also the Leveee Serenaders on Vocalion, and various accompaniments for blue(s) singers. Jelly really got around in those days.

If this list isn’t complete, it’s at least enough to form an opinion of Morton. And if the fans know of more, why send them in. A few remarks about the above waxes should be made. For example, Louis Armstrong is on “Shoe Shine” (Shoe Shiner’s Drag) and “Kansas City Stomp,” along with a terrific clarinet that sounds like Jimmy Noone. But the biggest bang is the very early “Mournful Serenade,” which is a solid slow blues with a great solo by Jimmy Noone, and three choruses by Jelly Roll that are fine without being showy. For a finish, the great Muggsy Spanier gets off on “Little Lawrence” with plenty of drive.

Note: As with the previous article, much of the discography information shown above is inaccurate. Readers are advised to consult the Recordings and Discography page.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Washington Daily News, dated Saturday, 19th March 1938, page 6, columns 1—3.

The Washington Daily News

Jelly Roll Charts Jazz

Dean of ‘Gates’ Runs U-st Night Club Now and the Years
Encroach but His Fingers Know the Ivories as of Yore


In that famous ragtime song “Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” written 20 years ago or more, there is the couplet:

“I’m goin’ to dance off both my shoes,
When they play those Jelly Roll Blues — ”

The Jelly Roll Blues was a famous number written by the latter half of the blackface vaudeville team of Creampuff and Jellyroll, “Songs and funny sayings.” It gave a famous Negro pianist and composer his nickname, “Jelly Roll” Morton; he was christened Ferdinand Morton. Morton wrote this blues composition in 1910 and sang it in vaudeville with his partner. He has written hundreds of pieces. He began recording for Victor in 1905. He can’t count the bands he has organized and toured with.


Jelly Roll Morton is getting along in years but age hasn’t diminished one jot of the flexibility of his fingers. In his Blue Moon night club at 1211 U-st nw yesterday, he spun thru a fragment of his best repertoire and his version of “Tiger Rag” is something to shout about from the housetops.

In “Tiger Rag” he flats the bass keys with a swift rocker motion of his left forearm. The effect? A Tiger’s half-roar, half-growl.

The foregoing is to introduce briefly the man who is going to make for the music division of the Library of Congress a musical recording of the history of jazz. He will trace by piano and narrative the trend of popular American music from the standard sentimental songs, thru ragtime and up to jazz. Swing music, he contends, is still jazz.

The recordings will not get under way until May. The Man Jelly Roll, also a singer of real caliber, will tell stories into his records, old song legends of the South, particularly New Orleans. The piano as a secondary medium will illustrate the stories. In short, history illustrated with music. The records will be for the archives of the Library of Congress.


“Flee as a Bird to the Mountain,” a funeral march much inclined to in the South, has two drum-beat effects, one going to the cemetery, the other, the returning. The tempo of the drums in the latter instance is faster but not speedy; the composer quickened the beat to hasten the bereaved from the final chapter of death. Morton, of course, will record that.

Also, he will do “The Black Diamond Express to Hell,” a musical moral on fast living whose tempo heightens as the wheels click over the railjoints, nearer and nearer to damnation.

He figures that 100 recordings will hardly encompass the projected history.

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton tests the fiber of the latest of the pianos
pounded to death by his flying fingers over the years.

Morton says his father told him his musical inspiration showed itself before he could talk; in fact, when he was six months old. A woman hired to watch the infant, went strolling with him and either got lost or drunk. Both ended up in jail. Jelly Roll was told his squalls had a definite blues rhythm. Other prisoners were amazed, some frightened.

“That’s what my father, he tell me,” said Morton. “I played the guitar when I was 7. At 8 I was playing piano.


New Orleans must have been God’s gift to ragtime. Mobile, too. Morton mentioned a few of the more famous.

“Tony Jackson was the world’s greatest single-handed entertainer. He ranged from opera to blues. He wrote “Pretty Baby.” Albert Cahill (Carroll) was a great ‘show’ player. Alfred Wilson won the 1904 St. Louis Exposition piano contest. Sammy Davis was without an equal at ragtime. He had the speediest fingers I ever saw. Also I recall Kid Ross, Skinny Head Pete of Mobile, Brocky Johnny and Johnny King.

Some of Jelly Roll Morton’s compositions are Milenberg Joys, Wolverine Blues, Black Bottom Stomp, Sidewalk Blues, Dead Man Blues, Hyena Stomp, Jungle Blues, Shoe Shiners Drag.

And further, in 1907, he took his band, Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers, on a tour to the West Coast.

“That was the first transcontinental tour taken by any band,” he recalled — with becoming immodesty.

Mark E. Mitchell sends the following article from Down Beat, dated April 1938, Vol. 5, No. 4, page 13, columns 1—4.

Down Beat


George Washington Smith
Rocks Cradle of Jazz

Three Years Older Than Jelly-Roll
He Carved Regulation Cats In Texas

By M. W. Stearns

Chapter VIII — San Antonio

Here’s an invitation to a carving contest that took place ’way back in the ’teens on the 19th of June in Brennham (Brenham), Tex. The occasion was the yearly celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves, and every mother’s son was really ready to hear a battle of music between the two best Colored bands in Texas. (A vote of thanks to Ray R. Hone, Jr., the well-known record collector, for digging this dope.)

The line-up was as follows: W. H. Hawkin’s Brass Band, the pride of San Antonio, was bucking Sid Isles’ Ragtime Band from Houston. And this man Sid Isles blew a hot horn that had echoed all over Texas. The boys from Houston were sold on Sid, and packed the excursion train to the roof on the trip to Brennham (Brenham). Excursion trains were puffing in everywhere, but they calculated that there were over a thousand Sid Isles fans from Houston alone. The Hawkins Brass Band was unafraid. They played strictly legit usually, the regulation stuff, for clubs, lodges, and city functions. Besides, Hawkins himself had composed that “March Tanforn.” But they did have a solid cornetist, who could get off if he had the chance, named George Washington Smith.

Well, the final decision was one of those things. The newspaper men had organized the battle, and they voted for the Hawkins Brass band, because they played a legit overture. But the crowd went the other way. And the most disappointed cat was George Washington Smith, not because he wasn’t allowed to get off, but because he wished he was playing with that Sid Isles band, that didn’t “pay no mind” to music reading. George knew the real thing when he heard it and lost no time starting a real band of his own.

Smith Was No Young Punk

George Washington Smith was no young punk at the time. He had started with the first of them on piano, and the story of his life is the story of the birth of swing in San Antonio. George was born in that city in 1882. He’s fifty-six and retired now, three years older than old-timer Jelly Roll Morton, whom he can remember way back. This Mr. Jelly came to town for about a week long ago, before Smith had switched from piano to cornet. It was strictly competitive, and Smith is frank to admit that Morton carved everybody, including himself. The thing that stuck in Smith’s mind was the way Jelly played “Jelly Roll Blues,” and that specialty, “De Lion Roar, and Broke Down de Door.” Smith really fell out about Jelly’s left hand on that number.

But even before Jelly blew into town, Smith had been playing around for years. At the age of nine, he picked out all the tunes he heard, on the old melodeon. His parents were impressed and gave him piano lessons at the old St. Peter’s Clavers Rectory on Nolan Street. This led to playing at school entertainments for visitors and all that high-hat jive. But George wanted to really beat it out with the boys, and so he used to sneak out to Chris Convention Hall at the corner of Flores and Houston streets. This started jobs at dances that piled up until George Washington Smith was the most stompbox artist in town. People were willing to pay plenty for the real thing then, and George landed sitting down at a honky-tonk named the Benedict, on Matamoras street, beating out the blues. The boys used to sit in now and then, and all you had to do was to blow a horn out the window, and the place was jammed.

It was hearing that beat-up horn of Sid Isles’ that sold George on playing the cornet. He learned his stuff in Hawkin’s Brass Band, and then jumped out on his own after they carved Sid Isles. Maybe Hawkins won the battle, but Smith wanted to play like the loser. He had dug a terrific piano player long ago, named Chile Jim, in Waco, Texas. This man played an early version of what later was known as “12th Street Rag.” Chile wasn’t famous and Smith didn’t care if he himself wasn’t famous, as long as he played the real thing like old Chile. It was an important decision.

Added Big Boy Harford (Warford)

Smith’s band was originally composed of two men. Clem Nurse played piano and Smith cornet. And they got plenty of work right around San Antonio. Things went so well that a year later they added Big Boy Warford on clarinet. Big Boy came from San Marcos and had been selling out a circus with his black-stick specialities. Shortly afterwards he added Crip John on valve trombone and Baby Lewis on drums. Lonnie Jackson took the place of Clem Nurse at the keyboard. This was about 1920, long before the great bands in Chicago had started rolling. And Smith’s band became famous under the name of the “Big Six Comedy Jazzmarines.” H. A. Johnson, the piano wizard was finally added on piano, while Lola Bell Johnson sang the blues.

Out-of-Towners Cut In

The Jazzmarines were solid senders and great entertainers. Big Boy Warford could take the clarinet apart and still swing. Smith himself had a one-man-band specialty where he accompanied his cornet with his left hand on the piano. And it was good. The band’s favorite numbers were “Wang Wang Blues,” “Strut Miss Lizzie,” and an original with the band, “Candy Man Blues.” Crip John, the slip-horn man, had composed this, and it was the band’s favorite blues number. When the gang cut out on this tune, it might last an hour and everybody swinging.

There was competition for the Jazzmarines, too. Two out-of-town bands were cutting in. The “Royal Garden Orchestra” composed of ten or twelve pieces was kicking out arrangements, and Benno Kennedy’s Orchestra was really in there. Kennedy came from Taylor, Tex., and became famous leading the Camp Travis band during the war. These two bands had heard of the enthusiastic music fans in San Antonio, and had arrived to clean up. But they lasted only a few months. That old Jazzmarine Band had the fans sewed up. They went for Big Boy and George in a big way and didn’t pay much attention to the new bands. The result was that the Royal Garden orchestra and Benno Kennedy’s band left for the coast, and the Jazzmarines swung on down.

In 1922 the Jazzmarines got their big break and reached the height of their fame. Radio was an infant in those days, and the Jazzmarines were the first colored jazz band to broadcast in Texas.

Note: Jelly Roll remembers George W. Smith, both as a pianist and trumpet player. [MJR 145]

 played by Irwin Schwartz

Robert Le Roy Ripley was born in Santa Rosa on 26th December 1890. He became the world’s most famous cartoonist, with his daily “Believe It or Not” feature, that was read by more than 80 million people in newspapers in 38 nations around the world.

Ripley began his newspaper career as a sports cartoonist. His first “Believe It or Not” cartoon appeared in 1918 and for the next 31 years he never missed a day of producing his popular feature. Called “the modern Marco Polo” by the Duke of Windsor, Ripley travelled through 198 countries during his lifetime; searching out the bizarre facts that constantly amazed his readers.

The 1930s and 40s were the Golden Age of Ripley. The phrase “Believe It or Not” was a part of everyday speech. In small towns across the United States, people filled halls and vaudeville theatres to hear his lectures and see his films. Later, he would introduce his wonders to the world via radio and television broadcasts. This shy young man from a small town in California was a celebrated public figure. Self-educated, he received honorary titles and degrees and was the first cartoonist to become a millionaire. He died on 27th May 1949 in New York City. See also Brian Goggin’s in-depth essay of Robert Le Roy Ripley accompanied by his WWI Draft Registration Card.

Robert Le Roy Ripley

On the evening of 26th March 1938 Jelly Roll Morton tuned into one of his favourite radio programmes, Robert Ripley’s, cartoon “Believe It or Not.” What Morton heard displeased him considerably, so-much-so that he wrote a three-thousand word letter of protest to Robert Ripley, with copies to The Baltimore Afro-American and Down Beat.

In correspondence with me, Prof. Lawrence Gushee wrote: “Imagine how rapidly Jelly sprang for the typewriter after hearing the broadcast and how little time he lost getting it to the post office. It is noteworthy that it
[the letter] is dated March 31, 1938 and addressed to Mr. Robert Ripley, National Broadcasting Co. or N.Y. Daily Papers, New York City, N.Y. Also in the Henry Villalapando (Villalpando) Ford Collection [Ford collection for short] and now housed in the Historic New Orleans Collection, is a postal receipt showing that Ripley, or someone working for him, received something on April 1, 1938.”

The on-going altercation between Jelly Roll Morton and W. C. Handy concerning the claim made on the Robert L. Ripley’s radio programme “Believe It or Not” that Handy was the originator jazz and blues makes fascinating reading. On balance, there are points of validity from both sides. Press reports of Morton’s explosive counter to W. C. Handy’s claim first appeared in The Baltimore Afro-American, in a heavily-edited version of his three-thousand word letter, and this is seen below.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Baltimore Afro-American, dated Saturday, 23rd April 1938, page 10, column 1.

The Baltimore Afro American

Handy Not Father of
Blues, Says Jelly Roll

Veteran Bandleader Asks Ripley to Furnish
Proof of Information Used in Broadcast

Jelly Roll Morton, veteran musician, last week asked Robert L. (Believe It or Not) Ripley to furnish proof of material used in a broadcast on March 26, when W. C. Handy of New York was introduced as the originator of Jazz and blues.

In his letter, Morton declared that he was playing jass in New Orleans in 1902, many years before the Dixieland Band was organized, and says that it was not until 1911 that the “St. Louis Blues” was heard. He further said that he had been hearing blues tunes since his childhood.

Concerning Handy and the “St. Louis Blues”, Morton wrote: “I met Handy in 1908. I learned that he not been in Memphis very long from his home town, Henderson, Ky.”

“He was known as Prof. Handy in Memphis (whoever heard of anyone wearing the title ‘professor of music’ advocate ragtime syncopation, blues or jazz?).”

Didn’t Play Jazz

“Handy could not play any of these types, and I am sure he has never learned them yet. To begin with, he has never had that kind of ability (meaning freak tones, plenty finger work in the grooves of harmonics, great improvisations, or accurate exciting tempos with a kick).”

“I know Mr. Handy’s ability. It is of the type of folk song, hymns, and anthems, and if you believe I am wrong, challenge this ability.”

“Prof. Handy had a band several days a week at the Dixie Amusement Park. In 1911, a guitarist worked in his band, named Guy Williams. He had a blues tune he played, namely ‘Jogo Blues’.”

“Later, this was published by Pace and Handy under the same title and later changed to ‘St. Louis Blues.”

Morton declared that by 1925, the “St. Louis Blues was as dead as a doornail.” It was about this time that Handy came to Chicago to see a Mr. Melrose about some tunes.

Whiteman Played It

“All this was new to Melrose,” Jelly Roll writes, “so he was told to talk to me. I selected ‘St. Louis Blues’ and ‘Beale Street Blues,’ but the only way he (Melrose) accepted them was that my arrangement would be used. Paul Whiteman was to play it at first. As he was playing Chicago at that time.”

Concerning the modern combination of instruments used in present-day jamming, Jelly Roll said that down in New Orleans, they used the violin, guitar, bass violin, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and drums.

However, Freddie Keppard was employed at a place called the Tuxedo, and when the business fell off, the owner let out the violin, guitar and bass, because he could not pay them, The new combination caught on and soon it was the preferred thing.

Jelly Roll declared that he was the “first clown director, with flashy dress, witty sayings, etc., the group known as master of ceremonies today.”

The first glee club was also his contribution, he said.

He added that he had used the hot string bass for more than thirty years, and that he recorded washboard, bass fiddle and drums, which were supposed to be impossible to record.

“I produced fly swatters to swing the drums, which are called brushes now,” he declared.

In closing, Jelly Roll said he felt that better or stricter copyright laws should be enforced. He said that it is possible for a person to get a tune that is little known, pay someone a small fee to arrange it, and then by various methods of showmanship, put it over as his own tune, with large returns in glory and finances.

The above Baltimore Afro-American article was first brought to our attention in Alan Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll, where Lomax has written: “W. C. Handy is a Liar, was the leading sentence of his letter of protest to The Baltimore Afro-American.” [MJR 236]

Not so . . . THAT statement belonged to the masthead on the front cover of the August 1938 issue of Down Beat. There is an editorial sub-title of “Jelly Roll Morton Calls Handy A Liar” inserted at the head of page 31 in the August 1938 issues of Down Beat. However, so far as I am able to determine, nowhere in any of The Baltimore Afro-American articles, or in Morton’s original letter to Robert Ripley, do those words appear as mentioned by Lomax above. Very likely the editor of Down Beat decided to publish that sensational headline to promote sales of the magazine. See below for the complete Down Beat article, which was published in two consecutive issues; the first part appeared in August 1938, and the final part in September 1938.

In order to qualify that a bona-fide version of the original letter existed, I contacted researcher and author, Dr. Philip J. Pastras to obtain his viewpoint and comment. In a letter to me dated 30th October 2000, Phil wrote: “What you’ve sent looks like
[Roy] Carew’s edited copy of the typescript I found in Portland in February 1997. The collection is officially called the Henry Villalapando (Villalpando) Ford Collection [Ford collection for short] now housed in the Historic New Orleans Collection. The letter I found is full of errors, typos, grammatical and spelling errors, etc. Jeanne Ford [Anita’s granddaughter-in-law] graciously let me hold it while I was negotiating for her to donate it to an appropriate institution, and for about a year and a half it resided in the Pasadena City College archive room in the library. The collection consists of a scrapbook that, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, Jelly put together in late 1938, along with assorted loose documents that he never collected into a scrapbook, including a handbill for the event at the Royal Palais Ballroom, Galena, Illinois and a visa dated 7th October 1921 that allowed him to work in Mexico.”

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following article from The Washington Post, which appeared in the “Letters to the Editor” column, dated Saturday, 7th May 1938.

The Washington Post

Letters to the Editor

Birth Of The Blues.

To the Editor of The Post — Sir: I notice in certain articles appearing in recent issues of The Post in regard to the National Folk Festival that W. C. Handy is referred to as the “internationally known Negro composer who introduced the indigo hue to music and gave the Nation its first blues songs.” He also is referred to as the “father” and the “granddaddy” of the blues.

For the sake of the record, I would like to say that the “blues” were known, played and sung in and about New Orleans years before Handy published his first blues number, “The Memphis Blues.”

For proof I refer to the book written by R. Emmet Kennedy, entitled “Mellows,” published by A. & C. Boni. Among the songs in “Mellows” is one called “Honey Baby,” a blues song. I know personally that Mr. Kennedy arranged this song and presented it in an entertainment several years before “The Memphis Blues” came out. Mr. Kennedy is a well-known musician in New Orleans and vicinity and I have no doubt he remembers other blues numbers that were sung about the time he arranged “Honey Baby.”

There is in Washington right now a Negro musician who can give some interesting history in regard to ragtime, blues and jazz and their development in New Orleans. I refer to Ferd Morton, who has a local night club. He is a talented pianist and composer, having composed several blues numbers as well as other compositions. He has been known as “Jelly Roll” Morton for many years, having been given the nickname after he composed the “Jelly Roll Blues.” Morton was a top-notch entertainer in New Orleans in the “old days.” He speaks with authority on the subject, and I am sure that he can testify that the blues were well known in New Orleans long before Handy got started with them.

I wish Handy the best success possible with the blues. He composed quite a number of them and deserves all he can get out of them. But let’s keep the record straight. He isn’t the “granddaddy” nor the “father” of the blues — in fact, the blues gave him his start to fame and have been more like a father to him.


Washington, May 4.

Note: The writer of the letter above signed “NEW ORLEANS” is surely Roy Carew. [LG 3]

On 23rd May 1938, Jelly Roll Morton begins his Library of Congress recordings in the Coolidge Auditorium, Thomas Jefferson Building, 1st and Independence Streets, SE, Washington D.C.

Library of Congress Recordings
Coolidge Auditorium : May, June and December 1938

Library of Congress Narrative
Jelly Roll Morton and Alan Lomax

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from Down Beat, dated June 1938, Vol. 5, No. 6, page 3, columns 1—3.

Down Beat


“Black Diamond Express To Hell!”

One Of The Roots Of U. S. Music Was
A Negro Congregation Stomping
& Clapping To A Sermon!!

By Sidney Martin

Jelly Roll Morton can sit down at the modernistic spinet he bought when his Music Box club in Washington was redecorated and laugh at the swing devotees who have canonized others as the saints of jazz.

For recently Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress Folk Music Archives struck in Jelly Roll a valuable lode of folk music pay dirt. Lomax staked a claim and soon Morton will begin cutting discs on the development of jazz to be filed permanently in the Congressional Library. Playing his piano, singing and talking he will trace the rise of jazz and swing from its folk music source.

Believing that the roots of contemporary American music branch from the blues and barrelhouse tunes to hymns and voodoo chants, Jelly Roll will press the music he learned in the New Orleans of forty years ago. Apart from jazz history he will contribute other items of purely academic folk music interest. All he can recall of Creole melodies, dirges and the music of backwoods churches will be catalogued.

Jelly Roll said recently that he believes some of swing’s rhythm graduated from the accompaniment the congregation in southern Negro Baptist churches gave the sermon by stomping their feet and clapping their hands. For an example, he will cut the melody of a classic sermon, “The Black Diamond Express to Hell.”

“Flee Like a Bird to the Mountain,” most common of the New Orleans funeral marches will also be played. As he rattles off the melody on his keyboard, Jelly Roll will relate its significance. In structure the piece is similar to a blues, and the brass band in the funeral cortege played it softly as the mourners trudged to the burial ground in the center of the city. But as the coffin was sealed into an above-ground vault the tempo was speeded and the tune was swung for one chorus. Then the band modulated to “Didn’t He Ramble.” Interestingly, Alan Lomax has traced the basic melody of “Didn’t He Ramble” to a hymn brought to the United States by the Pilgrims. He wonders how it migrated from New England to New Orleans where it is more popular than anywhere else in the country.

Because of Creole ancestry Jelly Roll learned many of the French-Negro songs. He will record a French Quadrille to which he thinks “Tiger Rag” owes many thanks. He says, too, that the roar of that tune characterizes many Negro nursery and “play songs.” Also Jelly Roll is going to play early New Orleans military marches and describe how they were transformed into the standard Dixieland stomps.

Of rarer interest will be his things on voodoo lore. He still remembers some of the mystic music and although he cannot translate their vocals in the “Unknown Tongue” he will embellish the discs with descriptions of voodoo “rice on the blanket” rituals and relate legends of the witch doctor’s power.

Records The Roots
Of Jazz

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton Today

Most of the material relative to swing music will come from folk blues. He will sing the widely known ones such as “Easy Rider,” “Stack o’ Lee” and “Midnight Special” and moan others of lesser renown. For contrast he will include several cajun blues of the creole Negroes.

Despite the leeway he has been given in choice and selection of material Jelly Roll says he will not credit himself with the actual origination of swing music and jazz. Although he knows definitely that he picked it up when the music form hitched rides, all he claims is the first use of the word, “stomp.”

played by Bryan Wright

Roger Richard sends the beginning part of the article from Down Beat, dated August 1938, Vol. 5, No. 8, pages 3 and 31.

Down Beat masthead August 1938


‘I Created Jazz in 1902, Not W. C. Handy’

Jelly Roll Morton

“Whiteman Claimed to be King of
Jazz with no Knowledge of it”

By Jelly Roll Morton

Dear Mr. Ripley:

For many years I have been a constant reader of your (Believe It or Not) cartoon. I have listened to your broadcast with keen interest. I frankly believe your work is a great contribution to natural science.

In your broadcast of March 26, 1938, you introduced W. C. Handy as the originator of jazz, stomps and blues. By this announcement you have done me a great injustice, and you have also misled many of your fans.

It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz, and I, myself, happened to be the creator in the year 1902, many years before the Dixieland Band organized. Jazz music is a style, not compositions, any kind of music may be played in jazz, if one has the knowledge. The first stomp was written in 1906, namely King Porter Stomp, Georgia Swing was the first to be named swing, in 1907. You may be informed by leading recording companies. New Orleans Blues was written in 1905, the same year Jelly Roll Blues was mapped out, but not published at that time. New Orleans was the headquarters for the greatest Ragtime musicians on earth. There was more work than musicians, everyone had their individual style. My style seemed to be the attraction. I decided to travel, and tried Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and many other states during 1903-04, and was accepted as sensational.

Whoever Heard of a Professor
Advocating Rag-Time?

In the year of 1908, I was brought to Memphis by a small theatre owner, Fred Barasso, as a feature attraction and to be with his number one company for his circuit which consisted of four houses, namely Memphis, Tenn., Greenville, Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi. That was the birth of the Negro theatrical circuit in the U.S.A. It was that year I met Handy in Memphis. I learned that he had just arrived from his home town, Henderson, Ky. He was introduced to me as Prof. Handy. Who ever heard of anyone wearing the name of Professor, advocate Ragtime, Jazz, Stomps, Blues, etc.? Of course Handy could not play either of these types, and I can assure you he has never learned them as yet (meaning freak tunes, plenty of finger work in the groove of harmonies, great improvizations, accurate, exciting tempos with a kick). I know Mr. Handy’s ability, and it is the type of Folk Songs, Hymns, Anthems, etc. If you believe I am wrong, challenge his ability.

Williams Wrote Original Tune
of “St. Louis Blues”

Prof. Handy and his Band played several days a week at a colored amusement park in Memphis, namely, Dixie Park. Guy Williams, a guitarist, worked in the band in 1911. He had a blues tune he wrote, called Jogo Blues. This tune was published by Pace and Handy under the same title and later changed to St. Louis Blues. Williams had no copyright as yet. In 1912 I happened to be in Texas, and one of my fellow musicians brought me a number to play — Memphis Blues. The minute I started playing it, I recognized it. I said to James Mules, the one who presented it to me (trombonist, still in Houston, playing with me at that time), “The first strain is a Black Butts’ strain all dressed up.” Butts was strictly blues (or what they call a Boogie Woogie player), with no knowledge of music. I said the second strain was mine. I practically assembled the tune. The last strain was Tony Jackson’s strain, Whoa B-Whoa. At that time no one knew the meaning of the word jazz or stomps but me. This also added a new word to the dictionary, which they gave the wrong definition. The word blues was known to everyone. For instance, when I was eight or nine years of age, I heard blues tunes entitled Alice Fields, Isn’t It Hard to Love, Make Me a Palate (Pallet) on the Floor — the latter which I played myself on my guitar. Handy also retitled his catalogue “Atlanta Blues.” Mr. Handy cannot prove anything is music that he has created. He has possibly taken advantage of some unprotected material that sometimes floats around. I would like to know how a person could be an originator of anything, without being able to do at least some of what they created.

I still claim that jazz hasn’t gotten to its peak as yet. I may be the only perfect specimen today in jazz that’s living. It may be because of my contributions, that gives me authority to know what is correct or incorrect. I guess I am 100 years ahead of my time. Jazz is a style, not a type of composition. Jazz may be transformed to any type of tune, if the transformer has doubt, measure arms with any of my dispensers, on any instrument (of course I’ll take the piano). If a contest is necessary, I am ready.

The whole world was ignorant of the fact that blues could be played with an orchestra (with the exception of New Orleans). One of my proteges, Freddie Keppard, the trumpet King of all times, came to Memphis on an excursion from New Orleans. I had him and his band play the New Orleans Blues, one of my numbers. That was the first time Memphis heard blues by an orchestra.

The broadcast states that “Tom Toms” came on the Mayflower from the jungles of Portugal, which were considered the first step in Jazz. I contradict this, since the first “Tom-Tom” was known to come from China, the home of the crash, and in no way did the “Tom-Tom” of any jungles have anything to with jazz. It was simply a part of the equipment that comes with a set of drums such as: xylophones, bells, chimes, woodblocks, triangles, gongs, crash, cymbals, tom-tom, bass drums, snare drums, tympani, etc. The Mayflower departed from Plymouth, Eng., Sept. 6th, 1620, arrived near Cape Cod, Nov. 9th, 1620, two months and three days after departure, with 103 Pilgrims.

The only knowledge that anyone may claim today is strictly what history gives. This gentleman, no doubt, has a greed for false reputation. Through an infringement possibly on someone else’s property, which happens to be the undersigned. At this particular time, for world information, I shall get in touch with a few leaders in the early 19th century, namely, John Robicheaux, Manuel Perez, Armand Pirons, and ask them how long they have been playing Blues, even before they heard of Handy, let alone any compositions with his name. Happy Galloways played blues when I was a child. Peyton with his accordion orch, Tick Chambers orch, Bob Frank and his piccolo orch. Their main tunes were different pairs of blues. Later Buddy Bolden came along, the first great powerful cornetist. On still or quiet nights while playing Lincoln Park, he could be heard on the outskirts of the City, Carrolton Ave. Section, from 12 to 14 miles away. When he decided to fill the park, that’s when he would exert his power-

(modulate to page 31)

Jelly Roll Morton
Calls Handy
A Liar

(Continued from page 3)

ful ability. This man also wrote a blues that lived a very long time (thought I heard Buddie Bolden say, “-------, -------, take it away.”) This tune was copyrighted by someone else under the name of St. Louis Tickler, and published about 1898. Buddie was older than I. I wrote a blues in 1907 entitled Alabama Bound. Some one heard the number and had it published in New Orleans. A copyright doesn’t always prove the rightful owner to a piece of music. I have had many numbers stolen. Many have attained glory and reaped benefits, who have not written one note. Of course the copyright laws protect the supposed to be owner.

“Whiteman Had No Knowledge
of Jazz”

Paul Whiteman claimed to be the “King of Jazz” for years, with no actual knowledge of it. Duke Ellington claimed the title of “Jungle Music,” which is no more than a flutter tongue on a trumpet or trombone, to any denomination of chord, which was done by Keppard, King Oliver, Buddie Petit and many more, including myself when I played trombone, no doubt before he knew what music was. This very minute, you have confronting the world all kinds of Kings, Czars, Dukes, Princes and Originators of Swing. (“Swing” is just another name for jazz) and they know that the titles are deceiving. Of course it’s meant for financial gains, (but they should stop at that), but instead they have lied so much, gained fabulously in many cases, and have been doing this so long, that they actually believe they are telling the truth, ready to give anyone an argument, including me. I would like to put a lie tester on many of these make-believe stalwarts of originality. Mr. Ripley, these untruthful statements Mr Handy has made, or caused you to make, will maybe cause him to be branded the most dastardly imposter in the annals of the history of music. For your own satisfaction I would advise you to get some of Mr. Handy’s records, then get some of mine. Then draw your own conclusions. For many years I was Number One man with the Victor Recording Company. Tiger Rag was transformed into jazz by me, from an old French Quadrille, that was played in many tempos. I also transformed many light operas such as Sextet, Melody in F, Humoresque, etc., and After the Ball, Back Home in Indiana, etc., and all standards that I saw fit, more than 35 years ago.

“My Tunes Made a Lot of

Many orchestras and individual musicians have become famous by merely being able to play a few of my tunes successfully which were always chucked full of originality. James Reese, of Europe, became very famous during the World War, with Jelly Roll Blues, and was also the cause of the rhythm dancing, still in vogue, according to Brown and McGraw, the originators. Milenberg Joys helped Paul Ash in his darkest moments, in his struggle to fame, it being his most dependable hit tune. Fletcher Henderson played the entire East and demanded respect from all first-class orchestras with King Porter Stomp. Abe Lyman placed several inserts in New York papers, extending thanks to Milenberg Joys, for his esteemed debut. King Oliver with a truly great personnel — King Oliver (World’s greatest hot trumpeter), Louis Armstrong, Lillian Armstrong, piano; Dutrea (Dutrey), trombone; Bud Scott, guitar; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Baby Dodds, drums; Wm. Johnson, bass — after failing with Gennett, Columbia and Okay (OKeh) recording companies, finally made good with one of my numbers, Dead Man Blues, on Vocalion. By this time the personnel had also changed — Albert Nicholas, clarinet; Barney Bigard, clarinet and sax; Darnell Howard, clarinet and sax; Paul Barbarin, drums; Bob Schaffner (Shoffner), trumpet; King Oliver, trumpet; Kid Ory, trombone; Bud Scott, guitar; Bert Cobbs, tuba; Lou Russell, piano.

In 1925 St. Louis Blues was dead as a doornail. Mr. Handy came to Chicago to try to sell some tunes. Mr. Melrose’s knowledge was very limited, and he always relied on my honesty when it came to outside tunes, which were seldom accepted. Melrose would not accept St. Louis Blues and Beale Street Blues unless my arrangements were used. I consented, the tunes accepted, arrangements were made of outstanding parts by me, and a house arranger’s name was used, either Elmer Schobel (Schoebel) or Mel Stitzell (Stitzel). Paul Whiteman happened to be playing Chicago at that particular time. St. Louis Blues was given to him and later to Ted Lewis. This was the new dawn for the St. Louis Blues.

(Continued Next Month)

 arr. by Mike Meddings

Dr. Wolfram Knauer sends the concluding part of the article from Down Beat, dated September 1938, Vol. 5, No. 9, page 4, columns 1—4.

Down Beat


Jelly Roll Says He Was First To Play Jazz

Recalls Hearing the Blues Before He
Started to Grammer School

By Jelly Roll Morton

(Continued from last month)

In New Orleans we used a regular combo of violin, guitar, bass violin, clarinet, cornet, trombone and drums. Freddie Keppard and his band were employed at a dance hall by the name of the Tuxedo. This went badly and he bad to cut two men off. Keppard let out violin, guitar and bass and hired Buddie Christian on piano. That was the first formation of the so-called Dixieland combo.

Wm. Johnson, Morton’s brother-in-law, wanted to come to California with a band. Morton’s wife immediately financed the trip. On arriving in Los Angeles, they were hired by Pantages for his circuit, on circuit tour. They came east the latter part of 1914 or early 1915 and invaded New York City. Played at the Palace theatre for two weeks, breaking all box office records. They were booked by Harry Weber. The personnel of this orchestra was: Wm. Johnson, bass; Eddie Vincent, trombone; Freddie Keppard, cornet; George Bakay (Baquet), clarinet: Gee Gee Williams, guitar Jimmie Palao, violin; Morgan Prince, comedian. This was the first all-New Orleans orchestra to invade New York. They later joined the show (Town Topics) as just another act, and positively stole the show. This was the greatest organization in history until they disbanded.

Public Wants the Truth

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not claim any of the creation of the blues, although I have written many of them even before Mr. Handy had any blues published. I had heard them when I was knee-high to a duck. For instance, when I first started going to school, at different times I would visit some of my relatives per permission, in the Garden district. I used to hear a few of the following blues players, who could play nothing else — Buddie Canter, Josky Adams, Game Kid, Frank Richards, Sam Henry and many more too numerous to mention — what we call “ragmen” in New Orleans. They can take a 10c Xmas horn, take the wooden mouthpiece off, having only the metal for mouthpiece, and play more blues with that instrument than any trumpeter I had ever met through the country imitating the New Orleans trumpeters. Of course, Handy played mostly violin when I first arrived in Memphis. Violinists weren’t known to play anything illegitimate even in New Orleans.

Chris Smith Wrote First Tune
Titled ‘Blues’

I hope that this letter will familiarize you more with real facts. You may display this in the most conspicuous places, it matters not to me. I played all Berlin’s tunes in jazz, which helped their possibilities greatly. I am enclosing you one of my many write-ups hoping this may help you in the authenticity of my statements. I am able to uphold all of my statements against any that may contradict. I barnstormed from coast to coast before Art Hickman made his first trip from San Francisco to New York. That was long before Handy’s name was in the picture. The first publication with a title “blues” as far as I can remember was a tune written by Chris Smith, who still resides in New York and may be located through Shapiro-Bernstein, Publishers, one flight above the Capitol Theatre Bldg.

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

Tony Jackson used to play the Blues in 1905, entitled Michigan Water Tastes Like Sherry Wine. He never sang anything on the stage but Blues, such as Elgin Movements in My Hips, with 20 Years’ Guarantee. Blues just wasn’t considered music — there were hundreds, maybe thousands who could play blues and not another single tune.

Music is such a tremendous proposition that it probably needs government supervision. There does not seem to be any proper protection for anything in this line. I think one should have conclusive proof before being able to claim a title. I also advocate much more rigid laws so thieves may get their just deserts. There are many who enjoy glory plus financial gain’s abundance, even in the millions, who should be digging ditches or sweeping the streets. Lack of proper protection causes this.

Thief Got the Cash

I could dig up many tunes that were published, and benefits reaped accredited to one who never wrote the first note, no arranger got paid for his work, and the cash went to the one who was the actual thief. The original writer is then afraid to open his mouth for fear that he may be made to do a jail term (negligence of the law excuses no one). These are the words of many would-be writers. (What is the use in worrying yourself to death, when you can steal a little bit here and a little bit there?) I laid the foundation of jazz and am still the flowing fountain. Now everyone wants to claim it. They take different names for it in order to baffle their public and gain a false reputation, but they all must serve the same foundations to give satisfaction. As with religion, there are many denominations, but only one God.

Speaking of jazz music, anytime it is mentioned musicians usually hate to give credit but they will say, “I heard jelly Roll play it first.” I also refer you to Clarence Jones. In the early days around Chicago and musicians (pianists) like Tony Jackson, Albert Cahill (Carroll), “Slap-Rags” White, Santoy Blue, George Hall, Chas. Hill, Black Paderewski, etc. I am sure he remembers when different musicians would say “there’s something peculiar,” referring to my playing and arranging, but all who heard me play would immediately become copy-cats, irregardless of what instrument they played. My figurations — well — I guess, were impossible at that time, and arguments would arise, stating that no one could put this idea on a sheet. It really proved to be the fact for years. Even Will Rossiter’s crack arranger Henri Klickman was baffled, but myself figured out the peculiar form of mathematics and harmonics that was strange to all the world but me.

New York’s Just Getting
Wise to Jazz

My dear Mr. Ripley, I also ask you for conclusive proof, which I am sure that you will never be able to do, due to the fact that the one who inveigled you into this announcement cannot give you any. He doesn’t know anything about the foundation. New York itself is just beginning to get wise to jazz and all the decent dispensers either came from parts that I have educated or from tutors of the good New York musicians.

Not until 1926 did they get a faint idea of real jazz, when I decided to live in New York. In spite of the fact that there were few great dispensers, as Sydney Bechet, clarinet; Wm. Braud, bass, New York’s idea of jazz was taken from the dictionary’s definition — loud, blary, noisy, discordant tones, etc., which really doesn’t spell jazz music. Music is music, regardless of type, it is supposed to be soothing, not unbearable — which was a specialty with most of them. It is great to have ability from extreme to extreme, but it is terrible to have this kind of ability without the correct knowledge of how to use it. Very often you could hear the New York (supposed-to-be) jazz bands, have 12-15 men: they would blaze away with all volume that they had. Sometimes customers would have to hold their ears to protect their eardrums from a forced collision with their brains. Later in the same tune, without notification, you could hear only drums and trumpet. Piano and guitar would be going but not heard. The others would be holding their instruments leisurely, talking, smoking reefers, chatting scandals, etc.

Musicians of all nationalities watched the way I played; then soon I could hear my material everywhere I trod; but in an incorrect way, using figures behind a conglomeration of variations sometimes discordant, instead of hot swing melodies.

My contributions were many: First clown director, with witty sayings and flashily dressed, now called master of ceremonies; first glee club in orchestra; the first washboard was recorded by me; bass fiddle, drums — which was supposed to be impossible to record. I produced the fly swatter (they now call them brushes). Of course many imitators arose after my being fired or quitting. I do not hold you responsible for this. I only give you facts that you may use for ammunition to force your pal to his rightful position in fair life. Lord protect us from more Hitlers and Mussolinis.

Very truly yours,



Originator of Jazz and Stomps
Victor Artist
Worlds greatest Hot Tune writer

Bob Greene’s
World of Jelly Roll Morton

Dr. Wolfram Knauer sends the following article from Down Beat, dated September 1938, Vol. 5, No. 9, page 5.

Down Beat


“I Would Not Play Jazz if I Could . .

Father of
The Blues

W. C. Handy Says Jelly Roll’s Attack
Is the “Act of a Crazy Man”

August 5, 1938
608 S. Dearborn St.,
Chicago, Illinois.


In looking over DOWN BEAT I came across an article by Jelly Roll Morton captioned: “W. C. Handy is a Liar!”

For your information: Ripley had me on his program “Believe It or Not,” and Mr. Jelly Roll Morton wrote a similar article in the Baltimore Afro-American — a Negro Journal. In order to refute such statements by Jelly Roll Morton in the future, we obtained letters and statistics, etc., to make available to any newspaper that would carry such a scurrilous article. We have nothing much to fear from the Negro newspaper but when a paper like yours circulates lies of Jelly Roll’s concoction to musicians and other professional people, it is doing me not only an injustice but an injury that is irreparable.

If you want to be fair I am giving you material in this letter
[,] which you can assemble and use as a denial. I feel perfectly sure of my position in the musical world and of my ability as a pioneer, creative musician and composer.

I brought the quartet from Alabama to Chicago for the World’s Fair in 1893
[,] which sang native songs of my arrangements. I traveled with Maharas’ Minstrels that had its headquarters at the Winterburn Show Printing Co., of Chicago in 1896, in which I arranged and played unusual unpublished Negro music. In 1897 I led the band that started from the same address, giving our first performance at Belvidere, Ill., on August 4, 1896, and in Joliet, Ill., in 1897. I was then arranging music for band, orchestra and singers with my pen and later played Chicago at the Alhambra theatres where some of Chicago’s ablest musicians followed my band to hear us play original compositions like: “Armour Avenue.” This minstrel show traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico. I had the opportunity to hear what Negroes were playing in every city and hamlet all over the south and because of a knowledge of Negro music and because of my exceptional ability to write down the things peculiar to him, I created a new style of music which we now know as the “Blues” and no one contested in these 25 years my copyrights which I own, nor challenged my ability until this jealous man comes along 25 years later.

I am sending you a copy of the “Jogo Blues,” which I as a musician and composer wrote which was an instrumental following up the success of the “Memphis Blues” which I composed and wrote. In my early compositions I didn’t allow any one to dot an (I) or cross a (T) other than myself. Now, out of this “Jogo Blues” I took one strain and put words to it and composed the “St. Louis Blues.” Wrote the words and music myself. Made the orchestrations myself and, contrary to Mr. Morton’s statement that I was playing for colored people at Dixie Park, I played this composition atop of the Falls Bldg. in Memphis, at the Alaskan Roof Garden, which was an exclusive spot. My band played for the elite of Memphis throughout the South. Almost every state in the South, every Society affair. I did control the music at Dixie Park and played there on Sundays but substituted musicians for other days. The records of every steamboat, amusement park, dance hall, exclusive club in Memphis will reveal these facts. The Universities of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky will also substantiate these claims. Handy’s band was a household word throughout the Southland because we could play this music which we now call jazz better than any competitor.

Yes, I remember Jelly Roll

Yes, I remember when Jelly Roll played for Barrosso in Memphis on colored what we call T.O.B.A. time. But we were too busy to take notice of his great musicianship. Guy Williams to whom he refers as the originator of the “Jogo Blues,” which I stole and called “St. Louis Blues” was the guitarist in my No. 2 band. I never heard him create or play anything creative and if I had heard him and plagiarized his idea, he himself would have sought satisfaction 25 years ago.

When A & C. Bony, Inc., published my “Blues” — An Anthology, I was invited to St. Louis to the convention of the American Book Publishers and autographed 300 copies to guests. Guy Williams invited me to his home where I spent one week with him and his family
[,] which proved our friendly relationship and he always takes advantage of my visits to St. Louis, to extend such hospitality. Never once has he referred to my work other than original.

Morton says that up to 1925 St. Louis Blues was as dead as a doornail. I am sending you proof contradicting this statement in the form of a letter from Otto Zimmerman and he printed the first copies in 1914 and in which you will see that they printed 37,000 the first two years when I was down in Memphis.

In 1921, the Dixieland Jazz Band recorded “St. Louis Blues” on the Victor records and their first statement
[,] which I am sending you was 179,440 plus 25,521, plus their third statement of 5,243 — records. That’s almost a quarter of a million records in 1921 from one phonograph company.

The Brunswick in 1921 paid me for 39,981 records. In 1928 the Columbia Co., recorded 94,071 by Ted Lewis. In 1924 the Brunswick recorded 30,472 records. In 1925 Columbia recorded 17,945, also in 1925 Columbia recorded 36,870 records by Bessie Smith. Add to these recordings on the Arto, Edison, Emerson, Pathe, Autophone, Grey Gull, Paramount, Pace Phonograph Co., Banner, Regal, Little Wonder, etc., of the records they made and you will find that “St. Louis Blues” has had more recordings, sold more records, than any other American composition.

With all these records being played in people’s homes before 1925 and with our tremendous sales of sheet music from 1914 on, say nothing about the piano rolls and vaudeville artists singing it from coast to coast on every stage and in every cabaret, how could he say that “St. Louis Blues” was dead? It was because of the popularity of “St. Louis Blues” that Mr. Melrose sent his representative, Henry Teller, to New York in an effort to acquire the dance orchestration rights only for “St. Louis Blues” for the existing term of its copyright
[,] which expires in 1942.

We reserved the symphonic rights and have ready for publication now a symphonic suite in three movements for a standard symphony orchestra. Mr. Melrose was kind enough to write us a letter
[,] which we could use with the Afro-American. He refuted Jelly Roll’s statement, which we are sending you herewith attached.

May 7th, 1938.

Mr. W. C. Handy
1587 Broadway
New York, N. Y.

Dear Mr. Handy:

Replying to your letter of recent date relative to an article published by the Afro-American in which Jelly Roll Morton was credited with making certain claims in connection with your composition St. Louis Blues, wish to say that I was indeed surprised at facts thereto. In the first place Morton had nothing to do with my firm taking over your compositions for orchestra and band. They were accepted by me strictly on their merits and reputation. In the second place we never at any time published an orchestra arrangement of the St. Louis Blues by Morton. It is hard for me to understand why he has made such a claim.

Sincerely yours,                   


For the public’s information, you must know that I own the copyright to “St. Louis Blues” but have permitted arrangements for piano, accordion, all kinds of guitars, orchestras, etc., to be made and sold by firms that specialize along these lines. But they do not own the copyright to “St. Louis Blues.” I own that.

“I Would Not Play Jazz, Even
if I Could”

Jelly Roll Morton says I cannot play “Jazz.” I am 65 years old and would not play it if I could, but I did have the good sense to write down the laws of jazz and the music that lends itself to jazz and had vision enough to copyright and publish all the music I wrote so I don’t have to go around saying I made up this piece and that piece in such and such a year like Jelly Roll and then say somebody swiped it. Nobody has swiped anything from me. And, if he is as good as he says he is, he should have copyrighted and published his music so that he could not be running down deserving composers. If I didn’t know him I would think he is a crazy man to attack such fine men who have done outstanding work like Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington. He reminds me of Capt. Higginson who wrote articles for The Saturday Evening Post and he said in one of these articles: “There was an old Negro on the Mississippi River who played the fiddle away back before the Civil War and played the “Memphis Blues” and “St. Louis Blues” before Handy was born,” which of course was fiction. I expect to hear such tirades as long as I am living but I don’t expect to see you print them and under such captions as the one in this issue.

Jelly Roll Morton is running true to form. Booker Washington always told a story in which he likened Negroes to crabs in a basket, when one was about to get out of the basket the other grabbed a hold of him and pulled him back.

Very truly yours,

W. C. Handy.

played by Adam Swanson

Karl Ellison and Peter Hanley send the following article, which was published in the Lowell Sun, (Lowell, Massachusetts), dated Tuesday, 13th September 1938, page 4, column 4.

Lowell Sun



NEW YORK, Sept. 13 — Our idea of a two-fisted magazine is Down Beat, a gazette published monthly for the music world. When we browse through a copy, we feel immersed in the gore of battle, though music and the news thereof generally is supposed to soothe the savage breast.

For example, here’s the latest copy. Someone has called Abe Lyman’s band “corny.” “Thanks,” says Mr. Lyman, “most successful bands are ‘corny.’” A Down Beat correspondent has gone to hear Sally Clark, whose sister married John Roosevelt recently, make her singing debut in a night club. Does he mince words about how he feels? Not at all. This is what he says: “Know what I think about Miss Clark? The simple truth of the matter is that she is no singer.” Blunt, no?

On pages four and five, Down Beat plays host to a flaming row between a fellow called Jelly Roll Morton who says he is the “world’s greatest hot tune writer” and W. C. Handy, reputedly the father of the “blues.” Seems that Jelly Roll argues he heard the “blues” long before Handy was in sight. So how does Mr. Handy retort on page five? As follows: “Jelly Roll’s attack is the act of a crazy man.” That’ll mow him down.

Nor are there signs of a truce on page seven, because there a fellow is quarreling that Red Nichols did more for swing than the late “Bix” Beiderbecke ever did, even though the complainant is lonely in that opinion.

The fights continue in this wise for 31 pages in Down Beat’s current issue. Now we understand why the public brawls along Tin Pan Alley are more considerable than those of the soap-box orators in Columbus Circle. . . .

Prof. Alan Wallace sends this side-by-side Morton and Handy article, which was published in The Washington Afro-American, dated Saturday, 24th September 1938.

The Washington Afro-American

Who First
 Sang the Blues?

The present argument between Jelly Roll Morton and W. C. Handy on “who actually is the father of the blues” began when Robert (Believe It or Not) Ripley published a cartoon naming W. C. Handy as the father of the blues.

Jelly Roll Morton refuted Mr. Ripley’s statement and called for proof in a letter, copies of which were sent to various newspapers and other publications.

Last week, through similar channels and methods, Mr Handy answered Mr. Morton. In this article, we have attempted to summarize the statements of both.

Jelly Roll Morton

1. I, myself, created jazz, stomps and blues in 1902, many years before the Dixieland Band organized.

2. I met W. C. Handy in 1908. He was introduced as Professor Handy. Who ever heard of anyone wearing the name of Professor advocate ragtime, jazz, stomps, blues, etc.

3. Handy could not play any of these types and has never learned them as yet (meaning freak tunes, plenty of finger work in the groove of harmonies, great improvisations, accurate, exciting tempos with a kick). I know Mr. Handy’s ability, and it is the type of Folk Songs, Hymns, Anthems, etc. If you believe I am wrong, challenge his ability.

4. Guy Williams, a guitarist, worked in the Handy band. He had a blues tune that he wrote, called “Jogo Blues.” This tune was published by Pace and Handy under the same title, and later changed to “St. Louis Blues.”

5. The whole world was ignorant of the fact that blues would be played with an orchestra (with the exception of New Orleans). One of my protéges, Freddie Keppard, came to Memphis on an excursion from New Orleans. I had him and his band play “New Orleans Blues.“ That was the first time Memphis heard blues by an orchestra.

6. I could dig up many tunes that were published and benefits reaped and accredited to one who never wrote the first note.

7. Whenever jazz music is mentioned, musicians usually hate to give credit, but they will say, “I heard Jelly Roll play it first.”

W. C. Handy

1. I lived and traveled all over the south and because of a knowledge of music of colored people and because of my exceptional ability to write down the things peculiar to them, I created a new style of music, which we now know as the “Blues.”

2. No one contested in these 25 years my copyrights, which I own, nor challenged my ability until this jealous man comes along twenty-five years later.

3. I wrote the “Jogo Blues” and didn’t allow anyone to dot an “I” or cross a “T” other than myself. Out of this “Jogo Blues,” I took one strain and put words to it and composed the “St. Louis Blues,” wrote the words and music myself.

4. Guy Williams, to whom Jelly Roll refers as the originator of the “Jogo Blues,” was the guitarist in my No. 2 band.

    I never heard him create or play anything creative, and if I had heard him and plagarized his idea, he himself would have sought satisfaction twenty-five years ago.

5. Morten
(sic) says the “St. Louis Blues” was dead up to 1925. I have a letter from Otto Zimmerman saying he printed the first copies in 1914.

6. Jelly Roll says I cannot play jazz. I am 65 years old, and would not play it if I could, but I did have the good sense to write down the laws of jazz and the music that lends itself to jazz and had vision enough to copyright and publish all the music I wrote, so I didn’t have to go around saying I make up this piece and that piece in such and such a year like Jelly Roll and then say somebody swiped anything from me.

Dr. Philip J. Pastras sends the following photographs of the 24th September 1938, 58-page scrapbook, compiled by Jelly Roll Morton. In addition to the scrapbook, which forms the central feature of the Henry Villalapando (Villalpando) Ford Collection, there are additional loose documents, including a handbill for the Galena engagement of Tuesday, 30th August 1927 and a work visa dated, 7th October 1921, which allowed Ferd Morton to work in Mexico. This “Jewel in the Crown” memorabilia is now housed in The Historic New Orleans Collection.

For further details about the discovery of the 58-page scrapbook, compiled by Jelly Roll Morton, it is recommended that “Dead Man Blues — Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West” by Phil Pastras be consulted.

Click on photograph to enlarge view of the 24th September 1938 - 58-page Scrapbook - compiled by Jelly Roll Morton                            Click on photograph to enlarge view of the 24th September 1938 - 58-page Scrapbook - compiled by Jelly Roll Morton - with Phil Pastras

© 2001 Dr. Philip J. Pastras

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following article from The California Eagle, dated Thursday, 17th November 1938, page 7, A section.

The California Eagle

“Let Your Own Do It”

A Review of Los Angeles Legal Talent

Negro lawyers are among the best prepared and most progessive in this city it was observed this week by several civic leaders who are interested in influencing more persons to engage the services of Eastside attorneys when in need of legal advice.

Aside from being graduates of leading law schools, most of them have enviable records in handling litigation. A few who have recently entered the field are forging ahead rapidly. Community activity for group betterment holds the interest of most of these lawyers

Several of the outstanding personalities in the law profession are employed in outstanding capacities. Among them are District Atty. Charles Matthews in the District Attorney’s ofifce
[sic]; the first person to hold the post now filled by Atty. Matthews was the late Atty. Leon Whittaker. Atty. Hugh MacBeth (Macbeth) is in the consular service as Liberian consul. Atty. Bert McDonald is a city deputy procescutor. Loren Miller, Curtis C. Taylor, Clarence Jones, Ivan Johnson, 3rd [sic], Afue McDowell, and Edwin Jefferson. Among those showing marked ability after a year’s practice are Attys’ David W. Williams, and Walter L. Gordon. Marshall Denton who recently passed the bar will begin practice soon.

Hugh E. Macbeth

ATTY. HUGH MACBETH. Liberian consul and outstanding civic leader, who will speak at the Town Hall Forum of Scott M. E. Church Sunday night, November 20, at 7:45 p.m., from the subject, “If I Were a White Man”. The other side of the question, “If I Were a Negro” will be presented by McClellan Reed, noted orator, traveler and writer.

Note: Hugh E. Macbeth was the lawyer who would eventually be appointed executor of Jelly Roll Morton’s estate.

Return to Main Morton PageBack to TopForward to Next Page

Home Page

Jelly Roll Morton J. Lawrence Cook Frank Melrose
Roy J. Carew Anita Gonzales and Bob Kirstein Radio Broadcast Max Kortlander An Essay in Genealogy
International Researchers Jelly Roll Morton and Alan Lomax Library of Congress Narrative MIDI Files Recommended Listening
WWI Draft Registration Cards and Essays Jelly Roll Morton Iconography Library Photograph Gallery Document Archives
Recently Updated Articles Jelly Roll Morton Recordings and Discography Jelly Roll Morton Posthumous Articles Directory of Related Links

© 1999—2022 Monrovia Sound Studio