Roy J. Carew
 articles on New Orleans, Tony Jackson, Ragtime
 and Mister Jelly Roll himself

Roy J. Carew - courtesy of Edward J. Gottlieb - click to enlarge photograph

arranged by Luigi Ranalli


Roy J. Carew was born in the village of Mecosta, Mecosta County, Michigan on 15th December 1883. His parents were Robert and Rosetta Carew who had migrated from Nova Scotia, Canada to the United States about 1875. Roy was the youngest child, and only son, of five children who survived to adulthood. Robert Carew was a general merchant in Mecosta, but followed his trade of shoemaker when the family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan a few years later.

About 1903 Maud Carew, the youngest of the four Carew daughters, married Thomas Cummings, who was born and lived in New Orleans. Roy Carew went to New Orleans in September 1904 to work as a bookkeeper at the Gretna factory of the New Orleans Acid & Fertilizer Company. As a dutiful brother, he was also there to visit his sister, and to keep an eye on her welfare, as her marriage was showing signs of trouble.

An amateur pianist of some talent, Roy was always fond of popular music, in particular ragtime. Once he began to live in New Orleans, he became captivated by the city and the unique music he found there — music that existed nowhere else. He had the good fortune to hear Tony Jackson play in December 1904, and from that time Tony became his idol. He travelled far and wide to hear the magic of Tony’s playing and singing, and the two, who were about the same age, became firm friends.

Memories of Tony stayed with Roy all his life, and it was the mention of Tony’s name in an article about Jelly Roll Morton in the Washington Daily News, dated 19th March 1938, which led Roy to seek out Jelly Roll and commence what was to become one of the great friendships in jazz. Roy started the Tempo-Music Publishing Company in 1938 to protect, preserve and publish as much of Morton’s music as he could.

I corresponded with Roy Carew from 1954 to 1965, and he was always helpful and forthcoming about Jelly Roll’s music and also about ragtime music in its earliest decades. It was always a great thrill when I received copies of the Morton numbers he published, and he went out of his way to obtain in-print and microfilm copies of the music of Scott Joplin, James Scott, and others, which I have carefully preserved to this day. He was a gentleman of the old school — almost without equal. We were all saddened by his death in Washington, D.C. on 4th August 1967.

All of Roy Carew’s articles from The Record Changer are published through the generosity of Richard B. Hadlock who has retained ownership of the rights to the magazine from the 1940s to the present day. Classic gems of the early history of New Orleans jazz, the articles are unequalled for their vivid descriptions and beautifully written observations of musical life in the Crescent City in the first two decades of the 20th century. They also bring to mind those exciting times, a few years after World War II, when delivery of issues of The Record Changer brought great joy to jazz lovers the world over. It kept us in touch with what was happening at the very core of jazz, and we all felt a sense of loss when “The Changer” discontinued publication in 1957.

© November 2006 Peter Hanley

Ate van Delden sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated 15th December 1942, inside front cover, column 1.  Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer








Note: The above article is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Peter Hanley sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated February 1943.  Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

Tony Jackson

by R. J. Carew

In the early years of the present century there stood, at the downtown woods corner of Villere and Iberville Streets, in that part of New Orleans known as Storyville, a frame dwelling of the type descriptively called “camel-back.” This name was applied to those houses which had a single story in front, but were of two stories in back. The house rested upon a brick foundation a few feet high, and four or five wooden steps led up to the front door, which faced on Iberville Street. On the glass portion of the door was painted the inscription “Gonzales, female cornetist.” There was no yard in front, nor at the side, and the brick banquettes¹ extended right up to the side of the house. The old Villere Street car line ran past the side of the house, but few passengers got on or off in that neighborhood. It was not a gaudy or noisy neighborhood; the dance halls and flashy places were two or three blocks toward the river, nearer Basin Street.

One evening during the winter of 1904-1905, I was strolling aimlessly about downtown New Orleans, and in the course of time I found myself approaching the corner I have described. As I neared the front of the Gonzales establishment, I could hear the sound of piano playing with someone singing, which my ears told me was coming from the Villere side of the house. Always very fond of popular music, I immediately walked to the side of the house and got as close to the music as possible; with the banquette going right up to the side of the house, I found myself standing under one of the windows of what probably was Madam Gonzales’ parlor, listening to the “Professor” playing and singing. That night is about thirty-eight years in the past now, but it is almost as clear in my memory as if it were last night. It was the most remarkable playing and singing I had ever heard; the songs were just some of the popular songs of the day and time, but the beat of the bass and the embellished treble of the piano told me at once that here was something new to me in playing. And the singing was just as distinctive. It was a man’s voice of very good quality which rang true on every tone; a vibrant voice that took each note with easy precision; a happy voice that had at times a sort of wild earnestness to it. High notes, low notes, fast or slow, the singer executed them all perfectly, blending them into a perfect performance with the remarkable piano style.

As I stood there, I noticed another listener standing on the edge of the sidewalk a little ways away. I did not know who he was, but afterward found out he was another local piano player, Kid Ross, I think. I never got to know the man, but I will never forget our very short conversation, “Who in the world is that?” I asked, indicating the unseen player, as I stepped over to him. “Tony Jackson,” he replied. “He knows a thousand songs.”

Most of the modern jazz hounds probably never heard of Tony Jackson, but he was one of the pioneering giants of that style of playing. Before most of the modern notables were born, players like Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton were slapping hot numbers right and left off the keyboard. Maybe Tony wasn’t as good as I think he was. But as I sit at the radio or phonograph, and listen to those who are touted as today’s best, I am reassured and convinced he was. And if one of the moderns knocks out a tune as good as Tony, all I need to say to myself is “Now let me hear him sing one.”

Note: New Orleans for sidewalk.¹

Note: The above article is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Note: The above article was reprinted in The Record Changer, dated July 1947 and included the following Introduction:

The following piece was one of a series of “New Orleans Recollections” by Roy Carew. It is typical of the many stories and anecdotes Roy tells of jazz music forty years ago. In talking with Roy or reading his Recollections, you are soon struck by the fact that he makes no effort to jazz up a story with far-fetched embellishments. Speaking of an old time jazz musician who was inclined to fall into this practice, Roy once remarked, “There’s a man with a coming memory.” A retired government worker, Mr. Carew now lives in Washington, collects ragtime sheet music, plays it all on his grand piano. On the labels of some Jelly Roll Morton records, composer credit is shown as “Morton & Werac,” the latter being Roy’s business name.

Roger Richard sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated September 1943, pages 3—4.  Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

New Orleans Recollections

by R. J. Carew

I suppose that most of the visitors to Storyville entered by way of Basin and Iberville (Customhouse) Streets. The corner of these streets was the nearest point to downtown New Orleans, and habitues, gamblers, occasional callers, idlers and sight-seers usually meandered into the district by that entrance. At this corner stood Tom Anderson’s café, the Arlington Annex, a rather pretentious saloon with mirrors set ornately back of the rich-looking bar. Along the Iberville Street side of the barroom were several private booths, separated from the rest of the room by a high partition. Musically speaking, I can’t say that I ever heard much to interest me in the Annex; there was no room for dancing, and practically none for an audience, and I am inclined to think that any presentation of music was to add to the “genteel” atmosphere of the place. Certainly I have no recollecting of any playing there that any claim to merit. Anderson had had other saloons, outside of Storyville, at one of which (a cabaret on North Rampart near Canal) they used to dish out the real, raucous rhythm in large quantities, especially during festive seasons, like Mardi Gras, when many tourists were in New Orleans. I always felt that a large part of the business of the Rampart Street place came from visiting firemen, etc. I understand that Louis Armstrong played at this place for a time.

§ § §

I don’t believe I ever heard how the Arlington Annex got its name, but I did hear that when the Arlington, which was down the Basin Street block from the Annex, was temporarily put out of business by a fire, Tom Anderson graciously loaned Josie Arlington the Annex upstairs while her place was being repaired. There were several pretentious establishments in that block of Basin Street, the Arlington, Mahogany Hall, Hilma Burt’s and others. It was at the Burt house that Jelly Roll Morton spent considerable of his early “professoring”. I was not acquainted with Jelly in New Orleans, I regret to say; he was there all right, at least part of my time, but I never met him, although I feel sure that I heard him play. Perhaps the circumstantial evidence will be interesting.

§ § §

Although I made many pilgrimages around and about Storyville in the hope that I might catch Tony Jackson playing where I could stand on the banquette and listen, many times I was unsuccessful. So, as I strolled about I was always ready to pause and listen to someone else who might be playing good music. On one of these occasions I was passing Hilma Burt’s when the piano could be heard plainly from the sidewalk; usually the sound of the Burt piano didn’t reach that far, possibly because the little ballroom may have been two or three rooms back from the street. But on the night I recall, the doors or windows must have been open, and I could hear very well. The music was clear cut and very smooth, and of a characteristic Spanish type, and like the well known brook, it just running on. I listened for quite a while, and when the playing stopped I strolled on, without trying to find out who the player might be. But the beat of the music made an impression on me and kept going through my head.

§ § §

Well time passed, which can’t be helped, — it’s a kind of a way time has. World War 1 came along; Storyville was abolished; New Orleans changed in many ways; I came to Washington, pursued a college course, got married, almost acquired the air of a settled married man; the old days seemed a long way off, and I lost all contact with New Orleans music. One day in March 1938 while at the dinner table I was glancing idly at a daily paper, when my eye struck the heading JELLY ROLL CHARTS JAZZ, with a sub-heading to the effect that the “Dean of Gates” was running a night club on U Street here in Washington, where, despite his years, he was playing with all of his old time vigor. Toward the end of the article, Morton, in commenting on some of the early players he had known, mentioned Tony Jackson as the “world’s greatest single handed entertainer”. That was enough for me. I immediately resolved to look up Jelly Roll and find out whatever had happened to Tony. I made two attempts to find the place before I located it, because the article called the place the “Blue Moon Night Club”, whereas the sign hung up in front called it the “Music Box”, and to make it more difficult, it was located on the second floor and there was no sign at all at the entrance. After finding the Music Box, which Morton had previously called “Jungle Inn”, I called twice before I got see him. On my second trip, Mrs. Lyle, who I believe was his partner, told me that Jelly Roll would come in shortly, and invited me to wait.

§ § §

The Music Box was located at 1211 U Street, N.W., upstairs over a hamburger and soft drink stand. The entrance was by a rather long stairway with a few feet of hallway at the street and upstairs; a door opened onto the street and another opened into the club. The club room was large, and as my visit was in the afternoon, the room had a deserted look. There were seats all around, against the walls, and several tables and chairs were scattered about. To the right as one entered, on the opposite side of the room, was the spinet and bench where Jelly played. The day I first got to see Morton was a cold, raw day in late March, and for heat in that large club room all they had was a good sized oil stove; it certainly seemed totally inadequate. Ferd never told me the whole story of how he happened to land in Washington, but among the papers which he turned over to me, I found the following, apparently an idea for a song, which is rather interesting:

“Got a letter from a friend called Young
from his letter I got terribly stung
he said come to Washington, D.C.
to manage a club for a woman do-ra-me
& said take the next train & leave
it was cold as hell & that I freeze
he met me at the train
in the snow & ice & rain
he said to me I know she will be please
we went in the place, & the oil stove
hit me in the face.”

§ § §

I don’t doubt that, financially speaking, the Washington night club venture was unfortunate, both for Jelly Roll and the woman who went into business with him. I always found her agreeable, and apparently well educated and informed. On that March day I mention she and I sat by the oil stove and talked about current events until Jelly Roll arrived. As he entered the room and walked slowly over to where we were sitting, he gave me the impression of a tired man; he evidently felt the raw cold, for his overcoat collar was turned up and he seemed to have pulled his shoulders up to bring the collar closer about his throat. He really was a sick man then, but no one knew it. As he came over, I got up and introduced myself as an old friend of Tony’s from New Orleans; I told him I had read the article about him in the paper, and wanted to talk over the old times in New Orleans. So we sat down by the oil stove that “hit me in the face”, and warmed ourselves, more, I believe, by the conversation about the old days than by the heat of the stove. And to me Jelly’s was indeed warming; we discussed the old places, old players and old tunes. Tony, he told me, had died in Chicago “about 1921 or 1922, probably from drinking too much” over his many years of entertaining. As we talked, he gradually became animated and lost the tired look he had when he came in and I saw that, as far as New Orleans was concerned we were congenial spirits. Once in a while Mrs. Lyle would comment briefly or ask a question. “Was Tony Jackson a light colored man?”; she asked. “Black”, said Jelly Roll, “Black as that stove”. On my first visit to the Music Box, I never got to ask Jelly Roll to really play more than a few measures of music to illustrate something we might be talking about. This seems very strange, but we had a lot of talking to do to bring the old New Orleans matters up to date. As I was leaving after my second visit I said to him “Now when I come up here the next time, I’m going to ask you to just to sit down at the piano and play me some of the old New Orleans tunes”. So on my next visit we went over to the spinet, Jelly seated himself on the bench, I drew of a chair, and I suppose that for well over an hour he played over the old stuff. I called to his mind all that I could think of, and then he let himself ramble on, playing whatever came to his mind out of the past. And at one point in that hour or so of stirring up my old musical memories, Jelly Roll played a long stretch of music that was clear cut and very smooth, of a characteristic Spanish type, that sounded almost the same, if I can trust my memory, as what I stood and listened to that time in front of Hilma Burt’s. I am aware that memory is a treacherous thing, but I will always be pleased to believe that it was Jelly Roll who was playing that time, long ago.

§ § §

In November 1939 Jelly wrote me from New York that he was going to record the album for General Records, and that Mr. Charles Smith would write the book to go with it. I wrote him and told him that I hoped he would be able to record some of the smooth running Spanish type of music he had played for me. I believe The Crave was the result, but am sure that Messrs. Smith and Mercer had chosen The Crave before I wrote. Jelly Roll had already recorded The Crave and Creepy Feeling for Allen (Alan) Lomax of the Library of Congress. Creepy Feeling has since been issued by Jazz Man Records. While these numbers have strong Spanish characteristics, it is my humble opinion that there is considerable Jelly Roll Morton in them. Compare their musical structure with that of the last part of the Jelly Roll Blues which was published in 1915. I don’t believe that the Jelly Roll Blues part would be classed as Spanish, and The Crave and Creepy Feeling are very similar in structure. I asked Jelly Roll what kind of music he considered the final part of Jelly Roll Blues, and he replied that it was something on the order of the Charleston, but it came out before the Charleston did.

Note: The above article is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Peter Magee and Peter Hanley send the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated November 1943. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

New Orleans Recollections

by R. J. Carew

Roy J. Carew was perhaps the first white man to appreciate the importance of New Orleans jazz — having been aware of the music since the turn of the century, and having been a friend of many New Orleans greats, most notably Jelly Roll Morton and Tony Jackson. His celebrated series of warm, intimate “New Orleans Recollections” was The Record Changer’s first notable editorial achievements. On the facing page is the November, 1943, piece, typical of the series.

§ § §

From 1908 to 1912 I was cashier at the New Orleans branch of the Remington Typewriter Company. In September 1912 I went on the road for the company, traveling in Mississippi and Louisiana. During the first year or two as cashier, one of the star city salesmen was Ashton Carroll, who made such a fine sales record that the company promoted him to be manager of the Cincinnati branch. Carroll did well in Cincinnati, but the saying is, that after a person has imbibed the Mississippi River water at New Orleans, the Crescent City germ gets into the system, and after that one is never content to stay away from the town. Be that as it may, Mr. Carroll returned to New Orleans about 1911, after a year or so in Cincinnati. One Saturday afternoon I was working in the office, and Carroll and a friend from Cincinnati were there also. Suddenly from the street came the sound of a New Orleans band; a typical parade was marching up Baronne Street. When Carroll heard the music, he immediately hurried to the front door, listened a moment and then called his friend from Cincinnati, ‘Come here and listen. You won’t hear music like that anywhere else in the United States.’ He might have just said ‘anywhere else’, but the incident serves to show that the distinctiveness of New Orleans music was recognized in 1911 and earlier.

§ § §

In 1912 I went on the road for the Remington Company, starting out in Mississippi, with my headquarters at Hattiesburg, where my hotel, the Hotel Hattiesburg, was located a block or two from the principal business street. About half way to the center of town was a penny arcade, just about like most penny arcades, with a shooting gallery, coin-operated cylinder phonographs, and other catchpenny devices. Just inside the wide entrance stood an automatic roll piano, such as I described in last month’s Record Changer. It played the regular program of selections at a lively tempo, which in those days included instrumental rags interspersed with popular song melodies. As I went back and forth, working the town and calling on the trade, I passed and repassed the arcade, and got the full benefit of the automatic piano, which was going steadily from the time the place opened, and I thus became familiar with the numbers on the roll. One afternoon, after having gone back and forth several times, I was making another trip toward the main street and could hear the piano going at the usual tempo and force, but I noticed, with a certain amount of interest, that the number then being played was a ragtime composition that I had not heard before. As I neared the entrance I noticed a little group of people standing on the sidewalk, listening, and concluded that a new roll had just been put on the machine. Imagine my surprise when I joined the crowd to find that the piano was being played by a negro boy about fourteen or fifteen years old. The playing was almost an exact reproduction of that played automatically by the piano, the boy duplicating all the fancy interpolations and figures that came with the mechanical presentations. I asked a bystander who the young negro was, and was told that he lived a little way out of town, and that he had been able to play that way since he was about ten years old. I never heard him play again, and have sometimes wondered what became of him.

§ § §

The white cabarets in New Orleans that I recall, which were not located in Storyville, and which flourished between 1911 and 1919, were nearly all contained in the small area bounded by Canal, Rampart, St. Louis and Dauphine Streets. The names do not come to my mind readily, but among many others there were Anderson’s, The Haymarket, The Orchard and the Cadillac. I believe that The Haymarket was the oldest, as it seems to have been operating on Customhouse Street near Dauphine Street for many years. Some accounts have it that the word jazz originated in the billing at The Haymarket of a musical outfit that imitated Stalebread Charley’s Spasm Band. When their popularity was at its height, cabarets seemed to spring up at a moment’s notice. All a small barroom had to do was to clear out the back room, decorate it, put in a few more lights, some new tables and chairs, put a piano in one corner, and hang out a sign. They were right good entertainment at times, and most of them were very reasonable. I wish I could give a list of all the performers that drifted into that little world, played and sang their parts, and then drifted on. But it is with them as it is with many other things in my memory, — certain things stand out, but many other items I never burdened my mind with. One of the best pairs of entertainers, and probably the best known, were a couple of local boys, Leclerc and McCormack. Leclerc played fine New Orleans piano to McCormack’s singing. Leclerc composed a good jazz piano number, which was published, Triangle Jazz Blues, dedicated to Ernest Boehringer, who at the time was manager of the Triangle Theatre. Another of Leclerc’s compositions, of which there were several, was Sweet Cookie, a song which was recorded by Marion Harris on Columbia A3457 (79961). (Not recorded in very hot style, by the way). Another couple of entertainers were the Kingston[]s, Mrs. Kingston playing high class piano for her husband to sing to; later they were joined by their daughter, Margaret, a very pleasant girl with teeth and smile such as are often seen in dentifrice advertisements. The first time I ever heard Trail of the Lonesome Pine was one evening when a singer brought the number to Mrs. Kingston to try over. It was brand new, and the first time Mrs. Kingston had seen it. She started to play it as written, but it was not in the singer’s key, so Mrs. Kingston transposed it and played it without a flaw the first time over.

§ § §

Although New Orleans was the fountain head of hot rag and jazz piano playing, the common folks there were just as susceptible to musical hokum as they were elsewhere in the country. Merit always has a hard time to win out over sentimentalism, affected or genuine. I remember a ragtime playing contest that was held in the Dauphine Theatre, I believe about 1916. It was between white piano players, among whom were Irwin Leclerc, mentioned above, and Kid Ross, another well known New Orleans player. There were other good players, and a considerable amount of good ragtime and jazz was dashed off the piano, — Kid Ross gave out with some very characteristic genuine Basin Street honky tonk music, and Leclerc slapped off some of his stuff that would compare favorably with the best of today’s output. But neither one was the winner, the award going by audience acclaim to a mediocre player who pounded out Yankee Doodle with one hand while thumping out Dixie with the other.

§ § §

Jelly Roll Morton could mention having taken part in many piano playing contests, generally admitting (?) with his usual modesty that he came out winner. His admiration for Tony Jackson was unbounded, but he told me with considerable pride that he had beaten Tony once in a contest. Jelly Roll said that, as the other contestants were seated on the stage while Tony was playing, he (Jelly) was seated near enough to the piano to keep telling Tony, sotto voce, ‘You can’t sing now — You can’t sing now.’ I don’t know if that affected Tony’s playing any, but Jelly Roll won the contest.

§ § §

It would have been strange if Tony Jackson could have been bothered by Jelly Roll’s reverse coaching while he was playing the piano. I remember that at the last place I heard him in New Orleans, Frank Early’s cafe, I believe, the piano was in poor repair; among other defects, there was a key in the bass that would stay down every time it was hit, but that never seemed to bother Tony. He would keep going just as smoothly as a well oiled machine, and when the key would go down, Tony would pull it up without the slightest interruption to his playing and singing. To me he was always remarkable. One night I sat there listening to the man who ‘knew a thousand songs’ putting out his usual high class presentation of good rags and late songs, when a stranger stepped over to the piano and requested Tony to sing Everybody’s Doin’ It, which in my estimation is about the poorest effort Berlin ever put forth, even if it did get very popular. ‘I don’t know that one,’ replied Tony, and the stranger walked away and out of the cafe. I looked at Tony in surprise, and said, ‘You certainly ought to know that song, popular as it is.’ Tony grinned at me and replied ‘Oh I know it all right, — but I hate the damn thing!’

Note: The above article is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Roger Richard sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated March 1944, Part 1, pages 15—16 and April 1944, Part 2, pages 27—28. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

A Fragment of an Autobiography
by Jelly Roll Morton

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated May 1945, Vol. 4, No. 3, pages 3, 5, 25—26. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

Sedalia, Missouri
Cradle of Ragtime
First of Two Parts
by S. Brunson Campbell and R. J. Carew

Millie Gaddini sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated June 1945, Vol. 4, No. 4, pages 36—37.  Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

Sedalia, Missouri
Cradle of Ragtime
Second of Two Parts
by S. Brunson Campbell and R. J. Carew

Brian Goggin sends the following article from the Jazz Forum magazine, dated January 1947, No. 3, pages 1—2 and 32.

Random Recollections
by Roy Carew

Peter Hanley sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated April 1947, page 12. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

A Pioneer Rag Man
OF THE 1890’s

S. Brun Campbell tells R. J. Carew

There is an old proverb, Arabian I believe, to the effect that a man’s fate is hung around his neck like a collar that cannot be removed. All of which amounts to the proposition that we all have a destiny, which at times seems to turn upon trivial incidents, and at other times is the result of momentous decision. It was S. Brun Campbell’s destiny to become one of the pioneer ragtime pianists of the 1890’s, most of whom have now passed on. Mr. Campbell, however, we still have with us, and he can relate a chain of interesting incidents which finally landed him at the keyboard with his active hands moving rhythmically over the blacks and whites to demonstrate that exciting novelty of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, — RAGTIME.

“How did I happen to take up piano playing?” comments Mr. Campbell in a reminiscent mood. “Well, I guess it was because my mother and father were musically inclined. My mother picked a banjo and my father strummed a guitar, and they both sang for their own amusement. We also had an old square piano which interested me, and at an early age I learned to play a one-fingered version of ‘The Old Gray Goose Is Dead.’” Here we have an ideal setup for a musical career, — musical parents, a piano and natural aptitude. The fond parents, seeing what young Brun could do with a dead goose, decided to put matters on a more lively basis, so at the age of ten, lessons with a professor were arranged for. “Well,” continues Mr. Campbell, “when the professor called at the house a couple of times, and found out how much the old piano needed tuning, he refused to continue with my lessons until the piano was tuned up. Everything was all right then and we went ahead. In a couple of years I was playing popular songs of the ‘gay nineties,’ and at the age of fourteen I could play the more difficult music.” With this preliminary training and natural interest in music, young Brun was almost certain to become familiar with ragtime, just then beginning to come into popularity.

It was 1898 that fate introduced S. Brun Campbell to real ragtime. He relates that “At about this time a doctor’s son and myself ran away from our homes in Kansas, and went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, to attend a celebration that was taking place there. We became separated and I wandered into the Armstrong-Byrd Music Store, where I began to play over some of the popular tunes of the day. A crowd began to gather in the store and about the entrance, to listen to the music, and they began to encourage me with applause, and to ask for more. After a time there emerged from the crowd a young mulatto with a light complexion, dressed to perfection and smiling pleasantly. He came over to the piano and placed a pen and ink manuscript in front of me, and asked if I would play it over for him. The manuscript was titled the MAPLE LEAF RAG by Scott Joplin. I went over the piece for him, and he seemed to be struck by the way I played it. (He afterwards told me that I had made just two mistakes.) It turned out that the mulatto was Otis Saunders, a fine pianist and composer of ragtime music, and one of its first great pioneers. From Saunders I learned that Scott Joplin, also a Negro, was located at that time in Sedalia, Missouri.”

After the Oklahoma episode, young Campbell got back to his home in Kansas, but a roaming propensity and a newly awakened interest in ragtime prompted him to run away again, this time to Sedalia, Missouri, where he lost no time in seeking out Scott Joplin, then playing piano in a tavern there. Joplin and Saunders were piano playing pals, and the town seemed to be a sort of a Mecca for Negro players, probably because of its convenient location between St. Louis and Kansas City. Campbell relates “I persuaded Joplin to teach me ragtime, and with his coaching I was the first white pianist to play his MAPLE LEAF RAG and other early rags. I became a kid ragtime pianist, and met almost all of the early ragtime pianists and composers of ragtime of the 1890’s, such great musicians as Tom Turpin, Scott Joplin, Otis Saunders, Scott Hayden, James Scott, Arthur Marshall, Louis Chauvin, Tony Williams, Tony Jackson, Melford Alexander, Jelly Roll Morton, Ida Hastings (a Negress), and ‘Ink’ Howard. I am 63 years old and I seem to be the last of the original ‘rag men’ alive. I am very proud of the fact that I could call these Negro musicians my friends, and to recall that I was the first white ragtime pianist, pioneering with the Negro rag men in those early ragtime days.”

In the lusty rough and ready days around the turn of the century there was a demand for lively music, and a good ragtime pianist could travel where he pleased. Touching on this point, Mr. Campbell states: “I played all through the Midwest and Southern states; in honky tonks, road houses, pool halls, saloons, confectioneries, stores, theatres, hotels, restaurants, steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi, and about every place a pianist could play. I was known by many nicknames, such as ‘The Ragtime Kid,’ ‘The Original Ragtime Kid,’ ‘The Dude,’ ‘The Indian Kid,’ ‘Kid Campbell’ and ‘Brunnie Campbell.’ In my travels as an early ragtime pianist up to the year 1908, I played for many notable persons, such as Governor Ferguson of the Indian Territory in 1900, at his home in Watonga; Buffalo Bill (W. C. Cody) at Guthrie, Oklahoma, and Wichita, Kansas; Pawnee Bill (Gordon Lillie) at his ranch at Pawnee, Oklahoma, and at El Reno, Oklahoma, in 1900; Bat Masterson at Wichita, Kansas (the old United States Marshal of the roaring Dodge City days); Al Terril, old stage coach driver of the old Wild West days, who later owned a saloon in Kansas. I also had the interesting experience of playing for these notorious outlaws after they had been released from prison: Cole Younger of the Younger and James gang, for whom I played twice, once at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and at Independence, Missouri, where he got religion and died a Christian gentleman; Emmet (Emmett) Dalton, last of the Dalton gang, at Tulsa, Oklahoma; and also the Indian outlaw, Henry Starr.”

Minstrel shows were still going strong in the early 1900’s, and it is not surprising that Brun Campbell had his opportunity in that field also. He has satisfaction in recalling that “I had auditions with Honey Boy Evans and Lew Dockstader, and would have been a featured Ragtime Act with their great minstrels if we could have got together on my salary.” Brun can’t surmise at this late date what might have happened had he come to terms with the minstrels; perhaps it might have been “The Ragtime Kid,” instead of Les Copeland, who was to play Joplin ragtime for the King of England. Be that as it may, he has no regrets, and tells us “I want to assure you that my life as an early ragtime pianist was exciting in more ways than one.”

Well, the free and easy days of the old rag men are gone forever, but the music they developed and spread throughout the country remains a vital element in American music. It can be distorted and diluted, but it can’t be suppressed. It is a pleasure to note that, here and there, we find a group of earnest musicians who have discovered that simon pure ragtime is mighty enjoyable and well worth playing. At the Dawn Club in San Francisco, Lu Watters and his Yerba Buena Jazz Band have demonstrated that genuine ragtime is a paying proposition. Not long ago Brun Campbell taught Tom Turpin’s HARLEM RAG to Lu Watters’ outfit, and that early St. Louis classic has now been recorded. Better still Watters and Campbell have collaborated on a RAGTIME ALBUM, which at this writing is just about to be issued. In the piano solos by Campbell and band numbers by Watters’ boys, we feel sure that we have some mighty good listening coming.

Note: The above article is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Brian Goggin sends the following article from the Jazz Forum magazine, dated April 1947, No. 4, page 9.


Historic Corner

by Roy Carew

A person strolling about old New Orleans would pass a great many barrooms, no matter in which direction his vagrant steps might take him, — uptown, downtown or back o’ town. In the business section they were more or less ostentatious and ornate; in the better outlying sections they reflected the quality of the neighbourhood; in the humbler sections they were the usual “workmans’ clubs”; and in the rowdy sections they made no pretence to class, degenerating into barrel houses and honky tonks of a lower order. Since a location at the intersection of two streets offered greater business possibilities, it is easy to understand that the corner saloon became an institution. Many of them, possibly most, served sandwiches, hard and soft crabs, crab cakes, boiled shrimps, crawfish, oysters, etc. Because of the damp ground, like most local wooden structures, they were raised a little, and a wooden step led up to the swinging doors at the main corner entrance. In areas away from the business section, whether the building was of one storey or two, there was almost invariably a wooden shed at the height of the first floor, extending from the building to the outer edge of the banquette, where it was supported by wooden posts. (These sheds were a great protection against the frequent rains and hot suns of New Orleans, and I regretted it every time I saw one replaced with an awning.)

During the early 1900’s such a barroom stood at the downtown river corner of Villers (Villere) and Bienville Streets in the Crescent City. It was not a good neighbourhood, pretty poor, in fact. Although it was within the legal confines of Storyville, during the evening hours there was nothing that looked like reckless gaiety or hilarity around that corner; bright lights were very few. There were poor Negro dwellings in the vicinity, and a church was located in the next block back, with St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 across the street from the next corner. There was little to attract a pleasure seeker to the corner I mention; Customhouse Street, one block farther up, was brighter, but even there the excitement wasn’t anything to cause comment. I passed the Bienville Street corner very seldom, and of the barroom itself I recall but little, outside of the fact that it was of the type I described with the protecting shed extending over the banquette. Bienville Street was poorly paved at that time with cobble stones; drainage was practically non-existent, and stagnant water covered with a green scum would often be standing in the gutters if the season was wet, as it often was. The bricks in the banquettes were worn and uneven, sometimes missing and often loose. Pedestrians familiar with such banquettes walked carefully picking the firm spots, hoping to avoid the “she” bricks.

Strangely enough, the recollection I have of the place is a pleasant one, — that of passing by one evening and catching Tony Jackson playing and singing in that corner barroom as only Tony could play and sing. He had probably dropped in to prime himself before starting his night’s work. No need to comment on Tony’s performance, that was always without flaw, regardless of his audience, which on that occasion I surmise was the bartender. I stood there listening with keen enjoyment until the music stopped, and then resumed my stroll. Over thirty years later Ferd Morton told me the place was the FRENCHMAN’S, that fabulous meeting place of the “professors” after they had finished their night’s work. This was the place where, about three in the morning, the boys with the nimble fingers met to out-play and out-talk each other; here according to Morton, the class of the district and visiting performers and actors would drop in to be entertained and perhaps pick up an idea or two. On into the early daylight hours the place would “come on at a great rate!”

I have a notion that Jelly Roll did a large portion of the publicity for the FRENCHMAN’S when a real interest in the history of the pioneer jazzmen arose during the late 1930’s. Morton had a personal stake in a build-up for the place, since it was the FRENCHMAN’S that he claimed to have originated jazz in 1902, “in a small desolate back room . . .” Naturally Morton’s claim to having originated jazz cannot be accepted, but there is no doubt that he did develop a unique personal style of piano, which became wide copied. If those who scoff at Morton’s statements would give a moment’s consideration to why he wanted a distinctive style, I don’t think that they would find it hard to believe a considerable amount of what he stated. He wrote “My reason for trying to adopt something truly different from ragtime, was that all my fellow musicians were much faster in manipulations I thought, than I, and I did not feel as though I was in their class. Of course they all seem to classify in the No. 1 class, men like Alfred Wilson, . . . Tony Jackson, . . . Albert Cahill (Carroll), . . . Sammy Davis. . . .”

Competent musicians, writers and critics have acclaimed Ferdinand Joseph Morton’s musical genius, and my opinion on that point could add nothing. I am able to say, however, that his music is authentic, sincere and the best portrayal of the New Orleans music with which I was familiar and became very much attached to during my fifteen years in the Crescent City. I believe as the years go on and more people become familiar with Morton’s music, it will be played with greater understanding and listened to with pleasure and satisfaction in the thought that it is real music of the people, — genuine American Music.

The above article was published in the Jazz Forum magazine, dated April 1947, No. 4, page 9.

Note: See also Peter Hanley’s in-depth “portrait” of The Frenchman’s on the “Portraits from Jelly Roll’s New Orleans” page.

Roger Richard sends the following article from The Jazz Record magazine, dated October 1947, No. 59, page 12.

The Jazz Record

Frog-I-more Rag


One day in 1918, soon after arriving in Los Angeles from Chicago, Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton picked up a pen, and, on a sheet of manuscript paper, carefully wrote the heading “Frog-i-more Rag . . . by Ferd Morton, Writer of Jelly Roll Blues.” He thereupon proceeded to put upon paper a ragtime composition which he held in high regard. In Frog-i-more Rag Morton followed a customary form, — introduction, first part, second part, repeated first part and a trio. The composition is tuneful, the 32 bar trio especially having a beautiful melody. About 1923 the Spikes Brothers and Jelly Roll in collaboration used the first part and trio of the rag for a song which they called Froggy Moore, which was never published. After Ferd became connected with the Melrose outfit in Chicago, Walter Melrose used an adaptation of the trio of Frog-i-more for the chorus of a sickly sentimental song published as Sweetheart O’Mine, to Jelly Roll’s understandable disgust. Recordings have been made and issued under the various titles, but it is always Frog-i-more that is used.

Frog-i-more Rag is one of Ferd Morton’s finest, and I seized the opportunity to acquire the rights to the number, in the belief that it deserved to be in printed form. The limited edition I have just published fully justifies my belief. Jelly’s piano solo as issued on S-D 103 was chosen, and Mr. J. Lawrence Cook did a superlative piece of transcribing and editing. Frog-i-more is the finest example of a published rag that has appeared in many years, and with six full pages of Jelly Roll’s improvisations, it is the first time, to my knowledge, that any Morton number has ever been published exactly as he played it, note for note, from introduction to final bar. The sheet music of this edition should be of especial interest to the student of ragtime and jazz piano, as the back cover carries a facsimile of Morton’s original manuscript of the trio, and the simple way he wrote the trio can be compared with the “stepped up” version he played. When one remembers that Jelly “never played a number twice alike” this edition should furnish revealing proof of his powers of improvisation.

The above article was published in The Jazz Record magazine, dated October 1947, No. 59, page 12.

Roger Richard sends the following article from The Jazz Finder magazine, dated August 1948, pages 3—4.

The Jazz Finder

Those Jelly Roll Songs

by R. J. Carew

To those who believe that it is appropriate for a genius to live in an attic, or in adversity, Ferdinand J. Morton in Washington in 1938 must have been the right man in the right place. A genius he was beyond doubt, and his barn-like night club, although a trifle roomy, did very well for an attic, while his personal fortunes were indeed at low ebb. Business was poor and getting poorer, and the most casual observer could see that the Music Box was pretty well run down. Jelly Roll himself was fully aware of the state of affairs, and made efforts to arouse enough interest in the place to hold the trade and perhaps to bring in new business. However, his partner, more often than not, didn’t agree with Ferd’s ideas, and there wasn’t much cooperation. Through it all he never lost his optimism, and his active mind was always evolving new ideas for improving matters, some of which, had general business conditions been better, might have been highly successful. However, business was pretty quiet around Washington in 1938.

I suppose many people dropped in on Jelly Roll while he was trying to keep the night club going; old friends in the show business, performers and musicians who knew him in better days; jazz enthusiasts who knew his music from records, who wanted to hear him play, and possibly were curious about record personnels; others who just liked Morton’s kind of music, and enjoyed hearing him relate his experiences. I don’t suppose there were many like myself, who had enjoyed music like his over 30 years earlier in New Orleans, to whom it brought back pleasant memories. I believe also that I was different in that it occurred to me almost immediately that something should be done to help Ferd out of the tough spot in which he found himself. Hence I was at once receptive to ideas that might prove gainful in something besides prestige.

Naturally, most of his ideas had to do with entertainment, generally something with a musical angle, — recording, sheet music, etc. He was making the historical recordings for the Library of Congress at the time, and probably because of that he was able to interest a local recording company in commercial recordings. From this venture came the Jazz Man issues, — Jelly Roll’s piano solos of Winin’ Boy (with vocal), Creepy Feeling, Honky Tonk Music, and the Finger Breaker (mis-titled Finger Buster on the label). He tried to interest other local talent in joining him in recording, but nothing worth while resulted. Failing to persuade a night club orchestra, he brought in a few young fellows who played together, but they didn’t measure up, so Ferd told me, and they spoiled several masters. He said they couldn’t play anything right except Dinah, and then remarked “Why shouldn’t they play that all right? They’ve been playing it ever since they were babies.” He tried to form a clarinet piano duo, but the clarinet player failed to keep his appointment.

During all this time Ferd and I were discussing the possibilities of sheet music. We were both familiar with Joplin’s early rags, and believed that something could be done with them. To refresh his memory I had carried some of my Joplin collection down to the cafe, and he had gone over the old numbers with interest. Jelly had a high regard for Joplin’s music, and felt that with proper exploitation it would receive more of the attention it deserves. I told Ferd I believed that with some treatment by him Joplin’s rags might come back into favor, and he agreed “they should be brought up to date”, adding, in the true Jelly Roll tradition, that he didn’t know of anyone more qualified to do it than himself.

One day about this time, Ferd was at the piano and I had my chair drawn up to listen much and talk little, while he let his fingers ramble over the keys. After a bit he played over a number I hadn’t heard before. “That’s a good tune”, I remarked, “What is it?” He said it was a number he had written for the clarinet player who didn’t show up at the recording studio. “I call it Why”, he said. I asked what the words were and he replied that there were no words, — he just called it Why because he liked the title. I asked why he didn’t get words put to the melody and get it published, and he immediately nominated me to write the words. Not having too much confidence in my abilities in that direction, I named some others for the honor, but he insisted that I do the job. So he wrote up a manuscript and I went to work. Finally the chorus was written, and I left the manuscript with Jelly for his opinion. The next time I saw him he said the words suited him all right, and he handed me another manuscript saying, “Here’s a melody for the verse; you can write words to that.” Having forgotten about a verse, I was somewhat jarred, but I went to work once more. About the time Why was in shape, Ferd brought forth another manuscript of a song, the words of which began “If you knew how I love you,” and gave it to me, remarking that his words weren’t so good, and he wanted me to revise them. I can’t say how much I improved Jelly’s words, but as nearly as I can remember, part of his lyrics went something like this:

Ev’ry night when you’re asleep
I Pray the Lord that you He’ll keep;
Ev’ry morn when I awake,
I thank the Lord for such a break

Once more, when the chorus was written, he handed me a melody for a verse. Had words come to me as readily as melodies came to Jelly, it would have been simple. From the way Jelly worked, one got the impression that his music was composed with very little effort on his part; his abilities always aroused my admiration. If a composition needed another part, he would improvise it off hand, or if music of a certain type were asked for he could produce it at once. He could play a number by someone else, and substitute a part by himself that would fit perfectly, and yet be entirely different from the part it supplanted.

With Why and If You Knew pretty well along to completion, Ferd brought forth two songs which were nearly ready, and we collaborated on them to get them in shape also. Consequently, instead of getting one song ready, we had four almost in publication from, — Why, If You Knew, Sweet Substitute (a blues song), and My Home Is In A Southern Town. The outcome of all this was to push Morton versions of Joplin rags into the background, while we concentrated on the four songs. Ferd had full confidence that he could exploit them, and that his musician friends would use them. With the songs nearly ready for the printer Ferd said we ought to publish them, from a New York address, and proposed that he should go to New York to see the printers and arrange for a New York office. Accordingly Tempo-Music Publishing Company advanced expenses, and in September, 1938, Jelly Roll went to the big city. I rather suspected that he had a longing to see some of his old friends there, as well as to look out for the songs. On his return he submitted a neat expense account which chronicles his moves for the trip, and covers such items as phone calls, Bromo Seltzer, cab to Williams, cab to Printer’s, breakfast for two, cab from printer to Williams, supper alone, cab to Harlem, fare Savoy Ballroom, midnight lunch, room.

Clarence Williams kindly agreed to make his offices available, and in due time the published songs appeared, about the end of October. As usual, Jelly was full of enthusiasm and set out to exploit the numbers. But sheet music was (and is) a very hard game, and since even a genius must keep alive, Ferd had to give matters divided attention, and very little progress was made. However, if Billy Rose can complain about song publication difficulties, I’m sure Jelly Roll Morton may be excused for finding it a hard proposition. The Music Box was barely moving, and Jelly wasn’t feeling any too well, although he seldom mentioned his feelings. Late in the summer he had a couple of sick days, bad enough so that I persuaded him to go to a doctor. The doctor prescribed, and told him he should have X-rays taken, but as he felt better shortly, Ferd didn’t go back to the doctor.

As the end of the year approached, business went down to nothing, and after talking matters over with a couple of friends, Jelly decided to go to New York. On December 24, 1938, he and Mabel loaded his old Cadillac with their belongings, and late in the day they started for New York, although the weather was dismal and threatening. Evidently they drove all night, since he sent me a telegram Christmas afternoon reading “Arrived safe. Tough drive on ice. Good Possibilities. Merry Xmas” Jelly Roll Morton.

Well, Jelly Roll’s struggles in New York are another story, perhaps several stories. Through all his reverses he kept the songs in mind, and did everything he could for them. He succeeded in recording them for General Records Company, (GL 1703, 1706, 1707 and 1710), but his failing health and untimely death prevented anything further. In one of his last letters to me from Los Angeles, Ferd regretted that he hadn’t been able to do more, and when he wrote “My poor health is stopping everything,” it was, I’m sorry to say, the sad, sad truth.

The above article was published in The Jazz Finder magazine, dated August 1948, pages 3—4.

Peter Hanley sends the following from The Record Changer magazine, dated February 1949, page 6. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

Assorted Rags

by Roy J. Carew

One evening in the spring of 1938, while at the dinner table, I reached over to the radio and turned it on at random, giving no thought to what program might be on, and got a pleasant surprise. A fine piano was coming over the air. After a few moments of listening, I said to my wife: “Listen to that number, — that’s the kind of piano the boys in New Orleans used to play,” or words to that effect. At the end of the selection the announcer gave gave the player’s name, none other than Bob Zurke. I am pleased to recall the incident, as it reminds me that away back in the early days, New Orleans had considerable fine piano.

One little group of piano players included Joe Verges, Leonard Bysdorfer, Irwin P. Leclerc; those who like to think that good jazz had come out of honky tonks should have heard these boys having a session on a Sunday afternoon at the Monteleone Hotel. Another good ragtime player should be mentioned with the group — Harry Farrar, who just missed out in a couple of chances for a place in jazz history; in 1915 Harry and a jazz group went to Chicago and played the summer season. About 1916 Harry made a recording of a hot rag on a wax cylinder (probably a Dictaphone recording), and sent it to the Victor firm, but nothing came of it. He could play in any key, but preferred six flats.

Bob Zurke was one of the players that Jelly Roll Morton had kind words for, and contrary to general belief, there were a number of others. I believe it was largely due to his unstinted praise that Tony Jackson began to get some of the credit that he deserves as “the greatest single-handed entertainer.”

One day I mentioned Roy Bargy to Jelly, and he agreed unhesitatingly that Bargy was a fine pianist. Bargy wrote some very good rags at the tag end of the ragtime era, and recorded them for Victor in the early 1920’s: Knice and Knifty / Pianoflage (Vi. 18969), and others. Bargy made some use of what has been referred to as “secondary rag,” which in my humble opinion belongs more to novelty than to ragtime, although it is found in many rags. I don’t recall that Scott Joplin ever used it. In his Jazz: Hot and Hybrid, Winthrop Sargeant, mentions the Cannon Ball Rag by Northrup (1905) as the first published example of secondary rag, but a simpler form of it occurs in Levee Rag (1902) by Charles E. Mullen, one of Northrup’s contemporay
[sic] Chicagoans. Mullen was still living in 1930, but I haven’t heard of him since. The second part of Levee Rag was used in at least two other rags, Easy Money (1904) and also the Cannon Ball.

If a catchy strain appeared in a number, there were many who didn’t hesitate to pick it up and use it, which resulted in its appearance in widely separated parts of the country. Fragmentary bits of tunes, partially learned by folks, and whistled or hummed about the streets, would be picked up and built into rags or songs. A couple of bars from a part of Tiger Rag used to be current around New Orleans and was known by it into a song; I built a rag around it, and didn’t know it was in Tiger Rag until years later. A “ratty” tune that used to be heard around New Orleans and was known by some as “If you don’t like the way I walk,” was later arranged into a pretty good song called Mama’s Baby Boy. The impudent and rather personal “Hey, Brownskin, who you for?” of the New Orleans gamins was put into two songs, one published in New Orleans and one in Chicago. . . .

A kidding or catchy remark, if it became current, was almost sure to get into a song. When I worked in Gretna from 1904 to 1906, the office boy used to sing a sort of blues strain. “You may go, but this will bring-a-you back,” illustrating with an appropriate gesture. Later I found that several songs had been written with that title, one of them by Ben Harney, who gets some credit for pioneer ragtime activity. Harney’s song was published in 1898, and he must have carried the idea, if not the song, to New York from the midwest.

Harrison Smith calls attention to the fact that many Dixieland standbys were Tin Pan Alley tunes, which certainly is a fact. In the article Scott Joplin: Overlooked Genius (Record Changer, 1944), it is stated “. . . in publicizing the musicians who developed and spread jazz music, there has been a lack of consideration given to . . . the early musical environment of the players, to the popular musical compositions that were current in the early days.” However, it is also a fact that many Tin Pan Alley hits have been, consciously or unconsciously, versions of honky tonk strains from the provinces, or have contained large portions of “strains from the alleys.” Early examples are May Irwin’s Bully Song, and Ta Ra Ra Boom De A, the latter coming out out of Babe Conner’s dive in St. Louis to make a hit, first in London and then in this country. I don’t believe it would be difficult for a good tune detective to identify strains from old tunes in many of the more recent hits. Those who doubt might compare Ta Ra Ra Boom De A with a couple of “modern” tunes, Across the Alley from the Alamo, and I Wonder, I Wonder. . . .

When ragtime was young and very popular, nearly every aspiring writer utilized it in his original composition, or in ragtime versions of familiar songs, such as Old Black Joe, Annie Laurie, Home Sweet Home, as well as the classics. Felix Mendelssohn wrote a Spring Song; Egbert Van Alstyne wrote Darkies’ Spring Song; Joe Jordan write (wrote) J.J.J. Rag, the first part of which is almost identical with the first part of Darkies’ Spring Song. Jordan was the composer of That Teasin’ Rag, which went into the Dixieland One-Step, if my memory serves me. Otto Bonnell wrote a rag version of Turkey in the Straw, which is a direct descendant of Old Zip Coon, published in 1843. . . .

I looked up the original of Old Zip Coon, thinking to get an early manifestation of ragtime, but it had none in it. It did, however, furnish an early example of “scat” singing, — “O, zip a duden duden duden, zip a duden dey.” In The Ham Fat Man (1863), we find more of it, — “Hoochee, coochee, coochee,” which is more likely to have been baby talk than any reference to Little Egypt’s hoochee coochee dance. In Stanley Crawford’s Show the White of Your Eye, there is “Bo-lo, Bee-dle Em-bo.” In the song If That’s What You Want Here It Is, by Shepard N. Edmonds, there is “Ba dee-dle lee do-dle lo-dle lo,” and a lot more.

As to extemporaneous “scat,” my old friend Bill Sommers, a semi-professional singer in New Orleans some forty years ago, told me that he was never at a loss for the words to a song. “If I forget ’em,” he said, “I use my own words, or substitute something that sounds like words.” So-o-o-o, Louis Armstrong doesn’t exactly stand alone. Once in a while there is something new under the sun, but not too often.

The above article was published in The Record Changer magazine, dated February 1949, page 6, and is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Michael Hill sends the following full-scale serialised article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated June 1951, Vol. 4, No. 6, pages 1—3; July—August 1951, Vol. 4, Nos. 7 and 8, pages 1—2 and September 1951, Vol. 4, No. 9, pages 1—2.

Basin Street Stroller
Annotated by George W. Kay

Michael Hill sends the following article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated March 1952, Vol. 5, No. 3, pages 1—3.

He Knew A Thousand Songs
By Roy J. Carew

Michael Hill and Roger Richard send the following article from the Melody Maker, dated 30th August 1952, page 9.

Melody Maker

Remember Ferd Morton was
His own Press agent!

ROY CAREW, jazz music publisher and a close friend of Morton’s, reflects on ‘Mister Jelly Roll’ — and explodes some of those Storyville myths

MISTER Jelly Roll, by Alan Lomax, is unique among stories of New Orleans jazzmen, for it is told largely in Morton’s own words.

As one who lived in New Orleans from 1904 to 1919, and knew Ferd Morton rather intimately during his last years, the book has an especial appeal to me.

Morton received a few guitar and piano lessons as a boy, after which he made his own way musically.

After picking up crude ragtime and blues piano styles in the back streets of New Orleans, he joined the ranks of the more proficient players in local resorts.

Thus the Odyssey of Jelly Roll Morton began among the notorious honky-tonks of New Orleans short1y after the turn of the century; it ended some 40 years later in Los Angeles, where the “Winding Boy” was laid to rest.

Those 40 years saw jazz music attain international acceptance and acclaim, and saw Morton, unquestionably a strong pioneering force, rise to pre-eminence among jazz musicians.

An assertive and at times bizarre, personality; an unorthodox and developing art; constant restless rovings; all these added up to the drama of a kaleidoscopic career, becoming tragic in its last years, depicted in a most interesting manner.

The boy, who was “named after King Ferdinand, but took the wrong step early in life,” freely accepted the associates and surroundings that went with his choice.


He played anywhere there was a market for his music. Vicissitudes were many, but through them all he was sincerely, devoted to his music, in spite of abortive digressions into other fields in which he often had few qualifications.

The successes and failures of his last 13 years were shared by his loyal wife, Mabel, who still lives in New York and carries her burden of grief over his death.

This is Jelly Roll’s book, and the reader meets him as he was, intensely proud of New Orleans jazz, and boastful of his part in pioneering and spreading it.

His egotism and his vociferous impatience with humbug in the jazz field made him an easy target for ridicule in his last years. His eccentricities made better copy than his solid accomplishments, and reporters of the jazz scene were inclined to overlook his merit.


Morton’s personality pervades the book, and it is perhaps an understatement when Mr. Lomax writes “Morton’s life story should not overshadow his stature as a musician of great originality and influence.”

Morton’s copyrighted compositions and recordings are listed in the book’s appendices, and several samples of his music are included.

The specimens shown, although unique, cannot be considered as the measure of his genius. But they illustrate some of the types of American music that he could compose at will, and improvise upon indefinitely with no apparent effort.

I regret to see that the legend of Storyville and its influence on jazz continues to be built up.

Storyville did give employment to a number of musicians, but it was not a conservatoire.

A limited number of bandsmen found regular work at only three dance halls the — 101 Ranch, the Tuxedo and Eddie Grochelle’s place — and pianists were employed in some of the mansions.

They were limited

I am very sure that these musicians, who constituted a very small fraction of the New Orleans total, learned their professions elsewhere. Nevertheless, Storyville has been built into a place that never existed.

Old timers, seeing the avid curiosity of the present generation about such a place, are prone to draw the long bow. Jelly Roll was by no means the worst offender.

Big Eye Louis Nelson contributed the prize Munchausenism when he told Mr. Lomax: “. . . Just take the corner of Iberville and Franklin — four saloons on the four corners — the 25’s, the 28, The Pig Ankle, and Shoto’s. Those places had eight bands amongst them. Four on day and four on night. . . .”

Not a saloon!

I do not have to be an authority on Storyville to state that, at the corner Iberville and Franklin Streets, there was not a single saloon, and no band.

From 1904 until the district closed down in 1917, each of the corners was occupied as a crib.

On the folk music angle, the author has this to say: “. . . tolerant New Orleans absorbed slowly over the centuries Iberian, African, Cuban, Parisian, Martiniquan and American musical influences.”

“All these flavors may be found in jazz, for jazz is a sort of musical gumbo. But the taster, the stirrer, the pot-watcher for this gumbo was the New Orleans colored Creole. . . .”

As one who enjoys his gumbo without too much thought as to who planted the first okra I feel that credit has been given to a deserving group.

However, there were living in New Orleans white Creoles, as well as non-Creole Negroes, who lived in the same surroundings and had the same musica1 traditions.

The ragged beat of the bamboula in Congo Square was free for all. Who can identify the first one to apply it to a melody?

I am not strong for historical conjectures, but I don’t mind hazarding a guess that jazz was the common heritage of many groups in New Orleans: there is enough credit to go around.

The unique story of Jelly Roll Morton deserves a good book, and this one is welcome.

Taken in conjunction with the Circle issues at the Library of Congress recordings, it provides the reader with a basis for better understanding of a remarkable character and a fabulous era in American music.

But always remember that a Press agent has license to exaggerate — and Ferd Morton was his own Press agent.

Peter Hanley sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated December 1952, Vol. 11, No. 11, pages 7—9 and 14. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

Let Jelly Roll Speak For Himself
by Roy Carew

Peter Magee and Peter Hanley send the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated February 1953, pages 8 and 13. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

Doctor Bites Doctor Jazz
(and Apologises)


The very last thing intended is the use of these columns for personal controversy. I have repeatedly criticized this magazine and others for taking advantage of their journalistic ownership to air differences, thereby depriving the readers of articles which could have been used to entertain or educate (e.g., “Editor Bites Editor,” or the Changer vs. Metronome; the interminable Delaunay-Pannasie feud, and similar affairs).

However, the article by Roy Carew in the December, 1952, issue (“Let Jelly (Roll) Speak for Himself”) is aimed directly at me, and for me not to respond would be to avoid a challenge. This I have never done, although I may emerge very bloody. . . .

Before beginning the discussion, I would like Mr. Carew to know my position regarding Mr. J. R. Morton: my esteem for Jelly is probably just as high as Mr. Carew’s. I regard him as the most important figure to emerge from the early stages of jazz. I regard his band music, his piano, and his compositions as uniformly tops. To my ears his efforts are as fresh today as when they were first waxed. This, in spite of the fact that Jelly was probably the first of the jazz leaders to insist on arrangements — a thing which all jazz savants regard as fatal to the freedom of musicians. Yet he still retained a very definite feeling of relaxation in his recordings.

Regardless, too, of the changing personnels in the various Morton groups, his trademark was always there. You could tell it was Jelly long before anyone told you! Jelly Roll’s piano recordings (and I now refer to his earliest efforts and not the Library of Congress group, which were made when Jelly was so sick) — are marvellous examples of the music of the epoch. Without them, a sad gap in the etched chronology of this folk music would exist.

However, in my humble opinion, Jelly’s piano was neither ragtime nor jazz: it was a distinct bridge that spanned the two idioms and very accurately showed the progression from one style of music to the other. There are admittedly, times — many times — when Morton leans more directly toward jazz, and others when he definitely invades the ragtime field, but the overall style is strictly “Jelly Roll’s Music,” or the link that ties the two styles together.

I am quite aware of the valuable and unselfish part which Mr. Carew has played in correctly retaining for posterity so many of the works of Jelly Roll. This has been done at great length and meticulous care, with no thought of personal gain, but simply in the sense of fair play and in a belated effort to help Jelly — and, later, his family — to recoup, or at least retain, what was justly theirs.

But that Mr. Carew should take up the cudgels and defend Jelly Roll from the slur of being called “the supreme egotist” is a little beyond my ken! Mr. Carew was fortunate enough, in the “palmy old days,” to have hung around “The Frenchmen’s” listening to Tony Jackson and his protege Jelly Roll Morton. This is something every jazz fan has privately envied, and must be something of a recompense for the great number of years that go along with this privilege. Although not quite this fortunate, I might say in my own favor that had I been tall enough to sneak a pair of my Dad’s long pants, I would have attempted to crash the primrose path — long before my time!

But I did hear Jelly before he left New Orleans, and again at a later date in Chicago (when I went there to finish my studies in medicine). Occasionally Jelly Roll would get together a “pick up” band and play for our teen-age dances. The few contacts I had with him in this way bring back to memory the most disobliging person I have ever met! Admittedly, we were adolescent pests, but we were hiring him. At no time can I ever recall him obliging by playing a request. Looking back, it was evident that he had his program arranged beforehand, and to this he rigidly adhered. His willingness to give out with his varied and endless repertoire of songs and piano solos was probably limited to the brothels patronized by the visiting firemen, where the kitty was sure to be swelled.

But to our requests, he would scarcely glance over his shoulder — disdainfully and scornfully — and grunt something about “there are six requests ahead of yours.” We would slink off, while he preceeded to play exactly what pleased him. Yet he was so great that, in spite of this, we hired him again!

That Jelly Roll’s attitude was in no small measure due to his complete rebellion against the strict Jim Crow laws of the South, but he also presented a very interesting subject for investigation by a psychoanalyst. Jelly Roll was the victim of his own particular “cult,” or “social group” if you will, for in New Orleans the self-imposed color line between the light and the dark Negro is much more marked that the Jim Crow line between white and colored. And Jelly was the most adamant of the group! An entirely segregated and self-chosen section of town arose to accommodate these people (and still exists today). Jelly scorned the blacks, detested the lights, and was not accepted by the whites!

I wish to quote an excerpt from a vitriolic letter that Morton wrote to “Believe-It-Or-Not” Ripley: “In your broadcast of March 26, 1938, you introduced Mr. Handy as the originator of jazz, stomps and the blues. By this announcement you have done me a great injustice, and you have almost misled many of your fans. . . .

“It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz, and I happen to be the creator in the year 1902. . . .”

Quoting further from the same letter, I am ready to stand corrected in my statement that Jelly claimed to be the creator of the blues. He says: “Please do not misunderstand me. I do not claim any of the creation of the blues, although I had written many of them even before Mr. Handy had any blues published. . . .”

In accepting Mr. Carew’s quotes that Jelly also denied inventing ragtime (in fact showed a trace of humility hitherto unknown toward his great predecessors Wilson, Jackson, Cahill, Davis, et al.), I also admit error in the second part of my short statement that forced Mr. Carew to polish up his armor and charge into battle.

But I take exception to Mr. Carew’s interpretation that Jelly Roll claimed only to have invented piano jazz! I honestly believe that if Jelly’s tomb were reopened, you would find that he had turned completely over — in spite of the intimate and unselfish relationship that existed between Mr. Carew and Jelly! How does Mr. Carew reconcile the fact that a celebrated quote from Morton says: “Listen man, whenever you blow that horn, you’re blowing Jelly Roll.”

In the original manuscript which I sent the Changer, I not only referred to Handy as “The Father of the Blues” (which brought to mind Jelly’s claim as the inventor of jazz), but had also included references to Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman — self-styled “King of Jazz” and “King of Swing” — and noted that I wondered if perhaps these pseudonyms had boomeranged into handicaps, instead of being helpful! This comment was deleted from my article, presumably for space reasons. Had they been included, these references would have showed that my attack was not centered against Jelly Roll alone. It is well to note that any “King of Swing” reference stepped on the toes of Jelly Roll. Here again Jelly claims a finger in the pie, for in his own words, “Swing is just another word for jazz” — and who, pray, is the claimant to the paternity of jazz?

I am sorry that I do not have time to replay my entire set of “Library of Congress” records, for in all probability I would find enough quotes from Jelly himself to further strengthen my position. However, I assure you that I have already played it several times. And, adding this to the few contacts I had with the live and bitter Morton, I can sum up my unalienable right to express my impression of Jelly, as follows: he thought he could beat “any man, from any land, with one foot or either hand.” And that went for pool-playing, crap shooting, piano playing (did you ever hear of Jelly losing a contest?), fancy dressing, women — or what-have-you!

In conclusion, I wish to thank Mr. Carew for calling my attention to my ebullient and effervescent (and unintended) mistakes, and duly apologize to Jelly Roll’s memory, his family and his friends. Also, I want once more to thank Mr. Carew for the meticulous and unselfish part he has played in preserving for posterity the heritage of this one man who contributed so much to our American culture and folk music.

We might also offer slight counsel to Mr. Carew, that he not let affection and time blind him to the faults of his hero. Let us not forget that we can still like Oscar Wilde’s poetry without necessarily liking Oscar Wilde.

Note: The above article was first published in The Record Changer magazine, dated February 1953, pages 8 and 13, and is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Peter Hanley sends the following article from JAZZBOOK 1955, edited by Albert J. McCarthy, pages 109—116.

1211 U Street, Northwest
by Roy Carew

Peter Hanley sends the following article from The Record Changer magazine, dated May 1955, Vol. 14, No. 5, page 5. Courtesy of Richard B. Hadlock.

The Record Changer

“i thot i heard buddy bolden . . .”


Ferd Morton was fond of talking about the old times in New Orleans. He knew the town very well — downtown where he was born and where his family lived, and uptown where his godmother’s home was located in the garden district. As he grew older he spent more and more time uptown, probably because his godmother permitted considerably more freedom than he enjoyed at home. The garden district was a very good neighborhood, but in the back of town portions there were scattered about here and there barrooms and honkytonks. In old New Orleans even the poorest and humblest had music, and these barrooms were usually equipped with dilapidated pianos, at which an entertainer might play to pick up a few dimes, but generally the playing was sporadic and done by the musically inclined patrons. Jelly Roll liked to recall the early blues and honky tonk tunes he heard and learned thereabouts in his youth.

Those were the days when Buddy Bolden and his legendary trumpet were flourishing. The instrument was probably a cornet, but that is of little importance, — when he put his lung power behind a tune, it could be heard a great distance. Bunk Johnson and Jelly Roll were largely responsible for the reputation that has been acquired by “King” Bolden these past few years; while he lived Bolden was known on both sides of the Mississippi River, but today his fame has spanned oceans. Buddy himself would doubtless be amazed if he could know that Morton’s almost plaintive “I Thot I Heard Buddy Bolden Say. . . .” has been heard with genuine pleasure to the antipodes and back.

Thot I heard Buddy Bolden say
“You’re nasty, you’re dirty, take it away.
“You’re terrible, you’re awful, take it away”,
I thot I heard him say.

Thot I heard Buddy Bolden shout
“Open up that window, and let that bad air out,
“Open up that window, and let the foul air out”,
I thot I heard Buddy Bolden say.

Jelly Roll’s story of how far he could hear Bolden’s playing has caused many a smile of unbelief, and at least one well known writer was moved to get into print with a vehement denial of the possibility of the sound carrying so far. Morton used to say that, when Buddy was playing at Lincoln Park and turned his trumpet towards the city on a quiet evening, he could be heard around Jackson Avenue and South Robertson Street, “a distance of ten or twelve miles.” This corner is located in the back portion of the garden district, probably not far from where his godmother lived. Actually, there is no doubt that Buddy’s horn could be heard in the area mentioned when he was playing in Lincoln Park and atmospheric conditions were favorable, for it is but a scant two miles. Was Morton excusable for saying “ten or twelve” miles? Only Ferdinand Morton could answer that, but I believe there is an explanation. Lincoln Park was located on Carrollton Avenue, and was conveniently reached in those days by the St. Charles and Tulane Belt street cars. This belt line furnished a very popular ride during the early 1900’s; one could board the car at the starting point on Canal Street and ride all the way around the belt and back to the starting point for a nickel, a ride of ten or twelve miles. Except for the old elevated lines in New York, the St. Charles — Tulane Belt was as long a ride as I ever got for a 5¢ piece in my young days. So it wouldn’t be hard for Morton and his pals, idling about South Robertson Street on a quiet evening, to say they could hear Buddy Bolden’s trumpet “all the way ’round the St. Charles Belt, and that’s ten or twelve miles!”, ignoring, for the sake of musical history, that a straight line is the shortest distance, etc.

As I sit in my easy chair in a reminiscent mood, thinking somewhat aimlessly of the hundreds of thousands of records that have been made in this country and abroad; of the many, many magazines devoted to jazz and to swing; of the airways jammed with broadcasts of jazz, hot and tepid; of the motion pictures plentifully sprinkled with refreshing music; of the books published, completed and being written; and of the multitudinous correlated activities and industries; I find myself irresistibly forced to the conclusion that Ferd Morton made an understatement. It is not too much to say:

By the rude levee that held the flood,
As passed New Orleans the river swirled,
Here once the famous Bolden stood,
And blew the blast heard ’round the world.

Note: The above article was published in The Record Changer magazine, dated May 1955, Vol. 14, No. 5, page 5, and is reprinted by kind permission of Richard B. Hadlock, owner/publisher of The Record Changer.

Note: The Record Changer had previously published a slightly shorter version of the above article under the title of “New Orleans Recollections — About Jelly-Roll by R. J. Carew”, dated December 1948, Vol. 7, No. 12, page 12 and featured a well-known caricature of Jelly Roll Morton by Gene Deitch. [51]

Roger Richard and John Simmen send the following article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated December 1957, Vol. 10, No. 12, pages 10—12.

Of This and That and Jelly Roll
by Roy Carew

Don Marquis, together with The New Orleans Jazz Club, have kindly granted me permission to publish the following article titled: “Glimpses of the Past” by Roy J. Carew. This was first published in The Second Line magazine, dated July—August 1958, Vol. 9, Nos. 7 & 8, pages 1—4. Special thanks to Don Marquis, Roger Richard and Daniel Meyer.

Glimpses of the Past
by Roy Carew

 Peter Vickers sends the following article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated November 1964, Vol. 17, No. 11, pages 8—9.

Reminiscing in Ragtime
As Told to George W. Kay

Don Marquis, together with The New Orleans Jazz Club, have kindly granted me permission to publish the following article titled: “Roy J. Carew” by George W. Kay. This was first published in The Second Line magazine, dated September—October 1967, Vol. 18, Nos. 9 & 10, pages 108—109 and 118. Special thanks to Don Marquis, Jean-Pierre Lion, Daniel Meyer, Peter Hanley and Harold Hopkins.

Roy J. Carew
by George W. Kay, Washington, D.C.

Michael Hill sends the following article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated May 1968, Vol. 21, No. 5, pages 22—23. Included in this feature article are photographs of “1211 U Street” and “The Colonnade Theater”, N.W. Washington, D.C., courtesy of Warren S. Trachtman and advertising material for a “Cabaret Night and Grand Movie Ball” courtesy of Roger Richard.

A Tribute to Roy Carew
Annotated by George W. Kay

Roger Richard sends the following full-scale serialised article from the Jazz Journal magazine, dated November 1968, (Part 1) Vol. 21, No. 11, pages 2—5 and December 1968, (Part 2) Vol. 21, No. 12, pages 8—9.

Final Years of Frustration (1939-1941)
As told by Jelly Roll Morton in his letters to Roy J. Carew
Annotated by George W. Kay

International jazz pianist Bob Greene sends the following outstanding article titled: “A Memory of Roy Carew” that pays tribute to Roy Carew. Bob, founder of the legendary “World of Jelly Roll Morton” band, delighted audiences during the 1970s and 80s with re-creations of tunes by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. The original band featured Ernie Carson (c); Ephraim Resnick (tb); Herb Hall (cl); Danny Barker (g); Milt Hinton (sb); Tommy Benford (d) and Bob Greene (p).

Bob Greene - photograph courtesy of Ryoichi Kawai

A Memory of Roy Carew


I met him only once. It was in 1962, when I went down to Washington to work in the Kennedy Administration. Washington, in those days, was full of life. Kennedy had been inaugurated just the year before, and the vitality of the man seemed to pervade even the sunlight and the streets. It was an optimistic and forward-looking time. In a sense, everyone felt young.

Roy Carew was not young. I had known about him from “The Record Changer” days. I remember when my friend and classmate Billy Grauer, who ran the magazine then, said, “Carew is the only white man Jelly Roll Morton ever trusted.” Grauer had a level head and knew a lot. But in those days I had no idea of the hardships of Jelly’s last days, of the miserable time he had had in Washington, of how Carew had been a lifeline and moral support to a New Orleans piano player and composer who once had been king. All I knew was that I worshiped Jelly, and here in Washington was Carew, who knew him.

I went up to 818 Quintana Place where Carew lived with his wife, Lillian. It was not an interview of any sort, but simply a courtesy visit to a man who had been a friend of Jelly’s. And it was a full ten years before the “World of Jelly Roll Morton” had even been envisioned.

The house — it may have been an apartment in a two family house — was most modest. The neighborhood was comfortable, but far from chic. Roy greeted me at the door. In retrospect I can see immediately why Jelly took to him. Roy Carew was the kindly uncle you loved best, who wore a vest and a watch chain, who was tall and slim and if he smoked he smoked a pipe and Edgeworth pipe tobacco in its small blue tin. He was a gentle man, who welcomed me inside, his voice quiet and modulated, his eyes kindly and warm. One can easily see him sitting back in his easy chair, slippers, and unfolding The Washington Daily News. I doubt whether he had changed very much from that day he discovered, in the same paper, that Jelly was playing at the “Blue Moon” nightclub, (formerly named the “Jungle Inn” and later the “Music Box”) and wondering if he knew Tony Jackson.

We made the usual pleasantries and finally got around to speaking of Jelly. It was a very simple encounter. Our common admiration for Jelly brought a pleasing warmth into our meeting. There was a piano in the room, and presently, to illustrate some point or other, he got up and went over to the upright, sat down and played. As I recollect, he fingered through the “Jelly Roll Blues” keeping time gently with his foot, his long fingers not too sure of the notes but playing with a devotion to the tune regardless of an occasional stumbling. One can easily imagine Jelly listening to him and, as Roy later remembered, saying, “That part’s not exactly right, but I guess it sounds just as good that way!” Carew was not a pianist, he was a music lover, from the Tony Jackson whom he heard and knew, to the man Jelly Roll Morton, who in a sense governed his last years. His sincerity made up for any pianistic failings. They simply did not matter.

He asked if I played, and I said I did, and he invited me to the piano. I played “King Porter” which he seemed to enjoy. I am not sure I played it much better than his “Jelly Roll Blues,” but between the two of us, there on Quintana Place, there was a touch and presence of Jelly Roll. It was enough.

Mrs. Carew came in. She was a pleasant, medium sized woman, quite pretty, greeted me, spoke to Roy about something, and then went back inside. One had the feeling that the music and Jelly was part of her life through her marriage to Roy and not of true interest to herself. The passion had consumed Roy some twenty years before, until Jelly died. She was simply a good sport.

Roy disappeared for a few moments and then came back with some sheet music in his hands. “These are tunes from the little company Jelly and I formed,” he said. “Maybe you’d like them.” He handed me, one by one, the music, with their green, blue, and off gold colors. “Why,” “If You Knew,” “My Home is in a Southern Town,” “The Elks,” “Sweet Substitute.” I had never heard of any of them, never having listened to the Morton Six’s and Seven’s. Nor did I have any idea of Tempo Music, and all the copies of unsold sheet music that Roy had accumulated. Nor did I realize the fiasco of the “Elks” endeavor, and how Roy had burned 3000 copies of it just to get rid of them, and that I now held one of the few surviving copies making it one of the rarest copies of Jelly’s sheet music.

I thanked him. It formed a nice bond between us. He had presented me with some of Jelly’s music, in a sense bestowing his benediction. Little did I realize that he himself had drawn the covers, that the words by Ed Werac were by Carew, spelt backwards, and of the struggles Jelly had with the big bands in New York in 1939 and 40, trying to get them to play these same tunes. I held in my hands the story of Jelly’s last years, but not until far later, with the unearthing of Jelly’s letters by Bill Russell, did I realize the poignancy of what I now had under my arm.

We said goodbye. Roy Carew saw me to the door, tall, mild, gentlemanly, thanking me for coming, wishing me well. I never saw him again. It was a lost opportunity, for questioning him might have filled out Jelly’s biography. But it was a social visit, a courtesy call so to speak, and one did not want to impose.

The scene now skips. It is early in the 1970s. Bill Russell has come to Washington and I am still living on Southdown Road, near Mount Vernon. Roy Carew has died, but Bill wants to see Mrs. Carew and buy from her what Jelly Roll items that remain from Roy’s collection. Lillian Carew has moved after Roy’s death to Chiswick Court in Silver Springs, Maryland.

I remember standing in the foyer while he spoke with Mrs. Carew. The atmosphere of the apartment was completely different from the warm and easy going feeling that Quintana Place had enjoyed with Roy there. It was more formal, no clutter, more brightly lighted. I got the impression that Lillian Carew was glad, finally, to have the opportunity to get rid of the Jelly Roll items that had cluttered up her house — and her marriage. But inside there must have been a closet somewhere, and in memory of Roy and perhaps even with a nod to Jelly, she had kept the contents intact.

I stayed out of the way while Bill spoke to her. It was now that she brought out the letters Jelly had written to Roy, some 200 of them after Jelly left Washington and was struggling in New York and, later, in California. It was now that Bill recovered the Jelly manuscripts that Roy had had, the lead sheets, the orchestrations. A treasure trove of Jelly’s later material was exchanged, Bill quietly receiving what Lillian Carew brought out from the interior of the apartment, carefully putting the items in his briefcase and envelopes, handling them with a tenderness that was moving. I remember that he paid her for the lot, but I don’t recall whether it was in cash or by check. It was a vitally important meeting for me too, for Bill kindly let me buy from Mrs. Carew the original J. Lawrence Cook transcriptions of some of Jelly’s Library of Congress recordings. By that time I was studying Jelly intently, and suddenly having the music of some of the Congress recordings in my hands was to change my life.

All transactions concluded we left, Bill Russell and I, driving back into the center of Washington. I do not recall if he stayed in the city that night, or took the train on the long journey back to New Orleans. For some reason the memory cuts off. I cannot imagine Bill Russell in an airplane. He used to call Union Station in Washington “my office,” and I suspect that was where I left him, the music on his lap, a dream realized, his Morton collection suddenly enriched by treasures he had only dreamed of.

And so the saga of Mr. Jelly Lord entered another phase. Quintana Place was over. Roy was dead, Lillian Carew also died, Bill Russell is gone as well. I still have my scraps of Mortania, and the rest, along with Bill’s previous finds, resides in splendor in the Historic New Orleans Collection in New Orleans, beautifully preserved for generations yet to come. There is a strange sort of sad beauty about it all, the kindly Roy Carew, the long suffering Lillian Carew, the devout and dedicated collector, Bill Russell, and the struggling Jelly Roll Morton, vainly trying to regain the throne he once held. Just people, caught up in life, trying to live out their lives and their talents as best they could. It might surprise them to know, that in their own way, they have become part of the American landscape.

© October 2004 Robert S. Greene

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