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Creole Trombone

Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz

John McCusker

Publication Year: 2012

Edward "Kid" Ory (1886-1973) was a trombonist, composer, recording artist, and early New Orleans jazz band leader. Creole Trombone tells his story from birth on a rural sugar cane plantation in a French-speaking, ethnically mixed family, to his emergence in New Orleans as the city's hottest band leader. The Ory band featured such future jazz stars as Louis Armstrong and King Oliver, and was widely considered New Orleans's top "hot" band. Ory's career took him from New Orleans to California, where he and his band created the first African American New Orleans jazz recordings ever made. In 1925 he moved to Chicago where he made records with Oliver, Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton and captured the spirit of the jazz age. His most famous composition from that period, "Muskrat Ramble," is a jazz standard. Retired from music during the Depression, he returned in the 1940s and enjoyed a reignited career.

Drawing on oral history and Ory's unpublished autobiography, Creole Trombone is a story that is told in large measure by Ory himself. The author reveals Ory's personality to the reader and shares remarkable stories of incredible innovations of the jazz pioneer. The book also features unpublished Ory compositions, photographs, and a selected discography of his most significant recordings.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xi

Foremost is the support of my family. Ian, Katie, and Ellen Mc-Cusker, 22, 17, 15, have endured seemingly endless treks through graveyards, archives, and libraries while I dogged the Ory story. Their mother and my wife and soulmate of twenty-five years, Johanna M. Schindler, looked after...

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Introduction: Who Was Kid Ory?

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pp. 3-5

In 1994 I led a history tour of jazz sites in New Orleans. Trombonist and educator Dave Ruffner, a member of the tour group from California, thought I gave Kid Ory the short shrift. He said Ory was more than just a sideman on the records of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton...

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1. 1886–1896: Le Monde Creole en Campagne

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pp. 6-23

The Woodland Plantation was a sprawling 1,882-acre sugar cane farm twenty-five miles upriver from New Orleans in a tiny St. John the Baptist Parish hamlet called LaPlace. Its main house—a raised, elongated cottage with a modest tin roof, cistern, and two stained-glass dormer windows...

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2. ca. 1897–1900: Music

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pp. 24-41

In recalling his early interest in music, Ory was inconsistent about his age. He was, however, consistent in his description of the phases of his progression. He first had a singing, or “humming” group, followed by a group that played homemade instruments; then he got a real banjo...

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3. 1900–1904: Orphan

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pp. 42-51

Burials took place immediately after death, as there was limited embalming available in St. John and the Ory family surely could not have afforded it anyway. Octavie’s jaw would have been tied shut and coins placed on her eyes to hold them closed. She was laid out in the home...

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4. 1905–1907: Walking with the King

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pp. 52-63

By 1905 Ory was spending much of his time with his brother Johnny across the river in Edgard. Johnny had become a partner in the Haydel and Ory store with his brother-in-law Clay Haydel. “It was a regular store on the [river] road,” remembered Haydel’s granddaughter Sybil Haydel...

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5. 1908–1910: Kid

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pp. 64-79

Shortly before they died, Dutt made a promise to his parents that he would remain in St. John Parish until he turned 21. He was supposed to look out for his younger sisters Annie and Lizzie. This, he said, was why in 1905 he did not take Bolden up on his offer to play with him. “I had to go back...

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6. 1910–1916: New Orleans

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pp. 80-111

The city of New Orleans was founded on a bend in the Mississippi River where it snakes along south of Lake Pontchartrain. It was settled by the French in 1718, ceded to Spain in 1762, returned to France in 1802, and sold to the United States as part of the Louisianan Purchase in...

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7. 1917–1919: Creole Jazz

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pp. 112-133

At the dawn of 1917, Ory’s was a successful and sought-after band. His clients included white bankers and black benevolent societies. They played lawn parties, Mardi Gras parades, Monday night dances at Economy Hall, and Sunday afternoons at Milneburg. Artistically, Ory’s band refined...

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8. 1919–1925: California

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pp. 134-155

Edward and Elizabeth Ory stepped off the train in August 1919 into a Los Angeles already brimming with transplants from Louisiana. Ads in California’s black newspapers like the California Eagle and Western Outlook carried notices and ads for the Louisiana Commercial Association...

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9. 1925–1933: Chicago Sideman

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pp. 156-183

Through most of his career Ory was a dance bandleader, seldom playing in the bands of others. The exception was, ironically, a period that was perhaps his most fabled—the late 1920s in Chicago. There he backed up Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and King Oliver, making classic...

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10. 1933–1973: Epilogue (Contains Image Plates)

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pp. 184-188

In 1937 Ory’s brother John and his wife Cecile and family moved from St. John Parish and joined him in Los Angeles, where they found a home a few blocks away. According to Johnny Ory’s son Harold, the family passed the time at home playing bridge into the wee hours, cooking...

APPENDIX I: Autobiography

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pp. 189-190

APPENDIX II: Autobiography

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pp. 191-192

APPENDIX III: Selected Discography

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pp. 193-199

APPENDIX IV: Lost Compositions

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pp. 200-209


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pp. 210-239


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pp. 240-250

E-ISBN-13: 9781621030584
E-ISBN-10: 1617036269
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617036262

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 20 b&w
Publication Year: 2012