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Benny Jones, Drums Founding member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; founder and leader of the Treme Brass Band Interviewed on South Park Place, September zooi / was born here in New Orleans, at 1024 North Robertson Street. I camefrom a very large family—seven brothers and six sisters. My daddy was a drummer, ChesterJones. The only other one of ourfamily thatplayed music was my half brother, Eugene Jones; he used toflay with Clarence "Frogman" Henry on Bourbon Street.Ihadajounger brother called Michael George—he used toflay bass drum in the band. Eugene died in the late sixties. My father had also been a prizefighter in hisjounger days. Lots of feofle have told me how good he was—I never got to see him fight. I remember when I wasyoung and we lived on Marais Street—the old Caldonia was in that neighborhood. And Mama Ruth had the Cozy Corner on Robertson. And therewere lots of jazz funerals in the neighborhood,two or three times a week. So my daddy was flaying around a lot—sometimes I'd see him with Louis Cottrell, and sometimes with Placide Adams. Sometimes at the weekend,he'd bedoing ajazzfuneral togetherwith Freddie Kohlman . Freddie would say, "Chuck, what doyou want toflay?" If my daddy chose snare drum, Freddie wouldflay bass drum. Orthe otherway around—it didn't matter tothem. Kid Howard lived on Marais Street, and so didJim Robinson until he moved over onto St. Philip. I was born and raised in the Treme area, and I've never left it. Half the musicians in New Orleans came out of the Treme—my father, Smokej Johnson,John Boudreaux, the listgoes on and on. I got interested in second lining behind all those oldmen when theyflayed thejazz funerals . The Sixth Ward Diamonds, the Sixth Ward High Steffers, the Money Wasters, I Elliott Callier, Benny Jones Photo by MarcelJolj was in all those clubs. We would get about twenty of us and then vote on what colors we would wear, what color shoes. We used to buy the matching cloth at the store and have it made up into outfits. What they would do is, they wouldput up a sign in a bar saying there was asocial andpleasure club starting. We'regoing to meet on, let's say, the third Sunday of every month. Everybody would come,but if we started getting too many members, say more than twenty-five or thirty, we'd shut the book down, and tellpeople membership was closed. Members wouldpay ajoiningfee, usually aboutforty orfifty dollars. At the end of theyear, they'd split up any money that was left and start again the nextyear. The main reasonfor the clubswasparading. It's not like a benevolentsociety, which has to have a charterfrom the city and would be responsible for paying deceased members ' burial expenses, or a bandfor thefuneral, or whatever. This would be less formal, and most of the money went to buy the clothes. Some clubswould onlyparade two or three times ayear and some of them only once. My daddy used to belong to the Square Deal Social and Pleasure Club; I think he was on the baseballteam. I was always following musicians when I wasyounger—I married into the Batiste family, they were alwayshavingparties—I used to be beating on thepots andpans, and that's howI got started. I taught myself, no outsideteaching. My daddy waspleased when I started toplay. Sometimes when he worked with Placide Adams, they might have to march from the Royal Sonesta Hotel to the boat. Placide would ask me toplay snare drum for the march while my daddy was sitting up on the boatfor the sit-down gig. Ijoined the union in 1976. I wasaround sixteen when I started. Like I say, wealwayshadparties, and the Batistefamily had a kazoo band, with the BabyDollsand all that. I bought a bass drum and started banginground the house with it, trying to learn that beat,you know?As a matter of fact, I started off doing a couple of gigs with the Olympia BrassBand asgrand marshal. The bandleader was in charge of the actualjobs, becausehe had toget the money to pay everybody. He'd tell thegrand marshal, "OK, we're going to make a short route.Go downfour blocksand take a left," etc. When we started on the street, we broughtpeople into the Treme on Halloween or St. Joseph 's night. The TremeBrass Bandplays more the traditional music—blues and hymns and gospel tunes—and the Rebirthplays like modern...


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