Early topnotch bands 2: King Oliver’s

Creole Jazz Band: like half the NORKs, these were Noo Awlins musicians who played live in Chicago. Their first recordings, though, were made a train journey away in Richmond, Indiana. Here’s their historic first track: Just Gone on 05/04/23, some seven months after the NORK’s first recording.

This was “historic” because it was the first recording by Louis Armstrong. He played second cornet, with Joe “King” Oliver on first cornet, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, and Honore Dutrey on trombone. Their next track that afternoon was even better: Canal Street Blues.

The rhythm section was that rogue “Baby” Dodds on percussion (limited to wood block and cymbal, lest drums cause the recording needle to jump about), Bill Johnson on banjo rather than his usual string bass (the banjo is much easier to hear on an acoustic recordings), and Lil Hardin (to become Louis’s second wife) on piano. The first tune is credited to Oliver & Johnson, the second to Oliver & Armstrong.

The most famous recording of the session, perhaps, was made the next morning: Dippermouth Blues (also know as Sugarfoot Stomp), again by Oliver & Armstrong.

And so the band got the train back to Chicago in the afternoon. The records sold well enough that they became in demand, and recorded for various labels. For example on 23/06/24 they recorded Jazzin’ Babies’ Blues in Chicago.

By the autumn their recording line-up had changed, principally with Buster Bailey replacing Dodds on clarinet. Here’s their I Ain’t Gonna Tell Nobody of 26/10/23.

The next day they waxed – as people then said – Riverside Blues.


Their last recording session together on 24/12/23 yielded, inter alia, The Southern Stomps, a favourite of mine.

And then a few months later, bang!, they broke up in a bust-up over money. It was three years before Oliver had another band that recorded, and it had little success perhaps partly because his embouchure was deteriorating. He ended in poverty, dying in 1938 near Savannah, Georgia, still trying to save enough to buy a railway ticket to join his sister in New York. But the youngster he recruited and encouraged, Armstrong, went on to remake jazz.

Lastly, a fascinating oddity, designed to demonstrate what the band must have sounded like in the studio in Richmond in ’23.

Play that thing!

2 comments for “Early topnotch bands 2: King Oliver’s

  1. July 27, 2014 at 19:29

    WiFi here is hopeless – too slow to play the tracks properly. I’ll bookmark the post until I return from my hols.

  2. August 2, 2014 at 20:23

    One for the CD collection I think, but what a way to go – not even enough money for a railway ticket.

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