Today is the birthday of Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, a.k.a. Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941), widely regarded as one of the originators of jazz. He started out as a teenager playing piano in sporting houses in his native New Orleans, where he learned a risque repertoire and aquired a filthy nickname. He began writing music and touring with minstrel shows around 1904, making it as far as the northern music centers, New York and Chicago. From 1912 to 1914 he toured in a vaudeville act with his girlfriend Rosa Brown, then became a solo performer in Vancouver for a time, publishing his first songs all the while. His recording career began in the 1920s. Here he is playing “Buddy Bolden’s Blues”, a tribute to one of the great New Orleans jazz pioneers:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.