Archive for the Dixieland & Early Jazz Category

NOLA: Day Two

Posted in AMERICANA, Dixieland & Early Jazz, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Jazz (miscellaneous), Music, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2015 by travsd

Continuing yesterday’s thread...

Friday, November 6

Seize the Day! The Marchioness generally sleeps later than me, so on our first full day in New Orleans, I arose and spent an hour or two running from pillar to post photographing destinations that had no opening or closing times. Morning is a pleasant time in the French Quarter. A lot of WORK happens, from the crack of dawn. The classier places all hose down their sidewalks (let’s not talk about what might be on them to clean). Deliveries come to the restaurants and bars. A lot of repair and maintenance and touch-up seems to be happening to these historical old buildings constantly…painters and masons and carpenters seem to be bustling around everywhere constantly just as a matter of course.

And of course, early bird tourists like me are up, some of them with cups of beers or cocktails. And everywhere, these picturesque mule-drawn conveyances, operated by tour guides:

Mule-drawn conveyance

I was curious to see Basin Street and the former Storyville area, important locations in the birth of jazz (Basin Street Blues, anyone?) even though nothing is there anymore. Well, there is something new there now. My thumb:

Basin street sign

At any rate, I often like to go where things were even when there’s no “there” there anymore. Storyville was the special Red Light District established by city leaders 1897-1917. Musicians like Jelly Roll Morton cut their teeth playing in the saloons and whore houses there, before it was torn down by a different set of city leaders.

Congo Square

I’ve wanted to make a pilgrimage to this spot half my life. Congo Square is in many ways the birthplace of American music and dance. I came to honor the ghosts of the anonymous people (black slaves) who knew how to use their time off correctly! Today it is surrounded by Louis Armstrong Park, in the neighborhood of Treme. 

Tennessee williams streetcar house

Tennessee Williams lived in this apartment on St. Peter Street when he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. 

Le Petit Theatre

Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré — one of the oldest community theatres in the country, organized in 1916

LaLaurie House

The Lalaurie House, site of unspeakable tortures; today quite haunted. It is said the mistress of the house, Delphine LaLaurie mistreated the slaves in her charge to the point of dismemberment, disembowelment, murder and the desecration of corpses. All while playing the hostess at society parties. When the facts came out the people of New Orleans were so outraged they rioted. Kathy Bates’ character on American Horror Story: Coven was loosely based on her. 

St Peter Theatre

Site of the first theatre in New Orleans, the St. Peter, built 1791.

the spanish theatre

Site of the Spanish Theatre.

By now, the Marchioness was up and we embarked on sight-seeing proper. We caught our first glimpses of the gorgeous Jackson Square, bordered by the Pontalba Buildings, the St. Louis Cathedral, Cabildo and The Presbytère (more on those later), as well as the Mississippi River Waterfront. It is always bustling with musicians and fortune tellers.

NOLA sign 3

We were on the way to Cafe du Monde to get their famous beignets.

cafe du monde logo

But the line was prohibitively long….so we went back that night and enjoyed them then instead. They are delicious — quite like zeppole.

Jackson Sq and Cathedral (Carolyn)

From the river side we caught this wonderful view of the plaza, the Cathedral, Cabildo and the Presbytère.


We poked our head in the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. This was about it!

Madame Norma Wallace Parlor 2

We were amused to see that this old whorehouse is available for lease! Any takers?

Then it was off to historic St. Louis Cemetery #1  and the adjacent Saint Expedite church, hilariously misnamed when crates arrived marked “expedite”. The cemeteries of New Orleans are famously unique. Because of the swampy nature of the ground and the fact that it is below sea level, bodies can’t be buried underground, but in above ground tombs resembling houses. Many feel that zombie mythology arose partially out of this unique situation, because….use your imagination.


The real grave of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau! 


This is where Karen Black had her acid freak-out in Easy Rider (1969):


Then it was off to the Musée Conti Wax Museum, a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages. It was literally around the corner from our hotel and we had the entire place to ourselves:


Here is their Marie Laveau display. Her chauffeur is clearly a zombie. I photographed nearly every display at the museum (covering all of New Orleans history, plus many famous horror characters) — I think I will devote a whole post to the museum next Halloween!


Then it was off to the Voodoo Museum — a small museum containing 3 or 4 rooms of genuine artifacts related to the practice of voodoo. Rich in atmosphere — I want to go back!




Then a brief stop in the Voodoo Authentica store, which was my favorite voodoo emporium until I later stopped in Reverend Zombies.


We also managed to stop into Madame John’s Legacy, one of the oldest buildings in the city, an 18th century Creole plantation house, built 1788. Sound like we did a lot? The French Quarter is densely packed, every other building seems to be a tourist attraction of some sort.


We tried to get into Preservation Hall that night but it was SRO, so we wrapped up the evening at Maison Bourbon where we enjoyed a pleasant couple of sets by the very solid quintet the Loose Change Jazz Band. It wasn’t a trade down. I loved ’em! They didn’t like picture taking but I photographed the stage during their break:

maison bourbon

That evening we made our way to Canal Street, our first stirring out of the French Quarter. It was kind of like stepping back into the 21st century after having spent a day in the 18th and 19th — McDonalds, Starbucks, CVS, department stores etc. And we saw this! The statue of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. We also saw lots of Lucky Dog stands around town. 

Statue of Ignatius J. Reilly

For Day Three go here. 

Stars of Vaudeville # 912: Mound City Blue Blowers

Posted in Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, Singers, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by travsd


Today is the birthday of William “Red” McKenzie (1899-1948).  Originally from St. Louis, he became a prominent Jazz Age figure by playing the kazoo and comb-and-tissue paper!

In 1923, with musical partner Jack Bland, McKenzie formed the Mound City Blue Blowers. McKenzie played comb, Bland played banjo, Dick Slevin played kazoo, and Frank “Josh” Billings played percussion (often whisk brooms struck against a suitcase). They cut several hit records, made two performance films, and were popular in vaudeville and on radio. Some of the top jazz men of the day sat in on on their records, including Jack Teagarden, Coleman Hawkins, Glenn Miller, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Dorsey and Bunny Berrigan. McKenzie was also a crooner and sang with his own orchestra outside the Blue Blowers, as well as with bands like Paul Whiteman’s. The Blue Blowers folded in 1936. McKenzie retired from show business in the late 1930s, although he returned as a singer from 1944 through 1947.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Sweet and Lowdown Reunion

Posted in Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, PLUGS with tags , , , on May 19, 2015 by travsd


NYC Hot Jazz Festival This Weekend

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, PLUGS with tags , on May 1, 2015 by travsd


Tomorrow: Prohibition Saturday w/ the Avalon Jazz Band

Posted in Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, Dixieland & Early Jazz, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Jazz (miscellaneous), Music, PLUGS with tags , , on March 27, 2015 by travsd


Hot Jazz at Symphony Space Tonight

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, PLUGS, Singers with tags , , , on September 13, 2014 by travsd


Stars of Vaudeville #876: Bee Palmer

Posted in Dance, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, Singers, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2014 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Beatrice “Bee” Palmer (1894-1967).

Originally from Chicago, Palmer began performing in local venues before moving to New York in the late teens. With her she appears to have brought jazz and the Shimmy. She was largely identified with the latter dance and claimed to be its originator, although Gilda Gray, Mae West and others made the same claim. Whatever white dancer brought it to mainstream show biz first though, it was almost certainly appropriated from African American dancers. Palmer  performed in both the Ziegfeld Follies and Midnight Frolics in 1918 and was voted Most Popular on the Keith vaudeville circuit in 1919. Palmer not only danced but sang, and originally accompanied herself on piano as well. But it was her dancing that made her notorious, both celebrated and reviled — many commentators considered her the equivalent of what we now thing of as a “stripper”. In 1920 she toured the big time with a tab revue written by Herman Timberg called “Oh, Bee!”. By then she worked with accompanist Al Siegel, whom she married while on tour in 1921. Later that year she had an affair with boxer Jack Dempsey which resulted in public scandal and a lawsuit for alienation of affections. Palmer and Siegel reconciled a few months later and would remain married through 1928 (Siegel went on to work with a young Ethel Merman). Palmer worked with a succession of jazz bands (including the New Orleans Rhythm Kings) and accompanists throughout the 1920s and early 30s on Keith, Orpheum and Loew times, returned to the Midnight Frolics in 1921 and appeared in the Passing Show in 1924. She moved back to Chicago and retired in the mid to late 30s. By then vaudeville had died, and her brand of performance was no longer popular in night clubs.

While she never release any records during her lifetime, she had actually privately cut many during the teens and twenties, which have survived. Here’s one she made in 1929 with the support of Paul Whiteman:

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.



To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy, please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc


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