We have heard that Jazz is an American musical art form that originated in New Orleans. Dixieland, sometimes referred to as traditional jazz, is a style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. The 1917 recordings by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, fostered awareness of this new style of music.
Jazz is a music of innovation, interpretation, extension and evolution, and since the early days many sub-genres have evolved such as Dixieland, Trad, Ragtime, Calypso, Funk, and more.
And to bring “jass” to the masses (making it popular and lucrative), innovative New Orleans musicians have put their unique spin on it, emphasizing the beat with memorable melodies.
New Orleans rhythm and blues is one of the styles of music that evolved. It became very popular from 1948 to 1955, and to some extent it still thrives.
Other styles of New Orleans music almost defy labeling. I will let you decide on how some of these artists and their music should be sorted. One thing is for certain; their music sounds unique with a very strong, enduring style.
The J&M Recording Studio owned by Cosimo Matassa at the back of his family’s shop on Rampart Street, was key to getting a lot of this music to market. As a proprietor and engineer, Matassa was crucial to the development of the sound of R&B, and rock and soul of the 1950s and 1960s, often working with the producers Dave Bartholomew and Allen Toussaint.
Etta James, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint / Groove Me
Dr John / Such A Night
Shirley & Lee / Let The Good Times Roll
Clarence Frogman Henry / Aint Got No Home
Dr John / Right Place Wrong Time
1947 / Wynonie Harris / Good Rockin’ Tonight
1955 / Smiley Lewis / I Hear You Knockin’
1956 / Eddie Bo / I’m Wise / Apollo 486 / Original Version of Little Richard’s “Slippin’ & Slidin'”
1958 / Allen Toussaint / Tim Tam
1961 / Lee Dorsey / Ya Ya
1968 / Dr. John / Mama Roux
1969 / The Meters / Cissy Strut
1969 / Sena Fletcher aka Mary Jane Hooper / Teach Me
New Orleans funk diva Mary Jane Hooper remains one of the most shadowy figures in Crescent City soul history. Famed for her collaboration with legendary producer Eddie Bo, many believe her name is an alias employed by singer Inez Cheatham, although Bo himself disputes such assertions. Hooper is, in fact, the stage name of one Sena Fletcher, who began her career singing gospel before crossing over to secular R&B backing Lee Dorsey.
1974 / Wild Magnolias / Smoke My Peace Pipe
“Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right)” is a track from the 1974 self-titled album by the Wild Magnolias. The New Orleans band is one of the groups known as the Mardi Gras Indians.
Popular New Orleans Musicians
These artists (listed by year of birth) brought their unique style of New Orleans “jazz” to the record buying public.
- Wynonie Harris
- Professor Longhair
- David Bartholemew
- Roy Brown
- Fats Domino
- Jessie Hill
- Ernie K-Doe
- Huey “Piano” Smith
- Shirley & Lee
- Allan Toussaint
- Dr. John
- Irma Thomas
- Aaron Neville
- Leon Russell
Wynonie Harris (1915-1969)
An American blues shouter and rhythm-and-blues singer of upbeat songs, featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. He had fifteen Top 10 hits between 1946 and 1952. Harris is attributed by many music scholars to be one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. His Good Rocking Tonight (1947) is especially mentioned at least as a precursor to rock and roll.
His dirty blues repertoire included “Lolly Pop Mama” (1948), “All She Wants To Do Is Rock” (1949), “I Like My Baby’s Pudding” (1950), “Sittin on It All the Time” (1950), “Keep On Churnin’ (Till the Butter Comes)” (1952), and “Wasn’t That Good” (1953).
1947 / Wynonie Harris / Good Rockin’ Tonight
1949 / Wynonie Harris / All She Wants To Do Is Rock
1950 / Wynonie Harris / I Like By Baby’s Puddin’
1952 / Wynonie Harris / Keep On Churnin’
Professor Longhair / Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd (1918-1980)
An American singer and pianist who performed New Orleans blues. He was active in two distinct periods, first in the heyday of early rhythm and blues and later in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970. His piano style has been described as “instantly recognizable, combining rhumba, mambo, and calypso“. A musician who was highly influential for other prominent musicians, such as Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.
Professor Longhair / Tipitina
Sorry, I can’t help myself… Tipitina reminds me so much of another tune; same chord progressions but with lyrics and a rock n roll beat (instead of Longhair’s heavy calypso groove)…
David Bartholemew (1918-2019)
Originally a trumpeter, Dave was active in many musical genres, including rhythm and blues, big band, swing music, rock and roll, New Orleans jazz, and Dixieland.
Many musicians have recorded Bartholomew’s songs, but his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. In the mid-1950s they wrote more than forty hits for Imperial Records, including the Billboard number one pop chart hit “Ain’t That a Shame“. Bartholomew’s other hit songs as a composer include “I Hear You Knocking“, “Blue Monday“, “I’m Walkin’“, “My Ding-a-Ling“, and “One Night“.
Dave Bartholemew / Who Drank My Beer While I Was In The Rear
Roy Brown (1925-1981)
An American R&B singer, songwriter and musician, who had a significant influence on the early development of rock and roll and the direction of R&B. His original song and hit recording “Good Rockin’ Tonight” has been covered by many artists including Wynonie Harris, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Joe Ely, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, James Brown, the Doors, and the rock group Montrose. Brown was one of the first popular R&B singers to perform songs with a gospel-steeped delivery, which was then considered taboo by many churches. In addition, his melismatic, pleading vocal style influenced notable artists such as B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson, James Brown and Little Richard.
1947 / Roy Brown / Good Rockin’ Tonight / De Luxe
Fats Domino (1928-2017)
An American pianist and singer-songwriter. One of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Domino sold more than 65 million records. Much has already been written about Fats in our blogs:
- Fats Domino – The Early Years https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/fats-domino-the-early-years-1949-55/
- The Crossover Years https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/fats-domino-the-crossover-years-1955-57/
- The Big Beat Keeps On Rocking https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/fats-domino-big-beat-keeps-rockin-1957-60/
- The Years Of Change https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/fats-domino-the-years-of-change-1960-62/
Fats Domino / I’m In Love Again
Jessie Hill (1932-1996)
Hill was born in New Orleans. By his teens he was playing drums in local bands, and in 1951 he formed his own group, the House Rockers. After periods performing as drummer with Professor Longhair and then Huey “Piano” Smith, Hill formed a new version of the House Rockers in 1958, which enabled him to focus on singing with the band.
The origins of “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” were apparently created from a tune played by a local pianist, who was known only as “Big Four”. Jessie Hill wrote the lyrics and melody, later expanding the work with an intro taken from Dave Bartholomew.
Jessie Hill / Ooh Poo Pah Doo
Ernie K-Doe (1933-2001)
An American rhythm-and-blues singer best known for his 1961 hit single “Mother-in-Law” (written by Allen Toussaint), which went to number 1 on the Billboard pop chart in the U.S. K-Doe remained a superstar in New Orleans for years.
But that’s not what this song’s about. It’s all about the rhythm, the feel, and- above all- that piano. If Allen Toussaint had done nothing but play that immortal solo on this record, he’d still be a legend. Thankfully, he did more. Much more. Allen Toussaint WAS New Orleans R&B.
Ernie K-Doe / Mother-In-Law
Huey “Piano” Smith (1934)
An American rhythm-and-blues pianist whose sound was influential in the development of rock and roll.
His piano playing incorporated the boogie styles of Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons, the jazz style of Jelly Roll Morton and the rhythm-and-blues style of Fats Domino. Steve Huey of AllMusic noted that “At the peak of his game, Smith epitomized New Orleans R&B at its most infectious and rollicking, as showcased on his classic signature tune, ‘Don’t You Just Know It.
Shirley Mae Goodman (1936–2005) & Leonard Lee (1935–1976)
Shirley Goodman was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. After singing in church choirs, she recorded her first demo with a group of friends in 1950. Some months later, her solo voice caught the attention of Aladdin Records owner Eddie Messner, who tracked her down and paired her as a duo with another school friend, Leonard Lee (June 29, 1935 – October 23, 1976).
As ‘Shirley & Lee’, they recorded their debut single “I’m Gone“,produced by Cosimo Matassa, which reached #2 on the Billboard R& charts in 1952. In their early songs, they pretended as if they were sweethearts and were dubbed “the Sweethearts of the Blues“. However, they changed style in 1956 and recorded “Let the Good Times Roll“, which became their biggest hit single reaching #1 on the US R&B chart and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Allan Toussaint (1938-2015)
You may have not heard of Allan Toussaint but he was a musical giant. Many musicians have recorded his compositions. He wrote “Whipped Cream“, “Java“, “Mother-in-Law”, “I Like It Like That“, “Fortune Teller“, “Ride Your Pony“, “Get Out of My Life, Woman“, “Working in the Coal Mine“, “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky“, “Freedom For the Stallion“, “Here Come the Girls“, “Yes We Can Can“, “Play Something Sweet“, and “Southern Nights“. He was a producer for hundreds of recordings, among the best known of which are “Right Place, Wrong Time“, by his longtime friend Dr. John, and “Lady Marmalade” by Patti Labelle.
Allen Toussaint – Working In The Coal Mine
Doctor John / Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.(1941-2019)
An American singer and songwriter. His music combined blues, pop, jazz, boogie-woogie, funk, and rock and roll. He typically performed a lively, theatrical stage show inspired by medicine shows, Mardi Gras costumes, and voodoo ceremonies. He recorded thirty studio albums and nine live albums, as well as contributing to thousands of other musicians’ recordings.
Dr John / Right Place Wrong Time
Irma Thomas (1941)
An American singer from New Orleans. She is known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans“.
Thomas is a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, but never experienced their level of commercial success.
Irma Thomas / You Were Here (Live)
Irma Thomas / I Needed Somebody
Aaron Neville (1941)
A retired American R&B and soul vocalist, musician and actor. Neville’s first major hit single was “Tell It Like It Is”, released on a small New Orleans label, Par-Lo,
Aaron Neville / Tell It Like It Is
Leon Russell (1942-2016)
Our blog covers Leon in much more detail here: https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2019/11/07/leon-russell-songwriter-extraordinaire/
An American musician and songwriter who was involved with numerous bestselling records during his 60-year career which spanned multiple genres, including rock and roll, country, gospel, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, southern rock, blues rock, folk, surf and Tulsa Sound.
Leon Russell / A Song For You
Some Early New Orleans Jazz Giants and Their Music
Buddy Bolton (1877-1931)
An African American cornetist who was regarded by contemporaries as a key figure in the development of a New Orleans style of ragtime music, or “jass,” which later came to be known as jazz. He was known for his loud sound and improvisational skills, and his style had an impact on younger musicians.
Buddy Bolton / Buddy Bolton Blues
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
An American ragtime and jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. Morton was jazz’s first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential characteristics when notes were written on paper. At the age of fourteen, Morton began as a piano player in a brothel. He often sang smutty lyrics and used the nickname “Jelly Roll”, which was African-American slang for female genitalia.
Jelly Roll Morton / Jelly Roll Blues
Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
An American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. He was one of the first important soloists in jazz, and first recorded several months before trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Bechet played in many New Orleans ensembles using the improvisational techniques of the time (obbligatos with scales and arpeggios and varying the melody).
Sidney Bechet / Honeysuckle Rose
Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)
Nicknamed “Satchmo“, “Satch“, and “Pops” was an American trumpeter and vocalist. He is among the most influential figures in jazz. With his instantly recognizable rich, gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer and skillful improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song. He was also skilled at scat singing. Armstrong is renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice as well as his trumpet playing.
What A Wonderful World
Champion Jack Dupree (1910-1992)
An American blues and boogie-woogie pianist and singer. His nickname was derived from his early career as a boxer. Dupree was a New Orleans blues and boogie-woogie pianist, a barrelhouse “professor”. His father was from the Belgian Congo and his mother was part African American and Cherokee.
Champion Jack Dupree – The Women Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree
Louis Prima (1910-1978)
An American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter. While rooted in New Orleans jazz, swing music, and jump blues, Prima touched on various genres throughout his career: he formed a seven-piece New Orleans-style jazz band in the late 1920s, fronted a swing combo in the 1930s and a big band group in the 1940s, helped to popularize jump blues in the late 1940s and early to mid 1950s, and performed frequently as a Vegas lounge act beginning in the 1950s.
Louis Prima / Just A Gigolo
Larry Darnell (1928-1983)
A successful American singer, who was instrumental in the formation of the New Orleans style of R&B in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In New Orleans he gained steady employment as a singer at the Dew Drop Inn. In 1949, he was signed up by Fred Mendelsohn for the Regal label in New Jersey. His first two recordings, “I’ll Get Along Somehow“
For those of you who can’t get enough of this New Orleans sound…
Fats Domino & Dave Bartholomew – Live in Austin 1986 / 17:25 min
Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino’s Longtime Collaborator | PBS / 5:28 min
Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry on Granada TV’s International Entertainers (1985)
The Allen Toussaint Touch / 59 min
Ernie K-Doe w/Allen Toussaint & Friends, 1992 / 14 min.
Dr. John Talks about Professor Longhair / 6 min.
Irma Thomas – World Stage LRBC #28 Jan 23, 2017 / 1 hour 26 min.
LET IT ROLL…