Personalities | Kid Ory | Early Years | Jazz & Blues

Edward ‘Kid’ Ory was born in LaPlace, Louisiana in 1886. He learned trombone and led a group of young musicians, the Woodland Band, which he took to New Orleans around 1908. He played with veteran jazzmen in the following years and gained a reputation as a powerful ensemble player and inspired soloist, especially where the blues were concerned.

From Lala’s To LA

In the teens, Ory worked at Pete Lala’s Café and developed a partnership with Joe ‘King’ Oliver, the top trumpet man and leader in the city. The Ory-Oliver bands showcased rising talents, including the Dodds brothers, Jimmie Noone and Bill Johnson. When Oliver left for Chicago, Ory migrated to Los Angeles, where he assembled a group of musicians who followed him throughout his long career – bassist Ed ‘Montudie’ Garland, guitarist Arthur ‘Bud’ Scott, trumpeter Thomas ‘Mutt’ Carey and clarinetist Wade Whaley were all Ory loyalists, even during the periods in which the band was beset by feuds. Later stalwarts included pianist Albert Wesley ‘Buster’ Wilson and drummer Minor ‘Ram’ Hall. In 1922, Ory’s band made history as the first African-American New Orleans jazz band to record, cutting sides for the tiny Sunshine label in LA; they accompanied blues singers and made instrumentals including a trick trombone speciality, ‘Ory’s Creole Trombone’.

Chicago Beckons

Ory left for Chicago in the mid-1920s, becoming a star with King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopaters and with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven. With Oliver and Armstrong, Ory became the model for the traditional ‘tailgate’ players of the era. Tailgate playing describes a jazz trombone style in which the instrument fulfils a largely rhythmic and riff-tagging role beneath the more melodic cornets and trumpets. This remained the norm until virtuoso players such as Jack Teagarden came along and reinvented the trombone as a lead instrument. The name itself derives from the trombone player’s position at the back of the bandwagons, where the instrument’s slide would not be in the way of the other musicians.

Ory also recorded with the New Orleans Wanderers and the New Orleans Bootblacks, as well as participating in Jelly Roll Morton’s brilliant first Red Hot Peppers recordings. In the 1930s Ory, like many veteran jazzmen, found work too scarce to continue as a musician. He returned to California, where he was traced by Orson Welles in the early 1940s and brought back to prominence via radio and recordings. A central figure in the revival of New Orleans-style jazz in the 1940s to 1960s, Ory led bands in California, touring and recording prolifically with many old cohorts to the end of his days in 1973.

‘When we made those records we didn’t have any expectation that they would be so successful’
Kid Ory on Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Seven recordings

Classic Recordings

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: ‘Muskrat Rumble’, ‘Hotter Than That’
Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers: ‘Smokehouse Blues’, ‘Doctor Jazz’

King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators: ‘Snag It’, ‘Every Tub’


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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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