Personalities | Original Creole Orchestra | Early Years | Jazz & Blues
(Instrumental group, 1912–18)
Freddie Keppard’s Original Creole Orchestra toured extensively during the teens as an early harbinger of authentic New Orleans jazz, reaching big-time vaudeville’s prestigious Orpheum circuit. Powerful pioneer trumpeter Keppard (1889–1933) had with him Creole clarinetists George Baquet, ‘Big Eye’ Louis Nelson and Jimmie Noone, pioneer bassist Bill Johnson and multi-instrumentalist Dink Johnson as a drummer.
The band created a sensation among vaudeville audiences well before the Original Dixieland Jass Band hit New York. Keppard reputedly refused to record for fear of rival trumpeters ‘stealing his stuff’. While the band did not record, Sidney Bechet appropriated a piece of mock-orientalia from Keppard, ‘Egyptian Fantasy’ (drawn from Abe Olman’s 1911 piano rag ‘Egyptia’), and recorded the track. The band broke up during 1918 and Bill Johnson set about finding a replacement for Keppard; after contacting Buddy Petit, Johnson settled on King Oliver. Keppard went to Chicago in the 1920s, playing with important orchestras run by Charles ‘Doc’ Cook. He recorded with the Cook big band and with a small washboard band, demonstrating hot styles from wah-wah to plunger blues to a stirring open horn of startling volume.
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