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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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Joe "King" Oliver
Louis Armstrong called Joe Oliver, Papa Joe, and rightfully so; for Joe “King”
Oliver was unquestionably Louis Armstrong’s musical father. Not only was Joe a
mentor and teacher to young Louis, but his idol also gave him the first cornet he
ever owned.
Like many before him in New Orleans, young Joe Oliver started out playing in
brass bands such as the Olympia, the Superior, and the Onward. He also worked
with trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory around 1917. It was Ory who gave Oliver the
nickname of “King” adding to the persona already typified by a tilted derby hat
hiding Joe’s bad eye, the result of a childhood accident.  
In 1919, Oliver traveled with Ory to Chicago where he joined the Bill Johnson
Original Creole Orchestra at the Dreamland Ballroom. He toured with this group
for a couple of years and, returning to Chicago formed his own band at the
Lincoln Gardens called King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. He called to New Orleans
for his protégé, Louis Armstrong, to join him. Louis was elated. This marked a
major milestone in the evolution of jazz.
Oliver’s style was hot, based mostly on collective improvisation. Musicians from
all over worshiped at their feet. Then, in 1924, the band gradually started falling
apart. Joe Oliver, by his own admission, made himself a victim of a string of bad
choices. In New York he turned down a regular spot with the Duke Ellington
Band at the Cotton Club. He saw a style of mute that he had tinkered with
patented by another person who made a lot of money off of it. His love of sweets
ruined his teeth which effected his playing. He died in 1938, a forgotten giant
working as a janitor in a pool room in Georgia. But oh, did he make music:

CANAL STREET BLUES – this 1923 tune named after the wide main New Orleans
thoroughfare and his “Snake Rag,” made up the two sides of Oliver’s first
recording for the Gennett label on April 6, 1923.

DOCTOR JAZZ – Joe wrote this in 1927 while at the Plantation Club in Chicago,
and advertised it by hiring a cart as they did in New Orleans to haul the band
around while they played. It was later more heavily popularized by Jelly Roll
Morton and His Red Hot Peppers.

I MUST HAVE IT – this one was written by Joe in 1930, and recorded by him with
the Carol   Dickerson Orchestra for the Victor label on March 18, 1930.

OLGA – Joe’s recording of this tune languished for about 50 years in the vaults of
the Bluebird    Record Company until it was finally released in the 80’s, long after
his death. [Who knows what other gems might be locked up? ]

DIPPERMOUTH BLUES – (“Sugar Foot Stomp”) was written in 1926 and
introduced by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra with a trumpet solo by
Louis Armstrong. It was revived  by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra in 1937.

WEST END BLUES –in 1928 Joe presented this composition to Clarence Williams
in New York. Williams bought the copyright immediately and put a band together
with himself on piano and Oliver on cornet to make its premier recording for
Vocalion on June 11, 1928. Just 17 days later, on June 28, Louis Armstrong and His
Hot Five made their classic recording of it for Columbia. Who remembers the
Williams-Oliver recording?          
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization