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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
Little brother of drummer Baby Dodds (read Dots”), with four other
siblings from a musical family, Johnny Dodds was born in Mississippi in
1892. While a youngster the family moved to New Orleans and, at age 17,
Johnny took a few clarinet lessons with the highly regarded Lorenzo Tio
as well as with Charlie McCurdy. But he was mostly self-taught.
In New Orleans Johnny worked briefly with Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo
Band and, at age 19, with Kid Ory. Around 1919, he and his brother, Baby,
got a gig onboard the riverboat S.S. Capitol playing with Fate Marable’s
Band. At this time Johnny was instrumental in getting Louis Armstrong
his first work on the riverboats and they became good friends.
After this Johnny left New Orleans and joined up with the King Oliver
band at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. During this period Johnny
recorded with many groups including Armstrong’s Hot 5 and Hot 7, and
Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. In 1924 he formed his own group
which he led for six years at Kelly’s Stable on Chicago’s south side.
Through much of the 30’s Johnny and his brother remained in Chicago
and ran a taxicab company. They were pretty much forgotten as the center
of jazz moved east in the 1930’s to New York.
Stylistically Johnny’s sound has been characterized as heartfelt, soulful,
and heavily influenced by the blues. He was, himself, an important
influence on many clarinetists who followed him including Benny
Goodman who once revealed that he especially admired Johnny’s
“expressive, personal, full-bodied style.”
Johnny died in 1940, at the age of 48. Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Hall of
Fame posthumously inducted clarinetist Johnny Dodds in 1987.
He recorded prolifically with many different groups from 1927 through
the early 30’s during which time he also recorded a great deal under his
own name, such tunes as:
CLARINET WOBBLE - a Johnny Dodds composition recorded for the
Brunswick label in Chicago on April 21, 1927, with Bud Scott on guitar
and Lil (Hardin) Armstrong on piano.
NEW ORLEANS STOMP - written in 1922 or 23 by Alphonse Picou who
sent it to King Oliver in Chicago. Oliver recorded it for Columbia in 1923.
Later, in 1927, Johnny Dodds and His Black Bottom Stompers with Louis
Armstrong and Earl Hines on piano recorded it for Vocalion.
WEARY BLUES - a 1915 tune (jazz writer Bill Mitchell says it’s a rag) by
Artie Matthews. First recorded as a piano solo by Clarence Williams in
1923, it became closely associated with singer Bessie Smith’s years in
Atlanta. It was recorded by Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers for
Vocalion in 1927.
WILD MAN BLUES - written in 1927 by Jelly Roll Morton and
popularized by both Johnny Dodds and Louis Armstrong. It was a late
recording by Johnny Dodds and his Chicago Boys with Charlie Shavers
on trumpet in 1938 for Decca.
Great Early Clarinetists (Part 2): Jimmie Noone
Jimmie Noone was a sophisticated, lyrical, and sometimes sweet New
Orleans clarinetist whose life embraced a number of remarkable
coincidences with the life of Johnny Dodds. Noone was born in 1895, so
he was only three years younger than Johnny. Neither was born in New
Orleans. Jimmie hailed from a place called Cut Off, Louisiana. Like
Dodds, Noone’s family moved to New Orleans when he was young.
Jimmie started playing guitar at age 15, but then switched to clarinet and
took lessons from Lorenzo Tio, who was Johnny Dodds’ teacher.
Jimmie also took lessons with 13-year-old Sidney Bechet; and with
classical clarinetist, Franz Schoepp. Like Johnny Dodds, Jimmie was an
important influence on Benny Goodman. Both Artie Shaw and Irving
Fazola have also mentioned that Jimmie Noone was an influence on their
At age 17, young Noone was playing professionally with Freddie
Keppard in Storyville. He also played with Buddy Petit and (like Johnny
Dodds) with Kid Ory and Papa Celestin before joining King Oliver’s
Creole Jazz band in Chicago (just as Dodds had done). At age 25, Jimmie
joined Doc Cook’s Chicago Dreamland Orchestra with whom he
remained for six years until leading his own quintet, Jimmie Noone’s
Apex Club Orchestra, with a front line of Noone on clarinet and Joe
Poston on alto sax/clarinet. Pianist Earl Hines was also with this band for
a time. The Apex Club was raided in 1930, and shut down.
During the late 20’s and through the 30’s, Jimmie made many recordings
for Bluebird, Brunswick, Vocalion, and Decca. In 1943, he moved to Los
Angeles, joining up again with Kid Ory who was being featured on an
Orson Welles’ radio program. He died in L.A. in 1944, at age 49 – just one
year older than Johnny Dodds when he died. Some of the tunes for which
Jimmie was noted are:
HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE - (1926) by Fred Rose who also wrote
“Jimtown Blues” and “Deep Henderson.” Jimmie Noone recorded this
with Doc Cook’s Dreamland Orchestra in 1926.
APEX BLUES - a 1928 original by Jimmie Noone which he recorded for
Vocalion in Chicago in 1929, with his Apex Club Orchestra: Joe Poston on
sax, Bud Scott on banjo, Lawson Buford on tuba, Johnny Wells on drums
and Earl “Fatha” Hines on piano.
IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT - (1928) by Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red. First
recorded by Freddie “Half Pint” Jaxon accompanied by Tampa Red. Three
weeks later McKinney’s Cotton Pickers recorded it for Victor. Then, in
December of 1928, it was recorded by Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club
Orchestra for Vocalion.
FOUR OR FIVE TIMES - (1927) by Byron Gay who also wrote “So Long,
Good-bye.” This was popularized as Jimmie Noone’s theme song. His
first recording of it was for Vocalion in 1928.
MOODY MELODY - another Jimmie Noone original. This one he
recorded late in his life (1940) for Bluebird in Chicago. This group was
called the Jimmie Noone Trio and consisted of Henry Fort on bass,
Gideon Honore on piano and Ed Thompson doing the vocal.
Great Early Clarinetists (Part 3): Frank Teschemaker
Frank Teschemacher was a gifted and influential musician who, had he
not died tragically at a young age, might have been a superstar in the
pantheon of jazz greats. Benny Goodman always acknowledged Tesch’s
influence upon him. Perhaps the degree to which he has gone
unrecognized except by the most dedicated aficionados is, at least
partially, because he only made 40 recordings in his brief life.
He was born in 1906 in Kansas City but his family relocated in Chicago
when he was six. In high school he hooked up with what is known as the
Austin High Gang; a group of young jazz musician wanna-be’s that
included Jimmy and Dick McPartland, Bud Freeman. Jimmy Lanigan,
Dave North, and Davey Tough. These youngsters fanatically placed their
loyalties in Paul Mares’ New Orleans Rhythm Kings and tried mightily
to emulate that Chicago band.
Tesch is remembered most now for his clarinet playing, but he was a
talist who learned piano, banjo, violin, and alto sax before he latched on
to the clarinet at Bud Freeman’s urging. Tesch admitted Johnny Dodds as
being a great influence on his own playing. In 1923, at the age of 17, Tesch
and the Austin High Gang were noticed by local band promoter Husk O’
Hare. Husk promoted them, Tesch quit school, and things took off from
Over the next eight years he worked and recorded with such people as:
Eddie Condon, Red McKenzie, Wingy Manone, Mugsy Spanier, Sam
Lanin, Ben Pollack, Red Nichols, the Dorsey Brothers and, in the end,
Wild Bill Davison who, at the wheel of his Packard Phaeton, with Tesch
in the front seat next to him, was broad-sided by a Chicago taxi with no
headlights at about 2 a.m. Tesch was thrown from the car striking his
head on the curb and dying in the hospital four hours later, just a few
days short of his 26th birthday. Some of the tunes he did record are:
-SUGAR-written by Maceo Pinkard in 1926, with lyrics by his wife, Edna,
under the name of Alexander Belledna. Maceo himself accompanied
Ethel Watters on the first recording (for Columbia) of this tune which,
subsequently, popularized it in 1926. Peggy Lee sang it in the 1955 film,
Pete Kelly’s Blues. [Tesch recorded it in 1927 with McKenzie and Condon’
-NOBODY’S SWEETHEART- 1923 by Gus Kahn and Elmer Schoebel, was
introduced by Ted Lewis in The Passing Show of 1923, and later
popularized by Isham Jones, then revived by Red Nichols (1931); Cab
Calloway (1932); The Mills Brothers (1944); and Doris Day (1951). [Tesch
recorded it in 1927 with McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans].
-JAZZ ME BLUES – 1923 by Tom Delaney, who also wrote, “Nobody
Knows How I Feel this Morning,.” It was first introduced by The New
Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1923, then Bix Beiderbecke and his Wolverines
recorded it for Gennett in 1924. [Tesch recorded it with his own band,
Frank Teschemacher’s Chicagoans, in 1928].
-SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE- 1917 by Spencer Williams who also wrote “I
Found a New Baby.”
After discovering Josephine Baker in 1925, Spencer lived and worked in
Paris for about seven years. He then moved to England where he spent 15
years before returning to the states. [Tesch recorded this tune with Miff
Mole and His Orchestra in 1928].
-COPENHAGEN-1924 by Charlie Davis with words by Walter Melrose. It
was introduced by The Benson Orchestra of Chicago. The “Copenhagen”
from which the title is derived is allegedly the popular brand of
smokeless tobacco, not the Danish city. [Tesch recorded it with Elmer
Schoebel and His Friars Society Orchestra in 1929].
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