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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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Jelly Roll Morton

The basic arrangements Jelly made for the Melrose Brothers Publishing firm were widely distributed
and available to bands throughout the country. His first big break in publishing came through the
Melrose Brothers in Chicago who accepted Jelly’s composition “The Wolverines.” However, Morton was
not satisfied with it and made modifications that highlighted a New Orleans style. To plug the finished
product the brothers hoisted a big banner above their Melrose Music Store proclaiming, “WOLVERINE
BLUES SOLD HERE.” Hence the evolution of its title.
At other times in this column we’ve talked about the more famous of Jelly’s compositions like:
Milneberg Joys, Buddy Bolden’s Blues, King Porter Stomp, The Pearls, Sweet Substitute, Winin’ Boy
Blues. etc. But now, let’s take a look at some of the lesser known works:
--SOAP SUDS-(1926)- This tune went through some interesting changes in the four years between its
recording by the St. Louis Levee Band, with Morton on piano, and its recording in 1930 by Jelly Roll
Morton’s Red Hot Peppers under its new title FICKLE FAY CREEP. The polishing is dramatic.
--CREOLE – (1924), this number, traditionally, has been attributed to Jelly Roll, but it was actually
composed by banjo player Charlie Luke, a member of the Ross Reynolds Band from Indiana who
recorded it, under this title. Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers recorded it under the title
--FAT MEAT AND GREENS-(1925). Here’s another one about which there is some conflict over
composer’s rights. The Brunswick record label lists Jelly Roll Morton as its composer, but the earlier
Paramount label release, by Jimmy Blythe, lists Aletha Robinson and John Bishaw as the composers. Jelly
recorded it as a piano solo in 1926.
--DEAD MAN BLUES-(1926). This Morton piece was actually recorded by King Oliver’s band for the
Vocalion label four days before Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers recorded it for the Victor
label – both in Chicago. Ironically Oliver’s recording (backed by “Someday Sweetheart”) was probably
his best-selling record; not so for its composer’s recording.
--MIDNIGHT MAMA-(1928)-This composition was recorded for the Brunswick label at Jelly’s last
session in Chicago. He did it with what, for all purposes, was a pick-up band, and he called them the
Levee Serenaders. Bennie Moten’s Kansas City OK.
--DON’T YOU LEAVE ME HERE-(1926), this number was recorded  few times in the twenties, notably
by Charlie Johnson’s Original Paradise Ten, a band that had both Jabbo Smith and Benny Carter in it,
but, as with many of his own compositions, Jelly didn’t get around to recording it till later – much later
in this case.
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Jelly Roll Morton would, of course, be in the first
batch of inductees into a “Jazz Hall of Fame” solely
for his ability as a musician. But the fact remains
that his gigantic talent as a piano player was, quite
possibly, outstripped by his wonderful gifts as a
composer and arranger. Jelly always bragged about
his abilities and about what he had done for jazz,
even to the extent of saying he invented it. “But
one thing I always noticed about Jelly,” said
clarinetist Omer Simeon, “he could back up
everything he said by what he could do…”
Morton’s compositions were not huge money-
makers for him. He copyrighted few tunes. So he
made what money he could by selling them
outright – a mistake, in hindsight, from which a lot
of jazz composers suffered.