|Visit Us On FB
rather dance with him playing that iron pipe than with him playing string hass. So IVe played with many novelty musicians. We had an E Flat cornet player with Mahara's Minstrels, Elmore Dodd from Nashville, who filed his mouthpiece down so he could make an E Flat cornet sound like a piccolo, and that was a sensation. Even in the minstrel days we played music similar to jazz, but we didn't call it jazz. We called it faking, Just pick up a piece like A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight and sporting house songs and put any interpretation we would want to put, but we didn't call it jazz—we didn't know anything about that word.
When did you first hear the word "jazz*' used?
Not until I went to Memphis, after I had written the Memphis Blues. A book came out called The New Negro—J. A. Rogers wrote an article about me and this new music called jazz and gave me credit for it.
How about the early songs that you documented—did they come from New Orleans?
When I lived in Bessemer, Alabama in 1892 or '93, we used to sing a song, Careless Love, and they claimed that song came from New Orleans. But I moved to Kentucky, along the Ohio River, where I found that the governors son had been killed over an unhappy love affair and the Negroes made up a song called You See What Careless Love Has Done. So Loveless Love floated down the Ohio River with roustabouts and down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Can you see what I mean? So much of our folk music just drifted on down the river-like Joe Turner. Joe Turner started in Memphis and I kept it alive, but it could have gone on down to New Orleans and have been called something else, but the same tune in New Orleans was called Gain* Down the River 'Fore Long.
Do you think anything equivalent to jazz or ragtime was being played up here in the East around the turn of the century?
Well, some of our singers in certain illiterate churches were breeders of what we call jazz today. They put ia their music, in their singing, something that instruments do today. So that when a boy got to be able to play clarinet or trumpet, he put