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York; his name was Jack Hatton. He was a cornet playing fool. He did all that growling like Bubber Miley and those guys tried to do later. Of course, that was long before phonograph records. There are musicians around who are 75 to 80 years old who used to be tops. We always had jazz bands; we had them at a place in Brooklyn called Goners. The guy who played piano there was called Kid Griffith and he wore tight pants ... a little, short good-looking guy. They had a jazz band—they had to have jazz bands. This was before the first war. I had a jazz band at LeRoy's before the war, too. It was a 12-piece band, and who do you think was singing there with me-Mamie Smith. Talk about jazz bands~My God! They had better guys playing jazz than a lot of these guys trying to play it, because those guys knew what they were doing.
Did you ever heat about the musicians from New Orleans?
I never heard of the guys-never heard of them. There were only two guys I saw from the West. One was a guy by the name of Johnny Williams, whose wife poisoned him. He was a better cornet player than Louis Armstrong ever thought about being, and anybody in the West will tell you that. He was from out West, but not from New Orleans. The only guy I knew to come from New Orleans was Louis Armstrong and the only time I saw him was when I went out there.
How about this legend about New Orleans' being the birthplace of jazz?
It's the writers. If you don't tibink I know what I'm talking about, just look in those books these fellows have written, and see guys like Danny Barker and all of them talking about the bands on the Mississippi riverboats. Man, they've got riverboats all over, right here in Haverstraw, New York. Ever since I can remember, there's been jazz played.
The kind of rhythmic qualities that came to be known as jazz were growing up all around the country, then?
That's right. Now you're hitting it. The rhythm-you know Fve been associated myself with synagogues and Baptist churches all my life and they had the greatest rhythm you ever heard.
How about the blues? Was that always around?
Always the blues, ha! hal