The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
Big Towns and Brass Bands
That wasn't always in the South, either?
No, sir. Here's one that'll kill 'em. The blues comes from the brickyards in Haverstraw, New York, where those colored people worked in the brickyards. They sang blues all day. Men older than I will tell you that.
Luckey Roberts, another ragtime pianist numbered among Duke Ellingtons first influences, came to New York from Philadelphia in 1898 as a child actor in Uncle Torns Cabin. Roberts' earliest recollections concern ragtime musicians, par­ticularly pianists, who were active in the East and had converged on New York from at least a dozen states:
"There were some great piano players. There was Dude Finley from Florida, and One Leg Shadow, and One Leg Willie. They played all over the country. And Jack the Rear, whose real name was Jack Wilson; he was around Pennsylvania and Ohio. And Bud Howard out of Detroit—and did you ever hear of Benden Boots? He played fine piano and was out of Baltimore. Then of course Pike Davis and Preston Duncan on trumpets; Pike was one of the best attack men I ever heard. He came from Baltimore in one o£ the first groups that started reading music."
The "One Leg Shadow" mentioned by Roberts is Walter Gould, possibly the oldest living ragtime pianist. Born in Phila­delphia in 1875, he told Rudi Blesh of even earlier per­formers: "Old Man Sam Moore was ragging the quadrilles and schottisches before I was born. He was born 'way before the war. He doubled on bass and piano."1 Now living in Albany, New York, "Shadow" in his eighty-third year is vocal and alert, as stubbornly convinced as most of his Eastern contemporaries that the New Orleans legend presents a one-sided story. "I begged Blesh not to believe all that stuff about everything hap­pening in New Orleans," he said recently. ""You know what started everybody believing that? Louis Armstrong and King Oliver coming from there, that's what did it. And yet when there was dozens of great musicians in the East, you couldn't find but two or three good piano players in the whole of New Orleans."
Evidently Gould's plea to Blesh did not go completely un­heeded. The latter's first book, Shining Trumpets, placed a heavy