Jelly Roll Morton, Inventor Of Jazz, Online Book by Alan Lomax

with Some sheet music & lyrics.

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him, Jelly Roll, while prolific, was not an innovator. cc]eRy Roll could write music, don t let them kid you. He made his piano copies and we turned them over to Elmer Schoebel and Mel Stitzel to orchestrate. Sales on those orchestrations, particu­larly Milneburg Joys, were really terrific, because the New Orleans Rhythm Kings played the tune and they were big all over the country. . . . But, so far as Jelly Roll originating any­thing, he didn't do that. All Jelly did was to come along and write additional numbers in the style that goes back to Scott Joplin in the '90s. Scott Joplin was his God; and, really, things like Maple Leaf Rag and Grace and Beauty were his models. Jelly always worked with two twelve-bar strains, modulating into trio, just like Joplin. . . /'
There is just enough truth in this observation to make it plausible. Jelly Roll's music, like aU early jazz, reflects the in­fluence of Scott Joplin; but it is astonishing that Melrose, after al his experience with hot music, would deny the important differences.
"Jelly was a prolific writer/* Walter Melrose went on drily. "And his numbers, some of them, did pretty well." (This is rather faint praise from the publisher of twenty-six Morton tunes, among them: King Porter Stomp, Goodman's big hit, Dead Man Blues, Oliver's big hit, and Milneburg Joys, every­body's big hit.) * "He never was able to get a band together and get the bigger jobs. So far as how he rated, well, Joe Oliver was the most important musician in Chicago between 1921 and 1930. Joe was more the old Southern-type. Like Handy. Didn't want any trouble with anybody/'
In a pathetic reaching out for status, Morton had printed cards, reading, "Jelly Roll Morton, composer and arranger for Melrose Music Company/3 but Walter hastily denied the tie-up. "O no, of course he didn't work for us. He used to come around sometimes to talk about numbers. That's all."
So drily and coldly Walter Melrose summed up his relation­ship to his star composer. The heartbreaking part of all this
* See Appendix I.