I received a fascinating letter some days ago from John Cox, a musician from Melbourne, Australia, who has played with Len and Bob Barnard and many other traditional / New Orleans / swing bands.
John told me that he has a signed banjo head from the Twenties with members of the King Oliver band, that he would like to sell and have go to a good home. Several New Orleans authorities including Greg Lambousy have said they thought it was genuine. John says he has a Gretsch tenor banjo which the head came from. He’s looking to sell both for a starting bid of $1800 (he has had offers from interested people and institutions) and you can email him at email@example.com.
From what I can see, the Louis signature is genuine. And it appears that the original owner of this holy relic offered it to musicians in 1923, 1926, and 1928 for their signatures. I see Freddie Keppard, Sippie Wallace, Baby Dodds, Johnny Dodds, Honore Dutrey, Manuel Perez, Bud Scott, and one other (top left) that I don’t quite recognize. (News flash! Kris Bauwens, who knows a great deal about these things, has suggested that it is Bunk Johnson. Indeed!)
I asked John about the provenance of this object, to learn more about it, and to sense its authenticity, and he told me that he bought the head from a man named Sampson, living in Queensland. Sampson told John that the banjo had belonged to his father. When Sampson’s father was about 15, Sampson’s grandfather would take him to the United States from England by ship to New Orleans, up the Mississippi River to Chicago. They would stay in a hotel and get contraband to take back to England. In the hotels were jazz bands, and he befriended Bud Scott, who looked after him and gave him the banjo, which he had musicians sign over the years. The banjo would have been fairly cheap at the time. The boy was nicknamed “Mississippi Sam,” which was shortened to “Sippi Sam.” John believes the story to be true as Sampson’s father had died but Sampson said he could always remember the banjo at the family home. Sampson had come out to Australia as a child and was about sixty when John met him.
I don’t ordinarily turn JAZZ LIVES into a hot market, but this object is so enthralling on its own that I felt drawn to do so. Please do get in touch with John if your budget can tolerate the purchase of such a beautiful artifact.
May your happiness increase!
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Bliss!, Generosities, Hotter Than That, It's A Mystery, It's All True, Jazz Titans, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, That Was Fun!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love
Tagged Baby Dodds, banjo, Bob Barnard, Bud Scott, Bunk Johnson, Chicago, Freddie Keppard, Honore Dutrey, jazz, Jazz Lives, Joe Oliver, John Cox, Johnny Dodds, King Oliver, Kris Bauwens, Len Barnard, Louis Armstrong, Manuel Perez, Michael Steinman, Sippie Wallace
I didn’t know who Frank Traynor was until a few weeks ago. And I apologize!
My friend John Trudinger sent me a CD called TROMBONE FRANKIE — a production of the Victorian Jazz Archive — and I confess that because none of the names were particularly recognizable to me in my mind-glossary of Australian musicians (no Bob or Len Barnard, no Fred Parkes) I let the CD sit to the left of my computer monitor for a perversely long time.
One morning, looking for something new to play in the car on the way to work (an ineffable mixture of craving novelty and feeling guilty) I slipped the CD into my pocket and then into the player . . . also because I had been thinking of Bessie Smith’s performance of TROMBONE CHOLLY — a raucous paean to Charlie “Big” Green, who’s Bessie’s partner on that joyous record. So I began listening to Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers with the alternate take of TROMBONE FRANKIE, vocal by one Judith Dunham, someone also new to me (although I learned that she became world-famous as a member of the Seekers).
Here’s a version of what I heard — and the elation I felt meant that I played this one track over until I arrived at work. Listen for yourself:
If you’d like to know much more about Traynor and his singular adventures — including a remarkable folk / jazz club, click here (there’s also a beautiful biography and discography):
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Irreplaceable, Jazz Titans, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love
Tagged Australian jazz, Bessie Smith, Bill Tope, Bob Barnard, Bob Crawford, Charlie "Big" Green, Charlie Green, Don Bentley, Frank Traynor, Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers, Fred Parkes, Graham Coyle, Helen Violaris, jazz blog, Jazz Lives, John Trudinger, John Woolff, Judith Durham, Len Barnard, Louis Armstrong, Margaret Roadknight, Martin Finn, Mary Traynor, Melbourne, Michael Steinman, Paul Marks, Peter Cleaver, Peter Couchman, PLEASE GIRLS PLEASE, Roger Bell, SWEET PATOOTIE, The Jazz Preachers, The Seekers, Traynor's, TROMBONE CHOLLY, TROMBONE FRANKIE, Victorian Jazz Archive, WASHINGTON SQUARE