Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Fest Presentation

Bogalusa Blues Fest logoI’ll be presenting at the Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival on Saturday, September 27 on Bogalusa’s rich musical history. In my presentation, “The Jazz Hounds of Bogalusa,” I’ll discuss key players and events in the 1920s emergence of jazz in Bogalusa, including original members of the Rhythm Aces, Henry Sims and Willie Hump Manning.

2 p.m. in the Pioneer Heritage Museum in Cassidy Park, free and open to the public.

Jazz Archivist article on Claude Blanchard Orchestra

The latest issue of the Jazz Archivist (a publication of Tulane University’s Hogan Jazz Archive) is out, and features a story I wrote on the Claude Blanchard Orchestra in Bogalusa, Louisiana. This was Snoozer’s very first band! Snoozer was only 12 years old when he joined in 1920. One of his brothers had to accompany him as chaperone when they played certain venues!

You can read the article below. Look at past issues of the Jazz Archivist here.

Jazz Archivist Vol. 26 2013

 

 

 

Benjie White talks about jazz guitarist Snoozer Quinn

LISTEN: Benjie White talks about the “guitar whiz” Snoozer Quinn:

New Orleans Owls (jazz band) at Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, formerly Cosmopolitan Hotel. Musicians left to right: Mackie, R.; Rau, E.; Mackie, D.; Smith, M.; White, B.; Golpi, R.; Crumb, E. The band and spectators at right are costumed; possibly for costume party or Carnival. This photo and information is from Wikipedia (public domain).

New Orleans Owls (jazz band) at Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, formerly Cosmopolitan Hotel. From left to right: Dick Mackie, Monk Smith, Red Mackie, Benjie White, Rene Gelpi, Earl Crumb, Eblen Rau (standing behind Gelpi). The band and spectators at right are costumed; possibly for costume party or Carnival. This photo and information is from Wikipedia (public domain) and from A Trumpet Around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz, by Samuel Barclay Charters.

On March 16, 1961, the New Orleans jazz man Benjie (Benji?) White was interviewed by Dick Allen and Paul Crawford at his home in New Orleans (103 Maryland Drive). At one point, White discussed the jazz guitarist Snoozer Quinn, whom he called “a whiz.” I have included an audio excerpt here for your enjoyment. The original interview is held in the oral history collection of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University.

White was a saxophonist and clarinet player (and he also could play violin) and one of the founding members of the New Orleans Owls.

Here is an entry about the New Orleans Owls on Red Hot Jazz. The Owls are one of the few New Orleans jazz bands recorded in New Orleans in the 1920s.

According to White, the other original members of The Owls were Red Mackie (bass and piano), Dick Mackie (cornet), Monk Smith (tenor sax and guitar), Rene Gelpi (banjo) and Eblen Rau (violin). Other early associates: Eugene “Jinx” Diboll, Fred Ogden, Guy Lyman, Earl Crumb.

Said White: “It’s a funny thing…. When we started playing, there were very few white bands in existence. Most all of them, good jazz bands, were really colored jazz bands. It was a little peculiar feeling for us to break into this jazz feel here, under those conditions… It was, because…except for the fact that most of us had had a year of college or so and were pretty well known in New Orleans….take most of those boys who were with us were from excellent families, … [we] didn’t consider it a livelihood, we considered it a lark. But the thing got control and became a livelihood with us, for quite a number of years.”

LISTEN: New Orleans Owls

Many thanks to the Hogan Jazz Archive for allowing me to post clips from their oral history collection. Bruce Raeburn, Lynn Abbott, and Nicole Shibata have all been wonderful in their assistance on my Snoozer projects.

More info: Wilfred “Benjie” White was born August 30, 1901 in New Orleans. Lived on First Street, Valmont, Pine, 1467 Calhoun Street,  Attended LaSalle, Williston in Easthampton, two years at Tulane University in the College of Commerce and Business Administration.

Thesis Defended and Submitted

This past week I successfully defended and submitted my master’s thesis on Snoozer Quinn. I am delighted… I have been researching Snoozer for years, and there were many false starts as I searched for a way to talk about his music.

It’s been very easy (for me) to get caught up in historical research and let the actual writing go undone… for years I did just that. Hours spent with a microfilm machine reading old newspapers and journals, listening through headphones to oral histories with long-dead musicians, chasing rumors of possible recording sessions, interviewing friends and family members in rural Louisiana towns… I’ve scrupulously been documenting a chronology of events in his life and gathering interesting photos, newspaper ads, articles, etc. of him and his associates. Snoozer is such an elusive figure, that every time I found a mention of him I felt a thrill that kept me going for a few more weeks at a time. I have been incredibly passionate about building Snoozer’s biography and I cannot wait to tell his story in book form.

But for a thesis in musicology, a big component must be about the music, itself. I could not have finished without the help of two players. New Orleans guitarist John Rankin patiently helped me learn to listen and really hear Snoozer’s playing. He pointed out to me aspects that were unusual. (We had a good time presenting together at the Louisiana State Museum in 2010.) After figuring out what sections of music I wanted to use to illustrate my points, I searched for someone to help me with the transcriptions. Serendipity brought me Chip Henderson, a guitarist and a teacher at Belmont Unversity and Tennessee State University in Nashville who also has a passionate interest in Snoozer. I am so grateful to Chip for his transcription work and for helping me to further explicate the music.

And I am very proud and excited about what we’ve come up with.

The thesis has been submitted to ProQuest for copyright and publishing. I am not sure what’s next (when it will be available online, for example). But in the meantime, I am turning my attention to this website and to publishing opportunities for sections of the thesis, as well as expanded research. The biography was so long that I had to scrap some sections for the thesis, and I would love to see them in print elsewhere. First up: I am writing an article on the Blanchard Orchestra for a future issue of The Jazz Archivist.

In the front matter for my thesis, I acknowledged a lot of people who’ve helped me along the way. The list is long… after all, I’ve been working on this a long time. Regretfully, I am sure I forgot to thank some people.

But something occurred to me as I wrote that acknowledgment: it’s astonishing how very helpful and interested guitar players, as a collective group, are when it comes to talking about other guitar players. Jazz lovers, too — I am heartwarmed by how generous the community of record collectors, jazz historians and jazz buffs has been with their knowledge. I have had access to some amazingly famous, talented and very busy people — a few of my of my favorites are Les Paul, Leo Kottke, Mundell Lowe, Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano and Jody Stecher. It’s been an honor talking with these folks and so many more.

 

There is Evil in Ye Children

A gem of the Jimmie Davis recording session of 1931 is “There Is Evil in Ye Children” — special because the song was composed by Snoozer Quinn. It’s a real Bible-thumper… the lyrics reveal the concern of a parson who wants to save young people from eternal damnation.

imagesThere is evil in ye children, gather round
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round
You go out and drink that gin, you’re so easy to give in,
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round

Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round (gather round)
There is evil in ye children, gather round
I know all of your emotions you must quit those foolish notions
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round

Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round
There is evil in ye children, gather round
You go out with good intentions, what you do won’t do to mention
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round

Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round
There is evil in ye children, gather round
You go out ’bout half past nine, nothing good is on your mind
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round (gather round)

There is evil in ye children, gather round
There is evil in ye children, gather round
When you want your sins all drowned, come and see old Parson Brown
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round (old Parson)

There is evil in ye children, gather round
There is evil in ye children, gather round
When you feel love’s temptation come to me and get salvation
Lord there’s evil in ye children, gather round

The form and melody is based on the traditional folk tune “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” which itself is derived from a Negro spiritual called “When the Chariot Comes.” This is a rare example on the Davis recordings where Quinn displays his unusual two-guitar sound. You can hear it in the breaks: Quinn pays a melodic lead enveloped by a driving rhythm part. The sound is comparable to Big Bill Broonzy’s. Quinn exhibits a great country blues sensibility – a relaxed sense of meter, improvisatory melodic style, and bluesy embellishments – as well as fine lyrical abilities and a sense of humor.