I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say …


Tipping it off, did you know there is a New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in New Orleans?

Experience Jazz Music Where it all Began

Only in New Orleans could there be a National Park for jazz! Drop by our visitor center at 916 North Peters St. to inquire about musical events around town. In the mood for a world class musical experience? Attend a jazz concert or ranger performance at the new state of the art performance venue on the 3rd floor of the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) may or may not have been the first jazz musician. The cornetist made no recordings, and all we have for evidence are the recollections of certain of Bolden’s contemporaries, all of whom are long dead. A likelier explanation for the advent of jazz is that numerous musical strands came together during the early years of the 20th century and combusted. 

(I dislike biopics, but for those so inclined a long-awaited film about Bolden has been released: Bolden, by Keith Uhlich.)

Bolden’s name was mentioned whenever jazz lovers talked about the oldest times, but he didn’t even get a proper headstone until 1996. Here’s a good overview of Bolden’s story by Gayle Worl in the Washington Post.

“King Bolden had everybody in the city of New Orleans real crazy and standing on their heads,” Willie “Bunk” Johnson, a trumpeter and Bolden contemporary, recalled in an interview with the late jazz historian Bill Russell. Louis Armstrong, 23 years Bolden’s junior, didn’t give his predecessor as much credit. “Buddy Bolden had the biggest reputation, but he just played loud,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think he really knew how to blow his horn right.”

PJ Morton, the keyboardist for the band Maroon 5, is a New Orleans native. He’s spearheading an effort to restore Bolden’s residence.

PJ Morton’s party was a kickoff celebration for the Buddy’s House Foundation, his recently announced plan to renovate Bolden’s house, in consultation with the Preservation Resource Center (PRC) of New Orleans, an organization which advocates for the city’s historic architecture. According to Morton, the house will become a community center, museum and recording studio, offering music-business education for young performers and celebrating the jazz originator’s legacy.

To close, a recollection by a jazz writer, broadcaster and archivist. Jelly Roll Morton’s version of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” is embedded above.

“I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say….” by W. Royal Stokes

I am occasionally asked why my professional card, letterhead, website, and blog are headed by the phrase “I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say. . . .” Sometimes, a person will inquire, “Who is Buddy Bolden?” Well, the phrase comes from, “Buddy Bolden’s Blues,” which was originally titled “Funky Butt” when it was a song in the repertoire of New Orleans cornetist and bandleader Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1877-1931), the legendary father of jazz. You can read about Buddy here. For further reading, I recommend Donald Marquis’s In Search Of Buddy Bolden: First Man Of Jazz and Danny Barker’s Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville.

Some consider “Funky Butt” the oldest known jazz tune. It was Jelly Roll Morton (1885-1941) who bestowed the title “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” upon it and fashioned his own lyrics …