[JPL] Q about the "first" jazz recording

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Wed Aug 13 18:15:46 EDT 2008

Tom Marcello wrote:

> Arturo,
> I believe that story is about Freddie Keppard. RCA offered to record him 
> early on (1915?) but he turned the opportunity because he didn't want 
> others to steal his music. He was also notorious for covering his hand 
> on the trumpet valves for the same reason.
> Best,

This is from the Wikipedia:

  (sometimes rendered as Freddy Keppard) (February 27, 1890 - July 15, 
1933) was an early jazz cornetist.

Keppard was born in the Creole of Color community of downtown New 
Orleans, Louisiana. His older brother Louis Keppard was also a 
professional musician. Freddie played violin, mandolin, and accordion 
before switching to cornet. After playing with the Olympia Orchestra he 
joined Frankie Dusen's Eagle Band, taking the place recently vacated by 
Buddy Bolden. Soon after Bolden was off the music scene Keppard was 
proclaimed "King Keppard" as the city's top horn player (see: jazz royalty).

About 1914 Joe Oliver won a musical "cutting contest" and claimed 
Keppard's crown; soon after Keppard accepted an offer to join Bill 
Johnson's band in Los Angeles, California.

Johnson and Keppard's band became the Original Creole Orchestra which 
toured the Vaudeville circuit, giving other parts of the USA a first 
taste of the music that was not yet known as "jazz".[1] While playing a 
successful engagement in New York City in 1915 the band was offered a 
chance to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company. In retrospect 
this would probably have been the first jazz recording. An often 
repeated story says that Keppard didn't want to record because then 
everyone else could "steal his stuff". The recording company offered him 
$25 flat fee to make a record (a fairly standard rate for non-star 
performers at the time), far less than he was earning on the vaudeville 
circuit. His retort to this offer, according to Lawrence Gushee's 
research was: "Twenty-Five dollars? I drink that much gin in a day!". 
The reminiscences of the other members of the Creole Orchestra reveal 
that another factor was that the Victor representative had asked them to 
make a "test recording" without pay, and the band balked, fearing it was 
a ploy to have them make records without being paid.

Eric Jackson
Mon - Thurs 8 pm - mid.
89.7 FM WGBH Boston

> Tom
> Tom Marcello
> manager / Joe Locke
> tom at joelocke.com
> www.joelocke.com
>> I recall the late 70s when I first became interested in jazz history 
>> after
>> learning of the Cuba-New Orleans connection, I read an article or a book
>> that mentioned that the executives of the record company that first 
>> recorded
>> the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had asked an all-Black jazz ensemble to
>> record but they turned down the opportunity because of not wanting their
>> music to be "exported" out of New Orleans. After about 30 years I can't
>> recall the details nor publication but that is more or less the 
>> content of
>> the write up I read. Has anyone else read something to that effect or
>> perhaps give more accurate information about this?, the vast knowledge of
>> the members of this group is perhaps jazz's best resource.
>> Arturo
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