Oscar “Papa” Celestin was born on January 1, 1884 in Napoleonville, Louisiana to a Creole family. As a youth he worked on rural Louisiana plantations but eager for a better life, he worked as a cook for the Texas & Pacific Railroad, saved up money and bought used musical instruments. He played guitar and trombone before deciding on cornet as his main instrument. He took music lessons from Claiborne Williams, who traveled down the Bayou Lafourche from Donaldsonville.
Celestin played with the Algiers Brass Band by the early 1900s, and with various small town bands before moving to New Orleans in 1904, at age 20. There he played with the Imperial, Indiana, Henry Allen senior’s Olympia Brass Band, and Jack Carey’s dance band. Early in his career he was sometimes known as Sonny Celestin. Around 1910 he landed a job as leader of the house band at the Tuxedo Dance Hall on North Franklin St. at the edge of Storyville.
Keeping the name Tuxedo as the band’s name after the Dance Hall closed, they dressed in tuxedos and became one of the most popular bands hired for society functions, both black and white. He co-led the Tuxedo Band with trombonist William Ridgely and made their first recordings during the Okeh Records field trip to New Orleans in 1925. Following a fallout with Ridgely, the two led competing Tuxedo bands for about five years. Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Orchestra had Louis Armstrong, Bill Mathews, Octave Crosby, Christopher Goldston, Joe Oliver, Mutt Carey, Alphonse Picou and Ricard Alexis as a members over the years and made an additional series of recordings for Columbia Records through the 1920s. He also led the Tuxedo Brass Band, one of the top brass bands in the city.
Forced out of the business by depression economics, Papa worked in a shipyard until putting together another band after the World War II. The new Tuxedo Brass Band was tremendously popular and became a New Orleans tourist attraction. By 1953 he appeared in the travelogue Cinerama Holiday, became a regular feature at the Paddock Lounge on Bourbon Street and gave a command performance for President Eisenhower at the White House. He made regular radio broadcasts, television appearance, and more recordings with his last recording was singing on Marie LaVeau in 1954.
Bandleader, trumpeter, cornetist and vocalist Papa Celestin passed away in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 15, 1954, amassing 4000 people who marched in his funeral parade. The Jazz Foundation of New Orleans had a bust made and donated to the Delgado Museum in New Orleans, in honor of his contributions to the genre. #preserving genius
Paul Lingle was born on December 3, 1902 in Denver, Colorado and began learning to play the piano at age six. He first played professionally in the San Francisco, California area in the 1920s. He often accompanied Al Jolson in the late Twenties, including for his film soundtracks.
In the 1930s Paul worked mainly on radio, and also played with the Al Zohn band. He tuned pianos early in the 1940s and worked as a soloist in local San Francisco clubs, accompanying visiting musicians such as Lead Belly and Bunk Johnson.
Lingle released almost no recorded material during his lifetime, doing only one session for Good Time Jazz in 1952. This session for Good Time Jazz produced eight recorded numbers. After his death, Euphonic Records released several volumes of private recordings which were critically acclaimed.
Pianist Paul Lingle performed locally until his death on October 30, 1963 in Honolulu, Hawaii, relocating there in 1952.
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Knocky Parker was born John William Parker, II on August 8, 1918 in Palmer, Ellis County, Texas. By the Thirties he was playing in Western Swing bands such as The Wanderers and the Light Crust Doughboys through the end of the decade before serving in the military during World War II.
After the war Parker worked with Zutty Singleton and Albert Nicholas, then earned a Ph.D in English and taught at Kentucky Wesleyan College and the University of South Florida. While fulfilling his teaching responsibilities he worked with Doc Evans, Omer Simeon, and Tony Parenti, among others, as well as working as a solo artist.
In the early 1960s he recorded every Scott Joplin rag, one of the first to do so. In addition, he recorded the complete works of Jelly Roll Morton. Knocky recorded extensively, for the labels Texstar, Paradox, GHB, London, Audiophile, Jazzology, and Euphonic.
Pianist Knocky Parker, who played primarily ragtime and Dixieland jazz passed away on September 3, 1986 in Los Angeles, California.
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Louis Stanley Hooper was born on May 18, 1894 in North Buxton, Ontario, Canada but was raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan and studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory, playing locally in dance orchestras in the 1910s. Around 1920 he moved to New York City and recorded frequently with Elmer Snowden and Bob Fuller in the middle of the decade. He was known to perform with both of them in Harlem as well as with other ensembles.
Lou served for some time as the house pianist for Ajax Records, accompanying many blues singers on record, including Martha Copeland, Rosa Henderson, Lizzie Miles, Monette Moore and Ethel Waters. He was a participant in the Blackbirds revue of 1928.
In 1932 Hooper returned to Canada, where he played in Mynie Sutton’s dance band, the Canadian Ambassadors. Working locally as a soloist and in ensembles for the next two decades, he was brought back into the limelight by the Montreal Vintage Music Society in 1962.
Lou recorded a two-LP set with Bill Coleman titled UK LIve:Satin Doll, Vol. 1 & 2 in 1967 and released an album as a leader of ragtime piano tunes in 1973 titled Lou Hooper, Piano.
Wearing the educator hat, he taught at the University of Prince Edward Island late in his life and appeared regularly on CBC television in Halifax. Pianist Lou Hooper passed away on September 17, 1977 in Charlestown, Prince Edward Island. His papers, which include unpublished compositions and an autobiography, are now held at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.
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Lorenzo Tio Jr. was born on April 21, 1893 in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Following in the footsteps of his father Lorenzo Sr. and his uncle Louis “Papa”, he also became a master clarinetist. Their method of playing the instrument, which involved the Albert system, a double-lip embouchure and soft reeds, was seminal in the development of the jazz solo.
Tio Jr.was instrumental in bringing classical music theory to the ragtime, blues and jazz musicians of New Orleans and he eventually played jazz himself. His main instrument was clarinet also played the oboe and joined Manuel Perez’s band in Chicago, Illinois in 1916 and Armand J. Piron’s from 1918 to 1928, recording with Piron, Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton and Clarence Williams.
As an educator among the reed players to impact early jazz who studied under Lorenzo’s direction were Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, Omer Simeon, Louis Cottrell Jr., Jimmie Noone and Albert Nicholas. He taught Bigard what would become the main theme to the famous Ellington tune Mood Indigo.
Tio gigged in legendary New Orleans large ensembles such as the Lyre Club Symphony Orchestra during the late 19th century. He played in smaller combos, traditional brass bands, had a standing collaboration with Papa Celestin whenever he was in the Big Easy, and performed with the Tuxedo Brass Band.
Despite his strong ties to New Orleans, he regularly played the New York jazz scene on steamboats running between the state capitol in Albany and the Big Apple. During the late ’20s and early ’30s, He had a regular stint at The Nest Club in New York City. Clarinetist and educator Lorenzo Tio Jr., who also played oboe and tenor saxophone, passed away on December 24, 1933.