MUSIC 162 - SPRING 2008
American Pop Song
"Race" Records and "Hillbilly" Music: 1920s-1930s
King Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band: "Dippermouth Blues" [Richmond, IN, 1923]
The music that came to be known as jazz developed in New Orleans around 1900. It drew upon a
variety of sources, including white and black popular song traditions, ragtime, brass band music,
black church hymns and funeral dirges, field hollers, and blues. Since the activities of recording
companies were largely confined to large cities in the North and Midwest before the late 1920s,
there is limited evidence as to what early New Orleans jazz sounded like. The first recording
with the term "jazz" on its label was made by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white group, in
1917. The ODJB recording exemplfies the influence of African-American musical sensibilities
on white musicians, and started a jazz craze among middle-class whites, but it is not a good
example of New Orleans style.
The first representative recordings of jazz were made by the cornettist King Joe Oliver (1885-
1938) and his Creole Jazz Band in 1923. Like many other southern black musicians, Oliver
moved north after World War One in order to make a better living. In 1923 he summoned the
brilliant young musician Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) to Chicago to play second cornet in the
band, which also included Honoré Dutrey on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lil Hardin
Armstrong on piano, Baby Dodds on drums, and, on this cut, Bill Johnson on banjo and vocals.
The King Oliver band was a collection of individuals who knew each other's playing so well that
they could perform a kind of polyphonic group improvisation. In New Orleans style, the trumpet
or cornet states the melody (with embellishments), the clarinet improvises a counter-melody
above and around the trumpet, and the trombone improvises a simpler melody, often hitting the
roots (bass notes) of the chords below the trumpet. Solos were usually backed up by riffs
(repeated patterns) played by the other instruments. In the earliest recordings, it is difficult to
find a place where all of the instruments are not playing some role.
Form: 12-bar blues.
Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five : "West End Blues"
By 1925, Louis Armstrong had left King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago and Fletcher
Henderson's band in New York and was ready to strike out on his own. His fiery solos and
unbelievable use of the upper reaches of the cornet and trumpet were becoming known and he
was achieving stardom through his playing.