|Left to right, Lawrence Marrero, George Lewis, Bunk Johnson
|Bunk Johnson is standing, second from left, in this photograph
of the Original Superior Orchestra; date unknown.
|"Bunk Johnson & his New Orleans Band" in New York, 1945
Bunk Johnson was one of the most gifted of the early jazz musicians. But he may be better
known as one of the musicians who revived interest in the original style of New Orleans jazz in
the late 1930's. From "A Pictorial History of Jazz" by Orrin Keepnews & Bill Grauer:
"These two [Bunk Johnson and Kid Ory] above all, were the major figures of the wave of
'rediscovery', plucked out of obscurity to recreate the jazz of their youth.....a great many
sweeping changes in jazz had come and gone. Many of the early musicians were dead or
forgotten. Thus it was rather startling when these two very live ghosts from a legendary past
appeared on the scene.....They re-affirmed the early jazz traditions....by demonstrating how
much of the old drive and skill they'd retained and how thoroughly it could capture an
[After Johnson and Ory were re-discovered] several others were located, too, as jazz writers
and enthusiasts came to the sudden realization that more than a few New Orleans veterans
were still alive. Most of the men who were 'found' were not aware that they'd been 'lost.'
They'd been playing in New Orleans all along, making a meager living at it, or maybe they'd
become stevedores or Pullman porters or farmhands and had just about forgotten that they
were supposed to be jazz immortals.....the jazz public owed a debt to the handful of jazz
writers who [tracked down] these memorable figures from what seemed to be a remote past."
|The resurgence of New Orleans style jazz revived Bunk Johnson's career
and took him all over the country, where people were eager to hear
"real New Orleans jazz." Below, a New York City poster:
Bunk Johnson and his New Orleans Band, featuring
George Lewis, Jim Robinson, Lawrence Marrero,
Baby Dodds, Slow Drag, Alton Purnell
Dancing - Stuyvesant Casino - New York City
|Above, Louis Armstrong admires Bunk's
performance; right, in New Orleans, one of the
last pictures taken of Bunk Johnson, not long
before he passed away in 1949.
|Willie "Bunk" Johnson's grave, New Iberia, LA
|Bunk Johnson with his band, 1945