|Jelly Roll Morton
|Jelly Roll Morton at the piano, with his band, the Red Hot Peppers. He was an
immensely talented pianist, arranger and composer, whose efforts strongly
influenced the development of jazz. From left to Right: Andrew Hilaire, Kid
Ory, George Mitchell, John Lindsay, Morton, Johnny St. Cyr and Omer
Simeon. "The significant thing to remember about Jelly Roll is that he was
a genius." -- from 'A Pictorial History of Jazz'
|According to his Baptismal Certificate from St. Joseph's Church, New Orleans,
Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe was born on October 20, 1890 and baptized on 25th
April, 1891. It's thought that the name Morton comes from his step-father,
whose name was Mouton. The photo above was taken in about 1940.
|Jelly Roll's childhood home on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans'
Seventh Ward. When he was still just a youngster, he started
playing in the bars and brothels of Storyville, where many early
jazz musicians got their start.
|Jelly Roll Morton left New Orleans early on and traveled the country, with stays
in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. He gained prominence in the 1920's and
was enormously successful. But, his success faded with the changes that came
about in jazz in the 1930's and he fell on hard times. Sadly, he didn't live long
enough to experience the resurgence of traditional jazz in the 1940's. His health
declined after a heart attack in 1939 and he died in Los Angeles, in 1941.
|Above, Jelly Roll's last recording session with RCA Victor, before a decline in
popularity. It would be many years before Jelly Roll's contributions were
re-evaluated, however, he did find an appreciative audience in Alan Lomax, the
Library of Congress' folk archivist. Lomax recorded over eight hours of Morton's
music and reminiscences in 1938. They were first made public in 1948 and are still
available. In the early 1980's, Mr. Morton's complete works were published and
he was the subject of a Broadway musical, "Jelly's Last Jam," in the early 1990's.
Hopefully, wherever he is, Jelly Roll knows that he ultimately did receive the
recognition he desired and deserved.
|The plaque on Jelly Roll Morton's grave, Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA.
Photo credit to A. J. Marik.