A Very Merry Christmas
The Basin Street Six
For Your Interest, Support, And Encouragement
Charlie Duke Pete Fountain Bunny Franks
George Girard Joe Rotis Ray Zimmerman
Fountain (clarinet) and Girard (trumpet) are credited with founding the band. This card is undated. Girard folded the band in 1954. Fountain left New Orleans to play with the Dukes of Dixieland in Chicago, it’s possible the Basin Street 6 used this card more than one year.
Chuck Credo later revived the Basin Street 6. The band continued to gig into the 1990s with varying personnel, recording an album in 1984, in conjunction with the World’s Fair.
So, Girard was the main force behind the creation and end of the original Basin Street 6. From his Wikipedia bio:
Girard was born in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. In highschool he studied music under Johnny Wiggs and became a professional musician immediately after graduating in 1946. He played and toured with the bands of Johnny Archer and Phil Zito before cofounding the band The Basin Street Six, made up mostly of friends he had grown up with, including clarinetist Pete Fountain. The band got a regular gig at L’Enfant’s Restaurant in New Orleans, as well as regular television broadcasts over WWL. The band started receiving favorable national attention, but Girard was dissatisfied with it and broke up the band in 1954 to found his own band, George Girard & the New Orleans Five which included trombonist Bob Havens, drummer Paul Edwards, and bassist Bob Coquille.Girard landed a residency at the Famous Door in the French Quarter, recorded for several labels, and got a weekly broadcast on CBS’s affiliated local radio station WWL. The broadcasts, from O’Dwyer’s on Jefferson Highway, were recorded and made available through the AFRTS. Girard had ambitions to make a national name for himself (and according to many fellow musicians the musical ability to do so), but became ill and had to give up playing in 1956. Girard died from colon cancer in New Orleans on January 18, 1957.
Wikipedia refers to “L’Enfant’s” Restaurant, it’s likely this refers to Lenfant’s on Canal Boulevard.
Our fifth installment of NOLA History Guy December features New Orleans Jazz
NOLA History Guy December – Kid Ory
David Simon’s TV series for HBO, “Treme” was in its third season in the summer of 2012. When I learned the show was green-lighted for a fourth season, I pitched a book to Arcadia, “Faubourg Treme.” A couple of days later, I received an email from one of the acquisitions editors. They liked the idea, but wondered if I would be open to a project of a wider scope. I saw Treme as an important neighborhood in New Orleans history, particularly Black history. They saw Treme as the birthplace of Jazz. (Strictly speaking, it was one of the birthplaces, but we got there in the ultimate book.) So, said, sure, and began work on New Orleans Jazz.
Edward “Kid” Ory, “Dutt” to his friends, was born in LaPlace, Louisiana. As a teen in the 1900s, he came into New Orleans on weekends to play gigs with his friends. They took the train into town, then borrow a wagon. They meandered around the city, promoting their gig for that Saturday evening. The trombone players in these bands played off the back of the wagon, the “tailgate.” That way they could work the horn’s slide without risking damage.
Here’s the caption for one of Dutt’s photos:
Tailgate. Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973) played banjo as a child, developing a style known as “tailgate,” where the trombone player plays rhythm, under the lead of trumpets/cornets. Originally from LaPlace, Louisiana, legend is that Buddy Bolden “discovered” the 19-year old Ory in Uptown New Orleans and brought him into the fledgling Storyville jazz scene, but his sister told Bolden her brother was too young to play the clubs. Ory did make it to Storyville in the 1910s, then moved to Los Angeles in 1919, eventually making his way to Chicago. In Chicago, he played with King Oliver, Jelly Roll, and Louis Armstrong. Ory took a long hiatus during the Great Depression, but his career enjoyed radio success from 1944-1961.
Dutt was one of the original “Creole Jazz” players. The Great Migration of Black Americans from former slave states to Northern and Western states saw many Black musicians move to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Ory played with King Oliver and Pops in Chicago, then settled in Los Angeles.
New Orleans Jazz by Edward J. Branley
From the back cover:
Discover how Jazz shaped the history and enhanced the life of the citizens of New Orleans.
From the days when Buddy Bolden would blow his cornet to attract an audience from one New Orleans park to another, to the brass bands in clubs and on the streets today, jazz in New Orleans has been about simple things: getting people to snap their fingers, tap their toes, get up and clap their hands, and most importantly dance! From the 1890s to World War I, from uptown to Faubourg Treme and out to the lakefront, New Orleans embraced this uniquely American form of music. Local musicians nurtured jazz, matured it, and passed it on to others. Some left the city to make their names elsewhere, while others stayed, playing the clubs, marching in the parades, and sending loved ones home with jazz funerals. Older musicians mentored younger ones, preserving the traditions that give New Orleans such an exciting jazz scene today.
Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.
Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Maison Blanche Department Store, 1910
I Tell Stories
I’ve written six books on various aspects of the history of New Orleans. They’re stories ranging from streetcars to department stores to schools to Jazz. I earned a BA in Social Sciences Education from the University of New Orleans in 1980. I taught Social Studies at a local high school for a few years. Teaching History is indeed storytelling. It’s a good bit more, of course, particularly when working to improve students’ reading skills, but the content is stories about things in the past. I moved on from high school, using retail sales as a bridge. Invariably, I came back to telling stories, as an adult education instructor (UNO Metropolitan College), and later moving into the world of corporate training. Everything involved storytelling.
While delivering corporate training, I needed things to stay occupied when out of the classroom. So, in 2003, I pitched a book idea to Arcadia Publishing. Streetcars vanished from Canal Street in New Orleans in 1964. The city planned to bring them back, forty years later. It was a great story to share. Even though many stories exist about the older, senior streetcar line, St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street remained essentially an untold story. Arcadia liked the idea and I wrote the book. Promoting a book means telling stories to get folks to buy it.
St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880
After the first book, more storytelling opportunities materialized. I pitched a book about my high school, Brother Martin, in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. The school’s roots go back to 1869, when the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened St. Aloysius in the Vieux Carré. Promoting two books opened up more possibilities. I told shorter stories as the “history blogger” for GoNOLA.com, a site sponsored by the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, now New Orleans, Incorporated. Monthly exposure led to weekly exposure. Various groups around the area invited me to speak to their membership. I’m particularly flattered that the Friends of the Cabildo’s Tour Guides regularly have me in to talk.
Of course, none of this history stuff, from teaching to writing to speaking, pays quite like corporate computer consulting and training. I lived a double life in this respect. That presented challenges for my LinkedIn Presence.
Ramping up LinkedIn
The “second” St. Charles Hotel, stereo card by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880.
I’ve had a presence on LinkedIn since 2007. While I was a good bit active when developing a client base for YatMedia, my activity diminished after that side of what I do scaled back. The computer work I do rarely involves anything local. I traveled extensively for years, teaching UNIX and Enterprise Storage for international companies. The market for those products and services only touches New Orleans very lightly. So, I flew literally around the world, delivering training. The sales staffs of the companies I’ve taught for did the dirty work. I showed up and taught. I still do, in fact, even though “showing up” now means walking here to my home office and firing up WebEx.
The corporate training landscape changed dramatically around 2016 or so. I remember, during the pandemic, a good friend started a podcast for IT professionals. Jeff interviewed folks, and we talked about how the pandemic changed work habits, etc. I explained that my training workload went “virtual” long before people knew what Zoom was about. Traditional job recruiters didn’t help me, since I work through a training company that contracts me out to computer companies. So, even though I’m self-employed, I don’t present a target for those looking to increase their business using LinkedIn.
It’s fun to include LinkedIn users when I tell stories. The larger the audience, the more people I can interest in buying the books! Still, LinkedIn remained secondary to Twitter and Facebook. Now that those platforms morphed into dumpster fires in many ways, the stability of LinkedIn is appealing.
Photo of Dan’s Pier 600 club, ca. 1955. Dan Levy, Sr., opened Pier 600 in the early 1950s. While the club stood at 501 Bourbon, corner St. Louis, it gets its name from Dan Levy’s restaurant at 600 Bourbon. Levy enjoyed success with Dan’s International Settlement, at 600 Bourbon, corner Toulouse.
Al Hirt (right), with guests, at Dan’s Pier 600 Jazz Club, 1950s.
Dan’s Pier 600 hosted a number of jazz musicians over the years. Before opening his own club, Al Hirt played Pier 600 regularly. He recorded Volume 3 of his “Swingin’ Dixie” series at the club. You can see Jumbo’s photo on the St. Louis Street side of the club. He’s wearing a crown, and the caption says, “Al Hirt – He’s the King.” Pete Fountain also played at Pier 600 in the early days of his career, both with Hirt and also on his own.
Levy’s son, Dan Jr., joined his father in the business upon his return to the city from college in 1956. Dan Jr. In addition to managing Pier 600, he managed The Al Hirt Club, The Old Absinthe Bar and Nobody Likes a Smart Ass comedy club.
Dan’s International Settlement served Chinese food at 600 Bourbon. While there was a robust Chinese community in New Orleans dating back to the 19th Century, Dan’s is regarded as the first commercial Chinese restaurant in town. Levy opened the restaurant in 1946, partnering with Frank Gee. The location is now Tropical Isle.
A number of articles over the years The street lamp in this photo of Pier 600 clearly says it’s at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Streets. That’s 501 Bourbon. 600 Bourbon is at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon. So, the two establishments are not just one building, re-branded over the years. Pier 600 was a shout-out to the existing restaurant. While the restaurant’s building looks much like it did in the 1950s, the Pier 600 building underwent significant renovations.
Photo is courtesy the New Orleans Jazz Museum collection. Thanks also to Dominic Massa, for his 2014 obit of Dan Jr., when he was at WWL-TV.
“Mr. Tailgate,” Trombonist Santo Pecora, was a mainstay in the NOLA Jazz scene.
Trombonist Santo Pecora
Born Santo Joseph Pecoraro, trombonist Santo Pecora played with a number of bands in the 1920s. He changed his last name because his cousin, also Santo Pecoraro, was already playing professionally as a drummer. The two occasionally played together, in large ensemble gigs.
Santo, born March 21, 1902 in New Orleans, played in orchestras for silent movies in the early 1920s. He joined the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in Chicago, in 1925. Pecora’s discography began at this time, recording with the NORK. He also recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, the Wingy Manone Orchestra, Wynn’s Creole Jazz Band, and The Orleanians.
By the 1930s, Santo was a regular in the Chicago scene. He toured with Sharkey Bonano, then later moved to Los Angeles, touring with Wingy Manone. While playing with Manone, he also did studio work for the movie studios.
Trombonist Santo Pecora’s early career in New Orleans was typical of many jazz musicians. He earned the nickname, “Mr. Tailgate,” because he played daytime gigs off the back of a horse-drawn wagon. Jazz Bands usually played night gigs, at places like fraternal/masonic halls, dance clubs, even baseball parks. To promote those gigs, the bands would ride around town on a wagon. They would play, promote the paid gig that evening, and busk for tips.
Playing on a wagon presented a complication for the trombonist. While the other musicians could stand on either side of a wagon, the trombone stuck out too far. It could hit someone/something, and injure them. Worse yet, from the musician’s perspective, the trombone could be damaged. So, they lowered the wagon’s tailgate. The trombonist sat, legs dangling off the back. Santo joined these bands to pick up tips.
Pecora returned to New Orleans with Sharkey Bonano’s band in the after World War II. He played regular gigs in local clubs and the riverboats through the 1950s, leading a couple of bands into the 1960s. He then stepped back from full-time work in the 1970s. He passed on May 29, 1984.
The King Fish Beer Parlor anchored the 1100 block of Decatur Street
King Fish Beer Parlor
William Russell photo of the King Fish Beer Parlor, 1101 Decatur Street. The photo, courtesy the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, is undated. Most of Russell’s photos date to the 1950s. The building stands at the corner of Ursuline and Decatur Streets. So, the corner housed a number of businesses over the years. From the 1900s to the 1950s, the owners leased 1101 Decatur as dance clubs, night clubs, and jazz clubs. These clubs created an expansion into the Ursuline Row Houses that continue down the 1100 block. It’s currently mixed-use residential/commercial.
This address consists of three, nice late Victorian Eclectic style brick commercial buildings designed by Thomas Sully for the Ursulines Nuns. The building at the corner has three stories and the other two buildings facing Ursulines each have two stories. These structures replaced the original Ursulines Row Houses that were destroyed by fire.
So, the 1884 building operated as a manufacturing/warehouse facility. The owners leased the ground floor as retail space. Cigar maker Jules Sarrazin moved his business there. By 1900, the ground floor became a night club, the Pig Pen. That club later moved to Bourbon Street. The King Fish Beer Parlor took its place at 1101 Decatur.
The New Orleans Jazz Commission created a walking tour that includes the King Fish. The tour (PDF here) starts at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at 400 Esplanade. The museum occupies the Old US Mint. Additionally, there are still numismatic exhibits. Here’s the tour’s description for stop #6, 1101 Decatur:
This Italianate style building by architect Thomas Sully was built in 1884. The King Fish, probably known briefly as the Pig Pen, was another of the more longlived clubs. Operated by Vincent Serio, Jr. and Arthur Schott, aka the King Fish, the musicians featured included George Lewis, Billie Pierce, Dee Dee Pierce, Burke Stevenson, and Smilin’ Joe (Pleasant Joseph).
So, 1101 Decatur pushed me down rabbit hole! While its history as a jazz club attracted me, the full story requires attention. More to come on this fascinating corner.