Photo of a Masonic funeral procession from the late 1940s/early 1950s.
Masonic Funeral Procession
Officers of Axiom Lodge #216, Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliation (PHA), lead a funeral procession. Undated photo Axiom Lodge dates to 1951, so photo is likely 1950s. Perhaps someone with more automobile knowledge can pinpoint the truck on the left side. Axiom Lodge is incorporated in Faubourg Treme. So, it’s possible this procession walks through that neighborhood.
The officer front and center is likely a Warden of the Lodge. He carries the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL). This is likely a bible. Behind the Warden walks the Worshipful Master. He wears a hat, indicating his office. The Master walks under an arch of two pikes, carried by Tylers. A Tyler of a Masonic lodge serves as the guardian of the lodge room. He stands outside as the lodge gathers, challenging those who desire entrance. In this procession two Masons function as guardians of the Master.
Prince Hall Affiliation
Prince Hall was a man, a free Black Bostonian. He was born ~1735. Hall became an abolitionist and an influencer in the Black community of Boston. He encouraged Black men to reject British rule and support the revolution. Hall believed that white men would recognize the contributions of Blacks in the formation of the new nation.
Hall recognized that the two most important institutions in Colonial society were the military and freemasonry. Ironically, Hall was initiated into a lodge attached to the British Army. Lodge 441, chartered by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, initiated Hall and fourteen other Black men into freemasonry.
Hall in turn founded African Lodge 1. So, the membership named him Grand Master. After Hall’s death in 1807, African-affiliated lodges sought to join the Grand Lodges of their respective states. The white lodges rejected them. So, the African lodges formed an Independent Grand Lodge. “Prince Hall Affiliated” lodges grew in number. Additionally, more white grand lodges recognized the African Grand Lodge.
While most growth of Prince Hall freemasonry occurred in Union states, the movement eventually moved into rebel states. PHA lodges grew in Jim Crow states, since the structure was already segregated.
Hot 5 Kid Ory gets less attention than the band leader, Louis Armstrong.
Hot 5 Kid Ory
It’s no surprise that articles about the Hot 5 focus around Pops, but Hot 5 Kid Ory influenced the Chicago jazz scene in the 1920s. This publicity photo for the band presents (l-r) Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Lil Armstrong, and Johnny St. Cyr.
You can learn the full story of the Kid’s Chicago years in Johnny Mac’s book, Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz, and out at the 1811 Kid Ory House in Laplace, LA.
David Guion, in his 2015 article, Kid Ory, Trombonist, Businessman, sums up his time in Chicago:
In 1924, both King Oliver and Louis Armstrong asked him to join them in Chicago, promising good money from recording sessions. Over the next five years, he participated in landmark recordings with Armstrong’s Hot Five, Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators, Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, the New Orleans Wanderers (basically the Hot Five with George Mitchell on cornet instead of Armstrong’s trumpet.)
In some ways, the Kid was a victim of his own success, as Sicilian interests looked to leverage Jim Crow laws to control Creole musicians. Like King Oliver and Pops, the Kid got fed up with the New Orleans scene. Instead of heading up to Chicago, Ory went West, to Los Angeles. Still, King Oliver and Pops kept in contact, encouraging him to come to Chicago. He did just that in 1924. The five years Ory spent in Chicago were magical for Traditional Jazz.
So, yes, any band led by Pops naturally focuses on his magic. Hot 5 Kid Ory deserves props as well. Guion points out Ory’s skill as a band leader and businessman. Any band that includes a musician who understands management benefits. Ory’s networking ability enabled him to score all those recording gigs.
Go out to the museum and learn more about early jazz!
Sharkey’s Trumpet was a gold-plated award from the NOJC.
Mrs. Myra Menville presents an award trumpet to Sharkey Bonano in 1955. Bonano, who was born in Milneburg, played with a number of legends of New Orleans Jazz, including Freedie Newman and Chink Martin. He auditioned for The Wolverines when Bix Beiderbecke left the band in the 1930s, but was turned down. He eventually did play with The Wolverines, in New York. Bonano also joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, playing alongide Beiderbecke.
After World War II, Bonano returned to New Orleans. He played clubs on Bourbon Street, particularly the Famous Door.
The award trumpet
The New Orleans music industry regularly recognized the first generation jazz players. The caption for this award photo:
A gold plated $400 Trumpet “from a group of admirers in New Orleans” was presented to Sharkey Bonano Friday night as Sharkey and His Kings of Dixieland appeared at the third and climaxing jazz program of the Summer “Pops” concert in Beauregard Square. Shown are Mrs. John G. Menville, secretary, New Orleans Jazz Club, who made the presentation, and the jazzman. The award was “for his contribution to the revival of New Orleans music in New Orleans.”
The 1950s revival of “Dixieland” Jazz marked an important shift in the local music scene. Jazz historians, afficianados, and younger players realized that the first-generation musicians weren’t getting any younger. They took steps to preserve the music. We now usually refer to “Dixieland” as “Traditional” Jazz.
This presentation took place at a “Pops” concert series in 1955, held at Beauregard Square. While this name was well-known in the early 1900s, Modern New Orleanians may be more familiar with this area from its original name, Congo Square. After the Southern Rebellion, white New Orleanians brought the Lost Cause of the Confederacy to the forefront. Many locations were re-named to recognize figures from the rebellion. P. G. T. Beauregard was one of those.
So, during the French-Spanish Colonial period, Catholics usually granted the enslaved half a day to a day off on Sundays, ostensibly for worship. The enslaved would gather for drumming and dancing in an open area just north of the city limits, in what is now Faubourg Treme. This is how Place Congo got its name. Later, as the original parade ground, the Place d’Armes, evolved into Jackson Square, Place Congo became the city’s parade ground. Additionally, the city returned the original name to the Square in the 1970s.
Richards and Gillette were a married couple and jazz act.
Richards and Gillette
Bob Gillette and his wife, Shirley Richards, posing on the railroad tracks in Milneburg in 1952. Gillette played the banjo. He played with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, then Bix Beiderbecke & the Wolverines. He was the first banjoist for The Wolverines.
After playing for years with Bix, he toured with his wife, as a song-and-dance act.
New Orleans Rhythm Kings
The NORK began with white Chicago jazz musicians encouraging New Orleans musicians to come up and gig. By 1922, NORK attracted Jelly Roll Morton and the cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. The band recorded with Gennett Records. As the band grew in popularity, they picked up Gillette.
Beiderbecke left the NORK to form The Wolverines, and Gillette went with him. Bix left The Wolverines in the mid-1930s. Soon after, Gillette switched to the act with his wife.
Richards and Gillette toured extensively, playing hotels. They played The Monteleone Hotel in 1952. He contacted the New Orleans Jazz Club while in town. They invited him to a meeting, and he ended up sitting in with Johnny Wiggs and his band.
I can’t find the backstory on this particular photo. By 1951, the Milneburg that Gillette played with the Sicilians was long gone. The train tracks here are the New Orleans Terminal Company (later Southern Railway, now Norfolk-Southern Railroad) “Back Belt.” These tracks lead out to the “five mile bridge” across Lake Pontchartrain. It looks like this is out along the lake, near the fishing camps off Hayne Boulevard.
While researching Gillette, I came across a 1961 article in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Discussing replacing Bix in The Wolverines.
But he does recall the difficulty in replacing Beiderbecke. And with due embarrassment that they brushed off an eager young trumpeter in derby and yellow shoes after a brief audition and sent him home to New Orleans. His name was Sharkey Banano (sic).
Funny how things work out.
Twelve Months New Orleans April, continuing the series by Enrique Alferez
Twelve Months New Orleans April
This image is the Fourth in a series of images by Enrique Alferez, published by Michael Higgins as “The Twelve Months of New Orleans.” Higgins published the illustrations in 1940. The image features dancers celebrating April’s spring festivals.
Alferez was born in Northern Mexico on May 4, 1901. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1927 to 1929. He came to New Orleans in 1929. Alferez made New Orleans his home. He took advantage of various Works Progress Administration grants in the late 1930s. Alferez created a number of sculptures in the metro area, particularly in New Orleans City Park. He also designed the large fountain in front of Shushan Airport (now New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Alferez drew and painted, as well as sculpting. He included many New Orleans landmarks in the “Twelve Months” booklet.
The title/cover page of the booklet says:
A set of 12 Romantic
Displaying 60 local subjects
drawn direct on the plate
with pen, brush, and crayon
Printed and published by Michael Higgins
at 303 North Peters St
Mardi Gras is over and March is all about Spring and Lent.
Top Left: Baseball Opens. Baseball, featuring the New Orleans Pelicans. The border for the illustration includes baseballs and bats.
Top Right: N.O. Horse Show. Plantations and farms around New Orleans bred and raced horses for centuries. That culture continued into the 1940s. The New Orleans Horse Show featured the finest of local horses.
Bottom Left: “Flower Shows.” After Lent, every blooming flower offered an excuse for a show or festival. Competition between growers of specific varietals was intense.
Bottom Right: “Lovers in the Park” – Sitting out under a clear sky and full moon! Even before Daylight Saving Time, couples enjoyed Audubon and City Parks in the evening.
Music and Dance
Easter Sunday broke the solemnity of Lent and Holy Week. Springtime bloomed, warmed, and excited New Orleanians. That meant hot jazz! Alferez recognized our desire to snap our fingers and dance. He presents a couple dancing to a jazz trio of drums, trumpet and trombone. Alferez captions the image:
See you for the fifth image in May.
Jazz Funeral for Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau
Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau was born in New Orleans, in 1888. He was related to many early Jazz musicians. While Pavageau began his career as a dancer, Alcide also played guitar with a number of early Jazz musicians. He learned double bass in 1927, constructing his own 3-string instrument, at the age of 39. At the age of 55, he joined George Lewis’ band, touring with him through the 1950s. Alcide also played with Bunk Johnson, in New York, in 1945. He spent time in the 1960s, playing with the Eureka Brass Band and at Preservation Hall.
Alcide passed at his home at 932 S. Ann Street, on January 20, 1969. The jazz community carried him home with a traditional jazz funeral on Wednesday, January 22nd. Alcide arrived at Morning Star Baptist Church at 910 Burgundy Street, for an 11am service. They brought him to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 after the service. The Times-Picayune’s Marcelle B. Wright wrote of the day:
Clappng hands, tapping toes, brightly festooned parasols and a slow drag music — a traditional jazz funeral. Such was the scene when Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau took his last journey through the French Quarter. He was accompanied by hundreds of jazz fans who were bidding farewell to the veteran jazz musician.
Then came the las’ slo’ drag to old St. Louis Cemetery zNo. 2. Many of his fellow musicians, Chicken Henry, Harold Dejan, Fats Houston, Minor Anderson, Darreil Johnson, Kid Shiek Colar and Percy Humphrey joined in playing those old haunting spirituals: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” And carrying through with tradition, the brass bands, with their second liners carrying multicolored umbrellas, led the crowd from the cemetery with the most popular, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“Marcelle B. Wright” later dropped her married name. You may know her and her work under her maiden name, Marcelle Bienvenu.
Pavageau got his nickname from his mastery of the “slow drag” dance step. Since double bass wasn’t a practical instrument to play in parades, Alcide took up the job of Grand Marshal. He led many a parade and jazz funeral with his famous slow drag step.