King Oliver

Joe “King” Oliver (December 19, 1885 to April 8, 1938), was a jazz musician and bandleader. Joe “King” Oliver was a Louisiana native who moved to New Orleans as a teenager. Oliver was a cornet player in New Orleans’ brass bands, dance bands, and in Storyville’s red-light district. He co-led the band with Kid Ory, a trombonist. It was considered New Orleans’ most popular and most successful in the 1910s. Oliver was a popular New Orleans musician who enjoyed a wide range of roles, from playing in rough black dance halls to debutante parties in white society. Interview at Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archive, with Stella Oliver, Oliver and his band were involved in a fight that broke out at Oliver’s 1919 dance. The police then arrested Oliver and her band. Oliver decided to leave Jim Crow South. After his travels to California, Oliver became the jazz “King”, in Chicago by 1922 (see: Jazz royalty). King Oliver and the Creole Jazz Band performed at the Royal Gardens, later renamed as the Lincoln Gardens. Almost all of the band members had notable solo careers. Oliver was on the cornet and his protégé Louis Armstrong, second cornet. Baby Dodds played drums, Johnny Dodds played clarinet. Lil Hardin, later Armstrong’s wife, played piano. Honore Dutray played trombone and Bill Johnson played banjo and bass. This group recorded recordings in 1923, demonstrating the serious artistry of New Orleans’ collective improvisation or Dixieland music to an even wider audience. Oliver’s group transformed into a mix of the New Orleans-style jazz band and the larger, more popular dance band. He was named “King Oliver” in the late 1920s.

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