New Orleans Rhythm Kings

New Orleans Rhythm Kings
The New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1922. Left to right: Leon Roppolo, Jack Pettis, Elmer Schoebel, Arnold Loyacano, Paul Mares, Frank Snyder, George Brunies.

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (nicknamed NORK) were one of the most influential jazz bands of the early-to-mid 1920s. The band was a combination of New Orleans and Chicago musicians who helped shape Chicago Jazz and influenced many younger jazz musicians.


History of the band

In 1919, New Orleans-born cornetist Paul Mares travelled to Chicago and played with, among other performers, childhood friend and trombonist George Brunies. The pair got a job performing on a Mississippi riverboat, the S.S. Capitol. It was there that they were reunited with clarinetist Leon Roppolo, another childhood friend from New Orleans. The trio soon recruited pianist Elmer Schobel, drummer Frank Snyder, bassist Alfred Loyacano, and banjoist Lou Black and in 1922, began a 17-month engagement at the Friar's Inn in Chicago. The group adopted the name of the club for their own name—The Friar's Society Orchestra—but changed it to New Orleans Rhythm Kings, which had been the name of Roppolo's former band when he travelled with vaudeville artist Bee Palmer.[1][2]

While at the Friar's Inn, the group attracted the interest not only of fans, but of other musicians. Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who had been sent to school in Chicago by his parents in the hopes of removing any jazz influences, regularly attended New Orleans Rhythm Kings shows. He was often allowed to perform with the band.[3]

The group recorded a series of records for Gennett Records in 1922 and 1923. On two of these sessions, they were joined by pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton. (The session with Morton has sometimes been incorrectly called the first mixed-race recording session;[1] actually there were several earlier examples.)

Despite being one of the best-regarded bands in Chicago, their hot New Orleans style was not to everyone's liking. The club management pushed the band heavily to go to the more arranged nationally popular style of dance band "jazz" typified by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Unable to find regular work at a club that would leave them to do what they did best, the band broke up. George Brunies snapped up a lucrative offer from the nationally famous Ted Lewis Band. Mares and Roppolo headed east together to try their luck in New York City.

Mares, Roppolo, and Martin reformed the band back in New Orleans, where they made more recordings for Okeh and Victor in early 1925.

Various former members of the original New Orleans Rhythm Kings revived the band's name at various times from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Compositions and arrangements by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings continue to be played by "Traditional Jazz" or "Dixieland" bands all over the world today. Some of their famous compositions and contributions to the jazz repertory include "Bugle Call Rag", "Milenburg Joys", "Farewell Blues", "Angry", "Baby", "Discontented Blues", "She's Crying For Me", "Oriental", "I Never Knew What a Girl Could Do", "Everybody Loves Somebody Blues", and "Tin Roof Blues".

"Make Love to Me", a 1954 pop song by Jo Stafford, using the New Orleans Rhythm King's music from the 1923 jazz standard "Tin Roof Blues", became a no.1 hit. Anne Murray and B. B. King also recorded "Make Love to Me". Jo Stafford's recording of "Make Love to Me" was no.1 for three weeks on the Billboard charts and no.2 on Cashbox.


The New Orleans contingent

The Chicago contingent

  • Louis 'Lou' Black, banjo
  • Voltaire de Faut, clarinet, saxophone
  • Bob Gillette, banjo
  • Husk O'Hare, promoter
  • Don Murray, clarinet, saxophone
  • Bee Palmer, vocalist
  • Jack Pettis, saxophone
  • Kyle Pierce, piano
  • Ben Pollack, drums
  • Elmer Schoebel, piano, arranger
  • Glen Scoville, saxophone
  • Frank Snyder, drums
  • Mel Stizel, piano

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b New Orleans Rhythm Kings biography. The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Retrieved June 29, 2006.
  2. ^ " Friars Society Orchestra / New Orleans Rhythm Kings" Starr-Gennett Foundation, Inc. Retrieved June 29, 2006.
  3. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. Jazz: A History of America's Music. Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 0-679-76539-5

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