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King Oliver

King Oliver and Lil Hardin in SF, 1921

A knowledgeable member of the Organissimo forum started a thread on King Oliver, one of the jazz pioneers about whom we don't know nearly enough. That said, I thought I'd quote an illuminating recollection by Lil Armstrong, who was a very dear friend of mine and with whom I collaborated on a book.

Sad to say, our project was shelved in 1971, when Lil passed away. She was performing at a memorial for Louis, a man she never stopped loving. Much more to come about Lil, whom I met in 1961 while producing Chicago sessions for the Riverside label. Anyway, here is her hitherto unpublished observation on Oliver.
"Joe appeared quiet and reserved, but he could keep you in stitches saying funny things under his breath. He sat next to the piano and, at intermission or between sets, would tell me jokes--nasty ones, clean ones, and some true ones. He got a big kick out of shocking me and my modesty with the nasty ones. I resented the nasty ones he told me, but said not a word to him about it—I’d just listen to everything he said, all the time learning about men and their ways. I soon found out that New Orleans men were as great in philandering as they were in music… Joe took me into his confidence, later I figured out why he had done so. Whereas he was a sensational cornetist, his musical knowledge was limited; when it became necessary for us to learn a new tune, Joe had me go over it with him alone. Consequently, when the band rehearsed together, he already knew it, and no one was the wiser. I didn’t mind at all, in fact, it made me feel important to be of real service to the King. I never failed to ask him anything I wanted to know about anything, he really ‘put my boots on'."

Here's more about Oliver.


  1. Great piece of jazz history, Chris. I'm excited to see your new blog and am looking forward to your future posts.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Great to have a window to your vast knowledge and wonderful experiences in the blogosphere, Chris!

    Best regards,
    Agustín Pérez