King Oliver: Dippermouth Blues

10 Apr

Remembering cornetist Joe “King” Oliver on the anniversary of his death in 1938.

It was nearly 90 years ago that Oliver brought his music and Louis Armstrong to Chicago from New Orleans. His most famous band was King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band (he brought his nickname, too), which performed in Chicago in the early ’20s and included bassist Bill Johnson, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, pianist Lil Hardin (Armstrong’s first wife), and Armstrong, who came to Chicago when Oliver asked him to.

Oliver roared through the 20s, his bands changing personnel and names, but the good times ended before the decade did. Oliver turned down a job at New York’s Cotton Club that was then given to Duke Ellington; Oliver was beginning to suffer from pyorrhea (gum disease), according to Arnold Shaw’s The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920s, and playing became difficult. His last recording, according to pbs.org, was in 1931.

He was working as janitor in a pool hall in Savannah, Ga., when he died at 52.

From Shaw’s book: “That was my only teacher, the one and only Joe Oliver,” said Armstrong.

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