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Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe

(1890 - 1941)
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Most famous of the Storyville "Professors."
His musical history began in 1902 when he was seventeen and visited one of New Orleans's more celebrated night spots, the Villere and Bienville.  All the piano greats of New Orleans habitually gathered in its back room after working hours to perform themselves or to listen to others.

It was not long before Morton began making a career of playing the piano in the city's brothels and barrel houses.  He became, as Hugues Panassie said of him, the father of jazz piano, the one from whom subsequent jazz pianist took their inspiration.  "Jelly Roll's style is typically New Orleans," wrote Panassie.  "His splendidly constructed phrases recall the phrases of the great New Orleans trumpets."

Between 1909 and 1915, Morton appeared at Tom Anderson's Annex in New Orleans, as well as many other places in and out of the city.  California became his base of operations from 1915 to 1923, Chicago from 1923 to 1928, and New York from 1928 to 1935.

Between 1924 and 1926 he made recordings of his own music for Gannett, Paramount, Rialto and Vocalion which revealed him in full command of his creative and performing resources.  More remarkable still are his hot band versions of his rags and blues recorded for Victor between September 1926 and October 1930 with his own ensemble, Morton's Red Hot Peppers.  Here are found such Morton gems as the "Black Bottom Stomp," "Smokehouse Blues" and "Dead Man Blues."

In 1938, Alan Lomax had Morton record at the Library of Congress one hundred and sixteen sides in which "Jelly Roll" played his pieces, and those of some of his famous contemporaries, besides talking about himself and his music, and even doing some singing.  He was now an old and sick man, with faltering fingers and delayed reactions.  Yet his individualized approach to ragtime and blues and his incredible inventiveness endowed many of these recordings with historical importance.

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