Thanks to preservationhall001 for the Youtube
This is the Black Bottom Stomp recorded as a 78 RPM record by Victor on September 15, 1926, by Jelly Roll Morton and his Band the Red Hot Peppers. Since I played Paul Lingle’s sensitive version two weeks ago, I thought I’d play the original Jelly Roll Morton Red Hot Peppers hot band version today. There is a credit crawl of the personnel in the band, Omer Simeon and Johnny St. Cyr were his longest playing sidemen.
Jelly Roll Morton was an important but controversial figure in early Jazz and his records were what first got me interested in this old Jazz music. I heard an RCA Victor Vintage Reissue LP of Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers at my Cousin Walter’s house and I had to have a copy of my own.
1926 through 1929 were the years at the height of Morton’s popularity. During the Depression years he had to disband the band, and he hit hard times in the early 1930’s. In some ways, his musical ideas were left behind when the Swing music became the popular dance music in the mid 1930’s.
I originally planned to write more about Jelly Roll Morton, but there is too much material for a single post. Jelly Roll Morton recorded 8 volumes of oral history for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress. I won’t get into that in this post, except to cover the main controversy.
Jelly Roll Morton got into disputes with people over his legacy, most famously with the producers of the radio program Ripley’s Believe it Or Not(!). That program credited W.C. Handy with inventing jazz, stomps, and blues. Morton wrote his rebuttal in Down Beat Magazine, claiming he invented Jazz in 1902. My own view is that this was a silly argument among big egos who each had a role in making Jazz what it was in that era. It’s like debating who invented the English Language. To be continued. . .
Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is still active today. It was founded by Robert Ripley in 1918 as a cartoon feature supplement for newspapers primarily about sports. It grew quickly in popularity and subject matter, and then went on radio, movie shorts, and later television. It hired researchers such as Norbert Pearforth who spent 52 years, ten hours a day, six days a week looking for strange, tantalizing stories and doing fact checks for Ripley at the New York Public Library.
Preservationhall001 features pictures of Jelly Roll Morton’s Vocalstyle piano rolls, but this performance of the Black Bottom Stomp is from a 78 phonograph record. Vocalstyle was purchased by QRS in 1926 and ceased operations in 1928. Piano rolls had the best fidelity sound for the period, since they were one step away from a live performance. But, phonograph records had the huge advantage of recording bands and vocals, not just piano playing.
I’ll get back to Jelly Roll Morton’s Library of Congress Recordings at a later date.