ON THE ROAD, 1905 – 1917
Morton travels as pianist, vaudevillian and businessman  ·  First publication

Peter Hanley sends the following population statistics of cities and towns in Jelly Roll Morton’s travels, 1905 to spring 1923.

 Population Statistics of Cities and Towns
 in Jelly Roll’s travels, 1905 to spring 1923

Brian Goggin sends the following article from The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel, dated Wednesday, 1st March 1905, page 11, column 3.

The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel


Richmond, Ind., Feb. 24. — An explosion of natural gas today wrecked the residence of Henry W. Wickemeyer and injured Ezra Wickemeyer, aged 12, Thomas Shiegler, a plumber and Bartley Gordon, an employe (sic) of the gas company. The two men struck a match to look for a gas leak.

Note: 12-year old Ezra Wickemeyer above, went on to become the recording engineer at Gennett Records in New York City and Richmond, Indiana. Famous jazz artists, who included Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, were recorded under his supervision.

Note: A photograph of the house, which was located at 300 South Third Street, Richmond, Indiana depicts the aftermath of the explosion. [WH]

Note: See also Brian Goggin’s essay of Ezra C. A. Wickemeyer accompanied by his WWI Draft Registration Card.

Lizzie Mouton, (Jelly Roll Morton’s mother) aged 35 years, died of phthisic pulmonitis (more correctly, phthisis pulmonitis) at 1622 Poydras Street, New Orleans on 24th May 1906. [F 58]

Prof. Alan Wallace and Prof. Lawrence Gushee send the following article from The Biloxi Daily Herald, dated Wednesday, 31st July 1907, page 1, column 3.

The Biloxi Daily Herald

Court Cases


Constable Cal Smith and Police Officer Randolph made a raid last night on a party of negro gamblers who had gathered around a table at what is known among the negroes as “Flat Top.” “Flat Top” is Arthur Glover’s restaurant and general rendezvous for the colored brotherhood at the old Electric light plant, where in times gone by the police have made more than one raid on the devotees of “craps” and the game called “Georgia Skin.”

Last night it was the Georgia Skin game again and there were five young negroes circled about a table in a back room. It was about 9 o’clock when the two officers discovered the game to be in progress. It is not easy for two men to corner and hold five, especially in a room with several doors, but the officers feared that if they sent for help the gamblers would get the cue and escape entirely. Accordingly they burst in the door. There was immediately a rush and Mr. Randolph was knocked down and run over but managed to retain one of the men and Smith got another.

When brought before Judge Champlin this morning they gave their names as Hunt Harper and Will Avery, and their fines and costs amounted in each case to $6.05.

Jelly Roll mentions the Flat Top honky tonk in Alan Lomax’s book Mister Jelly Roll. [MJR 41]

The Flat Top honky tonk was owned by Arthur Glover and relied on the trade of local turpentine distillery workers who frequented the place for gambling, which included the card game Georgia Skin and also for the services of prostitutes such as Kid Lu, Katie Powell, and Hattie Hearst. [OMJ 141]

Jelly Roll Morton gives an extended narrative about the Georgia Skin card game on the Library of Congress recordings. [AFS 1679-B] - [AFS 1680-A] and [AFS 1680-B]

Prof. Alan Wallace and Prof. Lawrence Gushee send the following article from The Biloxi Daily Herald, dated Wednesday, 28th August 1907, page 1, column 5.

The Biloxi Daily Herald

Court Cases

Lee Nelson and Mattie Bailey, two white women, were each fined $5 and costs for disorderly conduct, to which charge they plead guilty.

Jelly Roll mentions Mattie Bailey in Alan Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll. [MJR 42]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 26th October 1907, page 5, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman



William Benlow (Benbow) has opened a vaudeville house in Pensacola, Fla., and has played to packed houses each night. The company is composed of ten hard workers, and the house has been open five weeks. Mrs. Alberta Benlow (Benbow) takes them by storm with her coon shouting; Lee Cobb, the Mississippi Sunflower is “breaking their jaws” with his comedy; little Johnny Stevens, the kid buck and wing dancer, has composed a step, entitled “The King of Them All”; Louise Meggs is making good singing “I like a Little Loving.” Prof. Frank Rachel and his orchestra is handling some clever musicians. Wm. Benbow sends regards to Paul Carter, Billy Arnte, and say, what about the coming season?

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Biloxi Daily Herald, dated Tuesday, 16th June 1908, page 1, column 2.

The Biloxi Daily Herald

Court Cases

L. B. Thomas, a colored barber, who has his shop at Croesus street and the railroad, was in police court this morning. There was a bad bruise over Thomas’ left eye and a long blue mark lay underneath the same feature. He was charged with disorderly conduct and after some little hesitation decided to plead guilty.

Ed Hunter, colored, was up for disorderly conduct by word and deed likewise his wife Laura Hunter. Juniu Roux, hack driver and Joe Landry, colored drayman, were the pricipal witnesses against them. Last night about eight o’clock Roux went to Landry’s house on a matter of business. There was a disturbance outside and Mrs. Roux, who had been waiting for Mr. Roux in the carriage, came in to say that some one was throwing bricks. Roux and Landry went outside and found Hunter and his wife there and accused Hunter of creating the disturbance, whereupon, according to their testimony they both began cursing and using opprobrious epithets. Hunter was fined $5 and cost and his wife $1 and costs.

Note: Laura Hunter, Jelly Roll’s godmother, was formerly known as Eulalie Hécaud. She was married to Edward Hunter (born in Louisiana, January 1867), a carpenter by trade.

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following articles from the “Sport Pages” of the Oakland Tribune, dated Saturday, 20th June; Sunday 21st June and Monday 22nd June 1908. The combined articles and reports mention Bill Johnson and Kid North, both who were close associates of Jelly Roll Morton.

Oakland Tribune

In his baseball gossip column in the Oakland Tribune — “CHIT-CHAT OF THE GAME” — T. P. Magilligan wrote on Saturday, 20th June 1908:



Just to whoop ‘er up and add a bit more enthusiasm to the sport, President Ed Walter of the Oakland Baseball Club has engaged the Creole Crushers, West Oakland’s great ragtime band, and the greatest catch-as-catch-can ragtime orchestra in the world, to play for the patrons of Freeman’s Park Sunday morning.

Mr. Walter made the arrangements last night, and the leader of the “Creole Crushers” expressed his willingness to “disperse and expound” some real ragtime.

When Mr. Walter had completed his arrangements with the bandmaster, one booster for the Creole melody maulers brushed up to the President of the Oakland Club and said: “Lawdy muh, Colonel, you shoah hab one set of music makers. Say, boss, ah jes kaint keep still wen dat ban begins to play. Boss, wait’ll you heah dem bos teah up dat ole New Orleans rag. Say, dey put de gumbo on till its mosly ravishin. When dey plays dat ole rag de gumbo jes slips outen dem hone and dey ‘ud shualy make a cross-eyed rabbit wid de ole roomatics hop erbout some. Dey most shualy as keen as yen hoke, and sharp as razahs.”

The Creole Crushers entertained the spectators at the West Oakland Club’s show Thursday night and those who heard them will vouch for it that they can play some rag time. The band is from New Orleans and they possess a repertoire of rag time melodies that can’t even be tied by any band that ever attempted the rag time stuff on the Coast.

The band will play between innings and before the game Sunday morning.

A special box preceding Magilligan’s account of the Saturday, 20th June contest appearing Sunday morning 21st June reads:

“Ed Walter, president of the Oakland ball club, will give the fans a treat today in the form of some up-to-date ragtime music, which will be rendered by the famous West Oakland Creole band. These musicians are from New Orleans and they intend to put on tap a brand of ragtime stark new to the local fans and music lovers. Such a music critic as Jerry Denny declares that this band is all to the mustard, and that they can make a horn do everything but get sassy. The band will discourse melodies of the Sunny South with classic variations and a few frills that should enliven the sport today. The music men will toot for about a half hour before the start of the contest and between innings.”

It seems likely from a number of similarities of vocabulary and manner of rendering African-American speech that Magilligan is also the author of the actual report of the game published in Monday evening’s newspaper of 22nd June, noteworthy for devoting almost as much space to the music as to the game:



Morning Game Goes to McCredie’s Men
9 to 6 and They Capture Afternoon
Contest 8 to 0.

[Standing of the clubs]

Walter McCredie and his band of human indigo sticks hogged the proceedings in the baseball doings yesterday by winning both games from the Athenians. The morning contest was captured by the “Blues” — score 9 to 6 — while they heaped the “coals” on in the afternoon at Jack Gleason’s yard 8 to 0.

The morning’s game was fraught with incidents that will tarry some in the memories of the fans. Music, attempted murder, mirth, frolic and baseball of the rip-snortin’, buck-board kind marked the pre-luncheon affair.

Creole Crusher

For the edification of the assembled “Bugs” and “Bugines,” Mr. W. M. Johnson’s world-renowned Creole Orchestra shattered the air with melody and en-livened the proceedings. Mr. Johnson’s Creoles put on tap a brand of rag time music that thrilled the bunch to their toes, and the chivalry and beauts cheered the musicianeers to the echo after each piece.

Mr. Johnson’s got some band, bo. ‘Taint organized none like dose raiglar regimental bands, nor does it worry itself by carrying music rolls. That orchestra includes and contains one snare drummer, greatest ever; one trombone artist, unrivalled; a cornet player, unmatched, a mondolin and guitar twanger and a bass viol, the latter three of which dispenses sounds dat shualey can set some feet to movin’.

An Obliging Orchestra

Mr. Johnsing and his Creoles are shualy an obligin’ lot, for they toots a heep after dey starts ‘er up, and keep a-tootin’ and a blowin’ and scrapin’ until the last fan ambles out of the park.

The rag that orchestra dispensed, free gratis to the fan, was of a new and weavy pattern. The gent with the trombone just cut holes in dat ole atmosphere, and when he got off to a runnin’ staht in any one piece he always finished head up and tail out ahead of his companion pieces in the picture. The cornet boy also trifled some with his instrument, and when he put de gumbo stuff on dat New Orleans rag dey was some shakin of feet dat resembled yards of fire hose in the left field bleachers. The mandolin and guitar boys were dere wid dat shivery stuff, and when dey tinkled they s
[h]ualy played music till de cows come home. The man wid de voil cut up some stuff dat was sharp as a razah and keen as a yen ho[?].

Music Makes Hit

While the band was tootin her along sharply the batters were punctuating the atmosphere with hits of various sizes and hues. During the morning contest Johnny Hopkins was tickled for fifteen hits, while the Athenians sawed off twelve bingles.

The ravishin’ music of the Creoles seemed to turn the otherwise solid brains of Dangerous Danzig into curdled milk and that gent tried to commit murder on the person of a respected citizen in the bleachers back of first base . . .

Magilligan’s fascination with the band continued into his gossip column on the same page:

“Tontogany Bill Wright was blue with envy at the capers that Creole band cut up. Bill’s home town of Tontogany (a very small town in northwestern Ohio) has a band of its own, and Bill swears that no bunch of orchestras outside of Sousa’s has it on that bunch of Tontogany Terrors. But the way that Creole bunch dragged music out of their instruments led the Oakland players to roast Willie’s home band and this grated on Bill’s gentle nerves.”

Quite remarkably the editor of the sports page, Eddie Smith, reported on the same page the presence of another figure known to jazz history in his account of “Billy Shannon’s boozerine and training quarters.”:

“In a small hall away from the bar at Shannon’s, the genial Mr. Billy has fitted up a piano room, and when the writer called last evening the melodious strains of the instrument intermingled with the rag-time shouting of one Kid North, breaking in on the quietude of the Marin county city, was heard long before the place was reached. Seated about the piano was Joe Gans, Jimmy Walsh and Jimmy Gardner, Eddie Keevin and a number of sparring partners. Not a word of fight passed between those present and barring the fact that the manner in which those present were attired and the healthy bright look on the faces of the men in training, intimated that they were athletes, one would hardly think there was a gymnasium within miles of the place, or a boxing night in which two of the fighters will take part, coming off next Friday night. The first shout heard as we appeared at the place was a demand from the champion lightweight to his faithful entertainer to sing “Who Thro’ Does Chicken Feathers Aro’nd Mah Door?” This melody appeared to be the favorite classic of the famous fighter, for he repeated the request many times during the short stay. Gardner and Walsh wanted (or would rather have had) a good Irish song with a bit of the old country’s ginger in it, but an Irish song sang by a “yaller man” is not a very fitting thing, so to please the congregation the ever ready North sang “St. Patrick’s Day’s a Bad Day for Coons,” which seemed to please the Irish lads greatly.”

Note: For detailed information about Bill Johnson and the Creole Band, readers are recommended to consult the widely-acclaimed book: Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band by Prof. Lawrence Gushee.

Note: Readers are recommended to consult the in-depth and well-researched information about Kid North by Dr. Robert Pinsker.

Note: See also Jelly Roll Morton’s Library of Congress monologue about Bill Johnson and early jazz bands.

From about 1908, Jelly Roll Morton toured along the Southern States of America with various vaudeville companies, notably Billy Kersand’s Minstrels, William Benbow, Fred Barrasso and McCabe’s Troubadours. It is most likely that he encountered and associated with many of the musicians mentioned here: Clarence Williams, Brockie Johnny, George W. Thomas, Frazier Davis, Frank Rachel, George Washington Smith, Porter King, Tony Jackson, John Spikes, Benjamin (Reb) Spikes, Benson “Froggy” Moore (Jelly Roll may have named Frog-I-More Rag for him), Baby Seals, Fred Washington, Prof. W. Roach, Ver Adams, Sid Isles, Jim Mills, Chilli Jim, Curtis Mosby, Butler May (String Beans) and Sammy Davis, described by Morton as being, “one of the greatest manipulators, I guess I’ve ever seen in the history of the world on a piano.”

In Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll, Morton tells the story of the lynching of Henry Lyder (Lider) at Biloxi, Mississippi.
[MJR 143] Prof. Lawrence Gushee has verified that this gruesome event occurred on 10th November 1908. [NAACP] See also Peter Hanley’s in-depth “portrait” of Henry Lider.

When Jelly Roll was travelling with the William Benbow troupe he tells of another lynching, this time in Greenwood, Mississippi.
[MJR 143] The victim of this dreadful event, which took place on 12th March 1909, was Joseph Gordon. [NAACP]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 17th April 1909, page 5, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



William Benbow and company gave a banquet for the Dandy Dixie Minstrels, Friday night, April 9. They were also entertained by the Pensacola Strollers. Charles Bough, Archie Toney, Henry Kinsie and Dick Morris, committee of arrangements. The two Raneys (Rainey’s) open with the show on the 7th, and Gertie Raney (Rainey) is making good with her late hit, “If the World Don’t Treat You Right, Why Don’t You Come Home?” Butler May, our funny man, is still pleasing. Happy Howe and wife are still cleaning. Lizzie White and Minnie Jones are making good. William Henderson, baritone songster, is still with us and is expecting his wife, Mrs. Beula Henderson, soon, who is at present working at Jacksonville. Mrs Alberta Benbow is making good with her late hit, “I’m Glad I’m Married.” Our manager, M. Jacoby, always wears a smile on his face, and says it is heart’s delight to pay his people. Prof. Noner Barrass has charge of the music. William Benbow is stage manager.

About April 1910, Billy and Mary McBride, who led a small theatrical troupe known as Mack and Mack, or Mack’s Merry Makers, stayed with Morton’s godmother (Laura Hunter) in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. According to Billy McBride, here they met Morton and possibly his cousin, Cordella Benjamin and her husband, “Skinny Head” Pete. Morton played piano in some of their shows and in the red-light districts along the Gulf Coast. [OMJ 343]

Prof. Alan Wallace and Prof. Lawrence Gushee send the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 1st April 1911, page 6, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



The Burns-Russell Stock Company are offering to their patrons this week the two-act Western comedy-drama, “Arizona Dick” and “Montana Jack,” by Sandy Burns, music by Prof. Sam Davis, who is now making Texas his home for the purpose of studying cowboy life, so he will be able to compose Western songs. Prof. Davis is introducing two of his latest songs this week “The Roundup,” sung by our funny little comedian, Sammy Russell, and “Texas is My Home,” sung by that dainty soubrette, Miss Alma Hughes. “The Roundup” is one of the few Western songs I have heard that have that catchy music to it we call rag-time. Burns and Russell are the same two funny boys, and the people here are certainly enjoying their work. They have an excellent company to support them. They have been here fourteen months. Everyone is pleased so all I can say is “smile on.” Kelly and Kelly are the same two, they don’t sing very much, but oh, how they can say their lines they do their share of the work and look for more. Anna May (Mae) Fritz is with us again after an illness of several weeks, but she has not lost her voice and we are all thankful. Alma Hughes, that tantalizing kid of ours, certainly can sing “Lovey Joe”. Oh, yes, last, but not least, Miss Carrie Huff, our prima donna, is some singer and can certainly sing these Spanish songs, and Tommy Hicks he is here too. Pet does anything, good old Chicago boy. Hicks, he didn’t like the cold weather, so he came to Texas. Prof. [D]avis is our musical director, but he leaves for New York May 1st. Ira Releford is at the traps.

Note: Jelly Roll described Sammy Davis as being “one of the greatest manipulators of the keyboard I guess I have ever seen in the history of the world.” [MJR 43]

Note: “. . . I acted as straight man to Sandy Burns, the blackface comedian and the first eccentric dancer in the United States, and it was through him that I happened to get the name, Jelly Roll. . . .” [MJR 144]

Note: “. . . Anna Mae Fritz (later in the movies) came in with my girl friend, Rosie. Anna Mae and I had an argument . . .” [MJR 146]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 6th May 1911, page 5, column 5.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Any one knowing the whereabouts of Stella Lee Taylor will please notify her mother, Mrs. Mollie Taylor, 706 S. State St., Chicago, Ill.

Note: Stella Lee Taylor was one of many women associated with Jelly Roll Morton. [MJR 144]

Prof. Lawrence Gushee and Prof. Alan Wallace send the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 22nd July 1911, page 6, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



William Benbow’s Big Four act is still the center of attraction. Mr. Benbow introduced another high-class act entitled, “Spoony Sam,” and made an instantaneuos (instantaneous) hit. There are four people in the act. Each one looks like a headliner.

The act of Mr. Benbow as Spoony Sam was real pleasing. He is decidedly the best “straight” man that has appeared at the Pekin for months.

Among the clever songs that were introduced during this act, the following ones were big hits: “Tell Her No,” by Mose Graham, was a scream. Mr. Graham is not only a good comedian but has an exceptionally good voice. “All That I Ask is Love,” by Rebecca Kinzey, the “Black Swan,” was real good. “In the Land of Harmony,” by Edna Landry Benbow, made a big hit. Mrs. Benbow is what she is advertised to be, the little lady with the big voice.

The singing of “Sugar Moon” by the quartet was pleasing.

Mr. Benbow has one of the best acts of its kind on the road.

Note: Although there is no mention of Jelly Roll in the above report, he was known to have worked with William Benbow during this period. Jelly Roll Morton sings All That I Ask is Love on the Library of Congress recordings. [AFS 1666-B]

Ferdinand and Rosa Morton (both at different addresses) are listed in the Soards New Orleans City Directory, dated February 1912. [C 23] In correspondence with me, Prof. Lawrence Gushee expanded on this information with the following detailed entry from the Directory:

Morton, Ferdinand — clk — A. M & J. Solari Ltd. — r — 537 Lafayette.
Morton, Rosa. Miss — r — 2422 Melpomene.

The Solari firm, wholesale grocers, at the corner of Iberville and Royal Streets has a possible connection with Jelly Roll Morton, since his great-grandmother Mimi (Félicie Péché) worked for the Solari family. [MJR 32] Lawrence adds that there is no guarantee that the Ferdinand Morton here is our Morton. Both Ferdinand and Rosa are absent from the 1913 directory.

played by Jim Hession

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 31st August 1912, page 6, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



After eight weeks of success, the Great La Vita Show Company will leave the city of Quincy, Ill. While in Quincy the entire company has made many friends and the city at large will hate to see the company leave, as they enjoy the high-class entertainment given nightly by the company. It has been a hard matter to get a lot large enough to accommodate the large and appreciative audiences. The roster of No. 1 company: Prof. Walter Lee, band leader and solo cornet; J. C. Spikes, cornet; B. F. Spikes, alto; Harry Swift, trombone; Mr. Gaus, tuba; Mr. Docket, clarinet; Mr. Jack Johnson, bass drum; Mr. Eddie Woods, snare drum. Fun-makers: Billy Nichols, Jim Jackson, Wm. Webb. The great demand for the medicines of the La Vita Medical Company has been such that it has been necessary to organize company No. 2, and the third company is contemplated. Regards to all friends in and out of the business.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 12th October 1912, page 5, columns 3—4.

The Indianapolis Freeman



By Sylvester Russell

The Pekin buffet was newly opened on last Saturday evening, October 5, under the management of A. D. Lazarus. The old grill room lobby has been converted into a music hall wine room. Besides a $2,000 orchestrion, the entertainers will be Daisy Toledo, singer; Albert Carroll, pianist, and George Smith, trap drummer. Mr. Lazarus, who is the most popular and thrifty man who has yet been identified with the house, leases his apartments from Mr. Charmale.

Note: The Pekin Theater (a.k.a. The Pekin Inn, The Pekin Cafe, The Pekin Cabaret) was located at 2830 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following articles from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 18th January 1913, page 6, column 1 (first item) and page 6, column 4 (second item).

The Indianapolis Freeman


. . . The Sensational Big Three, Bostwick, Green and Bostwick, are at the Elite theater, Selma, Ala., week of the 5th, for two weeks’ run, with Montgomery to follow. The act is new, but a decided scream from start to finish. John Dennis and Hattie Payton are making good.


The team of Jenkins and Jenkins known in vaudeville as Dady (Daddy) Jenkins and Little Creole Set, from New Orleans, La., closed six successful weeks at the Elite theatre, Selma, Ala. Will open Monday, January 6, 1913, at the Empire theatre, Dothan, Ala.

The team of Jenkins and Jenkins open this little play house, carrying the crowds nightly with a pack(ed) house. Mr. L. M. Rayfield, our manager, carries a smile that never comes off. This is one of the best houses in Alabama to work. Talking about the ghost he is never crippled, Jenkins talking and no hot air, believe me. I have some more than can say the same. There is the team of Patterson and Patterson still at the house and the Williams Sisters closed here last week. Then again our house man, Mr. Freeny, he can same. Jelly Rool (Roll), our piano player, is there on the piano like a ship at sea. He don’t bar no rag time piano player, and when he plays the rag they calls the New York Rool (Roll), he makes the audience stand up and take notice, believe me pa. Hello Ed Kemp, how is sister Little Lou. Salsby says hello to the team. My regards to the entire theatrical world. Yours in profession, S. L. Jenkins.

Note: The upper part of columns 5-6 is occupied by an advertisement for the song:

Well, If I Do, Don’t You Let It Get Out
Words and music by
Composer of Baby Seals Blues
Arr. by Artie Matthews
Copyright 1912 by Seals and Fisher

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 9th August 1913, page 6, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman



Ferd and Rosa Morton are still doing nicely. They are the drawing card of the Pratt Bros. Vendome, playing to crowded houses nightly. Ferd Morton sends regards to Tony Jackson, Harry Bernard, Willminor Cook, String Beans, Porter and Porter, Baby Seals, Leroy White, Ford and Ford, Homer Broadenax, the James Sisters, Bessie LaBelle and Sam Russell. Tony Jackson, write care of The Freeman.

Note: The original article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 9th August 1913 contains many bizarre spelling errors.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 23rd August 1913, page 6, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman



Yale Theater.

The Yale, which has been closed for some three or four weeks for repairs, opened Monday night to a crowded house and is having a packed house every night. The house was opened with new faces, Miss Mamie McKenney, Moten and Moten, Mr. Earnest Whitman, Oklahoma City’s favourite, and others. Mr. Ned Bean has spared no pains in making this one of the most beautiful playhouses in Oklahoma, and would like to hear from all first class performers. Write 217 East First street.

Prof. Alan Wallace and Milton Berlin send the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 20th September 1913, page 6, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman



Jelly Roll meeting with great success at the Hughes vaudeville theater, 2600 Poplar street, Cairo, Ill.

Prof. Lawrence Gushee sends the following expanded report about Morton and friends listed in the Houston City Directory. Deposited 17th October 1913. [C 24]

Jelly Roll, as Ferd and Ferdinand Morton, was living at 906 Fuller Street, in the rooming house operated by Estelle Williams. Ferdinand is listed as musician; Ferd has no occupation indicated. I can’t imagine why there is a double entry. Rosa Brown, no occupation, also lived at the same address. All are shown to be African American by the infamous (c)
[colored]. Fuller Street was in the 4th ward, and began at 601 St. Clair and extended south to Andrews. 906 Fuller Street, if my notes are correct, was between Hobson and San Felipe. Fred Washington, piano player, lived at 610 Lamb Street and his employer, according to Morton, was Josie Sassa (Sasser) [OMJ 143] listed at 803 Lion Street, and Miss Thelma Benton (Denton) [OMJ 143] was at 807 Lion Street. [C 24] Rosa Brown is possibly Rosie, the girl friend Morton slapped in the mouth; as documented in Mister Jelly Roll. [MJR 146]

Another striking revelation unearthed by Prof. Lawrence Gushee concerns Morton’s statement in Mister Jelly Roll, where he says, “I tried to organize a stock theater in Houston, but relatives ruined it.”
[MJR 145] Listed in the same 1913 Houston City Directory and residing at 207 Robin Street, are Edward Lamothe, a bricklayer; Henry, a chauffeur and Oscar, a cook. All three are listed as colored. They are not listed in the 1912 or 1914 directory. [C 25]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following advert from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 3rd January 1914, page 7, column 6.

The Indianapolis Freeman

The Pompei Cafe and Buffet
Thos, McCain and Mort Shoecraft, Props.
Phones, Douglas, 332; Automatic, 71 313

Unexcelled cuisine and service. The select and exclusive character of the Pompei and its refined environment makes it an ideal place to go. We invite you to visit Chicago’s most magnificent place.

20-22 East 31st St.                                  Chicago, Illinois

Note: The above advert was published in The Indianapolis Freeman on 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th January 1914.

In August 1914 the Pompeii Cafe changed to Richelieu and Jelly Roll became its musical director.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following front-page article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, dated Friday, 13th February 1914.




Street Car Tie-Up on Broadway Between Pine and
Olive; Typical of Downtown Conditions This Morning

Weather Bureau Forecasts Fall to Go on Through the Night, With Temperature of About 10 Degrees — City Battles With Drifts in Effort to Clear Crossings and Local Interurban Car Lines Keep Sweepers and Salt Cars Busy on Tracks.

Research conducted by Prof. Lawrence Gushee suggests that Morton’s arrival in St. Louis probably occurred in February 1914. [C 25-26]

Jelly Roll tells us: “For a time I had been working with McCabe’s Minstrel Show and, when that folded in St. Louis, I began looking for a job. My goodness, the snow was piled up till you couldn’t see the streetcars.” [MJR 147]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 9th May 1914, page 6, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



Cleveland, Ohio — Alpha Theatre, M. Endelman, manager: Queen Dora and other acts.

Cincinnati, Ohio — Lincoln Theatre, Marion Brooks, manager: Kenner & Williams Stock Company.

Chicago, Ill. — Monogram Theatre, M. Klein, manager. Buster & Rockpile and other acts.

Louisville, Ky. — Ruby Theatre, Mrs. S. H. Dudley, manager: Morton & Morton, John Pamplin, Phil Giles, Berringer & Berringer. . . .

Note: Phil (Philip) Giles was a comedian who temporarily replaced U.S. (Slow Kid) Thompson as leader of the Tennessee Ten during the time Thompson went off to the war in France. [BE]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 23th May 1914, page 5, column 5. Mention of Morton & Morton at the Pekin Theater, Cincinnati.

The Indianapolis Freeman


The Pekin.

Morse & Edwards, Satanka, Morton & Morton.

Lincoln Theater.

The Only String Beans, Stock Co.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 30th May 1914, page 5, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Morton and Morton, Ferd and Rosa, as New Orleans Jelly Rolls and Ragtime Piano King, are meeting with great success at the Pekin, Dayton, O. Gordon and Graham and Baby Ethel are also cleaning up. Morton and Gordon think strongly of making up a good stock company.

Prof. Alan Wallace and Milton Berlin send the following advert from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 6th June 1914, page 5, column 7. This is for a previously unknown Midwest vaudeville engagement.

The Indianapolis Freeman

Morton & Morton
As Jelly Rolls
Working White Time.

Managers write care The Freeman.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 13th June 1914, page 5, column 2. The review of the show, at the black-owned New Crown Garden Theatre, Indianapolis, Indiana, includes the earliest known photograph of Morton in vaudeville.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Comedy, Music, Dancing.

Ferd and Rose (Rosa) Morton are an interesting pair, who do a number of good taking [sic] stunts. Miss Morton is a wideawake performer, helping out the fun all the way through. She puts out the “Blues” to the satisfaction of the audiences who for some reason take very kindly to that kind of singing. Her voice is of good quality.

Mr. Morton, “Jelly Roll” is a slight reminder of “String Beans.” He does a pianologue in good style. He plays

Click to enlarge

As New Orleans Jelly Roll.

a good piano, classics and rags with equal ease. His one hand stunt, left hand alone, playing a classic selection, is a good one.

They do an amusing comedy bit, singing “That Ain’t Got ’Em.” This is sung by both of them in duo style. They make a hit in this, which is Morton’s own composition. In fact he composes most of his own songs and arranges his other work. As a comedian Morton is grotesque in his makeup and sustains himself nicely through the work. They are a clever pair, giving a pleasing show.

Note: String Beans, the stage name of Butler May (1894-1917), was a native of Montgomery, Alabama. He moved along the same vaudeville circuit as Jelly Roll Morton.

Jelly Roll’s claim to the song That Ain’t Got ’Em may be incorrect. Prof. Lawrence Gushee has established that there exists a published song from 1910 titled That One Ain’t Got ’Em, Babe by Henry W. Paschal, a clarinetist, who appeared briefly with the troupe of Billy Kersands Minstrels in Jacksonville, Savannah, and Richmond, Virginia. Morton was also known to have been part of the same troupe and also in Jacksonville in 1910. [C 26-27]

The only known source for the picture of Jelly Roll Morton above is from The Indianapolis Freeman newspaper.

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following review from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 13th June 1914, page 5, column 3.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Butler and Johnson at the New Monogram.

Although Mr. Butler was a newcomer, his ability to be an amusing comedian was enough to welcome him with his well known partner, Miss Eloise Johnson, who has at last become a real actress, who knows how to dress, look [s]weet and play a part. Rosa Brown was another well known favorite, who looked well in pants but danced and sang better than she talked. Chenault & Singleton, who are good artist cartoonists, were both attractable, and Kid Thompson was also on the bill. Charels (Charles) Elgar, the violinist, has joined the orchestra.

String Beans (Butler May) Returns to the Monogram
More Popular Than Ever.

Since String Beans has improved by criticism, the lanky bewildering idol of unexpected joy, has taken on a new coat of popularity and kept the house full at every performance. And while he paid too much attention to the trap drummer, and people in the audience, he got through all right on his dancing, which was legitimate. Miss Baby Mack, who assisted him is a fine soubrette. . . .

Note: The Monogram Theatre was located at 3435-40 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 20th June 1914, page 5, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman


Morton and Morton. “Jelly Rolls,” going big this week. The house is crowded nightly. Vaudette Theater, Detroit, Mich.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following advert, which appeared in The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 20th June 1914, page 5, column 4, and again on Saturday, 27th June 1914, page 6, column 3.

The Indianapolis Freeman

Morton & Morton
As Jelly Rolls
Will produce Stock at the New Crown
Garden Theatre, Indianapolis.


Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 18th July 1914, page 5, column 2.

The Indianapolis Freeman



Week of July 13, 1914.

. . . Philadelphia, Pa. — Standard Theater, John T. Gibson, Mgr.: Robinson & White, Morton & Morton.

Detroit, Mich — Vaudette Theater, C. L. Dudley, Mgr.: Scott & Simmons, Jones & Jones, Johnny Lee.

Cincinnati, Ohio — Lincoln Theater, Marion Brooks, Mgr.; Original Rags, Stock Co. . . .

Note: Gibson’s Standard Theater was home to African-American entertainers and integrated audiences from the turn of the century until it closed in 1931. It was located on South Street, Philadelphia.

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 15th August 1914, page 4, column 3.

The Indianapolis Freeman

Chicago Stage Notes

. . . The Ragtime Trio is at the Virginia. Saparo & Thomas have been booked on the Western vaudeville time. Moton (Morton) (Jelly Roll) & Moton (Morton) have arrived in town [Chicago]. Eddie Gray, who has arrived from the Pacific Coast, is booming his latest song, “It Is Hard To Love Someone Dearly.” . . .

Dr. Robert Pinsker sends the following report from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 29th August 1914, page 6, column 2.

The Chicago Defender


“All Passes, Art Alone Endures”

. . . Miss Lucile (Lucille) Hegamin, the Georgia peach, with that strong voice, is entertaining at the Willow Springs Cafe. Looks like a nymph of paradise assisted by that sweet dream, Miss Ethel Cole, and Mr. Will Abel. They make good anywhere, as both are very clever.

The famous Pompeii Cafe name has been changed to Richelieu, under new management, that of the genial Geo. L. Cook, a man with a personality with a charm to it. He will place a Chinese and American cafe in connection with the best of decorum. His entertainers are of the highest calibre. Mr. Ferd Morton, musical director, and Mr. Harry Bernard, our great lyric tenor, the prince of entertainers, will direct the amusements. This will be one of the best places for the stroller to receive their just enjoyment. . . .

Mark Miller sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 21st November 1914, page 5, column 3.

The Indianapolis Freeman


The Original Rags is at the Thalia this week on the Marcus Loew time.

Edna Morton, the dancer of Jones & Morton, and Rexey Jones are at Cincinnati, Ohio, this week.

The singing feature at the Richlieu (Richelieu) in last Saturday’s cabaret, were Will Minor Cook and Harry Bernard. Ferdinand Moton (Morton) was the pianist. Louis Schooler was also a party guest.

James Reece Europe who has been on a visit in Columbus, Ohio, was also a few days’ visitor in Chicago. It is understood he was here to import good musicians to New York, which is not deemed advisable.

The benefit given to Columbus Braggs, who is very deaf, was a grand success and the audience was very classy. The following artists appeared on the program: Harry Jackson, tenor; Ruth Belmont, soubrette, Willie Coven, dancer; Will Scott, Lucile Hagerman (Lucille Hegamin), Chas. Young and Eddie Gray in a fine duet; Lucretia Mitchell, prima donna, who sang excellently; Jack Ginger Wiggins, who carried the day in comedy and dancing; Miss B Fortson, of Tallaboo fame, recited excellently a poem of her own authorship; Ethel Ridley, Gladys (Snow) Fisher in cake walking steps; Rosa Lee Tyler and Charles Girwood, in the prison scene from the opera Il Trovatore, which won the house and the maiden received a large bouquet of roses. Others were Ethel Cole, soubrette; Chas. Mitchell, on drums; Shiller Emerson, pianist; Alice Ramsey, who made a hit; Caroline (Carolyn) Lillison and Leon Diggs, the tenor, who was well liked; Chas. Young was the stage manager. Mr. Bragg made a speech of thanks with tears in his eyes. The orchestra consisted of Clarence Jones, leader; Woods, Williams, Martin and Mitchell.

Note: Caroline (Carolyn) Lillison was married three times; her other married names being Todd, Boyd and Williams. She played The Elite No. 1 Cafe with Jelly Roll and Tony Jackson, and replaced Ada “Bricktop” Smith in the Panama Trio, as mentioned in The Shep Allen Story by George W. Kay. [BE 1]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following article from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 28th November 1914, page 5, column 4.

The Indianapolis Freeman

The grand opening of the new DeLuke (DeLuxe) Cafe took place last Saturday evening. The tables were decorated with flowers and the waiter service was perfection. Morton’s Orchestra of seven pieces was the life of the occasion. The soloists were Cook & Bernard, the two sweet-voiced cabaret entertainers. William Bottoms and Frank Preer are the proprietors. The DeLuxe is located at 3503 State street [Chicago] and is destined to become popular. . . .

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 19th December 1914, page 5, column 4.

The Indianapolis Freeman

Mule [Perry] Bradford is booked from Dietrick’s office to open at Blue Island [Illinois] in one week, with Benton Harbor [Michigan] to follow.

Note: According to Perry Bradford, Morton was involved with the Blue Island vaudeville act. “Jelly and I became fast friends. We put together a big act and went out to South Chicago to break it in, but the act laid an omelette, it was so terrible. The manager canceled the act, and some of the group had to walk back to the city. Mamie Smith’s first husband, Sam Gardner, was in the group. Sam had two dollars and he paid all the girls’, Jelly Roll’s, and my car-fare back to Chicago.” [BWTB 95]


Click here to view illustrated cover of THE JELLY-ROLL BLUES

On 22nd September 1915, Will Rossiter, the Chicago music publisher, copyrights ORIGINAL JELLY-ROLL BLUES. The registration number is Class E 372536 and the Catalogue of Copyright Entries lists this as for “piano.” Unfortunately the copyright deposit itself is missing, so we can’t be sure whether this is the manuscript Morton produced when Henri Klickmann was unable to notate the piece, or the printed piano music. [MJR 150]

The illustrated cover of the published version is shown above as THE “JELLY ROLL” BLUES. In addition, Rossiter went on to publish a version of this for band and orchestra.

 played by Warren Trachtman

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 6th November 1915, page 5, column 4,

The Indianapolis Freeman


by Sylvester Russell

The withdrawal of the De Luxe proprietors, Bottoms and Preer, from cabaret entertainment, was quite a surprise. The two popular proprietors have decided to try a pool and billiard parlor policy. The De Luxe stag hotel upstairs already has a billiard room. The buffet is still doing nice business. The winners at the Pompeii contest were as follows: Gold-plated safety razor to the singer, Earl McKinney; a pair of gloves to the pianist, Jelly Roll; manicuring set to the comedian, Bojangler (Bojangles) Robinson. Will Thomas is manager. Harry C. Jenkins managed the program. . . .

Note: The DeLuxe Cafe was located at 3503 State Street, Chicago, Illinois and the Pompeii Buffet and Cafe was at 20-22 East 31st Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Prof. Alan Wallace and Milton Berlin send the following report from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 11th December 1915, page 5, column 1.

The Indianapolis Freeman


“The Birth of a Nation,” the big noise by way of moving pictures, will be at the English Opera House next week. We shall endeavor to see what it’s all about. Reviewed in exposition number.

Jelly Roll Ferd Horton (Morton) will be ready to go to work now after three weeks of baths. He says, “lookout, Chicago, I’ll be back soon.” Some ragtime player. Tim Moore write, care of The Freeman.

Note: As to the baths, the long-obsolete practice of taking the waters at various hot springs was still alive and well in the earlier part of the 20th c. There were two places in southern Indiana which offered this form of rest and therapy, French Lick and West Baden Springs. West Baden Springs has a magnificent octagonal hotel, which several years ago was in the process of restoration. My guess is that Jelly Roll would not have been allowed past the front door. There was, however, a sanitarium run by “Waddy”, an African-American, since ca. 1902, where, in 1918 Bert Williams spent some time. This would be interesting to look into. I should add that these may have been the closest such establishments to Chicago, unless there were some in Michigan. All this is surmise, not backed up with documents, except for the information about “Waddy” [Wadsworth?]. [LG]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following report from The Chicago Defender, dated Saturday, 18th December 1915, page 3, column 6 and page 6, column 4.

The Chicago Defender

Deaths of the Week
(From Records, Department of Health.)

Arment. (Armant) Alexander, 47 yrs., 3359 Wabash ave., Dec. 10.

Former Leader of the Eighth
Regiment Band Laid to Rest at Mt.
Olivet Sunday.

The recent and sudden death of Prof. Alexander Armant, the noted musician, was a shock to all. He was known to all throughout the state, having played at many of the best society dances. He was a conscientious worker and an excellent cornetist. Prof. Armant joined the Eighth Regiment band after its return from Cuba. He was soon made chief musician, which he held until 1905, when the entire band was mustered out. After that he organized an orchestra and became affiliated with the Twelfth Regiment Odd Fellows’ band. Mr. Armant was a cigar maker and a member of that union. He leaves a wife to mourn his loss, besides, thousands of friends who knew him as “Alex.” The deceased was buried from his home, 3359 Wabash avenue, at 11 o’clock Sunday morning. Father Morris officiating. Charlie Jackson had charge of the funeral. Interment was at Mt. Olivet.

Note: Alexander Armant is mentioned on separate two occasions. First, in an article titled Jelly-Roll Morton At 52 Has Ancient Jive To Spare! by Marshall Stearns in Down Beat, dated December 1937. Then, in a hand-written letter, dated 27th April 1938, from Jelly Roll Morton to Earle Cornwall. See also Prof. Lawrence Gushee’s article in the Storyville magazine, issue 127, dated October 1986. [C 27]

Prof. Alan Wallace sends the following from The Indianapolis Freeman, dated Saturday, 10th June 1916, page 5, column 5.

The Indianapolis Freeman

“Vaudette Theatre, Detroit, Mich.”

(By Single Henry Jones)

Fred (Ferd) Morton. “Jelly Roll,” just arrivel (arrived) in town from St. Louis, Mo. He he [sic] working at the Fairfax hotel [Detroit]. He is the town talk, because he wrote the “Jelly Roll Blues.” Some class to him. . . .

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