In his baseball gossip column in the Oakland Tribune — “CHIT-CHAT OF THE GAME” — T. P. Magilligan wrote on Saturday, 20th June 1908:
CHIT-CHAT OF THE GAME
BY T. P. MAGILLIGAN
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:
OAKLAND LOSES TWO GAMES TO PORTLAND
VAN HALTREN’S MEN LOSE
TWICE TO BEAVER TEAM
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.
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.