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Charles "Buddy" Bolden (1877-1931)
Buddy Bolden (September 6, 1877 – November 4, 1931) is generally considered to be the first bandleader to play the improvised music which later became know as Jazz. He was the first “King” of cornet in New Orleans, and is remembered by the musicians of that time period as one of the finest horn players they had ever heard. He is remembered for his loud, clear tone. [See: What Did Buddy Bolden’s Band Sound Like?]

Buddy Bolden Band
The Bolden Band. Standing, left to right: Jimmy Johnson, Buddy Bolden, Willie Cornish, William Warner. Sitting, left to right: Jefferson Mumford and Frank Lewis.

His band starting playing around 1895, in New Orleans parades and dances, and eventually rose to become one of the most popular bands in the city. In 1907 his health deteriorated and he was committed to a mental institution where he spent the remainder of his life.

Trombonist Frankie Dusen took over the Bolden Band and renamed it the Eagle Band and they continued to be very popular in New Orleans until around 1917. Bolden made no recordings, but was immortalized in the Jazz standard “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say) which is based on Bolden’s theme song “Funky Butt”. Several early Jazz musicians, like Sidney Bechet (as a child musician) and Bunk Johnson, apparently played in Bolden’s bands occasionally.

Read: Three Books About Buddy Bolden
In Search of Buddy Bolden by Donald M. Marquis, Louisiana State University Press, 1978
Buddy Bolden And The Last Days Of Storyville by Danny Barker, Continuum, 1998
Buddy Bolden Says by E.W. Russell, Candence Jazz Books, 2000
The Loudest Trumpet by Daniel Hardie, iUniverse Books, 2000

The Syncopated Times prepared a full issues worth of coverage of Buddy Bolden to coincide with the release of a movie about him in 2019. See all of it at The Real Buddy Bolden

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