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Sugar Johnnie’s New Orleans Creole Orchestra was a somewhat forgotten, yet important band that played at the De Luxe Cafe at 3503 South State Street in Chicago. Clarinet player Lawrence Duhé was the leader the band, but it was fronted by various soloists like Sidney BechetMutt Carey, and Freddie Keppard.

Sugar Johnny's Creole Orchestra
Sugar Johnnie’s New Orleans Creole Orchestra Left to right: Wellman Braud, Lil Hardin (obscured by damaged photo), Lawrence Duhé, Sugar Johnnie Smith, Roy Palmer, Minor Hall.

Eighteen year old Lil Hardin was hired to play piano in the band in 1917. Sugar Johnnie Smith was a gay, gut bucket cornet player from New Orleans who had T.B. and died of pneumonia in 1918. Mutt Carey replaced Sugar Johnnie after his death. When Mutt Carey went off to California to join Kid Ory’s Creole Orchestra, Duhé sent for King Oliver to replace him in 1919. King Oliver doubled with Bill Johnson’s Original Creole Orchestra at the Royal Gardens (469 East 31st Street). Oliver eventually took over Duhé’s band and merged the two Creole bands under the name of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and played at the Dreamland Cafe (3520 South State Street), Pekin Cafe (2700 South State Street) and toured California in 1921.



Sidney BechetClarinet
Wellman BraudBass
Mutt CareyCornet
Lawrence DuhéClarinet
Bab FrankPiccolo
Ed GarlandBass
Minor HallDrums
Tubby HallDrums
Lil HardinPiano
Freddie KeppardCornet
King OliverCornet
Jimmie PalaoViolin
Roy PalmerTrombone
Sugar Johnnie SmithCornet


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