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Sex and drugs and rock and roll

October 31, 2017

Jazz evolved from Congo Square in New Orleans. I think it is interesting that we can pinpoint geographically the small area which is now part of Louis Armstrong Park as the birthplace of this truly African-American art form.


After slavery was banned this area became the meeting place, the trading place and the hub of this music that would become known as Jazz. It was also a place where voodoo was practiced, hence New Orleans being a significant area for it even today.


Buddy Bolden was a musician who started making what we recognise now as Jazz, improvising, playing syncopated rhythms, loud brash solos that the locals loved and would then influence the likes of Louis Armstrong who of course was the first real jazz superstar and deservedly so.


Sadly there are no recordings of Buddy Holden in existence and only a handful photos but his legacy cannot be overstated. If Louis Armstrong is that legacy then there is nothing more to say about him.


As Jazz bands began forming and playing throughout the southern states unscrupulous often straightforwardly criminal promoters and club owners were booking jazz bands to play in their clubs, juke joints, bars or anywhere that would get a crowd, drawn not just by the music but the illicit drink, the drugs, the gambling and the prostitution.


These bands were made up of several musicians including a band leader who would conduct and be the star turn along with star soloists like Louis Armstrong. There are too many to name, look them up, google it!


But then in the 1940’s something changed. Until then if a band had a singer then they would be considered almost secondary to everyone else, they would often double as the roadie and errand boy for the other musicians. That was until Louis Jordan changed all that.


He had a much smaller band (cheaper for the promoters to pay) and not only that but he was the lead singer and trumpet player. He was the star. His live performances were legendary and so that is why I think he was the first pop star. Although swing bands continued to flourish, this new configuration of musicians formed the basis of what was later to be known as a pop group.


Recently Fats Domino died. He was around in the mid forties, again, a leader of his band and using a unique piano style which came out of New Orleans, he made for many, what was the first rock'n'roll record in 1949: The Fat Man.


So everything was in place. The template for future bands, the rock’n’roll riffs, pop music had began and it wasn’t even 1950.The rate that popular music evolved between then and when I first heard my first pop record in 1962 was phenomenal and not really equalled since.


I was five years old when I heard Telstar by the Tornados. This was a highly significant moment in my life, although I will be referring back for historical context, basically my story begins here. Little did I know it, but I had been bitten by a bug that had given me the most glorious incurable disease I would never (or want to) recover from.


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