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Creole Trombone - Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz

Creole Trombone

Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz

By John McCusker
Series: American Made Music Series

Paperback : 9781496823427, 272 pages, February 2019
Hardcover : 9781617036262, 272 pages, August 2012

The definitive biography of the great band leader and New Orleans jazz performer


Edward "Kid" Ory (1886-1973) was a trombonist, composer, recording artist, and early New Orleans jazz band leader. Creole Trombone tells his story from birth on a rural sugar cane plantation in a French-speaking, ethnically mixed family, to his emergence in New Orleans as the city's hottest band leader. The Ory band featured such future jazz stars as Louis Armstrong and King Oliver, and was widely considered New Orleans's top "hot" band. Ory's career took him from New Orleans to California, where he and his band created the first African American New Orleans jazz recordings ever made. In 1925 he moved to Chicago where he made records with Oliver, Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton that captured the spirit of the jazz age. His most famous composition from that period, "Muskrat Ramble," is a jazz standard. Retired from music during the Depression, he returned in the 1940s and enjoyed a reignited career.

Drawing on oral history and Ory's unpublished autobiography, Creole Trombone is a story that is told in large measure by Ory himself. The author reveals Ory's personality to the reader and shares remarkable stories of incredible innovations of the jazz pioneer. The book also features unpublished Ory compositions, photographs, and a selected discography of his most significant recordings.


"If you love jazz and you love New Orleans, Creole Trombone is a must-read. With meticulous research and elegant writing, John McCusker evokes the magical time when a young man could rise out of sugarcane fields and change the world with his music. Kid Ory's life was a brilliant ramble, and McCusker has told it with perfect pitch."

- Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season, and Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster

"At last! John McCusker's Creole Trombone provides a compelling account of the early life and career of Ed Ory, one of the most fascinating protagonists in the development of New Orleans jazz. Through meticulous research and an innate sensitivity to Louisiana's distinctive couture de m├ętissage, McCusker has brought hitherto undiscovered aspects of Ory's life to light, while deepening our understanding of his contributions to the idiom."

- Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University and author of New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History

"Much about early jazz history is unknown. But, as John McCusker ably demonstrates here, the unknown is not necessarily unknowable. Making meticulous use of the written record, in Creole Trombone John McCusker places Ory in the broad context of jazz history and in the more rarified sanctum reserved for the three or four most important musicians in the development of early jazz."

- Lolis Eric Elie, story editor for HBO's Treme

"John McCusker's impressive research and deft writing have produced a first-rate biography of this influential jazz pioneer set against the colorful backdrop of New Orleans in the early years of the twentieth century. A must-read!"

- Tom Sancton, author of Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White