Big Bill Bissonnette
He is a strong advocate of New Orleans jazz as played by the veteran African-American musicians. In the 1960s, he ran his own group The Easy Riders Jazz Band, formed his own label Jazz Crusade, and organized Northern tours for such veteran players as Kid Thomas Valentine, George Lewis, and Jim Robinson. After a period off the scene, with the successful publication of his 1992 memoirs, The Jazz Crusade (which has many stories about New Orleans' musicians), Bissonnette reactivated his label and began to play again.
He has produced over 100 recorded jazz sessions for his Jazz Crusade label and has appeared as trombonist or drummer on over 50 recording sessions of New Orleans jazz. Big Bill Bissonnette has always been a controversial figure on the New Orleans jazz scene. He has often rushed in where "angels feared to tread" to make that one last recording of some obscure jazzman. His 1960s group, "The Easy Riders Jazz Band" was the most acclaimed revival band of the era and recorded with many of the legendary New Orleans jazzmen. He brought reedman Sammy Rimington to America when he was still just a youngster for one of his first big breaks which later led to his amazing success in the jazz field. Bissonnette came in first place as "New Young Artist" in the 1965 Jazzology Jazz Poll. Over 30 years later he placed #5 among all jazz trombonists in the latest edition of that same poll. He is also well known as a drummer. He was the legitimate protege of trombonist Big Jim Robinson, perhaps the greatest of all New Orleans trombonists. He studied drums with the legendary Sammy Penn. On his drumset sits the wooden ratchet used by Baby Dodds on his famous drum instruction recordings. He uses a slapstick made for him by Kid Thomas Valentine and one of Jim Robinson's mouthpieces sits on a shelf in his living room. He has now produced over one hundred and 30 recording sessions. He has spent much of the 1990s documenting the British jazz scene with his "Best of the Brits" CD series. He published a newsletter several times a year. He traveled the world sitting-in with local New Orleans style bands or with his own touring all-star band. He is featured on over 50 albums on both trombone and drums. Among those he has recorded or played with are: Henry Red Allen, Victoria Spivey, Edmond Hall, Jimmy Archey, Zutty Singleton, George Lewis, Big Jim Robinson, Sammy Penn, Kid Thomas Valentine, Don Ewell, Creole George Guesnon, Dr. Michael White, Gregg Stafford, Freddy Lonzo, Tuba Fats Lacen, Pat Hawes, George Probert, Bob Helm, Pops Foster, Paul Polo Barnes, Kid Sheik Colar, Alvin Alcorn, Alecs Bigard, Slow Drag Pavageau, Albert Burbank and many other top traditional jazz stars. Bissonnette retired in 2006 and now lives in Concord, North Carolina U. S. A.