Black Benny

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Black Benny
Also known as Benny Williams
Born c. 1890
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died 1924
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Drummer
Instruments Bass drum
Associated acts Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton

Black Benny Williams (c. 1890 – 1924) was a New Orleans-based bass drummer of legendary status who played in brass bands in the early decades of the 20th century. He was mentioned by many New Orleans musicians of the era but he left no recordings.[citation needed]

Black Benny was born and died in New Orleans. He grew up in a rough poor African-American neighborhood in the Third Ward of New Orleans known as "The Battleground". He played with such notable brass bands as the Onward, Camelia, and the Tuxedo Brass Band as well as with such leaders as Kid Ory, Kid Rena, and Wooden Joe Nicholas.[citation needed]

Benny was in and out of jails all his life. He once shot a bystander during a march on Canal Street, and was himself reportedly[by whom?] shot by a jealous woman.

In addition to his work as a drummer Black Benny worked as a bouncer and a prizefighter.

An early colleague of Louis Armstrong, Black Benny is referred to in Armstrong's autobiography, and helped look after young Louis during his tough childhood. Sidney Bechet also talks about Black Benny Williams in his autobiography, as does Jelly Roll Morton in his Library of Congress interviews.


  • Armstrong, Louis (1986). Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. ISBN 978-0306802768. 
  • Treat it Gentle by Sidney Bechet