Jimmy Palao

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Jimmy Palao
Born(1879-02-19)February 19, 1879
Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
DiedJanuary 8, 1925(1925-01-08) (aged 45)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Occupation(s)Instrumentalist, bandleader
InstrumentsViolin, saxophone, cornet, mellophone
Years active1897–1925
Associated actsWilliam Manuel Johnson, Buddy Bolden, George Baquet

James Palao, also James Florestan Palao February 19, 1879 – January 8, 1925 was an African-American jazz musician.

Early life[edit]

James A. Palao was born in Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana to Felix Palao and Clotilde Rebecca Spriggs. At the age of six, his father recognized that Jimmy had musical talent, and Jimmy received extensive musical training and violin lessons from a German teacher. Palao also received instruction from his uncle Edgar Palao and Felix Palao himself. Jimmy went to the countryside and taught many youth how to read and play music, including Buddy Bolden.[citation needed]

Musical career[edit]

Palao's earliest compositions include "Upon the Fields of Battle" (1905) and "Echoes of India" (1909). In 1911, "O You Sweet Rag" was published H. Kirkland Dugdale and dedicated to George Baquet. These are among only a few copyrighted compositions from New Orleans musicians of this era. Jimmy started his musical career playing in his aunt's church, the Sacred Heart of Mary Church, between 1895 and 1897, where he led the Buddy Johnson band. Palao went on to play in the Pacific Brass Band from 1897 to 1898, the Henry Allen Brass Band from 1897 to 1900, the Jimmy Palao Band from 1900–1903, the Buddy Bolden Band from 1903 to 1905, and the Imperial Jazz Band from 1905 to 1907. Bill Johnson remembered that Jimmie Palao called the music played by the Imperial Jazz Band "jazz." He also remembered how excited the audience would get when the band would play.[citation needed]

Original Creole Orchestra[edit]

The members of The Original Creole Orchestra were Freddy Keppard, Eddie Vincent, Norwood Williams, George Baquet, and Dink Johnson. The Original Creole Orchestra disbanded in 1918. A recording called "Tack 'Em Down" by the Creole Band and published by Victor Talking Machine Company was never issued and no test pressing has surfaced, but should it be found, it would be the earliest known jazz recording by an African-American band. Jimmie Palao went on to play with the Lawrence Duhe Band, the King Oliver Band, the Jones Dreamland Band, The Jolly Jazzing Jeopards, John Wickliffe's Syncopated Gingersnaps, and the Dave and Tessie Band.


Palao was on the road with The Syncopated Band and Dave and Tressie when his bandmates realized he was very ill. Jimmy Palao died of tuberculosis on January 8, 1925 at the age of 45. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

As per the request of his daughters, Jimmy Palao's pictures and instruments are held at the Chicago History Museum. The home of Clara Spriggs family, where Jimmy Palao was raised, may be visited online on the "Brooklyn of the South" self-guided walking tour #2, of the Algiers Historical Society researched by President Kevin Herridge.

Personal life[edit]

Jimmy Palao married his wife, Armontine Carter Palao, in 1905 at St. Catherine's Church in New Orleans Louisiana. They had four daughters, Clotilde Palao Wilson, Mabel Palao Williams, Agatha Palao Singleton, and Anita Palao McAdams.


  • Pioneers of Jazz, by Lawrence Gushee
  • Jazzmen, by Frederic Ramsey Jr. and Charles Edward Smith
  • New Orleans Jazz-A Family Album, by Al Rose and Edmond Souchon
  • A Trumpet Around the Corner Jazz, by Samuel Barclay Charters
  • Jimmy Palao, "King" of "Kings of Jazz", The Leader of the Original Creole Orchestra" – unpublished biographical manuscript by Jn. Singleton
  • "How The Creole Band Came To Be." Black Music Research Journal, #8 by Lawrence Gushee
  • [1] Douglas/Grand Boulevard: a Chicago neighborhood by Olivia Mahoney, Chicago Historical Society