Lu Watters

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Lu Watters
Birth nameLucius Carl Watters
Born(1911-12-19)December 19, 1911
Santa Cruz, California
DiedNovember 5, 1989(1989-11-05) (aged 77)
Santa Rosa, California
GenresJazz, dixieland
Years active1920s–1950
Associated actsYerba Buena Jazz Band

Lucius Carl Watters (December 19, 1911 – November 5, 1989) was a trumpeter and bandleader of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band.


Watters grew up in Rio Vista, California.[1] At St. Joseph's military academy he belonged to the drum and bugle corps.[1] In 1925 he moved with his family to San Francisco, where he started a jazz band.[1] He taught himself how to arrange music and played trumpet on a cruise ship.[1] He studied music at the University of San Francisco with help from a scholarship, but he dropped out of school to pursue a career.[1]

During the 1930s he went on tour across America with the Carol Lofner big band.[1] While in New Orleans, he became interested in traditional jazz.[1] Back in California, he assembled jam sessions with Bill Dart, Clancy Hayes, Bob Helm, Dick Lammi, Turk Murphy, and Wally Rose.[1] In 1938 he formed a band that included Hayes, Helm, Squire Gersh, Bob Scobey, and Russell Bennett.[1] The band found steady work at Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland, slipping in pieces of traditional New Orleans jazz into the repertoire until Watters was fired.[1]

In 1939 he started the Yerba Buena Jazz Band to revive the New Orleans jazz style of King Oliver.[1][2] He brought in pianist Forrest Browne, who taught the band music by Jelly Roll Morton.

Watters wrote music and arrangements to add to the traditional repertoire.[1][2] The band performed at the Dawn Club in San Francisco.[2] It went on hiatus in 1942 when Watters entered the U.S. Navy but reunited at the Dawn after World War II.[2] After the Dawn closed, the band started the club Hambone Kelly's in El Cerrito, California.[1] In 1949 the band performed with visiting musicians Kid Ory, James P. Johnson, and Mutt Carey.[1] After Hambone Kelly's closed, the band broke up in 1950.[1]

Watters left music and became a carpenter, cook, and a student of geology.[1] In 1963 he came out of retirement to perform with Murphy at an anti-nuclear protest in California to prevent a nuclear plant from being constructed at Bodega Bay.[1][2] He recorded an album for Fantasy with Rose, Helm, Bob Mielke, and Barbara Dane. It included the title track and another song named for the San Andreas Fault, which was consistent with his interest in geology.[3] In 1961, a mineral from California was named wattersite in his honor.[4]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Tallmadge, William H.; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 3 (2 ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. pp. 892–893. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kelsey, Chris. "Lu Watters". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  3. ^ Blues Over Bodega. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  4. ^ Roberts, Andrew C.; Bonadri, Maurizio; Erd, Richard C.; Criddle, Alan J.; Le Page, Yvon (1991). "Wattersite Hg+14Hg+2Cr+6O6 a new mineral from the Clear Creek claim San Benito Country, California" (PDF). The Mineralogical Record. 22: 269–272. Retrieved 29 April 2017.

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