Talk:Jelly Roll Morton

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Morton's Alleged Racism[edit]

I cut:

He called himself a creole and never identified himself as a Negro or African American

Source, please? Sounds like part of the myth perpetuated by that work of fiction which unfortunately used the name of a real person "Jelly's Last Jam". (BTW, anyone have recent info on the lawsuit by Morton's family against that play?) -- Infrogmation

I will see if I can dig up my source, but it wasn't that play. It sounds like a lot more needs to be said about Jelly's Last Jam. It would be very useful in an encyclopedia. I wasn't even aware of the fictional slanting. Embarrassedly yours, Ortolan88
Morton's family were light skinned "Creoles of Color", but they were not "pas blanc". His hiring and work with other musicians does not indicate any wish to distance himself from dark black non Creoles like the Dodds brothers. Most of the musicians he played with who were interviewed do not mention him having a rasism problem. This is not to say that he had none of the unfortunately common racist attitudes of the era, but that those who alledge either that he denied he was colored or that he had some hatred of dark blacks are innacurate at least through exageration if not ficition. -- Infrogmation 23:08, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Morton seems like he began to take more of a black power worldview during his later years, according to the book "Jelly's blues." Rag-time4 18:53, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
According to his World War I draft registration ([1]), he self-identified as "Negro". -- Gyrofrog (talk) 16:16, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
Of the limited choices available on that form, which didn't include Creole. - (talk) 08:34, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

Chili Peppers[edit]

Any word on whether the Red Hot Chili Peppers had ever heard of Jelly Roll's band? They (RHCP) were hip to history, I know, but I couldn't find anything (easily) about the origin of their name. Ortolan88

I'd probably know if there was a connection, as I'm a big fan of the Chili Peppers, but I don't think there is... there's a pub rock band from the 70s called Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers too. It's possible all three are related, but I don't think so. Tokerboy


Was Mint Julip misspelled on the record label? Julep is the usual. Same q. for iceburg vs. iceberg.

Who was King Porter?

If he wrote a 1000 songs, I'm pretty sure the article has all the well-known ones already. Unless a song is well-known or has a funky or funny title why list? Ortolan88

The first two were just my misspellings; sorry.

There was a bandleader (and IIRC trumpet player) who called himself King Porter, but this was after the Morton Tune. As Morton explains in his LOC interview, King Porter was named after his friend Porter King.

Some of the tunes I added to the list are ones I like &/or I'ver heard contemporary musicians cover. I didn't put in the "wrote 1000 songs" bit... (checks article history)... That seems to have been put in by you, Ortolan88. I'm a bit scheptical of that number myself. While I'm quite sure I could double the number Morton of tunes now listed, I'd be a bit surprised if more than 200 to 300 are actually doccumented. But maybe so. Where'd that number come from? -- Infrogmation 04:34 Feb 5, 2003 (UTC)

Yeah, it was me. I got it from the cited web page. Writing a song isn't all that hard for a talented musician. Maybe the number is high. My idea was that listing all 1000 or even all 300 would be overkill. So, was Porter King a musician? Ortolan88
That site's standards seem pretty good. A list including the tunes he copyrighted is at ; I didn't count but it doesn't look above the low hundreds. BTW, I was at a concert a few years ago where Don Vappie's Band debuted the never recorded or published "Ganjam" from a Morton manuscript in the Historic New Orleans Collection-- it pretty much knocked people's socks off. Vappie is supposed to be putting that on a cd if he hasn't already.
IIRC, Porter King was a pianist and pool shark Morton befriended in Florida; I'd have to listen to the LOC recording again. I think a couple musicians in the Tulane Jazz Archives oral history mention him as well. -- Infrogmation

Morton's Comment on what Buddy Bolden Played.[edit]

I believe that Jelly Roll Morton was correct when he said that Bolden played ragtime. He may have influenced a lot of later jazz musicians, but he is said to have played a different music than early jazz and spent about 20 years in a mental institution until 1930. Pitchka 16:48, Dec 17, 2004 (UTC)

See my reply at Talk:Buddy Bolden. -- Infrogmation 23:08, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Just a little trivia[edit]

There's a dueling-piano bar in Walt Disney World on the boardwalk named Jellyrolls after Morton. Disney's info site is here:

Library of Congress Recordings on Rounder Records[edit]

Rounder Records released the complete Library of Congress recordings on 27Sep2005. It's an 8 CD set, that comes with the session liner notes from Alan Lomax, and the book Mister Jelly Roll also by Alan Lomax.

Is this worth adding to the Library of Congress section?

The URL to Rounder's page is here:

They also have another page with individual sets from the complete LOC interviews here:

"Jelly's Blues" by Reich and Gaines[edit]

In the description of this book a claim is made as to its containing "numerous factual errors." I'm curious to know what factual errors you are referring to. Do you have a source?

I recall some reviews and that pretty much being the consensus in the New Orleans jazz research community when it came out-- lots of good original stuff in the book, but an unfortunate number of problems apparently from the writers not knowing much about such subjects as early New Orleans jazz, the 1920s jazz scene, early 20th century record labels, depictions of individuals and bands, etc, and apparently not bothing to check. I recall some discussion on the Chicago Tribune website in the feedback to the article series, and some of the problems weren't corrected when the book came out. Has the book been updated since the first edition? For all I know the serious problems may have been corrected subsequently. -- Infrogmation 22:40, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
A devastating review of Howard Reich and Gaines' book by Duck Baker can be found in in | Jazz Times 12/01/2003|. Baker calls Reich and Gaines' claim to have rescued Jelly Roll from obscurity through their investigative reporting "astonishing", since Jelly Roll's reputation has patently never been remotely "obscure"; and he savages what he sees as their numerous howlers and musical illiteracy: "the first chapter alone contains more technical inaccuracies and misleading statements about music than I have ever seen in an entire book, an outstanding example being the description of blues-based boogie piano as “gaining momentum every 32 bars" He also finds fault with their tone and general shoddiness: "They interpret the story however they like, and when details are lacking they make them up. On top of it all, they are quite cavalier toward previous Morton scholarship, as when they condemn Lomax for eliciting risque stories during his interviews." According to Baker:

They treat Lawrence Gushee’s important work as if it were amateurish, selectively quoting correspondence from him to make it look as if he has retreated from his position about Morton’s date of birth (he hasn’t). Presumably the point in attacking earlier scholarship is to make these Lilliputians of the research world appear to be Gullivers. The one area in which they have done some real work is in documenting the extent to which Morton was ripped off by his publisher.

Mballen (talk) 02:29, 3 August 2017 (UTC)


he looks like a white guy 03:51, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Edit on 3/07/2006 of Library of Congress section[edit]

I removed: Research has shown that Morton placed the dates of some early incidents of his life (and probably the dates when he first composed his early tunes) a few years too early

because this is not sourced, and I rewrote the paragraph to smooth it out. Also, there was another problem with that particular paragraph, which was that it was stated as fact that Jelly Roll lied about his age, though elsewhere in the article it says that he was "probably" born in 1885. Rag-time4 19:14, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

On topic of the Lomax sessions, was The Murder Ballad one of Jelly Roll's, and if so worth mentioning under his compositions? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:27, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

'red hot peppers' directs to this page[edit]

Looking for RHCP, I got redirected to this page. Of course, this page is about the 'red hot peppers', but most people nowadays will be looking for RHCP. Shouldn't there be a page with links to both the RHCP and Jelly Morton, when looking for 'red hot peppers', as the name is some kind of double... The Zeroorez

Are the Red Hot Chili Peppers commonly known as the "red hot peppers"? -- Infrogmation 03:35, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Misattributed tunes[edit]

I'm very doubtful if all of the tunes mentioned can actually be attributed to Jelly. The Dr. Jazz Stomp is *certainly* by King Oliver and Walter Melrose. Any real jazz experts (I'm just a dabbler) spot any other errors?Bedesboy 22:50, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Later years/Death[edit]

The knife wounds are described as 'fatal'; but then it's stated he died of asthma. Which is it? AuntFlo (talk) 13:55, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Jelly Roll's self promotion[edit]

I heavily edited the lead of the article, removing the statement that Jelly Roll's claim as the originator of Jazz was 'self promotional hyperbole', but there should be mention of his braggadocious personality in the article because he was certainly braggadocious. I feel strongly that there is a possibility that his claim as originator of Jazz was actually true. In American society, any braggadocious black man is often vilified, which is part of the context in which Morton's claim is labelled 'hyperbole' by many. The fact that many disagree with Morton's claim neither proves it true nor untrue - therefore it should not be stated as fact that his claim was true or untrue - and certainly not without a solid source. I don't have a problem if someone else would like to mention that most people disagree with Morton's claim, though I would personally like to see it later in the article in a section devoted to his braggadocious personality.Rag-time4 (talk) 04:56, 27 April 2010 (UTC)

Further reading section[edit]

The descriptions of the "Further reading" titles are unsourced and/or opinions. The descriptions of these books should be corroborated with sources, but at the same time, if we're going into that level of detail then perhaps these books deserve individual articles. I'm removing the descriptions/opinions; the reader can choose to further investigate these books but I don't think it's our place to offer a value judgment. -- Gyrofrog (talk) 19:00, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

Birth year[edit]

Whatever its faults (see elsewhere on this talk page), I believe that the Reich and Gaines book makes a very good case that Morton was born earlier than 1890 (if not 1885). I thought there had been a previous talk page discussion about this, but I guess I misremembered. -- Gyrofrog (talk) 19:05, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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I think these sources were problematic; one was a Usenet posting (or similar). I've replaced these references with books. -- Gyrofrog (talk) 16:17, 16 October 2015 (UTC)

Article Biased and Negative toward Morton[edit]

It is my impression that this article is pervaded with a peculiar negative bias against Morton is thus unbalanced and unencyclopedic in tone. Moreover there is a lack of specificity (and citations) in the accusations against Jelly Roll and also Lomax. It is untrue that Lomax asked Jelly Roll to come and be recorded. Morton walked into the Library and asked to be recorded. Lomax's occupation was as a folklorist whose main focus was folk music not jazz, however, according to him (and he is the only source we have) Lomax allowed himself to be convinced and agreed to record him. Jelly Roll's reminiscences constitute an invaluable oral history of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century and have long been recognized as such by historians of Jazz and Americana. Mballen (talk) 13:16, 31 July 2017 (UTC)

The article ought to make clear that virtually everything -- all the unsourced biographical information in this wikipedia entry, for example --that is known about Jelly Roll Morton comes from the 1938 interviews with Alan Lomax.
Also, it is erroneous to state that the recordings of that era were "low fidelity" because non-commercial. They were the highest fidelity available at the time, and though not stereo, they compare very favorably to today's sound. The problem was that unfortunately the sound quality deteriorated every time the recordings were played and needed to be restored, as they were in 2005. Another thing is that the book by Reich and Gaines is written from a point of view that is extremely hostile to both Morton and Lomax, and this ought to be pointed out. If their book is to be used then it ought to be balanced by other, less tendentious, sources, such as John Swzed or Lawrence Gushee, to name a few.Mballen (talk) 03:33, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

Undue weight to "Scholar" Katy Martin[edit]

Katy Martin is not a scholar of jazz or folk music but a freelance writer on pop music. She is not on a par with Gunther Schuller, who has written at least ten well-regarded published books on music. Her cited article, published in Popular Music and Society in 2013 is behind paywall and is not available on Jstor or Project Muse, nor, four years after publication, has it been mentioned in scholarly -- or any other kind of -- literature, apparently. The summary, which is available, contains an egregious error, for it claims that Lomax's LOC interviews of Morton date from 1926, rather than the correct date of 1938. I am not saying that her thesis is wrong, but there is no way to judge one way or the other. Therefore I am moving the sentence about her from the introduction to a footnote. Mballen (talk) 02:46, 1 August 2017 (UTC)[edit]

Is given as a reference. I believe, unless Wikipedia rules have changed, this is not considered a reliable source, although from a superficial glance, the article looks ok. I think it would be better to use sources more in keeping with wikipedia's guidelines for the reference notes, however. Mballen (talk) 01:32, 3 August 2017 (UTC)