Tommy Ladnier

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Tommy Ladnier
Birth nameThomas James Ladnier
Born(1900-05-28)May 28, 1900
Mandeville, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedJune 4, 1939(1939-06-04) (aged 39)
New York City
Years active1921–1939
Associated actsMezz Mezzrow

Thomas James Ladnier (May 28, 1900 – June 4, 1939) was an American jazz trumpeter. French jazz critic Hugues Panassié rated him second only to Louis Armstrong.

Early years[edit]

Ladnier was born in Mandeville, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. He played in the local Independence Band led by clarinetist Isidore Fritz (a.k.a. Frick) beginning about 1914. Trumpeter Bunk Johnson sometimes played with this band and gave young Ladnier tuition. In 1917, he moved with his mother to Chicago and worked in the stock yards.

Early career[edit]

He married Hazel B. "Daisy" Mathews in 1920 and became a professional musician around 1921. He played for some time in St. Louis with Charlie Creath.[1] Beginning in 1923, he played in Chicago and made many recordings for Paramount Records with pianist Lovie Austin, accompanying blues singers Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, and Alberta Hunter. For some time Ladnier played with his inspiration, King Oliver. In 1923, his mother was shot at a party quarrel.


Ladnier joined pianist Sam Wooding in 1925[1] for an extensive tour (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, and Russia). This orchestra recorded in Berlin. He returned to New York and became the main soloist for the Fletcher Henderson orchestra from 1926–1927. He returned to the Sam Wooding Orchestra for another tour[1] (Germany, Austria, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, and France), then left in January 1929 to work freelance in Paris. A short tour with dancer Harry Fleming brought him to Spain, where he met dancer Louis Douglas and joined him shortly in November 1929 in Paris, acting as orchestra leader. He again free-lanced in Paris until summer 1930 when he joined the Noble Sissle dance band, performing in Paris and London.

He returned to U.S. at the end of 1930 and stayed with Sissle until January 1932. The Sissle orchestra made some recordings in London and New York. Back in America in 1932, Ladnier and Sidney Bechet formed the New Orleans Feetwarmers. During the Depression, they tried to run a tailor shop in Harlem, but neither was interested in business. Ladnier left New York and played in the east, sometimes giving trumpet lessons. For a year, he lived in Stamford, Connecticut.

In 1938, Hugues Panassié, a French critic and record producer who met Ladnier in Paris in 1930, went to New York. He found Ladnier and recorded the Panassie Sessions with Sidney Bechet and Mezz Mezzrow.[1] Ladnier and Bechet participated in the first From Spirituals to Swing concert arranged by John Hammond in December 1938. His last recordings were with Mezz Mezzrow and singer Rosetta Crawford in February 1939.


He died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 39 and was buried at Frederick Douglass Memorial in Staten Island.


  1. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott. "Tommy Ladnier". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 July 2017.

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