He was a member of Buddy Bolden's pioneering New Orleans style band, playing valve trombone, from about the late 1890s until 1903 or 1905, with a short break when he fought in the Spanish–American War. He was also an early member of the Eureka Brass Band. When he had a stroke which paralysed his left side before the summer of 1931, he contrived a way of holding his trombone in place with a strap so that he could continue playing.
- Charters, Samuel (2008). A Trumpet Around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 87, 91. ISBN 9781604733181. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- Kubik, Gerhard (2017). Jazz Transatlantic, Volume I: The African Undercurrent in Twentieth-Century Jazz Culture. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781626746596. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- Knowles, Richard H. (1996). Fallen Heroes: A History of New Orleans Brass Bands. Jazzology Press. pp. 186–188 +. ISBN 9780963889034. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
At some time prior to the summer of 1931, Willie Cornish suffered a stroke while playing a parade with the Eureka, collapsing at the corner of Rampart and Julia Streets. He was paralysed down his left side but devised a strap to hold the trombone in place so he could continue to play.