Don't you just wish you could have been there to see and hear Nick LaRocca on cornet, and Eddie Edwards, Larry Shields, Henry Ragas and Tony Sbarbaro on trombone, clarinet, piano and drums? And what would you give for one of those original 1917 recordings?
The group's leader was Dominick James "Nick" LaRocca, born on April 11, 1889. Nick formed the ODJB in 1916 and claimed that he "invented" jazz. Of course, not everyone agreed. One in particular was Jelly Roll Morton, who advertised himself as the "originator of jazz."
The ODJB's recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company of "Livery Stable Blues" was the first commercial jazz phonograph record ever produced. The other side was "Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step." Within months of its release, the recording sold more than a million copies. The Maison Blanche department store advertised the new music that was for sale in its store: "Here is positively the greatest dance record ever issued. Made by New Orleans musicians for New Orleans people, it has all the 'swing' and 'pep' and 'spirit' that is so characteristic of the bands whose names are now a by-word at New Orleans dances. It is more proof that New Orleans sets the pace for 'Wonderful' dance music -- a fact that is recognized and commented upon the country over."
The success of the recording had a profound effect on both black and white bands of the day, and the ODJB became one of the first connections between the young people and jazz. The recording came at a time when the world was at war, and doughboys in New York waiting to be sent overseas went to see the exciting live performances of the group in 1917 and 1918. And in 1919, the ODJB played for returning servicemen and their generals in London.
The ODJB is credited with several other firsts. They were the first jazz band to travel to Europe, the first jazz band to play for U.S. servicemen in WWI, and the first jazz band to appear in a motion picture, The Good for Nothing. But this movie was made in 1917, during the silent era!
The group broke up in the mid-1920s and reunited in 1936. Throughout the years they made many recordings, and by 1946, the year of their last recording, original member Tony Sbarbaro was still around.
Nick died in 1961, but the "new" ODJB is alive and well, led by his son Jimmy, who is continuing the tradition.
I was wondering where in New Orleans is the LeBeau House?
This old plantation home is in Arabi, but you have to know where to look. Drive down Friscoville Avenue to the river. Turn left on Bienvenue Street, and you will see a wooden fence on your right. Hidden behind the fence is the decaying house.
Francis Barthelemy LeBeau acquired the property in 1850 and built this grand mansion in the Greek Revival Style around 1854. Unfortunately, LeBeau did not live to enjoy his accomplishment, as he died not long after his house was finished.
The home remained in the family until 1905. When Louis Edouard LeBeau sold it to the Friscoville Realty Company, it became the Friscoville Hotel. The Francioni Family lived in the house from 1938-1952. And for a while, the home was used as part of the Jai Alai Casino Complex.
Until 1992 the house belonged to Joseph Meraux of St. Bernard Parish who had purchased the house in 1967. When Meraux died in 1992, he left the house -- part of an estimated $50 million fortune -- to Arlene Soper, his sole heir and companion of 23 years.
I believe you would be interested in Michelle Mahl Buuck's 1991 booklet, The Historic LeBeau House, in the Nunez Community College library.