Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1877-1931) was one of the originators of New Orleans jazz. He lived Uptown in Central city, an area that was home to many other early jazz musicians, such as King Oliver and Kid Ory. His playing reflected the community: his improvisational, bluesy style developed in late-night dances for a working class black audience. His well-known song “Funky Butt” referred to the foul-smelling, “funky” air at the dance halls where he performed after hours, and specifically the Union Sons Hall (aka Funky Butt Hall). He used guitar and bass as a rhythm section, which played rhythms influenced by those of the black Protestant church (in contrast to the Catholic Creole churches concentrated Downtown). Bolden’s dance band performed the standard dance styles of the day such as waltzes, schottisches, and one-steps, and played popular songs at a variety of venues in the city and surrounding region.
Bolden’s life took a tragic turn in 1907, when he was hospitalized for schizophrenia at the Louisiana State Asylum in Jackson. He would die there 24 years later. His uncontested popularity as a performer cemented his title as “King” Bolden among fans and early jazz musicians. The greatest cornet players to follow, such as King Oliver, Freddie Keppard, and even the young Louis Armstrong, were greatly influenced by his playing. Jelly Roll Morton recalled:
“We all felt funny when we saw Buddy Bolden riding the calaboose [going to jail], because he was our favorite in the Garden District. Buddy was a light brown-skin boy from Uptown. He drink all the whiskey he could find, never wore a collar and a tie, had his shirt busted open so all the girls to see that red flannel undershirt, always having a ball—Buddy Bolden was the most powerful trumpet in history.”
Video courtesy of Kevin McCaffrey.
A quick glance at Buddy Bolden's house.