[Dixielandjazz] Dr. Jazz

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Thu, 26 Sep 2002 09:25:39 -0400

List mates:

Forgive me for not being more specific about the tie between Dr. Jazz
and double entendre drug meaning. It was the subject of a term paper I
did in University in the 1950s. I do not have that paper and and still
searching my memory for the original sources.

What I do remember was that it has something to do with Jelly Roll
Morton who first recorded Dr. Jazz in December 1926  and Walter Melrose
who "wrote" the lyrics and produced many records by Jelly Roll, along
with publishing much of his sheet music.

Morton was a high spending braggart (as well as a genius) and would sell
songs to Melrose for pocket money, during the 1920s. Though I don't
remember exactly what the sources I read claimed , Morton could well
have written the lyrics to Dr. Jazz and sold them to Walter Melrose, who
got the credit.

Melrose Brothers was a combination music store, music publisher. Nothing
special until the Jazz explosion came to Chicago. Then they became
wealthy and famous a publisher of jazz sheet music, and producer of
records as the money backer and go between black musicians  and the
record companies. Sold the music store to concentrate on presenting jazz
to mainly black audiences. (Race Records and Sheet Music)

Morton originally a New Orleans whore house piano player moved around a
lot. He came to Chicago from the West Coast after the Melrose Bros.,
publishing Co. bought the rights to the song they would rename
"Wolverine Blues". Paid Morton $3000 for them. (not a real blues but
named by Melrose as such in order to sell more and deliver them more

If you listen to Morton's Dr. Jazz record from 1926, you will hear him
sing it. One of the few times he has a vocal on a record. Those are the
original words, and today, some lyric reprints are wrong.

Anyhow, I am now searching my biographical library on Morton and Melrose
for the exact information and will hopefully find it. At the time there
was no internet so I doubt one can find it via google etc. Must search
the written books.

Interesting to note that Walter Melrose made a fortune from Jelly Roll
Morton. Published all of Morton's stuff listing Melrose as being due the
composer rights money. Also put Morton's recording contracts in
Melrose's name and so the royalties went to him. Also listed himself as
lyricist to get composer money. Never paid Morton more than a token etc.
All this was later documented in an expose by a couple of newspaper
reporters from the Chicago Tribune and is probably available on the
internet via a search on "Jelly Roll Morton" or "Walter Melrose".
Morton?  He died a pauper.

Steve Barbone

PS. Google searching "Jelly Roll Morton" will turn up a "real play" of
that 1926 version of Dr. Jazz. It is a great record, and a treat to hear
him sing the lyric.