[Dixielandjazz] Dr. Jazz & Jelly Roll

briantowers briantowers@msn.com
Fri, 27 Sep 2002 01:15:22 -0400

> Dave has jogged my memory, There is, in one of Jelly's quotations
> something like the following when talking about the prostitutes in the
> whorehouses where he worked prior to 1917. "Some of them were ladies in
> spite of their fallen status and some were dope fiends, opium, heroin,
> cocaine and so on. I was often sent to Chinatown with a sealed envelope
> and some money to bring back 'hop' (opium)."
> If he was Dr. Jazz, and with Walter Melrose the lyricist for the song
> "Dr Jazz" in December 1926 when he sang the song, it is quite logical to
> see the words as relating to his earlier stated experiences as a dope
> delivery boy, whether those experiences were real or just braggadocio.
> Now, I shall try and find the exact JRM quote, unless Dave can come up
> with it.
> As I recall, I used that logic in my term paper about it 50 years ago.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
Close!   Here is the actual quote from Lomax's book "Mister Jelly Roll",
from the chapter "Money in the Tenderloin"
when Morton was a young teenager, playing piano in a Storyville brothel.
(He is talking about the women standing in the doorways, as he walks through
the tenderloin district)

"....some were real ladies in spite of their downfall and some were habitual
drunkards and some were dope fiends as follows, opium, heroin,
cocaine,laudanum, morphine etcetera.    I was personally sent to Chinatown
many times with a sealed note and a small amount of money and would bring
back several cards of hop.   There was no slipping and dodging.  all you had
to do was walk in and be served"

So Jelly Roll acted as an occasional messenger boy for the hookers, when he
was a lad.   From the way he spoke  about other musicians who were addicts,
I doubt he was into it himself and there is no implication in the books that
he was a dealer or a pusher.

The exuberant lyric, (which I still believe relates to jazz music, rather
than pimping or drug dealing),  could indeed have been written by Morton.
Melrose had his name as co-composer on a lot of stuff to which he
contributed nothing artistically - this could be another example.  Perhaps
the truth will come out one of these days.

Brian Towers