[Dixielandjazz] Natty Dominique

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Sun May 4 12:19:23 PDT 2003

     In yesterday's mail i received two CD's that i forgot i had 
ordered, always a pleasant kind of surprise.  I had ordered them as 
part of the renewal of my membership in the San Francisco Traditional 
Jazz Foundation. Both CD's are interesting, but for different reasons.
     The first is a peculiar little disk called _Holiday Rag_ by 
Weldon Kees and Bob Helm (yes, _that_ Bob Helm)(Badger Press, 
Pittsburgh PA, 1998)--Kees on piano and vocals, and Helm on clarinet, 
washboard, and vocals.  Helm you know about, but Weldon Kees 
(1914-1955?) was a poet in San Francisco who disappeared in 1955, his 
car being discovered near the Golden Gate bridge. The CD consists of 
Kees and Helm singing and playing rags and tunes for which Helm wrote 
the music (mostly) and Kees wrote the lyrics.  (Kees is mentioned 
extensively in Janet Richards' _Common Soldiers_.)  It ain't great 
music, but it's fun, with songs like "Culture Vulture Lucy", "(I Want 
to Move to) The House Next to Yours", "Mary Alice, Queen of the 
Drums", "I Like a Picture with a Chase at the End", and "Television 
     The other CD, however, is a fine one: 'Pan' Pameijer's New Jazz 
Wizards, _Remember Johnny Dodds, Vol. 1_ (Stomp Off CD1382, 2002), 
with Jon-Erik Kellso (tr), Matthias Seuffert (cl), Jim Snyder (tbn), 
Tom Saunders (tuba, string bass), David Boeddinghaus (pf), Martin 
Wheatley (banjo, guitar), and Pam Pameijer (drums, washboard).  The 
thing about this CD that piques my interest is the number of tunes by 
Natty Dominique (who of course played for years with Johnny Dodds): 
"Too Tight", "Lady Love", "Brush Stomp", "Sweet Lorraine", and "Sweep 
'Em Clean".  These are some pretty good songs, and i hadn't known he 
even wrote songs at all.
     But one aspect of his life intrigues me. There's an interesting 
history of his life at http://www.midwayhistory.com/NattyD.html (a 
website about Midway Airport in Chicago), which says (in part) that,

"Midway Airport has always been a magnet for characters, and one of 
the most appealing during the 1940's was Natty Dominique. Redcaps 
carried passengers luggage through the terminal, working for tips, 
and with an engaging personality and a million stories, Dominique was 
one of the best. However, being a redcap was not his first 
profession; in fact Natty was a famous jazz musician, and even though 
he did not work as a pilot at the airport, when he played his cornet, 
he could fly with the best of them." "Natty would continue to play in 
bands until a medical condition sidelined his career, forcing him to 
seek work as a redcap at Chicago Municipal Airport in 1940."  "But 
Natty couldn't stray too far from his music, and in the 1950's formed 
the 'Natty Dominique's Creole Dance Band'. His band reached back to 
the early days of New Orleans Jazz, playing the sound of Natty's 
youth."  (Notes taken in part from _Natty Dominique's Creole Dance 
Band American Music_, American Music Records AMCD-18, and _The Baby 
Dodds Story_, as told to Larry Gara.)

     Did any of you folks who lived, played, and/or passed through 
Chicago in the 1940's or 1950's ever run into him at the airport (or 
elsewhere)? The study of jazz leads one into some amazing corners....

**  Dan Augustine    Austin, Texas   ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu     **
**     "The opposite of talking isn't listening.  The opposite of     **
**      talking is waiting."  -- Fran Lebowitz                        **

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list