[Dixielandjazz] Them pesky Bocages

TBW504 at aol.com TBW504 at aol.com
Fri Nov 7 18:55:22 PST 2003

Few people know more about the Bocages than Kevin Herridge an ex-Brit now a 
US citizen married to a Cajun. He is in contact with the surviving Bocage 
members and by a strange coincidence  is related by marriage! Try the following for 
size from my book "The Song for Me" greatly assisted by my friend Kevin:
The firm of O. J. Bocage & Sons, boat builders, was well established in 
Algiers by the end of the nineteenth century. The boatyard was on the 500 block of 
Powder Street facing the river, with the family living in adjacent residential 
accommodation. The senior member, Octave Janvier Bocage, was born in Algiers 
on April 1, 1835. He and his wife Germine1 (née Gayot) had no fewer than 21 
children, two of whom, Leopold Bocage (born June 25, 1859 - died Oct. 26, 1923)) 
and Octave J. Bocage Jr. (born 1871), were partners in the business. Although 
Leopold was christened as such he rather confusingly went by the name of 
"Paul". He made musical instruments and played guitar in bands around Algiers 
according to a Tulane interview. He married Emilie Lamothe (aka as Elizabeth, born 
1859) in 1885 and witnesses were Jules and Joseph Manetta of another famous 
musical family. The children of Paul and Emilie were the famous musicians 
Peter, Henry and Charles. And in yet another musical twist their daughter, Lillian, 
married Lorenzo Tio. Lillian and Lorenzo took Charles Bocage to live with 
them after they married. There were other musicians in the family: Wilfred played 
sax and Leonard, was a guitarist. Leonard Bocage, born in Algiers, Dec 14, 
1897 was the son of John A. Bocage, so was first cousin to Peter, Henry and 
Charles. Another musical relative was Marlene Bocage, born July 9, 1936 in 
Algiers. She sang under the name of Vicky Lynn at the Dew Drop, and toured with Ray 
Charles. An e-mail from Kevin Herridge (12/11/02) supplies the following: I 
just went to do a short interview with Albert Bocage who lives at 923 Verret St. 
(Henry Allen, Sr.'s former home) Albert was born in Algiers on Nov.29th, 1919, 
his father being Leonard Bocage and mother Rosalie Bellaire. His grandfather 
was John Bocage. Leonard played guitar, banjo & drums and played with Kid 
Thomas and a couple of bands over the river and the Creole Serenaders. He was born 
Dec.4, 1897 and died Sept. 1976. Last address was 1002 Vallette St. and also 
lived at 1213 Belleville St. He came up with "Red" Allen and bought him his 
first pair of long pants so that he could get into gigs and look older. They all 
lived by the "Canal" (an open ditch that ran along Lamarque St.) Albert went 
to dances at the Greystone Voters League (I saw the Nevilles there in the 
60's), the Masonic Hall (James Rivers was a regular performer there), Elk's Hall 
(local bands) and Kohlman Hall (where he was a barman). Interestingly the birth 
certificate of Leopold (aka Paul) has on it the declaration by Octave Bocage 
that "on June 25th, 1859, was born at his residence a male child named Leopold 
Boucage". This could be a spelling variation but I suspect it an error 
introduced by the pronunciation of Bocage. I am indebted to Kevin Herridge and The 
Algerine for all this information, who has kindly passed on details of his own 
research and that of Charlotte, Peter Bocage's great-granddaughter. Lately I 
have noticed a reference to Frank Bocage in IHYK in a piece on Bobby Mitchell a 
singer from Algiers. In 1950 he formed a group called The Toppers which 
included Lloyd Bellaire, Frank Bocage, Gabriel Fleming and Gabriel Butler. Later, 
Milton Batiste, David Grillier and Ed Foucher played with them.
BOCAGE, Charles Leopold                 Banjo; guitar
1900, Jan 14: New Orleans                   1963, Nov 4
Charles Bocage was with A J Piron after WW1 and recorded with this band. 
Later, he was mainly in bands led by his brother, Peter. Leonard Bocage (q.v.), 
described as a cousin (Charters) and a brother (Chilton), played banjo with John 
Casimir and Sonny Allen in the early twenties. His death certificate says, 
"son of Paul".
BOCAGE, Edwin Joseph "Eddie Bo" "Spider"            Piano; violin; vocals 
1930, Sep 20: New Orleans   
A cousin or nephew of Peter Bocage, depending on which "authority" you 
believed: however, I have it on the authority of Kevin Herridge who has researched 
the Bocage family, that he is a nephew of Peter, Henry and Charles. Although 
born in New Orleans he was raised over in Algiers. After military service 
enrolled in the Grunewald School of Music. Played in Roy Brown's Rhythm & Blues band 
along with Teddy Riley, etc. Led the house band at the Tijuana Club on South 
Saratoga Street, and later led the Spider Bocage Orchestra. He performed at 
the Ascona Jazz Festival in 1991 with the Carl Le Blanc Band. He was listed as 
touring with Chris Barber in the early 1990s. Not to be confused with Eddie 
"Boh" Paris, a trombonist.
BOCAGE, Henry Clay                  Tuba; string bass; trumpet
1894, Mar -: New Orleans                    later than 1939
Said to be a cousin of the Bocage brothers, Peter and Charles, according to R&
S. However, NGDJ describes him as brother to Peter and Charles and backs this 
with a reference to oral history tapes at Tulane, a formidable authority. 
Henry played with A.J.Piron, 1918-1919, and recorded with them in 1923. Another 
"cousin" (?) was Wilfred Bocage (see below, under Peter Bocage) was on alto sax 
with Herbert Leary around 1942. There is a picture of Wilfred holding a 
banjo, and posing with saxophones, in Sonnier's Bunk Johnson: the New Iberia Years. 
The same picture is shown in Footnote volume 18-3 where it states it was 
taken during his stint with the Banner Orchestra. A Kid Thomas interview mentions 
Kid playing in a trio with Joe James and Wilfred Bocage at Specks' dance hall 
(before Moulin Rouge was built) during WW2.
BOCAGE, Leopold (Paul)                  Guitar
1859, Jan -: Algiers, LA                    ?
The son of Charles Leopold Bocage a prosperous boat builder, and the father 
of Peter Bocage. Although christened as Leopold he was known as Paul Bocage. 
His brother John also played guitar. Paul played guitar with a four-piece band 
led by old man Dorsey which included Norman Manetta, uncle of Manuel Manetta, 
on cornet. They played "...old time music .… they didn't play no jazz....". Tom 
Albert remembered Dorsey, a big fellow, as having ".......a big(ger) band; 
all Creole and they knew music."   Henry De Fuentes (Peter Bocage's first music 
teacher) played violin with them at one time.
BOCAGE, Peter Edwin                 Trumpet; cornet; trombone; banjo; violin
1887, Jul 31: Algiers, LA                   1967, Dec 3
Peter Bocage came from a musical family. He had lessons from trumpeter 
Christian Broekhaven (1812-1912) leader of a straight band. Peter began on guitar 
and violin around 1900, and in 1904 (some say 1906) was on violin with Tom 
Albert. He became leader and violinist in both Billy Marrero's Superior Orchestra 
(with Bunk Johnson and Big Eye Louis Nelson) and Bab Frank's Peerless Orchestra 
for 3 or 4 years, and is said to have helped Bunk's reading. Around 1911 he 
studied cornet with Perez, and about 1913 he was with Joe Oliver at Pete 
Lala's. After 1918 he played with A J Piron and Fate Marable by which time he had 
become proficient on cornet, although he also played trombone on occasion with 
Piron. He led his own Creole Serenaders after Piron disbanded in 1928. He 
appears on the 1946 Original Zenith Band recording, and later briefly replaced Bunk 
Johnson with Sidney Bechet in Boston, after Bunk's row with Sidney. He took 
over leadership of the Excelsior Brass Band around 1921 after George Moret 
retired. In the 1960s he played with the Eureka Brass Band, and was also with the 
Love-Jiles Ragtime Orchestra and a regular at Preservation Hall until his 
death. By some quirk of temperament he refused to pass on his extensive and 
historic collection of arrangements, and neither would his family after his death. 
Whilst never, in common parlance a "hot" player he, nevertheless, possessed a 
delicacy of style and a subtlety with which he could swing a group to great 
effect and made him respected by all his peers. He composed the tunes recorded by 
Piron, "Bouncing Around" and "Mamma's Gone, Goodbye" and when he played his 
arrangement of Piron's theme song, "Purple Rose of Cairo" at Preservation Hall, 
always took solos on violin2 as well as trumpet. I wish I could have heard 
that. The celebrated clarinettist Lorenzo Tio Jr. was married to a sister of 
Peter Bocage. Wilfred Bocage - who played banjo and sax - was a son of John 
Bocage and played with his cousin, Peter Bocage, at Mardi Gras in 1962. In a recent 
(March, 2000) e-mail from Kevin Herridge: Got a call out of the blue 
yesterday morning from Charlotte Bocage, grand-daughter of Peter's brother Charles! 
She was in town for Mardi Gras and picked up one of my walking tour brochures. 
She never had time to do the tour as she has to go back to L.A. tomorrow but 
wants to do it in July when she is coming back for the Bocage family reunion. 
Eddie Bo is also a member of that family. She also has photos she said she would 
copy for me and did a fifty page essay for U.C.L.A.. on the musicians in the 
family and their genealogy which she will also send me. Needless to say, my 
English reserve went out the window and I had to explain who the Bocages were as 
they were not jazz fans. 

Brian Wood

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