[Dixielandjazz] Re: More on Durante

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 29 21:03:59 PST 2003

> Don Kirkman <donkirk at covad.net>
> There's a 1921 photograph of Durante and the band in my copy of "They
> All Played Ragtime" [1971 revised paper edition]; right under the band
> name is "A. J. Baquet-Clarinet."  The photo is by Delacroix of New York.

Yes, that is Achille Baquet, the creole clarinetist in the band, who passed for white. Hey. Durante may have led the first integrated jazz band that played in public, circa 1918. :-) Baquet passed for white in several other bands during his life.

Other musicians Durante played with include Johnny Stein, drummer in Dixieland bands from about 1915 on and Phil Napoleon along with the other members of the Original Memphis Five (except Signorelli). That group was named Ladd's Black Aces and Durante recorded with them in 1921

All of the musicians in that band were white. The name "Ladd's Black Aces" was meant to capitalize on the following that Black bands had. In fact it was a pseudonym for the Original Memphis Five, included the same personnel and also recorded for Gennett in the early 1920s.

Gennett even went so far as to picture a black musician on one of the record jackets. Be that as it may, Durante was certainly more than just a casual pianist as some suggest. I suspect that like Louis Prima, he followed the money and it led to his own vaudeville act in his own club in NYC, then to Broadway, and then to Hollywood. He was a consummate entertainer. We old timers fondly remember him.

Steve Barbone

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