[Dixielandjazz] on banjos--Lawrence Marrero

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sun Mar 6 14:55:42 PST 2005

By chance, Bill Huntgington, who understudied Lawrence Marrero in the 
George Lewis band in N.O. in the 40s, sent me this comment on the 
banjo, Lawrence's approach, etc. Re Alton Purnell, he was indeed the 
young turk of the band. On Bunk's Victor (Decca?) record of "One Sweet 
Letter From You," Alton even plays quarter note triplets leading into a 

> The thing that hooked me . . . was Marrero's beat and his sound. I was 
> discussing this with Bethel and he agreed that Lawrence's presence, or 
> absence had a telling effect on the rhythmic drive of recorded bands 
> during the revival, including Lewis's. Part of Lawrence's sound and 
> feel had to do with his use of a metal tension mute below the bridge. 
> This gave the instrument more sustain and ring and it also got rid of 
> the clang.  I sent one to Ken Collier's banjoist in the early 50's... 
> By the way, my take on the Lewis rhythm section is that it was a 
> hybrid. Lawrence and Drag did their thing, Alton Pernell often 
> compted, "a la Basie," and Joe Watkins played on the ride cymbal. This 
> combination gave the distinctive drive to the band.... hardly a 1920's 
> sound.

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