[Dixielandjazz] Tad Jones obit (long)
loerchen2 at aol.com
loerchen2 at aol.com
Wed Jan 3 13:06:37 PST 2007
I was saddened to hear that one of my friends and colleagues had died early Monday morning. Tad was the person who discovered Louis Armstrong's actual birth date, and was working on a new book about Armstrong's early life. He also organized the programming at Satchmo Summerfest. We'll all miss him.
Tad Jones, N.O. music scholar
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
By Keith Spera
Tad Jones, a music historian, researcher and writer who specialized in the early life of Louis Armstrong, died Monday after a fall at his home. He was 54.
Mr. Jones, a fifth-generation New Orleanian, graduated from De La Salle High School and Loyola University. As a disc jockey at Loyola's campus radio station, he interviewed scores of prominent local musicians.
In 1986, he teamed with Jonathan Foose and Jason Berry to co-write "Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II," an authoritative study of the roots and manifestations of local music, especially rhythm & blues.
But Mr. Jones' most significant contribution to music scholarship was his 1988 discovery of Louis Armstrong's actual birthday.
The jazz trumpeter always maintained that he was born on July 4, 1900. After learning that Armstrong was baptized at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at South Lopez and Canal streets, Mr. Jones asked church officials to search their files for the official record.
They came across a baptismal certificate for one Louis Daniel Armstrong, born out of wedlock to William Armstrong and Mary Albert on Aug. 4, 1901, then baptized three weeks later.
That information rewrote the history of one of the 20th century's greatest cultural figures and New Orleans' most famous son.
Mr. Jones said at the time that he was "surprised" at his discovery, "but only because it had been sitting there for 87 years and no one else had found it. It wasn't like looking into King Tut's tomb."
He later theorized that a teenage Armstrong first fibbed about his age while trying to enlist in the Army in September 1918, near the end of World War I.
"He was doing everything he could to get into the Army," Mr. Jones said in July 2000, as jazz fans around the world celebrated Armstrong's mythical 100th birthday. "He had friends who had gone into the Army. You get three meals a day, a place to sleep, and you get to play music (in the Army band). He thought that if he could get in the Army, he could get in the band."
Mr. Jones helped coordinate the jazz history component of the annual Satchmo SummerFest, established in August 2001 by French Quarter Festivals Inc. to mark the actual centennial of Armstrong's birth. Mr. Jones was also a frequent lecturer at the festival.
"He was dedicated, energetic and very knowledgeable about music and the history of music," said former French Quarter Festival Executive Director Laurie Toups. "He dedicated himself to those interests. Research took up a lot of his life. He'll be missed in the jazz community."
He occasionally did paralegal and accounting work, handled the Radiators' music publishing interests and received grants to finance his prolific research. He spent countless hours poring over tax, real estate and arrest records to paint a detailed portrait of his subjects, especially Armstrong.
"Scholars all over the world came to Tad to find out about Armstrong," said Connie Atkinson, associate director of the University of New Orleans' Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies. "People trusted his research. I'd have him talk to my history of New Orleans music class about his experiences. He was a great showman in front of the students."
For years, Mr. Jones researched an exhaustive account of Armstrong's turbulent youth in New Orleans. The manuscript was nearly finished; in November, he read a chapter at the Satchmo Meets Amadeus conference in Austria.
Jack Stewart, a fellow music historian who collaborated with Mr. Jones for more than a decade, described the project as "myth-breaking. Tad said it was going to show how Louis Armstrong was a common criminal who was rescued by an amazingly progressive juvenile justice system in New Orleans.
"He was going to break that news to the world. At first he felt uneasy about it. But he didn't put any artificial or subjective spin on anything," Stewart said.
Survivors include his parents, Phyllis Bunol Jones and C. Palmer Jones Sr.; a brother, Calvin P. Jones; and a sister, Suzanne Jones Myers.
Visitation is Friday from 8 to 10 a.m. at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. A Mass will be said 10 a.m. Burial will be at Lake Lawn.
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