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Re: [RedHotJazz] Jelly Roll Morton's birthdate

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  • Michael Rader
    ... Gaines and Reich have their own agenda expressed clearly in the sub-title of their book, namely to redeem Jelly, in particular to show that he was not
    Message 1 of 18 , Sep 4, 2008
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      >
      > Clearly Gaines/Reich have chosen to ignore what previous researchers
      > have
      > concluded about the family's agenda, but that evidently is a matter
      > for
      > interpretation.


      Gaines and Reich have their own agenda expressed clearly in the sub-title of their book, namely to "redeem" Jelly, in particular to show that he was not the liar as whom he is often stereotyped. The "study in geneaology" incidentally give a date-of-birth for Jelly's mother, which would make an 1885 impossible.

      Michael Rader
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    • Howard Rye
      I think we can forget getting any nearer to a birth certificate than a baptismal certificate for someone in Jelly¹s social stratum at that time and date.
      Message 2 of 18 , Sep 4, 2008
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        I think we can forget getting any nearer to a birth certificate than a
        baptismal certificate for someone in Jelly¹s social stratum at that time and
        date.

        Normally a baptismal certificate is regarded as a perfectly adequate
        substitute, especially when it gives a birth date.

        All that is at issue is the bona fides of this one and I would be more
        impressed by these nay-sayers if instead of criticizing Larry they had
        themselves looked at the St. Joseph¹s records, assuming they survived
        Katrina of course. I cannot think of any other reasonable basis on which to
        dispute the existing evidence.


        on 04/09/2008 19:44, Bob Mates at bluesbob@... wrote:

        >
        >
        >
        > The problem with oral evidence is that, sometimes, the memory is
        > faulty. For instance, in the blues research, you have many
        > bluesmen giving dates that, when you checked them out, couldn't
        > have worked. I think that, unless and until someone comes up
        > with a birth certificate, Jelly Roll's date of birth is going to
        > be one of those mysteries, which make being a jazz and/or blues
        > fan so much fun. Bob
        >
        >


        Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
        howard@...
        Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • john schott
        Obviously there is a sort of standard version of reality where a person was born at a specific time and place. But I also think it valuable to hold on to
        Message 3 of 18 , Sep 4, 2008
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          Obviously there is a sort of "standard version of reality" where a person was born at a specific time and place. But I also think it valuable to hold on to multiple truths, and to consider what each testimony's "truth" is, whether from a person or document.

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • john schott
          On the subject of Reich and Gaines, see Duck Baker s negative reviews of the book in JazzTimes and, I believe, Coda, where he finds numerous inaccuracies,
          Message 4 of 18 , Sep 4, 2008
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            On the subject of Reich and Gaines, see Duck Baker's negative reviews of the
            book in JazzTimes and, I believe, Coda, where he finds numerous
            inaccuracies, distortions, and non-attributions.
            I would be sympathetic to a rethinking of Morton shorn of the "liar" label,
            if it were more in line with the attitude I spoke of in my previous posts,
            where multiple "truths" can be considered.


            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Michael Rader" <Rader.Michael@...>
            To: <RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 11:35 AM
            Subject: Re: [RedHotJazz] Jelly Roll Morton's birthdate


            >>
            >> Clearly Gaines/Reich have chosen to ignore what previous researchers
            >> have
            >> concluded about the family's agenda, but that evidently is a matter
            >> for
            >> interpretation.
            >
            >
            > Gaines and Reich have their own agenda expressed clearly in the sub-title
            > of their book, namely to "redeem" Jelly, in particular to show that he was
            > not the liar as whom he is often stereotyped. The "study in geneaology"
            > incidentally give a date-of-birth for Jelly's mother, which would make an
            > 1885 impossible.
            >
            > Michael Rader
            > _________________________________________________________________________
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            >
            >
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            >
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            >
            >
            >
          • Hugh
            This is not an easy issue to address. In our society which evolved during the 20th century we have come to accept a scientific view of reality where
            Message 5 of 18 , Sep 4, 2008
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              This is not an easy issue to address. In our society which evolved during the 20th century we have come to accept a 'scientific' view of reality where ascertainable 'truths' emerge as 'reality'. However, this is not an eternal verity. The simple fact is that what people believe to be the truth is, to all intents and purposes, the truth. This holds as much for 'science' as for anything else.
               
              There are alternative views of the world upon which I will gladly expand but I do not feel the present forum apprpriate.
               
              As far as I am concerned, 1885 is the year of Jelly's birth, documentary evidence notwithstanding. 1890 is simply inconceivable. I am aware of all the dates in question - 1902 for New Orleans Blues, for example, cannot believe that the evidence points to a birth in 1890.
               
              I am gratified, however, to see such interest in the person whom I continue to believe is the King of New Orleans (and therefore by definition, all) Jazz.

              --- On Thu, 9/4/08, john schott <john@...> wrote:

              From: john schott <john@...>
              Subject: Re: [RedHotJazz] Jelly Roll Morton's birthdate
              To: RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Thursday, September 4, 2008, 7:44 PM

              On the subject of Reich and Gaines, see Duck Baker's negative reviews of the

              book in JazzTimes and, I believe, Coda, where he finds numerous
              inaccuracies, distortions, and non-attributions.
              I would be sympathetic to a rethinking of Morton shorn of the "liar"
              label,
              if it were more in line with the attitude I spoke of in my previous posts,
              where multiple "truths" can be considered.


              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Michael Rader" <Rader.Michael@...>
              To: <RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 11:35 AM
              Subject: Re: [RedHotJazz] Jelly Roll Morton's birthdate


              >>
              >> Clearly Gaines/Reich have chosen to ignore what previous researchers
              >> have
              >> concluded about the family's agenda, but that evidently is a
              matter
              >> for
              >> interpretation.
              >
              >
              > Gaines and Reich have their own agenda expressed clearly in the sub-title
              > of their book, namely to "redeem" Jelly, in particular to show
              that he was
              > not the liar as whom he is often stereotyped. The "study in
              geneaology"
              > incidentally give a date-of-birth for Jelly's mother, which would make
              an
              > 1885 impossible.
              >
              > Michael Rader
              > _________________________________________________________________________
              > In 5 Schritten zur eigenen Homepage. Jetzt Domain sichern und gestalten!
              > Nur 3,99 EUR/Monat! http://www.maildomain.web.de/?mc=021114
              >
              >
              > ------------------------------------
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >


              ------------------------------------

              Yahoo! Groups Links








              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Michael Rader
              I haven t yet checked Storyville for the articles Howard mentioned, but the extract from the baptismal register seems to be a scan of the original rather
              Message 6 of 18 , Sep 5, 2008
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                I haven't yet checked "Storyville" for the articles Howard mentioned, but the extract from the baptismal register seems to be a scan of the original rather than a more recent transcript. The article says that Gushee obtained this photocopy later than the certificate of baptism, so that, contrary to Gaines/Reich's assertion, he did indeed pursue the matter further.

                Since Jelly's mother was born in 1871, a 1885 date of birth seems unlikely. Even so, Peter Hanley admits the possibilty that Jelly's birthdate might have been earlier than 1890, depending on how worried his parent(s) were about having an unbaptised infant.

                Michael Rader


                > I understand that Prof. Gushee sent Mike Meddings some scans for the
                > website of various documents to do with Morton's baptism. These can
                > be viewed (you might have to copy and paste the URL) at,
                >
                > http://www.doctorjazz.co.uk/page10.html#ancest
                >
                > Further down that page is a link to a section of "An Essay in
                > Genealogy" that might also be of interest. Thank you.
                >
                > Marco Romano.
                >

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              • Howard Rye
                Hugh is certainly right that this is not the place for discussing the philosophy of alternative realities. All that the layman need notice is that Œtruth¹ is
                Message 7 of 18 , Sep 5, 2008
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                  Hugh is certainly right that this is not the place for discussing the
                  philosophy of alternative realities. All that the layman need notice is that
                  Œtruth¹ is here being used with more than one meaning, which we acknowledge
                  in daily speech with such concepts as Œhome truths¹, Œreligious truth¹ and
                  so on, where we qualify the word precisely because we understand that these
                  things are not ³really true² but we are choosing to regard them as true.

                  I don¹t know if there is a word for the kind of truth that oral history
                  provides. It seems surprising if oral historians don¹t have one. I am sure
                  we all have true recollections of events in our early lives which would not
                  be the true recollections of other participants in the same events. There is
                  no point in expecting musicians or other subjects of oral history to be any
                  different and as Hugh says all these accounts are true in one sense of the
                  word.

                  Show business people constantly revise their birth dates. At least, they did
                  before governmental obsession with identity obliged people to settle for a
                  set of data about themselves which is then enshrined unalterably in their
                  identity document. The world is full of people with identity documents
                  Œprove¹ invented identities with a finality denied to earlier people and
                  which will seem to later researchers, as they do to bureaucrats today, to
                  embody a truth to which in fact they have no relationship. The extent to
                  which these ³false identities² will really be ³true identities² should be
                  good for a few philosophy PhDs!

                  The most extraordinary example known to me is the clarinnettist Rudolph
                  Dunbar who swore at various times in his life to (at least) six different
                  birth dates, ranging from 5 April 1899 (true in the scientific sense in that
                  that is the day in the Gregorian calendar in the time zone at the place of
                  his birth ‹ important qualifications sometimes ignored ‹ on which he
                  actually emerged from his mother) to 1910. The truth behind the latter is
                  that he joined the British Guiana Military Band when he was aged 2, which I
                  suppose is ³ to all intents and purposes, the truth²! Or not, depending on
                  your beliefs about the nature of reality.

                  Morton and other early New Orleanians indulged in the much more unusual
                  process of trying to be older than they were because they wished to claim
                  primacy, and of course much of the pressure to show Morton a liar (a wholly
                  inappropriate word) has come from people who want to reassign the credit for
                  ³inventing jazz².

                  The 1902 date for New Orleans Blues is simply part of this process. If it is
                  not compatible with the 1890 birth this is because it is part of a different
                  reality in which Morton himself believed. There seems to be clear evidence
                  that he did not actually know his own birth date in the scientific sense and
                  probably believed what his sisters told him about the relationship between
                  their ages. Unfortunately the job description of a historian is to reconcile
                  these alternative realities into a single account.

                  Which said, I¹m not entirely sure why a precocious 12-year old (as Morton
                  surely was) should not have written New Orleans Blues, now I come to think
                  about it.

                  Getting back to the point, I also find, reading more deeply into what Larry
                  Gushee originally wrote, that he has always acknowledged that ultimate proof
                  that the Ferdinand Joseph Lemott, Edward Lemott, and Louise Manett of the
                  25 April 1891 baptismal certificate are Jelly and his parents is, given the
                  spelling uncertainties, lacking and likely to remain so. There are plenty of
                  people even in civilized countries serving long prison sentences on the
                  basis of far less compelling evidence, but that is another version of
                  reality and not perhaps an inappropriate reference point when dealing with
                  official documentation of this kind! This baptismal certificate would
                  certainly be accepted as a true account of Morton¹s birth in any court of
                  law. I think the agreement to regard what are appparently ascertainable
                  facts as truth goes back much further than the twentieth century.

                  I also realize that the copy of the baptismal certificate in Storyville 127
                  actually says it was made in 1984. The copy at
                  <http://www.doctorjazz.co.uk/page10.html#ancest> was made in 1981. The
                  transcriptions are signed by different church officials. So, as usual with
                  documents of this kind, we are not looking at originals.



                  on 04/09/2008 23:43, Hugh at hughphoric@... wrote:

                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > This is not an easy issue to address. In our society which evolved during the
                  > 20th century we have come to accept a 'scientific' view of reality where
                  > ascertainable 'truths' emerge as 'reality'. However, this is not an eternal
                  > verity. The simple fact is that what people believe to be the truth is, to all
                  > intents and purposes, the truth. This holds as much for 'science' as for
                  > anything else.
                  >  
                  > There are alternative views of the world upon which I will gladly expand but I
                  > do not feel the present forum apprpriate.
                  >  
                  > As far as I am concerned, 1885 is the year of Jelly's birth, documentary
                  > evidence notwithstanding. 1890 is simply inconceivable. I am aware of all the
                  > dates in question - 1902 for New Orleans Blues, for example, cannot
                  > believe that the evidence points to a birth in 1890.
                  >  
                  > I am gratified, however, to see such interest in the person whom I continue to
                  > believe is the King of New Orleans (and therefore by definition, all) Jazz.
                  >


                  Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
                  howard@...
                  Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098




                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Bob Mates
                  This discussion of multiple dates of birth reminds me of a blues singer, named Alex Miller, who recorded as Sonny Boy Williamson II. He gave about 7 different
                  Message 8 of 18 , Sep 5, 2008
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                    This discussion of multiple dates of birth reminds me of a blues
                    singer, named Alex Miller, who recorded as Sonny Boy Williamson
                    II. He gave about 7 different dates of birth, from 1896 to 1909.
                    He also claimed his real name was Sonny Boy Williamson! Leadbelly
                    was another one for contradictory stories, as was Big Bill
                    Broonzy. Anyone who researches this stuff has to separate the
                    wheat from the chaff, as it were. Bob
                  • Tommer
                    I don t know about when the narrative of Buddy Bolden came into this Handy vs. Morton scene, but it does seems that Downbeat magazine of the time wasn t aware
                    Message 9 of 18 , Sep 5, 2008
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                      I don't know about when the narrative of Buddy Bolden came into this
                      Handy vs. Morton scene, but it does seems that Downbeat magazine of
                      the time wasn't aware of attempts to find the early history of Jazz.

                      Maybe the right way to look at it is to consider Morton's arriveal at
                      the Frenchman's where he saw birth of Jazz to be 1890 + 17 years old
                      Morton. I wonder whether there are any documents about the
                      Frenchman's place and whether circa 1907 they had some of the names
                      Morton mentioned. More than Morton wanted to change his date of birth
                      to an earlier one, I believe he was fighting the way W.C. Handy
                      narrated the history of Jazz and Morton might be putting the year
                      1902 and himself just in order to get rid of Handy's claims about him
                      encountering the Blues in 1903, and Morton picked the next early year
                      as a startup year, knowing that Handy's narrative is uncorrect anyway
                      he only had to face Handy's claims.

                      Tommer
                    • John O
                      In the hand-written Fragment of an Autobiography Morton gave to Roy Carew in 1938, Jelly stated he was about 14 when his mother died. According to Gushee s
                      Message 10 of 18 , Sep 5, 2008
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                        In the hand-written "Fragment of an Autobiography" Morton gave to Roy
                        Carew in 1938, Jelly stated he was "about 14" when his mother died.
                        According to Gushee's 2001 Afterword in 'Mister Jelly Roll', Louise
                        Monette "probably died in 1906."

                        Jelly's 1918 draft registration information states a birth year of
                        1884--the earliest "official" date we have, which may simply indicate
                        an attempt to avoid being drafted. On his 1921 Mexican visa, Jelly
                        himself apparently wrote his birth year as 1890 (pasted over, visible
                        through the opposite side, not quite certain).

                        According to his younger sister Frances, in 1925 he wanted to seem
                        younger, not older, than he was: when she visted him in Chicago that
                        year, he emphasized that she should keep her age secret and to agree
                        that he was 28(!).

                        I'm slightly partial to 1889, the year given by sister Amide and by
                        Anita (on his death certificate). It's not incompatible with a
                        Storyville professorship (at age 13) and "New Orleans (Blues) Joys"
                        authorship (with help, Jelly freely admitted, from a piano instructor)
                        in 1902.
                      • Hugh
                        I think this is fair enough. Let s face it - we are never going to know for certain and I am not sure we need to. I have had in my mind two years - 1885 and
                        Message 11 of 18 , Sep 6, 2008
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                          I think this is fair enough. Let's face it - we are never going to know for certain and I am not sure we need to. I have had in my mind two years - 1885 and 1890 - for some decades and am prepared to believe either 'reality'. The real 'reality' of course, is that we will simply never know, and I think that's good enough, because what is really important is the wonderful, infinite and rich music that Jelly left for us. The tolerances of 1885-1890 are quite acceptable.
                           
                          Regarding documentary 'truth' - there was a story recounted in a paper I read years ago which (as far as I recall) went like this. An old Mexican woman claimed Social Security in California, but as an illegal immigrant several decades before, she had no birth certificate. She asked the official what this was and was told that it was a piece of paper showing her date and place of birth, father's name etc. She went home and returned some time later with a piece of paper she had written herself, showing her date and place of birth, father's name etc.
                           
                          Hugh

                          --- On Fri, 9/5/08, John O <spacelights@...> wrote:

                          From: John O <spacelights@...>
                          Subject: [RedHotJazz] Re: Jelly Roll Morton's birthdate
                          To: RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com
                          Date: Friday, September 5, 2008, 10:37 PM






                          In the hand-written "Fragment of an Autobiography" Morton gave to Roy
                          Carew in 1938, Jelly stated he was "about 14" when his mother died.
                          According to Gushee's 2001 Afterword in 'Mister Jelly Roll', Louise
                          Monette "probably died in 1906."

                          Jelly's 1918 draft registration information states a birth year of
                          1884--the earliest "official" date we have, which may simply indicate
                          an attempt to avoid being drafted. On his 1921 Mexican visa, Jelly
                          himself apparently wrote his birth year as 1890 (pasted over, visible
                          through the opposite side, not quite certain).

                          According to his younger sister Frances, in 1925 he wanted to seem
                          younger, not older, than he was: when she visted him in Chicago that
                          year, he emphasized that she should keep her age secret and to agree
                          that he was 28(!).

                          I'm slightly partial to 1889, the year given by sister Amide and by
                          Anita (on his death certificate) . It's not incompatible with a
                          Storyville professorship (at age 13) and "New Orleans (Blues) Joys"
                          authorship (with help, Jelly freely admitted, from a piano instructor)
                          in 1902.


















                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Howard Rye
                          Louis Armstrong¹s first passport application includes a sworn affidavit from his father certifying his date of birth. No joke. I have actually seen it. You
                          Message 12 of 18 , Sep 6, 2008
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                            Louis Armstrong¹s first passport application includes a sworn affidavit from
                            his father certifying his date of birth. No joke. I have actually seen it.

                            You can get documents to prove anything provided you can afford them.

                            on 06/09/2008 09:12, Hugh at hughphoric@... wrote:

                            > Regarding documentary 'truth' - there was a story recounted in a paper I read
                            > years ago which (as far as I recall) went like this. An old Mexican woman
                            > claimed Social Security in California, but as an illegal immigrant
                            > several decades before, she had no birth certificate. She asked the official
                            > what this was and was told that it was a piece of paper showing her date and
                            > place of birth, father's name etc. She went home and returned some time later
                            > with a piece of paper she had written herself, showing her date and place of
                            > birth, father's name etc.
                            >  
                            > Hugh
                            >
                            >


                            Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
                            howard@...
                            Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098




                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • Michael Rader
                            While the chronology in Bill Russell s Oh, Mr Jelly rather half-heartedly sticks to the 1885 birthdate, acknowledging that many others are plausible, it
                            Message 13 of 18 , Sep 6, 2008
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                              While the chronology in Bill Russell's "Oh, Mr Jelly" rather half-heartedly sticks to the 1885 birthdate, acknowledging that many others are plausible, it paradoxically captions what it calls the first known photo of Jelly as having been taken in 1906, when he was 17 years of age.

                              Michael Rader
                              ________________________________________________________________________
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