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Celestin, Papa (actually, Oscar Phillip)

Celestin, Papa (actually, Oscar Phillip)

Celestin, Papa (actually, Oscar Phillip), early jazz trumpeter, leader, singer; b. La Fourche Parish, Napoleonville, La., Jan. 1, 1884; d. New Orleans, La., Dec. 15, 1954. As a youth, he was nicknamed “Sonny”; as the years went by, his nickname matured to “Papa.” Following early efforts on the guitar and mandolin, he worked for a few years as a cook on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. He settled in St. Charles, La., and began playing trombone and trumpet in the local brass band. He moved to New Orleans in 1906 and joined the Ind. Brass Band on cornet. Later he worked in Ailen’s Brass Band and with Jack Carey, the Olympia Band, and other local bands, before leading his own band at Tuxedo Hall, New Orleans, from 1910 until the hall closed in 1913. He led his own band at Villa Cafe, then co-led a band with trumpeter and bassist Ricard Alexis, later billed as the Original Tuxedo Brass Band. In about 1917 he helped trombonist William Ridgely organize the Original Tuxedo Orch.; the two men co-led on and off until splitting up in 1925, then Celestin led his own Tuxedo Jazz Orch., which did several recording sessions in the late 1920s, played regularly in New Orleans, and also toured throughout the Gulf Coast states until the early 1930s. Celestin then left full- time music but continued to lead his own band in New Orleans, including a residency at the Pelican Roof in 1939. He worked in the local shipyards during World War II, until being seriously injured by a hit-and-run motorist in 1944. He began playing more regularly from 1946, recommenced recording in 1947. During the late 1940s he led at the Paddock, New Orleans, and also made regular radio and TV appearances and occasional tours. In May 1953 he went to Washington to play for President Eisenhower; later that year the band appeared in the film Cinerama Holiday.


1950’s Radio Broadcasts (1950); The Battle of the Bands (1950); Marie Laveau (1950); Papa’s Golden Wedding (1954).

—John Chilton Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter

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