Keppard, Freddie, influential early jazz cornetist; b. New Orleans, Feb. 15, 1889 (or Feb. 27, 1890); d. Chicago, July 15, 1933. He was known as“King” in New Orleans between Bolden and Oliver, among others. He was the brother of tuba-player and guitarist Louis Keppard (b. New Orleans, Feb. 2, 1888; d. New Orleans, Feb. 18, 1986). Both brothers began on fretted instruments: Freddie on mandolin, Louis on guitar. Freddie also played violin and accordion before switching exclusively to cornet. He was originally taught by Adolphe Alexander. After playing a few local gigs he organized the Olympia Orch. ca. 1906; during the period 1907-11 he also worked in Frankie Dusen’s Eagle Band, and played regularly in various clubs and dance halls including Pete Lala’s, Groshell’s, George Fewclothes, Hanan’s, etc. Early in 1912 (at bassist Bill Johnson’s request) he and several colleagues traveled to L.A., Keppard became frontman and co-leader of the Original Creole Orch. The orch. toured the Orpheum Circuit for several years including visits to Chicago and N.Y. (1915). Keppard was offered a chance to record with Victor in 1916, but turned it down because he didn’t want other bands to copy the group’s style and take away potential work. Though this reasoning was sensible, in retrospect it was a mistake because the example of the ODJB, who became the first jazz band to record, showed that the potential gigs expanded enormously once recordings became available. The Original Creoles temporarily disbanded in 1917, but soon re-formed under Keppard’s leadership. They played a residency at the Logan Square Theatre (Chicago), then briefly toured the Orpheum Circuit again. Keppard then settled in Chicago, played a residency at the Entertainers’ Cafe, then toured with the Tan Town Topics. He returned to play at the Entertainers and at the De Lure. (Jasper Taylor once said that Keppard worked with Lt. Tim Brymn in N.Y.; this may have been in 1919). He was briefly with King Oliver at the Royal Gardens (ca. 1920), then worked at the Lorraine Club with Jimmie Noone, and doubled with Mae Brady’s Band at Dreamland. He joined Doc Cooke at that venue in autumn 1922, remained for two years except for a brief spell with Erskine Tate in 1923. During this two-year period he also doubled in Ollie Powers’s Band. From 1924 he was regularly employed at Bert Kelly’s Stables; this arrangement continued for several years, but Keppard had long leaves of absence. He rejoined Doc Cooke in late 1925 until ca. early 1926, led his own band, and again worked at Bert Kelly’s. He rejoined Doc Cooke from spring until September 1927, with Erskine Tate in early 1928, led his own band at LaRue’s Dreamland (spring 1928), and later worked with Jerome Don Pasquall’s Band at Harmon’s Dreamland (late 1928). He toured I11. and Ind. with his own band, then worked with Charlie Elgar at the Savoy Ballroom. He lived in musical obscurity for the last years of his life, and suffered from tuberculosis. After a long illness, he died in the Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
—John Chilton, Who‘s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter