Ory, Kid (actually Edward)

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Ory, Kid (actually Edward)

Ory, Kid (actually Edward), leading New Orleans trombonist, leader, singer, string bassist, cornetist, alto saxophonist; b. La Place, La., Dec. 25, 1890 (some authorities give 1886, U.S. Census suggests 1881); d. Honolulu, Jan. 23, 1973. He was the most famous exponent of the tailgate style, which was highly rhythmic with extensive use of slurs and glissandos, and was featured on many 1920s recordings with Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, and others. When Ory was rediscovered during the 1940s New Orleans revival, he sometimes sang in Creole dialect; his generation still held to Creole customs including the spoken patois.

Ory began playing banjo from the age of 10, led boys’ bands in La Place, then began doubling on valve trombone before specializing on slide trombone. He made regular visits to New Orleans before making his home there. From c. 1912 until 1919, he led one of the most successful bands in the city. A doctor advised Ory to live in a humid climate, and he moved to Calif, in 1919. He soon sent for several New Orleans musicians and formed his own band on the West Coast in November 1919. They played residencies in San Francisco, L.A., and Oakland, and in mid-1922 became the first black jazz band to have recordings issued. In late 1925, he handed over the leadership to Mutt Carey and moved to Chicago for recording dates with Louis Armstrong, then joined King Oliver where he played alto sax for six weeks until trombonist George Filhe worked out his notice. During this time he also recorded with Morton. Ory left Chicago with Oliver, played briefly with the band in N.Y. (May 1927), then returned to Chicago to join Dave Peyton, then Clarence Black, and Boyd Atkins (1929). He returned to L.A. in 1930, played in Mutt Carey’s Jeffersonians for a few months, freelanced with a touring theatre band and others, then left music to help his brother run a chicken farm (1933). He visited N.Y. in September 1939, then returned to L.A. to work in a railroad office. He resumed regular playing by joining Barney Bigard’s Band at Trouville Club, L.A. (summer 1942). During 1943–44 he was mainly active on string bass and alto sax, but reverted to trombone after his success on Orson Welles’s radio series (1944). From then on he led his own highly successful band, primarily for West Coast residencies, and toured the U.S. in 1948. Poor health forced him to temporarily disband in the summer of 1955, but he soon re-formed and led his band on several overseas tours including visits to Europe in 1956 and 1959. From 1954 until 1961, Ory played frequently at his own club, On the Levee, San Francisco. He performed regularly during the early 1960s, but after recurring bouts of illness moved to Hawaii in the summer of 1966. Pneumonia threatened his life early in 1969. After recovering, he lived in quiet retirement. He played at New Orleans Jazz Fest (April 1971). Kid Ory appeared in several films including: New Orleans (with Louis Armstrong) and with own band in Crossfire, Mahogany Magic, Disneyland After Dawn, and The Benny Goodman Story. His most famous composition, “Muskrat Ramble,” became the basis for one of the most pervasive protest songs of the Vietnam era: Country Joe Mac-Donald’s “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.”


K. O. and His Creole Band (1948); At the Beverly Cavern (1951); This K.’s the Greatest! (1953); Live at Club Hangover, Vol. 1 (1953); K. O.’s Creole Jazz Band (1954); K. O. Favorites! (1956); K. O. at the Green Room, Vol. 1 (1947); King of the Tailgate Trombone (1948); Edward Plays W. C. Handy (1959); At the Jazz Band Ball (1959); Original Jazz (1961); K. O. Storyville Nights (1961).


Giltrap and Dixon, K. O.(London, 1957); R. Dixon, K. O.: A Biography, Appreciation, Record Survey and Discography (London, 1958).

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