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Honoring Buddy's legacy Buddy Bolden, the father of jazz, left no known recorded music, but his home still stands in Central City. BY James Karst CHARLES "BUDDY" BOLDEN is one of the central figures in New Orleans music, widely credited as the most important performer in the nascent years of jazz. But his place in history has always been tenuous. To the casual mu- sic listener in 2019, his name may mean nothing. This can be seen partially as a byproduct of his times and circumstances. Bolden was an improviser, and he left no written music. That was his thing. He played at the very be- ginning of the age of recorded music and silent film, before those industries were well developed, so there are no known video or audio traces of him. There is but one photograph of Bolden that has been discovered — so far, anyway. After he died in obscurity, he was buried in Holt Cemetery, but no one knows where. Serious research into early jazz wasn’t undertaken until long after Bolden had ceased to perform. Contemporary records about his life are scarce. There’s just not much left of him. But in a city where efforts to preserve jazz landmarks have often lagged behind the cold efficiency of development, there is one place at the very heart of Bolden’s music career that remains: the double shotgun home where he is believed to have lived throughout most of his creative period. According to author Don Marquis, in his book, “In Search of Buddy Bolden,” Bolden was born on Sept. 6, 1877, just over a decade after the end of the Civil War and shortly after the federal government pulled the plug on Reconstruction, setting the stage for the Jim Crow era. 20 PRESERVATION IN PRINT • www.prcno.org Bolden grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood now known as Central City. He undoubtedly witnessed brass bands parading through the streets from the time he was a child. He probably went to the Fisk School, the same school Louis Arm- strong later attended, and may have even graduated. At some point, he began taking music lessons on the cornet. In 1887, when Bolden was 10 years old, he and his fami- ly — his mother and sister; Bolden’s father, Westmore, had died of pneumonia several years earlier — moved to what was 385 First St. under the city’s old numbering system, ac- cording to Marquis. The house still stands. It is a nonde- script shotgun house that today bears the address 2309 First St. If you are on the sidewalk facing the front of the home, the Boldens lived on the right side of the double. Newly discovered classified newspaper advertisements from that time period promoted laundry services available at the home’s address; Bolden’s mother and sister washed clothes for other families, suggesting perhaps that the music busi- ness was not all that lucrative at the time. The house dates at least to the late 1870s, as it appeared on the Robinson’s Atlas of the City of New Orleans, pub- lished in 1883 by E. Robinson in New York City. The book was compiled from surveys of the area taken during the lat- ter part of the 1870s. It is not hard to imagine Bolden, as a young man, sitting on the stoop in front of the house practicing his horn. As he became a working musician with a bold, loud sound, MAY 2019