On this day in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band releases the first-ever jazz recording, “Livery Stable Blues,” for the Victor (not yet RCA) label. ODJB billed itself as the “Creators of Jazz,” and while a couple of other New Orleans bands had passed through New York City slightly earlier, they were part of vaudeville acts.
ODJB, on the other hand, played for dancing and hence, were the first “jass” band to get a following of fans in New York and then record at a time when the American recording industry was essentially centered in the northeastern United States, primarily in New York City and Camden, New Jersey.
After strong US success touring and recording, ODJB bandleader and cornetist Nick LaRocca took the five-piece to London, where they would once again enjoy being the only authentic New Orleans jazz band in the metropolis, and again present themselves as the Originators of Jazz because they were the first band to record the new genre of music dubbed jass or jazz. The band’s April 7, 1919 appearance in the revue Joy Bells at the London Hippodrome was the first official live jazz performance by any band in the United Kingdom and was followed by a command performance for King George V at Buckingham Palace.
The band broke up in the late 1920’s and its originators scattered. During the Depression, trombonist Eddie Edwards was discovered operating a newsstand in New York City; newspaper publicity resulted in Edwards fronting a local nightclub band. In the 1950’s, back in New Orleans, LaRocca licensed bandleader Phil Zito to use the ODJB name for many years. Nick LaRocca’s son, Jimmy LaRocca, continues to lead bands under the name The Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
As of this writing, an original pressing of “Livery Stable Blues” in good condition can fetch nearly $300 whole American dollars, and this amount may have spiked up an entire buck or two since the recent vinyl “revival.” Take the word of a near-doddering, half-deaf drummer; always have a back-up plan.
And it is hear our scratchy saga endeth.