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 Charles “Buddy” Bolden

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Charles “Buddy” Bolden

  • Birth 6 Sep 1877 New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
  • Death 4 Nov 1931 Jackson, East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, USA
  • Burial New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
  • Plot Section C
  • GPS
  • Memorial ID 11808

Cornet player and bandleader. A pioneering and creative force in the development of the pre- and early jazz in the turn of the century in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credited as the founder of "jass," later to be called jazz, he was the first player to pursue an improvisational style. Bolden was famous for his big bold cornet sound, as well as for his bold personality. His style had a solid blues form; however he played closer to ragtime than to jazz. Much is unknown about his life, however, and it has been difficult for jazz historians to separate myth from reality. The Louisiana native began playing coronet in a professional band in his teens after leaving school in 1890 and quickly established a reputation for a clear, powerful tone. Soon Bolden was leading his own band he started in 1895, earning the title "King" from an appreciative African American public. His influence came at a time when New Orleans was alive with bands of black musicians performing for marches, dances, and saloons. As a soloist, Bolden had a keen ear and memory, which augmented skills in improvisation and embellishment. He is reportedly the first to "rag the blues" for dancing and thus to have essentially created jazz. Jazz historians believe that Bolden's playing influenced and contemporary and subsequent cornet and trumpet players such as "King" Oliver, "Bunk" Johnson, and Louis Armstrong. Legend has it that he was so popular that he had eight bands playing on the same night and he'd rush from one to the others. His band featured cornet, clarinet, trombone, guitar, bass and drums. Its repertoire included a mix of popular dance numbers played in both ragtime and blues. By the turn of the century, many New Orlean's bands had begun playing in the collective improvisational style pioneered by Buddy Bolden. One of those groups was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the group that made the first ever jazz recording. As his fame and fortune grew, so did Bolden's obsession for wine, whiskey and women. He lived every aspect of his life to excess. He spent money as fast as he made it. His appetite for life raged out of control. And all of his passion funneled into his music. He became ever more inventive in his style of playing. By 1906 Bolden was slowly going insane. In or about 1907 Bolden became ill while playing his cornet in a street parade. He was committed to Jackson Mental Institute where he remained completely forgotten for the final 24 years of his life. At the time of his death, Bolden was buried in an unmarked grave in a pauper's graveyard. In 1998 a monument to Bolden was erected in the cemetery, but his exact gravesite remains unknown. Tragically, he was never recorded. Of the many original compositions he wrote only one remains--Buddy Bolden's Blues. King Bolden's legend lives on though, through every young musician pressing a trumpet to their lips, attempting to evoke the same feeling Bolden had. According to Louis Armstrong he was "a one man genius ahead of 'em all."

Bio by: Curtis Jackson





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 19 Aug 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11808
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Charles “Buddy” Bolden (6 Sep 1877–4 Nov 1931), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11808, citing Holt Cemetery, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .