Jazz Musician. Best known as a clarinetist, he also played the saxophone and the guitar. He was born in Lutcher, Louisiana, but his parents moved to New Orleans around 1912, and within a year or two, he was playing professionally in parades and at parties. When he was fifteen, he went on tour with Bee Palmer, the Shimmie Queen, as a member of her band. In 1921, along with his childhood friends cornetist Paul Mares and trombonist George Brunies, he joined the Friars' Club Orchestra in Chicago. The Friars' Club Orchestra was soon renamed the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and their innovative style had a strong influence on younger musicians like Bix Beiderbecke and Benny Goodman. Roppolo's clarinet solos on the recordings the New Orleans Rhythm Kings made for Gennett Studios are believed by some historians to be the first jazz solos ever recorded. After the New Orleans Rhythm Kings broke up in 1924, he played with Peck's Bad Boys in Texas, and on Carlisle Evans' riverboats, finally returning to New Orleans in 1925. In January 1925 he made his last recordings with Abbie Brunies' Halfway House Orchestra, but shortly after this he went insane, and was committed to the State Hospital. He formed a jazz band in the hospital, and when he was released for a brief period in the early 1940s, he played gigs with various bands around New Orleans until he had to return to the State Hospital, where he died at the age of 41.
Bio by: NorthStar