February 4, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton on the West Coast 1917-1922. After Bill Johnson established himself in Los Angeles several other New Orleans musicians
travelled to the west coast. Most notably was Jelly Roll Morton who arrived in Los Angeles sometime in 1917.
Jelly Roll was one of the earliest New Orleans pioneers to leave the crescent city and take the
music on the road.
His companion was Anita Gonzales who happened to be Bill and Dink Johnson’s sister.
Once in Los Angeles he began running shows at the Cadillac Cafe which was located at 553
Central Ave. His shows featured a number of other entertainers including Florence Mills and
Ada “Bricktop” Smith. He wasn’t happy with the local musicians ability to play his music and sent back to New
Orleans for Buddy Petit, Frankie Dusen and Wade Whaley. He also added Anita’s brother Dink
Johnson to the ensemble.
In 1918 he and Anita set up shop in San Francisco by opening a club called The Jupiter which
was at Columbus and Pacific. After San Francisco he formed a “ Creole Orchestra” in San Diego for a short time with side
trips to Tijuana. During 1919 and 1920 he worked mostly in San Franciso and also ventured further north into
the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
Throughout 1921 he spent time in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana.
In Los Angeles he worked at the Paradise Gardens which drew many celebrities. His “Tango”
and “The Crave” were big hits in Hollywood. At this time he also teamed up with The Spikes Brothers and opened the Wayside Amusement
Park at Leake’s Lake in Watts. In November he played an extended engagement in San Diego at the US Grant Hotel. He also
played regularly in Tijuana at the Kansas City Bar. One of his most famous compositions: Kansas City Stomp was named for the Tijuana saloon.
There were no recordings of Jelly Roll Morton during his stay on the west coast. In 1923 he
relocated to Chicago and began a substantial recording career including a number of
compositions written while living on the west coast.
He returned to Los Angeles at the end of his life where he passed away in July of 1941 at the
age of 50. He’s buried at the Cavalry Cemetery in Los Angeles.