I’m a terrible blogger

I got all fired up and started this blog and then quickly ran out of steam.  However if anybody would like to contribute an article or pictures or anything related to Jazz-Age Banjo players just leave me a comment and we’ll do it.

Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm  Comments (3)  

Bill Eastwood

Bill Eastwood played with the Halfway House Orchestra, New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and the Norman Brownlee Jazz band. 

The Halfway House

The Halfway House

The Halfway House

The Halfway House was a supper club located halfway between New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain.  The group Eastwood played with was formed around 1923.

The Halfway House Orchestra

The Halfway House Orchestra

Recordings of the band can be purchased Here:


Eastwood can be heard tearing it up in this recording of Pussycat Rag and Let Me Call You Sweetheart.  Other songs can be heard on youtube.

Bill Eastwood

Bill Eastwood (1899-1960)


Norman Brownlee Jazz Band
(courtesy of nfo.net)

One of the early “white” jazz bands. This early dixieland group is not remembered today, but was well known and very popular in the 1920’s.
In private correspondence, Henry Brownlee, Norman’s son, has mentioned that on “Dirty Rag”, recorded December 1925 in New Orleans; Okeh # 40337), the sidemen consisted of:
(My father, Norman Brownlee, Pianist, had several top-notch sidemen in his band.)
* Sharkey Bonano, cornet. Emmett Hardy was the band’s first Cornetist. But, Emmett, a dim, legendary figure, never recorded and died at the young age of 22. His playing is reputed to have influenced Bix Beidebecke (who died at age 28).
After Emmett Hardy died, he was followed by trumpeters Wingy Manone, Johnny Wiggs, Sharkey Bonano (who was on the Okeh recording of “Peculiar” and “Dirty Rag” recorded December 1925 in New Orleans; Okeh # 40337)
* On trombone was mainly Tom Brown and George Barth (who doubled on Sax and Bass.
* Mellophone was played by Billy Braun who doubled on piano.
* Bill Eastwood was on Banjo, doubled on Guitar and Baritone Sax. (“but the record was cut with my uncle, Behrman French, on banjo”.)
* On clarinet he had Larry Shields; then after Larry went to New York, his brother Harry Shields came in (he is on the record).
* Alto/Baritone Sax was played by Hal Jordy.
* On drums was Alonzo Crombie. Dad said — “you start a piece, go out and eat lunch, and when you got back Al Crombie’s beat was as steady as when you left! Like a metronome!”

“He had other sidemen, of course, over the years. Also, most of the members doubled on other instruments, Dad also played string bass; Eastwood played piano; almost all played saxophone (Dad played Tenor Sax as well).”

“My Dad played a short stint on String Bass with Paul Whiteman when he was in town. And, he was a good friend of Jack Teagarden. I remember when I was about 10, Jack’s band came to New Orleans to play the old St. Charles Theater and Dad took me to hear them. Jack spotted him in the audience and made him go up on stage – they greeted each other like lost brothers! I was in awe! Of course I got to meet him and his brother Charlie. The Dorsey Brothers said Dad had the first “Swing” Band in America. Dad’s String Bass is in the New Orleans Jazz Museum.”
This entry on the wonderful Norman Brownlee Orch., was graciously submitted by his son Henry. F. Brownlee.


The New Orleans Rhythm Kings had different banjo players and I don’t know which tunes Eastwood played on.

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gramaphone Archives from 1923 to now…



You can search the entire archives.  Its pretty amazing.


From February 1931:

Len Fillis has done two more muted tenor banjo solos. They are of his own compositions Banjokes and Dizzy Digits (Col. DB354). The piano accompaniments are by Arthur Young. Both performances are in the most modern rhythmic style and the technique displayed is quite breath-taking. Without doubt two of the best instrumental performances we have had for many a day.

Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Japanese Banjo Player

The New York Public Library Digital Collection has this picture entitled “Japanese Banjo Player” from an unknown date in the 1880s.


Is that  a Banjo? Sure, why not?


Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment