Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra

Riverboats and Jazz

During the 1920’s, the importance of work on the riverboats became the pretext for the creation of an African-American local of the American Federation of Musicians in New Orleans. While groups led by Fate Marable, Charlie Creath, and Dewey Jackson were affiliated with the black AFM local in the home port of St. Louis, local bands such as those of Sam Morgan and Oscar Celestin had to travel to Mobile, Alabama–the closet black local–to file contracts for jobs on the Capitol. According to Andrew Morgan, Local 496 was organized by some of the musicians affiliated with Celestin in 1926 to eliminate the trip to Mobile and thus enable them to work for the Streckfus Line, which was strictly union, on a more convenient basis. This local remained an important institution on the New Orleans scene until 1969, when it merged with the white AFM affiliate to form Local 174-496. “Papa” Celestin’s band, which featured such musicians as trombonist August Rousseau, trumpeter Ricard Alexis, and pianist Jeanette Salvant Kimball, was one of the most popular in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, and work on the Capitol was an important part of what kept that popularity going. Pictured above, from left to right, are trombonist Bill Matthews, trumpeters Guy Kelly and Oscar Celestin, pianist Jeanette Salvant Kimball, banjoist Narvin Kimball, vocalist Joe Thomas, drummer Abbey “Chinee” Foster, bassist Simon Marrero, and saxophonists Joe Rouzan and Clarence Hall.