Desvigne’s Bandsmen on the S. S. Island Queen

Riverboats and Jazz

Like many New Orleans jazzmen, cornetist Sidney Desvigne learned a lot about music working on the riverboats with Fate Marable (he did some of the solo work on the 1924 recording of “Frankie and Johnny,” along with Amos White), but his first job for the Streckfus Line was with Arnold Metoyer on the Sidney. About 1925 he received a personal letter from the Streckfuses asking him to join one of their bands out of St. Louis led by Ed Allen, who was then replaced by Marable. Released by the Streckfus family several years later, he organized a New Orleans band of his own for a competitor, working on the Cincinnati-based S. S. Island Queen for about two seasons, mostly in the Cincinnati region. Bassist Pops Foster played with Desvigne during that time and remembered competing against the Streckfus boats in New Orleans for about six weeks during one winter season. He also recalled some of the problems that could occur: “A lot of the time I was with Sidney we worked on the Island Queen. It was owned by a Captain Schott out of Philadelphia. In the summer we went up the river on the boat. We got up there and fooled around so long the river got low and we couldn’t get out. If the river was too high you couldn’t get under the bridges and if it got too low you hit bottom. We came back down to New Orleans on the train until the boat could get out, when we went back and got it and came down the river.” Pictured, from left to right, are trombonist Louis Nelson, saxophonist Percy Servier, pianist Walter “Fats” Pichon, saxophonist Henry Julian, trumpeter Gene Ware, and bassist Ransom Knowling.