Harold Dejan’s Band on the S. S. Dixie

Riverboats and Jazz

Riverboats were not the only vessels to provide music for excursions out of New Orleans. Lakeboats such as the S. S. Madison offered music by Buddy Petit, Louis Barbarin, Emmanuel Sayles, Sadie Goodson, and others. The S. S. Dixie, however, was another story entirely–its excursion went from New Orleans to New York City and back! In his memoir, Everything Is Lovely!(1989), Harold “Duke” Dejan remembered those trips with great fondness: “On the steamer Dixie we was making 22 dollars and 50 cents when we hit New Orleans, and 17 dollars and 50 cents when we got to New York. But we had everything free. And we used to make nice little tips, too, on that boat. Every time I git to New York, I come back to New Orleans with new clothes on.” The band played for dancing at night and then gave a lunchtime concert at noon. “But some nights the sea’d be rough. And when the sea’d be rough, the captain said, ‘No, no dancing.’ So, no dancing. And we’d go out to the pantry and make us some sandwiches and go on deck and have our little party at night.” Pictured above with saxophonist Harold Dejan (seated) are pianist Lester “Blackie” Santiago (left) and guitarist Casimir Paul.