Marable’s New Orleans Band on the S. S. Capitol

Riverboats and Jazz

The popularity of Marable’s New Orleans band may have been the reason for its transfer to a bigger boat in 1920. The Capitol was the largest of the Streckfus riverboats and was brand new when this photograph was taken. The musicians pictured here are, from left to right, Henry Kimball, Fate Marable, Boyd Atkins, Johnny St. Cyr, David Jones, Norman Mason, Louis Armstrong, Norman Brashear, and Warren “Baby” Dodds. Jazz stories of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke hearing Louis Armstrong for the first time in Davenport, Iowa, probably refer to excursions by the Capitol in 1920 or 1921. In his autobiography, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954), Armstrong commented on Marable’s way with his sidemen: “He had his own way of dealing with musicians. If one of us made an error or played part of a piece wrong he would not say a thing about it until everyone thought it had been forgotten. When you came to work the next day with a bad hangover from the night before, he picked up the music you had failed with and asked you to play it before the other members of the band. And believe me brother it was no fun being shown up before all the other fellows if you did not play the passage right; we used to call this experience our Waterloo.” Note the signs, “Marable’s Waltz Review” and “Marable’s Capitol Review,” indicating the variety of musical fare offered on the Streckfus steamboats by Marable’s orchestra.