The S. S. Sidney

Riverboats and Jazz

The Sidney was commissioned in 1911 and remained in the Streckfus fleet under that name until 1924, when it was renamed the Washington. This was the first boat to feature a New Orleans band on the river, and it helped to spread the word about the special talents of Crescent City musicians. Marable had formed a band of fellow Kentuckians in 1917, but he later recalled that while they “played real nice, they could not compare to the New Orleans boys.” The Streckfus excursions ran from New Orleans to St. Paul, Minnesota, allowing numerous opportunities for patrons up and down the Mississippi River to hear what these players had to offer. Thus, musicians in places such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Davenport, Iowa, gained exposure to New Orleans style music, although it was confined to some extent by the guidelines set down by Marable and Captain Joe Streckfus. Even so, musicians and dancers alike could tell that New Orleans players were somehow different. As Captain C. W. Elder claimed, “None of the others had what was called good solid beat rhythm music with the Dixieland flavor.” One may safely conclude, then, that much of the success of the Streckfus Steamboat Line in developing the excursion trade after World War I rested on the special abilities of the New Orleans bands and the jazz flavor they brought to their performances.