First Jazz Festival?

September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have spent several years researching If You Can’t Dance, Get On and Ride: The Jazz Age in Austin. It is as yet yet unpublished, although you can get a PDF version from me. Austin had quite a scene happening, most of which has been forgotten, until now. I will be culling material from this book from time to time for this blog.

The title derives from the motto of one of Austin’s earliest jazz bands, and perhaps it’s most successful, Jimmie’s Joys. Like most all the early white jazz bands in Austin, the members of Jimmie’s Joys were UT students. Their fame was such that in May 1924, when they left Austin in May 1924 to conquer the rest of the country, the Cactus yearbook’s benediction read, May our long to be remembered jazzters be so prosperous that in a few years the motto on the dollar will have been changed from “E Pluribus Unum” to “If You Can’t Dance, Get On and Ride.“

Jimmie’s Joys played Galveston in the summers of 1921-24, where they met Peck Kelly and Jack Teagarden, among others.

Jimmy (Jimmie) Maloney founded and led Jimmie’s Joys, and his claim to fame was playing two clarinets at once, a feat later imitated by a number of other clarinetists.

Jimmy (Jimmie) Maloney founded his first band, the Sole-Killers, in 1920, which morphed into Jimmie’s Joys

Jazz Jubilee, 1921

Jazz Jubilee, 1921


And it is at this point that I get to the point of this post. In Jazz Masters of the Twenties, Richard Hadlock states that “almost certainly the first jazz festival on the books” took place in Houston in 1922.

I beg to differ (at least a bit), and offer as evidence the accompanying ad, from November 1921. Depending on your definition of “jazz festival,” I suppose both of us Richards could be right.

Let the debate begin!


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