Excelsior Brass Band

Original the Excelsior Brass Band performed from June 1879 until 1932, was based across the Mississippi in Algiers. In 1879 the Bell – Decker Brass Band from Sylvester Decker was renamed in Excelsior. Sometimes the band was mentioned as Excelsior Cornet Band.

From this musicians it’s known that they played in the Brass Band:

Cornet/trumpet Theogene V. Baquet (Eb cnt) (from the start – 1904), Isidore Barbarin ( – )16, Henry Allen sr. ( – ), George “Na Na” Moret (joined the band late 1890s – 1922), Peter Bocage (1922 – 1932), Edward or Edouard Clem (late 1890s), Punkie Valentine, Frank Jackson, Fice Quiere or Quire, James McNeil, James Williams, Arnold Metoyer (early 1920s), Nelson Jean, Paul Thomas, Hypolite Charles, Al(cide) “Big” Landry (1918/19 – ), Sidney Desvigne (1914- 1918), George McCullum sr., George McCullum jr (solo cnt), Charlie Love (early 1920s – ), Paquette Punkie Valentin, Percy Humphrey (1920s), Alvin Elmore Alcorn sr (late 1929 – ), Manuel “Manole” Perez (1928 – ), Louis Douroux ( – ), Adolphe Alexander sr ( – ).Henry “Red” Allen ( – ), Bunk Johnson ( – )6-p26
Trombone Warren Aaron Clark, Anthony Page (valve tb), Vic Gaspard (around 1900), Harrison Barnes (late 1910s – throughout 1920s), John Baptiste DeLisle, Honoré Dutrey, Bernard or Benny Raphael (1913)16, Buddy Johnson, Eddie Vinson (untill 1914), Charles “Sunny” Henry (untill 1914), Ulysses Jackson, Bill Mathews
Clarinet George Baquet (late 1890s), Alphonse Picou (Eb cl) (late 1890s), Lorenzo Tio sr.(Eb cl 1880’s)16, Lorenzo Tio jr.(Eb cl)8-174, Luis (Louis) Tio, Charles McCury or McCurdy (C cl), Sam Dutrey sr., Willie James Humphrey jr. (1919 – Eb cl)16, Paul Beaulieu, George Stewart (Eb cl)
Bariton horn Edward Boisseau or Bouisseau, Vic Gaspard (around 1900- ), George Hooker (early 1920s), Aaron Warren Clark sr (1882-1890)16
Alto horn Hackett brothers, Joe Payen = Joseph Mitchell (untill 1932), Isidore Barbarin (as substitute), Ralph Montegue or Monteque, Oliver Alcorn (1928/1929)
Alto sax Oliver Alcorn (1928-), Joe Payan (untill 1932)
Picolo Bab Frank (according to Peter Bocage interviewed by Bill Russel and Dick Allen in 1959, Bab played sometimes with the band).
Tuba Frank Jackson, Ed Garland, Frank Robinson (early 1920s), Henry Bocage (late 1920s), Henry Lambert, Noon Johnson
Melophone Joe Payen, Isidore Barbarin16
Snare drum Louis Cottrell sr.( -1927), Dee Dee Chandler, Nathaniel “Bebe” Matthews (early 1920s), William “Bill” Matthews (191716 – ), Ramos “Brown Happy” Matthews (early 1920s), Abbey “Chinee” Foster, Alec Bigard (191816 – )
Bass drum John Robichaux (1891-1904)i2, Clay Jiles (1904-1927), George Williams (1927 – 1929/30? replacing Jiles after his death), Leonard Bocage (1927), Henry Martin (1927-)
Leader Prof. Theogene Baquet (1879-1904), Sylvester Decker (1881), George Moret (1904-1922), Peter Bocage (1922 -1932)
Manager Joe Payen, until 1932.
William H. Penn (president of the black longshoreman’s union) was during the 1880s business manager of the band. Waterfront workers of New Orleans, written by Eric Arnesen.p 86
Conductor George W. Sharperi1


1879, July 3:
An excursion, by steamboat to Baton Rouge, took place with the Excelsior Brass Band. This was the first time the bound was named Excelsior. Before it was the Decker band under the leadership of Sylvester Decker.

1880, February:
On February 14 the Louisianian (a newspaper of New Orleans) wrote about the ball given on Mardi Gras by the Excelsior Brass Band. The success attending the effort of the men to format a Benevolent Association to be known as the Musicians Benevolent Society.

1881, February:
The Louisianian wrote that the Young and True Friends assembled at Wesleyan Hall, on Liberty Street, where a procession was formed, preceded by the Excelsior Cornet Band (as they called it) under the leadership of Professor S.S. Dexter. (The name was spelled wrong)
They marched to number 124 Franklin Street, where Miss Filamin Delpit, a comely young Creole lady, presented on behalf of the Ladies True Friends Circle, a very pretty silk banner.

1881, April:
The Louisianian mentioned the Excelsior as one of the bands booked to appear at The Annual Odd Fellow’s Day celebrations.

1881, May 10:
The Louisianian (a weekly newspaper) described plans for the 1881 Odd Fellows Parade and talked about the Excelsior Brass Band, being one of the city’s “two champion brass bands”. The other brass band was the Pickwick. 2 / 4,p167/5,p16
The Louisianian wrote on July 9, the band was under the leadership of Mr. Sylvester Decker and wore their new and beautiful uniforms

1881, July 4:
Excelsior appeared at the Fireman’s Day Parade.

1881, August 15:
The New Orleans Picayune wrote about the Excelsior, playing at a picnic and parade organized by the Pickwick Base Ball Club.

1882, June 26:
The band played at a grand pyrotechnical exhibition and soiree dansante by the St. Joseph Young Men’s Benevolent Association at the Delachaise Park.

1885, February 22:
The Daily Picayune announced that the Excelsior Cornet Band played at the reception for the Department of Colored Exhibits (of the New Orleans Cotton States Exposition).

1885, February 24:
They played the formal opening of the Colored People’s Exhibit according to a publication in the Picayune.1,p9

The Weekly Pelican like the Louisianian wrote that the Excelsior will leave the city for six month. The Pelican wrote on April 30 this will take place with new uniforms. The band would visit Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and other cities.

The social column of the Pelican monitored the activities of the band, but never mentioned anything about the tour. Probably the tour did not take place.

1889, October:
The Weekly Pelican reported that Theogene V. Baquet (Eb cl) had the leadership of the Excelsior, that played at a bal given by the Ladies Vidalia Benevolent Association.

1890, August 31:
The band played at Loeper’s Park a grand festival and picnic given by the co-operators Companions Debating Social Circle.

1929: ?
According to Wilbert Tillman the Excelsior Brass band played the funeral of trombone and baritone horn player Gus Metcalf.
Alvin Alcorn remembered the following musicians playing at this funeral, which possibly was his first gig with the Excelsior:
Peter Bocage (tp and leader), Manuel Perez (tp), Alvin Alcorn (tp, replaced George McCullum Jr who was unable to take time off from his day job), Buddy Johnson (trb), Harrison Barnes (trb), Vic Gaspard (bar horn), Joe Payan (alto horn), Hanry Bocage (tuba), Henry Martin (bass drum)

Joe Payan’s died and the band collapsed.
Young Excelsior Brass Band:

Original band performed from late 1950s/early 1960s until ?.

Cornet/trumpet John Henry McNeil (late 1950s/begin 1960s – 1963 (played after this time occasional for the Excelsior), Broomfield (from the start – ), Johnnie Wimberley, Leon Bageon (also mentioned as Leon Vajean and Leon Bajeon and Leon Vageon and Leon Vajean), Teddy Riles, James May, Gregory Stafford.
Trombone Buster Moore (from the start – ), Fred Washington (from the start – ), Carroll “Cal” Blunt, Fred Lonzo, Clement Tervalon.
Clarinet Michael White, Joseph “Joe” Torregano
Alto sax Albert Delone (from the start – ), Oscar Rouzan
Tenor sax Leroy Robinet (from the start – ), David Grillier.
Sousaphone/ Tuba Evans Morrison (from the start – ), Louis Keppard
Bass horn Walter Payton jr.
Snare drum Harold Williams (from the start – ), Calvin Spears, Stanley Stephens
Bass drum Henry “Sleepy” Robertson (from the start – ), Freddie Kohlman
Former John Henry McNeil
Leader Joseph Torregano

David Grillier told in an interview:
We had the contract to do funerals for “The Young and True Friends.” They would bury someone almost every Monday.

Henry “Sleepy” Robertson (tp), Leon Vajean (tb), Carroll Blunt (sous), Louis Keppard (tp), John Wimberly (tp), “Buster” Moore (tb), Leroy Robinet (ts) (see Leroy’s Special)

1983, October 2: Record date in Jacksonville, Florida
Teddy Riley (tp), James May (tp), Gregory Stafford (tp), Fred Lonzo (tb), Clement Tervalon (tb), Michael White (cl), Oscar Rouzan (as), David Grillier (ts), Walter Payton jr (bshorn), Freddie Kohlman (bsdm), Calvin Spears (sndm), Stanley Stephens (sndm).


CD’s of this brassband: Brassband history on CD

Sources books:
2 Fallen Heroes by Richard H. Knowles
4 New Orleans Jazz: a revised history by R. Collins
5 In search of Buddy Bolden by Donald Marquis
6 Bunk Johnson his life & times by Christopher Hillman
8 Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans by Thomas Brothers
16 New Orleans Jazz, family album by Al Rose and Edmond Souchon

Sources (internet):
i1 http://www.angelfire.com/music2/thecornetcompendium/lesser-known_cornet_soloists_2.html Richard I Schwartz
i2 http://www.nps.gov/jazz/Jazz%20History_early_leaders.htm or look here