Claiborne Williams
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* December 31 1868 Ascension Parish, La (Valenzuela Plantation)
October 10 1952     New Orleans, La

As a brass band musician he played with: St. Joseph Brass Band

Claiborne Williams was born on December 31, 1868 on the Valenzuela Plantation in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. As a young child, Williams showed some musical talent and a lady, called Madame Octavie, encouraged him and gave him a basic classical academic education. Later, he studied music with Auguste Degue. As a young man, he worked in New Orleans for the Werlein Music Company on Canal Street, where he repaired musical instruments. Although he travelled around the USA, Canada and even Europe as leader of Billy Kersand and his Minstrel Troupe, most of his musical career was spend in and around Donaldsonville.
At the age of 17 he led a band at the Wilbert Theatre in Baton Rouge. Not only did he lead a dance orchestra, but he was also leader of the St Joseph Brass Band, and was a music teacher in the nearby towns of Donaldsonville. One of the pupils of Claiborne Williams was trombone player, Louis Nelson. When Louis Nelson was two months old, his family moved to Napoleonville, Louisiana. To have his lessons from Williams, Nelson had to travel the twelve miles from Napoleonville to Donaldsonville. Nelson's first instrument was the alto horn. Nelson was around sixteen at the time. But Nelson like the trombone playing of cousin Lawrence and wanted to play trombone like Lawrence. So he went to Professor Williams to teach him that instrument. Claiborne Williams was primarily a violinist and taught all instruments. Williams taught him what Louis Nelson considered the most important part of playing, breathing. Most of Williams' teaching was done at his house. Nelson remembered that Claiborne had more white students than coloured. He charged fifty cents for a lesson lasting from half an hour to an hour. Williams was a very strickt teacher, expecting a pupil to have his lesson ready on time. Later Louis Nelson played a few dates with Claiborne Williams' orchestra. The Claiborne Williams orchestra used almost all stock arrangements, having few special arrangements. Nelson considered it a wonderful band. Claiborne Williams seldom led his band while playing the violin, nor did he lead with a baton. He sat and played while the trumpet player, Lawrence Hall kicked off the band. Williams also collected tickets.
Williams' musical career continued well into the late 1930's early 1940's.
Claiborne Williams died on October 10, 1952 in a New Orleans hospital.a1

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Last updated: 19-04-2009