John Robichaux
Band history
CD Hurricane BB
Brass band history
Brass band history CD
Brass band musicians
Brass band book dvd
Music of the brass bands
Did you know
Mail us

* January 16 1866 Thibodaux, La
1939 New Orleans, La.

As a brass band musician he played with: Excelsior, Indiana Brass Band
John was a nephew of Joe Robichaux, was a piano-player.

He was born in a place called Thibodaux, in the bayous of Louisiana. He was a Creole, and played brass bass, alto horn, and could drum well too. He started his musical career as a bass drummer for the Excelsior Brass Band when he moved to New Orleans in 1891. He would have been about 24 or 25 years old then.

From 1893 he was playing in dance bands while Buddy Bolden was learning how to play the cornet, and Alphonse Picou was starting to play the clarinet. For 46 years, Robichaux was considered to be the most continuously active dance band leader in New Orleans. For 32 years, from 1895 through to 1927 he led his own band, the John Robichaux Dance Orchestra. In the New Orleans jazz sense, a "dance orchestra" is any group of musicians who are capable of reading written scores of music, and employed to play for dancing. But such orchestras could play, just as well, a number of tunes "without" music, in the dixieland tradition. In the late 1800's, bands made good use of violins. The first leader of John Robichaux's dance orchestra (which we would not call a "jazz" band) was a violin player. In later years there were many celebrated jazz musicians in Robichaux's band.

The 1894 Black Code amendment hit Robichaux's orchestra harder than any others, coming just when they seemed to be at the top of the New Orleans music scene. It was a comedown to some of these fine musicians, to be thrown into competition with the Uptown blacks, and to play for audiences who didn't always appreciate their musical background. But Robichaux had enough determination to persevere during the difficult years that followed the transition, and even though a number of his musicians had to moonlight with the Onward Brass Band, he managed to hold on to a number of good jobs.

In 1895, an upcoming band was playing in the ragtime, syncopated style of music, and with hindsight, it's thought that they were the very first "Jazz" band, though the name "jazz" had not been invented then. The leader of that band was Negro, Buddy Bolden. Guitarist Louis Keppard remembered playing with Bolden's Band at the Globe Hall in New Orleans in 1895.

A second blow hit Robichaux's orchestra when, in 1898, Chandler, Delisle, and the McNeil brothers were recruited into the army while playing a job with the Onward Band. Robichaux had to quickly pick up others to fill the gaps, and some of these fill-ins were Arthur "Bud" Scott on guitar, Lorenzo Tio and Paul Beaulieu on clarinet, and on some occasions Manuel Perez filled in too.

Years later, when the Creoles did eventually combine with the Uptowners, they added their various ethnic influences to the sounds that had already been assimilated by Uptown musicians. The first melting and refining of the basic music was ready to take place. The Tio family, educated at the Mexican conservatory, added a Spanish touch; Alcibiades Jeanjacque, Oscar Duconge, Punkie and Bouboul Valentin lent their French style and background; and Robichaux and Bocage contributed the French-Haitian mixture. The men played what they felt, what their talents allowed, and each made his individual contribution to the whole. It was nobody's music and it was everybody's music.

As the century turned and the Bolden band gained popularity, the 34-year old John Robichaux had something else to contend with - this new Bolden sound. He was able to hold his own without succumbing to any adulteration in his musical standards, and that was a tribute to his talent. Usually Robichaux played for a different type of crowd than the type of crowd that Bolden attracted, but not always. They both played at Lincoln Park, Longshoremen's Hall, Providence Hall, and the Masonic and Odd Fellows Halls. Robichaux, in addition, played in the Downtown halls where Bolden wasn't hired. But Bolden could, and did, play a few polite society dances, and Robichaux (his band was known as a "sweet" band) by then had Williams and McNeil playing hot enough cornets to move an Uptown crowd.

In 1902 in New Orleans, a new park, Johnson Park, was opened as a baseball park, right next to Lincoln Park. John Robichaux and his band would be at Lincoln Park, and Buddy Bolden with his band would in the music pavilion at Johnson Park. It's been said that Bolden would say to a member of his band "Come on, put your hands through the window. Put your trombone out there. I'm going to call my children home."

Apparently Bolden would start to play, and all the people out of Lincoln Park would go on over to where Buddy was. Many others also verified the story of Buddy pointing his horn toward Lincoln Park and powerfully "calling" the Lincoln crowd. The word is that dancers abandoned the smoother Robichaux band to hear Buddy Bolden produce a new, more raggedy, more exciting sound that stirred their dancing fancy.

Buddy's band became closely identified with Lincoln Park. The two bands were the most popular in the city, and great rivals. Sometimes they played there at the same time. Bolden played for dances at the skating rink, and Robichaux played in the Pavilion. The two spots were about 75 yards apart, and Bolden "called his children home". Musicians were usually hired by different societies who rented sections of the grounds for picnics or other functions.

The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra was founded 1967 by Lars Edegran and was active especially during the 70s. Their basis was the rediscovered music of the John Robichaux (1866 - 1939) orchestra, which belonged to the Jazz Archives of Tulane University, New Orleans. The orchestra plays classic rags, cakewalks and other pieces from the ragtime era approximately between 1890 and 1915. The N.O.R.O. recorded many times with William Russel (vl), Lionel Ferbos (tp), Paul Crawford (tb), Orange Kellin (cl), Lars Edegran (p), Walter Payton jr. (b), John Robichaux(dr), who's a nephew of...

Sources (internet):

Sources (brassband history):


Last updated: 13-05-2011