The Waymakers of Jazz

Early Men of Jazz

Out of every jazz musician to debut in the music industry, five of them helped to shape the genre widely known today as jazz, including Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. In the 1920s, the movement of jazz swept across the United States. Consisting of mainly syncopation and improvisation, this popular genre governed dances, culture, and fashion. When discussing the origins of jazz, these men cannot be left out, for the contributions they’ve brought to jazz is crucial to mention. 

Buddy Bolden

Charles Joseph “Buddy” Bolden had an alluring personality, as well as a musical gift that integrated both blues along with ragtime. His career established the great genre of jazz, as he was crowned the first jazz trumpeter. Being a very well sought-after musician in the “turn-of-the-century” New Orleans, local crowds continuously returned to his vigorous shows. Although Buddy Bolden never recorded any of the music that he created, he was an influence to every legend in jazz that made any appearance after him.

King Oliver

Joseph Nathan “King” Oliver was a bandleader and American jazz cornet player. He was more specifically recognized for the style in which he played and his use of pioneering mutes in jazz. Many of the tunes that are still enjoyed and played in today’s time were written by him, making a remarkable composer. These tunes include “Sweet Like This”, “Doctor Jazz”, “Dippermouth Blues”, and “Canal Street Blues”. He had such a strong impact and influence that the great Louis Armstrong stated “If it had not been for Joe Oliver, Jazz would not be what it is today”.



Jelly Roll Morton

Known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe was an American jazz and ragtime composer, pianist, and bandleader. Officially jazz’s first arranger, Morton proved that any genre that was rooted in improvisation could maintain the necessary characteristics when recorded. One of the first published compositions of jazz belonged to him, titled “Jelly Roll Blues”. Jelly Roll also wrote “Wolverine Blues”, “King Porter Stomp”, “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” (a tribute to the New Orleans prodigy) , and “Black Bottom Stomp”.

Louis Armstrong

To this day, Louis Armstrong, also known as “Satchmo” or “Pops”, is one of the most influential and distinguished people in the Harlem Renaissance as well as Jazz. His household name, as well as his epochal sound outstretched to new and old audiences far from jazz, which dubbed him as an extreme power in music. In Louis Armstrong’s lifetime, he conducted international tours, recorded around 1500 tracks, and he was also the first musician of jazz to be displayed on the cover of Time Magazine in 1949. 


The early men of jazz were exceptionally impactful in this musical genre, industry, and for the ensuing jazz artists. Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton are a small fraction of the wide range of renowned artists during the time period in which jazz was at its peak. These five men impacted future generations of jazz artists, including Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and the “Queen of Jazz” herself, Ella Fitzgerald. 

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