George Lewis, the New Orleans clarinetist, recorded this song in 1942, on Burgundy Street (rhymes with bundy). I first heard the song on a record pressed by Tulane University sometime in the late 60s. I think it was called “This is Jazzzzzzzzzz,” or something like that. I gave the album to my friend Patrick after he helped me move my heavy record collection. He’d always coveted it, he plays the clarinet, and it was a good trade.
The liner notes on the record revealed that George Lewis was recovering from a car accident in which his chest had been crushed by the steering wheel. The recording was made in his kitchen immediately following his release from the hospital. I always liked this version of the story. When you hear the recording, it makes sense. There is so much strain and emotion in his tone. It’s really one of my favorite recordings ever.
Here’s Lewis with his mother, taken by Stanley Kubrick for Look magazine.
Wikipedia gives a slightly different story of the events leading to the injury. And unless Lewis’ bed was in his kitchen, there’s yet another discrepancy:
n 1944 Lewis was injured seriously while working on the docks. A heavy container nearly crushed his chest, and for a time it was feared he would never play again. Against all odds, however, Lewis began practicing while convalescing in bed at his Burgundy Street home in the French Quarter. His friends, banjo player Lawrence Marrero and string bass player Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, brought their instruments to Lewis’s bedside. Bill Russell brought his portable recorder, and they recorded, among other things, an improvised blues that was to become Lewis’ signature piece, christened “Burgundy Street Blues” by Russell.
Without further ado, here it is.