My Bio
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Achille Joseph Baquet, My Dad's Dad

I'll start these biographical notes in the proper place: with my forebears.

First, my dad's parents, Achille (ah-SHEEL) Joseph Baquet and Rosema Rose Morgan. I don't know much about Grandma; I'll gather more info and discuss her later. So most of this is about my dad's dad.

He was a musician, and a little bit famous. You could call him a pioneer of Dixieland jazz. The personal matters I discuss below are what I recollect from family talk; the professional things are a matter of record, gleaned from the internet.

I never knew my grandpa; I was born in July of 1955, and he died in November of the same year (not 1956, as most sources--including Wikipedia--have it). Here he is with my older brothers, lucky barstairs:

He was born in 1885, the son of Theogene Vitale Baquet, who led the Excelsior, third-largest of New Orleans's famous brass bands. Old T.V. was apparently a son-of-a-gun, a strict old-school taskmaster who, it is said, could scare new students off of learning an instrument at the first lesson. Achille's brother George, another well-known musician, must have had a gentler dispositon: he taught the renowned Sidney Bechet.

So Achille grew up in New Orleans, at the time when the brass bands were melding into the new artform now known as "jazz." As we all know, "Jazz is a musical art form which originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions." Yes, my grandpa was part of the Creole community in New Orleans.

The Baquets were known to be among the best musicians in New Orleans. Even today, as a relative said in a New York Times article after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, "It means something to be a Baquet in New Orleans."

Achille played with several bands, the most famous of which was the Original New Orleans Jazz Band. Fronted by well-known comic and musician Jimmy Durante, it was based in New York, and was advertised as the "first all-white Dixieland band." Grandpa was passant blanc (not at all unusual for the time).

My dad's four older siblings were born in New Orleans; then came the New York years (my uncle claimed he sold hot dogs at Coney Island); then dad and his younger sister were born in L.A. Achille had come out to the new "entertainment capital" for work. In 1929, irony struck: the new "talkies" put scores if not hundreds of musicians out of work, including Grandpa. In later years he only played for the chickens when he "wood-shedded," keeping up his skills until emphysema and arthritis made it impossible.

Family lore says "Grandpa wrote Tiger Rag," the jazz standard better known as "Hold That Tiger." This was in dispute; even the great Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have written it. I read later that Grandpa was in the band that wrote it, but no one knew if he was the actual composer. That seemed reasonable. Now, on Wikipedia, I see: "In one interview, Papa Jack Laine said that the actual composer of the number was Achille Baquet."

Some of Grandpa's recordings are on line, "Why Cry Blues" and "Jada Medley." Google his name and you'll find mention of him in several articles. I stole the pictures below from some of them.

I wish I had known him.

Second from left (Durante in the center)

Clowning in the upper right (a true Baquet)

Behind the piano, at left end
(Note Durante's famous nose in profile, at piano)


  1. Thanks for this testimony, I love music of this decade and I'm always happy to learn more about a musician of the early jazz time. Records of your grand father are part of music history.

  2. I’m actually not anonymous . I’m DianneBaquet from NOLA. Thanks for sharing. I plan to do the same.


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