Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Bluegrass origins
Just what you might expect from a post about Nashville.. either country music or bluegrass, right? Well, why not. When in Rome, etc, etc..
Now a real curiosity. A self-playing violin and piano. Bizarre?! Click right here for the story behind it, and how it got there!

Nashville Bluegrass origins

Nashville Bluegrass origins2

But fear not, we have a real, bona fide hot Jazz story here in this city. Just a little west of downtown, we go to Fisk University, where Lillian Hardin was sent by her mother to study music seriously. Her mother was wary of the less than savoury behaviour rampant in hometown Memphis at that time, and not wanting her daughter to be around any of it, off she was sent in 1915. Lil was an only child, born in 1898. She began playing church organ in Memphis at the age of 9. A year after arriving at Fisk, she returned home to Memphis and together with mum, they set off straight for Chicago where she got a job in a music store demonstrating sheet music. Joe ‘King’ Oliver added her to his band just before the arrival of future beau, Louis Armstrong. She went on to play a pivotal role in the shaping of Louis’ career for the remainder of the 1920s, from decisions to leave Oliver’s group, to go to New York and join Fletcher Henderson, to the formation of the Hot 5 & 7. Long after the marriage had deteriorated, Louis Armstrong declared He’d become successful by heeding Lil’s advice: “Play second trumpet to no one.” Her technical excellence was formally recognized in 1928 when she earned a degree from the Chicago College of Music and a post-graduate diploma from the New York College of Music in 1929.

Fisk University 1

Fisk University 2

Although there is no account of Lil Hardin being a part of the group, she attended Fisk during the rise of the world renown Fisk Jubilee Singers, who operated from the same site where she attended her education in Nashville.

Jimmie Lunceford started his group in 1927 while teaching at Manassa High School in Memphis. He and nine of his pupils then moved on to Fisk University here in Nashville – from where the leader had already graduated in 1925 – with Jimmie waiting tables until his teenaged sidemen furthered their education. They kept the band together and eventually Lunceford’s ‘Twelve Talented Tennesseans’ started touring.

Fisk University 3


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