Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 27 February 1890, New Orleans; d 15 July 1933, Chicago) Cornet, bandleader. The birth date is according to parish birth records and the Louisiana birth index. He was a New Orleans veteran who took his Original Creole Orchestra to California c.1914 and caused a sensation. Jazz was still a new ragtime music called 'jass'; the band did a 'white-tie, all-musical act, with neither blackface minstrel clowning, nor even verbal comedy', according to Rudi Blesh, including Creole violinist Jimmy Palao (1885-1925), George Baquet on reeds (b 1883; d 14 January 1949, Philadelphia PA; from famous N.O. family of clarinettists), Oliver "Dink' Johnson on drums (b 28 October 1892, Biloxi MS; d 29 November 1954, Portland OR), bassist/manager Bill Johnson (b 10 August 1872, New Orleans; moved to Mexico '60s, d 1972), Norwood Williams on guitar, Eddie Vinson on trombone. They played an arrangement of the Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor, 'Carnival Of Venice' was a cornet specialty and 'Livery Stable Blues' had the front line instruments imitating barnyard animals. Keppard was allegedly offered a chance to record by Victor in 1916, and the story is that he turned it down fearing that other bands would steal his stuff; the foillowing year the Original Dixieland Jazz Band stole it anyway. Keppard's band toured the Orpheum vaudeville circuit to Chicago and NYC; he worked with King Oliver briefly in 1920 and settled in Chicago. He made only one record date as a leader, in Chicago in 1926 with a quintet including Johnny Dodds and a trombonist whose name was Eddie Vincent, according to Brian Rust's Jazz Records; 'Stock Yards Strut' was issued on Paramount, vocal 'Salty Dog' on the other side by Papa Charlie Jackson. He also recorded on second cornet (a demanding job) with Doc Cook's Dreamland Orchestra and with Erskine Tate. He died after some years of obscurity caused by TB. Doc Cheatham said that Keppard sounded like 'a military trumpeter playing jazz'; he was probably playing an earlier New Orleans jazz than that which King Oliver recorded in 1923.