Oliver, King

orig. Joseph Oliver

born May 11, 1885, Abend, La., U.S.
died April 8, 1938, Savannah, Ga.

U.S. jazz cornetist and bandleader.

Oliver grew up in New Orleans and established himself as the city's preeminent cornetist, coleading a band with trombonist Kid Ory (1886–1973) before moving to Chicago in 1918. In 1922 Oliver hired his New Orleans protégé Louis Armstrong to join him in Chicago in his Creole Jazz Band. Their recordings together, including "Dipper Mouth Blues," are jazz classics.

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▪ American musician
byname of  Joseph Oliver  
born May 11, 1885, Abend, La., U.S.
died April 8, 1938, Savannah, Ga.
 American cornetist who was a vital link between the semimythical prehistory of jazz and the firmly documented history of jazz proper. He is also remembered for choosing as his protégé the man generally considered to have been the greatest of all New Orleans musicians (New Orleans style), Louis Armstrong (Armstrong, Louis).

      Born on a plantation, Oliver went to New Orleans as a boy and began playing the cornet in 1907. By 1915 he was an established bandleader and two years later was being billed as “King.” In the following year, after the closing down of Storyville, the city's red-light district, Oliver moved to Chicago. Four years later he sent for Armstrong to join him as second cornetist, thus indirectly ensuring the spread of jazz across the continent and eventually the world. In 1928 he went to New York City, and from this point his fortunes declined. Plagued by dental trouble and outflanked by rapidly evolving jazz styles, he died in obscurity while working as a poolroom marker.

Additional Reading
Walter C. Allen and Brian A.L. Rust, “King” Oliver, rev. by Laurie Wright (1987); Martin Williams, King Oliver (1960).

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Universalium. 2010.

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