Jelly Roll Morton

Jazz pianist, Bandleader and Composer

Early Life

Jelly Roll Morton was born October 20, 1890, in New Orleans. He started learning the piano when he turned 10 years old. By the time he was 12, he was working in the bordellos of Storyville playing popular songs and dances like Ragtime and French quadrilles. He became a traveler going to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Later, Morton started extending his travels all the way to Kansas city, St. Louis and Memphis. During these years of traveling he started to mix different genres of music to create a new form of music, ¨Jazz.¨

Middle life

In 1922, Morton moved to the city of jazz, Chicago. He made his first record in 1923 which consisted of multiply solos by him, of his own creation. Morton joined the ¨Red Hot Peppers¨ in 1926. They made hit records such as Grandpa´s Spell, and Black Bottom Stomp. Morton quit the group in 1929 to go to New York. From there he kept recording songs.

End of Jelly Roll Morton

In 1930 Morton started to drift into obscurity. Morton settled in Washington, DC. There he started a jazz club and played frequently. In 1938 Alan Lomax, recorded him in many series of interviews held at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress became interested with Morton, so in 1939, he started recording again with them. This was cut short though by an abrupt death of Morton on July 10, 1940 do to congestive heart failure.

Impact Morton Made

Morton was the first important composer and arranger of jazz in the New Orleans. Morton is one of the ¨founding fathers¨ of Jazz. He traveled all round and that caused jazz to spread like a wild fire. His recordings became famous and then everyone knew about jazz.


Press, Oxford University. "Jelly Roll Morton." PBS. PBS, 23 May 2002. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.

Sandmel, Ben. ¨Jelly Roll Morton.¨ KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 25 Feb 2013. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.