Albert Artigues Jr. & All That Jazz

Albert Artigues Jr. (1907–1980) and his cornet were mainstays in the New Orleans jazz scene for the middle part of the 20th century. He played with all the local jazz greats. During the day he worked at the family business and at night he played jazz. He was born at 2733 Dumaine Street and lived there his entire life. His dad had built the house the year before Albert Jr. was born.

Growing up, Albert was the only person in his family who played music. He just picked it up on his own. He attended Holy Cross (called a College in those days), as did his double 3rd cousin A. L. Vitter Jr. (The Vitters and Artigues had a double connection, as noted in Artigues notes and open questions.) Albert did have some music classes for a few sessions at Holy Cross, but quit them because he wanted to improvise and play jazz. He ended up forming his own band and played with most of the jazz musicians of the day. His son Albert Artigues III (1938–2005) told Jeff Vitter in 2000 that he remembered several famous New Orleans jazz musicians coming by their house for jam sessions with Albert Jr. It's how Albert III learned to play Dixieland piano.

It was typical in those days for jazz musicians to work a "real job" during the day for financial support. Albert's family ran Fisherman's Supply House at 813 Decatur Street (across from Café du Monde), which catered not only to New Orleanians but also to many out-of-towners who came in for supplies and equipment.

It was the same way for other musicians as well: In a 1961 interview (see photo caption for audio recording), Albert mentions that the bandleader Joe Clesi, whom he often played with, was a butcher by profession. Coincidentally, the A. L. & Audrey Vitter family would routinely buy their dinner meat in Broadmoor from "Clesi the butcher," likely Joe's son. Jeff Vitter also remembers talking to Preservation Hall stalwarts Percy and Willie Humphrey on several occasions; he would run into them in San Francisco or Stanford when they were on their annual California tour and he would chat with them at Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street. During those conversations, he learned that Willie gave music lessons and Percy ran an insurance business. So it was for many local musicians.

The musicians often played a variety of bars and nightclubs at night, sometimes at pretty rough places. One of the roughest places was in the Irish Channel, the uptown region between the Garden District and the Mississippi River. Being close to the docks, it was routinely frequented by sailors and longshoremen, and in Albert's words, "a lot of sailors would come in looking for a fight." The owners would protect the musicians when things got dangerous by lowering a metal cage to separate them from the brawling patrons!

Fisherman's Supply
Fisherman's Supply in the French Quarter.
Albert Artigues at work
Albert playing while working at Fisherman's Supply.

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