Tuesday, August 14, 2007

M.I.N.O. Feature: "Creole" George Guesnon

During the ‘randomized’ hand assembly of the Made In New Orleans box collections, it was difficult to not put this amiable photograph of banjoist/guitarist George Guesnon in every box. One of New Orleans’ best known banjo players, “Creole” George was a scrapbooker and photo collector in his own right, and often made handwritten captions on the face of the photographs with sometimes ‘opinionated’ comments on the portrayed. Here’s some info on Guesnon:

(pronounced gay-no)
b. May 25, 1907
d. May 5, 1968
Played with: Sam Morgan, Oscar “Papa” Celestin, Kid Rena, Chris Kelly, Buddy Petit, Punch Miller, George Lewis…

Creole George Guesnon began playing professionally in 1927, when he joined Kid Clayton’s Happy Pals at the Hummingbird cabaret. George had a few lessons from John Marrero, but for the most part perfected his own amazing technique on guitar and banjo. He recorded several blues records for Decca during the thirties, when he was seeking his fortune in New York and sharing an apartment with Jelly Roll Morton, who arranged some of his compositions.
In 1935 he went to Jackson, Mississippi, where he joined Little Brother Montgomery’s orchestra and a year later the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. For two years he was featured as a banjo soloist and during this time he extemporized endless lyrics which he sang to his own standard blues accompaniment. In 1940 he recorded again for Decca.
When World War II came, he joined the Merchant Marine and afterwards returned to New Orleans to play jobs with a variety of bands. He traveled with George Lewis to California and also to New York where they recorded for Blue Note. In 1959 George recorded for Icon and afterwards appeared on many traditional New Orleans jazz releases, including the Riverside “Living Legends” series and the Atlantic “jazz at Preservation Hall” series.
Until his retirement in 1965, George appeared at Preservation Hall as leader of his own group or as sideman with other groups.

from “Preservation Hall Portraits” By Noel Rockmore; text by Larry Borenstein & Bill Russell

more reading on George Guesnon:
“Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White” by Tom Sancton
“Preservation Hall” by William Carter
“New Orleans Style” by Bill Russell
“The Jazz Crusade:The Inside Story of the Great New Orleans Jazz Revival of the 1960s” by Big Bill Bissonnette

on the web:
jazzbanjo.com:George Guesnon

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