New Orleans, 1945

Canal Street at night, New Orleans, 1945

Why feature photographs made in New Orleans in 1945 by a North Carolina photographer? Because they are great examples of the hidden riches that await us! They also serve as good samples to explore the far reaches of blogging on the Internet as an aid in processing a photograph collection. Plus, Hugh Morton loved jazz.
The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, ran an article on Sunday, 27 September 1942 about Morton’s return to campus to photograph the prior day’s football game for the paper before his Tuesday entrance as a technical sergeant in the Army’s photography division. The feature also noted that Morton reminisced on how he “got his start at Carolina by taking pictures of Hal Kemp, University alumnus.” James Hal Kemp (1904-1940), who attended UNC from 1922 to 1926 but did not graduate, was one of the most noted “sweet-swing” band leaders of the 1930s. (Kemp’s papers are in the Southern Historical Collections in Wilson Library). The article stated that Morton was so pleased with his photographs that, “He now has pictures of every nationally known band in the country with over 100 snaps of Benny Goodman, some of which have appeared in Downbeat, music magazine.” We’ll be keeping all four of our eyes open for those.
The photographs featured in this post are found in an envelope that contains twenty negatives and is labeled, simply, “New Orleans.” One of those negatives is a night scene looking down Bourbon Street. On the right is the The Old Absinthe House Bar and farther down the street is Club Bali; on the left is the Famous Door Cocktail Lounge. The automobile license plates on the right are dated 1945, confirming the date on Godchaux’s marquee in the image above.

Bourbon Street at night, New Orleans, 1945

What was happening with Hugh Morton in 1945? He was wounded in March, a few days after photographing General Douglas MacArthur reviewing the 25th Division on New Caledonia, and received his honorable discharge from the United States Army on 30 June. He married Julia Taylor on 8 December.
Within the batch of New Orleans negatives are a few outdoor scenes depicting a couple wearing longer coats, suggesting he was there during a colder time of the year. Duke University’s football team defeated the University of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on January 1st. Perhaps Morton was there to photograph the football game? Thus far we’ve not located any negatives of that event. Maybe he was on leave? One negative depicts a group seated in a hotel room: Morton in civilian clothes, another man in a military uniform, and two women.

Captain John Handy, New Orleans, 1945.

Whatever the date of his visit, Morton headed to the jazz clubs with camera in hand and he photographed three performances. Only one set is identifiable from the content: two negatives of Captain John Handy (1900-1971) and an unidentified upright bass player.

Captain John Handy, New Orleans, 1945.

A second setting records another group, apparently a quintet, the only recognizable character being the bopping Santa above the stage backdrop. Santa says it might still be around New Year’s Day.

Jazz quintet, New Orleans, 1945

To round out the photographs of jazz musicians, here’s an unidentified piano player in what appears to be yet a third club setting:

Piano player, New Orleans, 1945

Any jazz historians out there who can place a name to some of these unnamed faces?

18 thoughts on “New Orleans, 1945”

  1. A tighter cropping of the 1945 Canal Street photograph was used as the background for the Charlie Justice-Sugar Bowl picture on page 4 of “The State” magazine issue of December 28, 1946.

  2. Hi.
    Just came across these photos. Love’em! Being a musician I can appreciate the atmosphere of “being there” in the moments of music from the heart. The pictures exude that feeling.
    BIG thanks for posting these up!

  3. I really miss the Big Easy. I am cravin’ some po’ boys and oysters. I enjoyed visiting the Jazz society while i was down there.

  4. I’m a 74 year old Jazz bass player in Detroit and have been trying to document our Jazz scene since 1951. I have 4700 photos, mostly of Detroit players, but some unidentified. What is the best way to begin putting names on those.
    I loved your photos.
    Dan PLiskow

  5. The pianist featured under the caption: ‘To round out the photographs of jazz musicians, here’s an unidentified piano player in what appears to be yet a third club setting:’
    is Fats Pichon.

  6. Hello, Dan Pliskow-
    Been trying to get a hold of you to buy a copy of your first book, Jazz Bass Lines. Is it available through you?

  7. The one unidentified drummer with glasses is Ray McKinley whose collaborations with Will Bradley, and Glenn Miller’s AAFB are legendary, and well documented in sounds and pictures. He took over the GM ghost band later on.

  8. What wonderful photos! Hugh Morton’s photographs remind us what a great city New Orleans was. I even have an old scrapbook I created of the place while I was on a trip there years ago. Everytime I look at it, it brings back fond memories.
    Thanks for posting this.

  9. I enjoyed going to the Heritage Jazz Society performances. All of the rich history of Jazz is still alive in NOLA. The sights and sounds of Jazz fill the streets and hearts of those who visit this grand city.

  10. Seeing Hugh’s passion for jazz brought to life in his photos makes you feel like you are there. I especially like the images from New Orleans in the early days. The history of jazz needs to be preserved for all to experience.

  11. The pianist is pianist/entertainer/vocalist Walter “Fats” Pichon- the location is most likely the Old Absinthe House. Mr Pichon had a long residency there.
    He made some great recordings as vocalist in the 1920s. My fav is “I’ve Got That Thing” as part of King Oliver and his Orchestra

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