Brownlee's Orchestra Of New Orleans - Okeh 40337 (1925)

Besides Buddy Bolden, there is another early New Orleans jazz musician that was never caught on wax...Emmett Hardy.

A child prodigy, Hardy grew up in Gretna, LA and it has been said that he out dueled Louis Armstrong in a cutting contest.

He played second trumpet to Paul Mares in the original lineup of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, similar to Armstrong in the King Oliver band, but never recorded with them.

He also played in Norman Brownlee's outfit, which only recorded the following 2 sides, but because of poor health, did not make the recording date. Incidentally, this was probably the catalyst for Sharkey Bonano to fill in on the date, which marked his recording debut.

Rumor has it that Hardy recorded on homemade cylinders and that one had survived into the 1950s but, unfortunately has never been located.

He passed away 5 months after these sides were recorded in 1925 at barely 22 years of age.

Here is a record that he ALMOST played on.

Sharkey Bonano c / Tom Brown tb / Harry Shields cl, bar / Hal Jordy as / ? Howard Martin ts / Norman Brownlee p / Behrman French bj / Alonzo Crombie d.

Recorded in New Orleans on January 23, 1925.

Thanks to the liner notes of the recent Jazz Oracle (No. 8066) cd release Merritt Brunies, which quoted Norman Brownlee's son, Henry, I discovered that Mr. Brownlee is buried nearby and promptly visited, paying my respects.

From Vol. 1 No. 9 The Second Line (December 1950)

From Vol. XVIII The Second Line (May-June 1967)

(I had posted severely compressed videos of these same sides last year on this blog...please bear in mind that both sides suffer from rough starts.)

Just found a reissue label 78 of the above record with cleaner sound.

1922 Newspaper Clipping (The Herald August 24, 1922)

1915 Newspaper Clipping

1918 Newspaper Clipping

1921 Newspaper Clipping

1922 Newspaper Clippings


  1. This is my grandfather's band. Thanks for the post. It was great to see the vinyls! We had copies but after several hurricanes and moves they have gotten lost.

    1. Thank you so much for finding my post which led to your father's comments below. Absolutley wonderful!

    2. Your Grandfather was married to my Aunt Carrie Villar, I never knew he had a band and recorded these great records...Thanks for sharing...Liz Sherouse

  2. PS
    My dad is still going strong and can share a LOT of info on his dad and his band and lots of info on the guys

  3. Hi. That recording was released only regionally and not nationally, so hang on to the vinyl! I used to have that vinyl, but we loaned it out to a fellow in Algiers who was doing a Jazz radio show when the New Orleans Jazz Club was just starting up. He never returned it - said it got broken. OK. Also had several other vinyls from the era - Johnny DeDroit, Halfway House Orchestra, and a few others, but they didn't survive the several hurricanes which came our way over the years.

    The drummer was Alonzo Crombie (not Crumby). Dad said Al had the steadiest beat of amy drummer he ever heard. And he said it was Hal Jordy that did the baritone sax solos on the record. You list Howard Martin on tenor sax. This is the first time I ever heard of him playing with Dad's band or on the record. Actually, Dad also played tenor as well as other instruments, including string bass. My Uncle Behrman French (mother's younger brother) was on banjo for the record. He was filling in for Billy Eastwood who must have had another engagement at the time. Tom Brown - arguably the best bone man of the era in New Orleans. I had heard that Dad, Emmett Hardy, Al Crombie and Oscar Marcour made an Edison cylinder of Tin Roof Blues, but I never actually saw it. Henry Brownlee

    1. You mention Oscar Marcour. Do you have more information on him? He played in Sgt. Larry Conley's Jazz Band in 1918 when they were stationed at Camp Mills on Long Island. He seems to be the only one in the band besides Conley who continued on as a musician after World War I.

    2. I do volunteer Boswell Sister musicology. Im pretty sure these wax cylinders had been transfered to a pile of languishing unheard. 1946+ mag tapes in estate i have a test one, brittle. Its Kyla Titus' and rights, not me ! Emmett Hardy and Martha Boswell tender letters. Bill Jensen

  4. Hello Mr. Brownlee,

    I can't tell you how honored it is to have you write and provide such personal and invaluable information regarding what is absolutely my favorite 78 in my collection.

    Living along the gulf coast myself, and only starting to collect these records relatively recently (in the last 15 years or so), I am constantly reminded how rare these captured performances by wonderful early pioneers in New Orleans jazz really are. Reading your experience about lending the record out only to not receive it back was painful. I have never run across a Johnny DeDroit or a Halfway House Orchestra although I do have their recordings on cds.

    As for the record above, twelve years ago, I found it in an upstairs room of an old house that was converted into an antique store somewhere north of Myrtle Beach, SC. I picked it up because of the 'New Orleans' printed on the label. I researched what little information I could find about the record over the years but until a month or two ago, when I purchased the new Jazz Oracle cd release of Merritt Brunies (which for the first time contains both Brownlee recordings on the same cd), I was able to read the most comprehensive information contained in the liner notes...which quoted you tremendously.

    Incidentally, I got the personnel list used above from Brian Rusts's Jazz & Ragtime Records discography which the cd liner notes undoubtedly also used. Even though you spelled it Crombie in your correspondence, it was still listed as Crumby in the personnel listing. (I will change it above in my post).

    One last thing, after reading the information provided in the liner notes more thoroughly, I just realized that I drive past Bayview Memorial once every couple of weeks (and Eglin daily). I will definitely stop by Bayview next time I go by.

    Again, I feel so honored to have your input here.

    Thank you,

  5. Man I thought Betsy got that record! I loved listening to it

    So glad it's shared here.Thanks for posting it
    Glad others like grandpa's music too.

  6. “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” victor Hugo

    Brownlee's "voice" can still be heard. thanks for the music

  7. Life is full of surprises - some of which are delightful! I recently received one of those delightful ones! Christopher Smith, 78-rpm collector of note, located a rare original pressing of the Okeh recording of my father's "Peculiar" and "Dirty Rag" - AND HE SENT IT TO ME!!!!! He also sent a re=-engineered copy made by Jazz Classics for Sharkey Bonano, which has a much improved sound. I have several copies of the original on CDs featuring several old New Orleans Dixieland Jazz bands, but had lost my copy of the original. Now, thanks to this wonderful man, I have an original back! Just the effort he made tracking down another copy of the record was unbelievable, but his gift of that record to me is just fantastic. Mere words can't possibly express my gratitude. Thank you, Christopher Smith! You da man!

  8. Hello Friends, For those interested in Emmett, Brownlee and other musicians, there is a large biography in Jazz Puzzles Volume 1, published by Jazzedit ( I am searching for photos of Merritt Brunies, especially the one taken in the Daguerre studio of Chicago, where Merritt is seated in the center, reading a sheet music. Thanks for help, swingingly, Dan Vernhettes, Paris, France