Little Brother Montgomery
Caught between Jazz & the Blues
Little Brother Montgomery (piano & vocal), plays his classic “Vicksburg Blues” filmed for BBC by Maddalena Fagandini and Giles Oakley in Chicago on January 29, 1976.
Eurreal Wilford Montgomery was born in the saw mill town of Kentwood, Louisiana across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, where he spent much of his childhood. His resemblance to his father, Harper Montgomery got him the nickname Little Brother Harper, which later evolved into Little Brother Montgomery. Eurreal started playing piano at the age of four, and by age eleven he was playing at various barrelhouses in Louisiana. His own musical influences included Jelly Roll Morton who used visit the Montgomery household.
Early on he played at African American lumber and turpentine camps in Louisiana and Mississippi, then with the bands of Clarence Desdunes and Buddy Petit. He first went to Chicago from 1928 to 1931, where he made his first recordings. From 1931 through 1938 he led a band in Jackson.
In 1942 Montgomery moved back to Chicago, which would be his base for the rest of his life, with various tours to other United States cities and Europe. His repertoire alternated between blues and traditional jazz.
Among his original compositions are “Shreveport Farewell”, “Farrish Street Jive”, and “Vicksburg Blues”. His instrumental “Crescent City Blues” served as the basis for a song of the same name by Gordon Jenkins, which in turn was adapted by Johnny Cash as “Folsom Prison Blues.” Montgomery died on September 6, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois, and was interred in the Oak Woods Cemetery.
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