New Orleans Jazz – News and Opinions – Elmer ‘Coo Coo’ Talbert


Elmer Talbert “Coo Coo”

Born New Orleans August 8, 1900 – Died New Orleans December 13, 1950.

This is followed by a very short continuation of Elmer Talbert’s career thanks to the film “New Orleans Jazz – family album by Dr. Edmond Souchon and Al Rose (Louisiana University Press)

In 1929 he was with the Arnold Depass Dance Orchestra. He taught from Kid Rena and sometimes collaborated with Rena’s Bass Band and Paul Barnes. He was, like many other musicians in New Orleans, a part-time musician, earning his living by working in the laundry. He suffered a stroke in 1947, but recovered well.

Between 1947 and his untimely death from another blow in the late 1950s, he made several notable recordings with the George Lewis Band. On November 23, 1949, a jazz fan of Herb Otto was held at 1111 Bourbon St. There was a complete band by George Lewis, where other musicians and jazz enthusiasts were present. Herb Otto and his friend Bob Greenwood both had recording machines and most of the music was recorded. You can hear the result on the American Music Label AMCD 74 “The George Lewis Band at Herb Otto’s party 1949”. Not loyalty, but the music shines through, it’s very hot and our first chance to hear “Coo Coo” by Elmer Talbert.

In May 1950, Dr. Edmond Souchon arranged the recording of the George Lewis Band on behalf of the New Orleans Jazz Club. The understanding was that if Dr. Souchon could sell the record, George and the band would get the money. The recording took place at Filiberto’s Music Store on Barracks Street. A hot and stuffy day in New Orleans; Cold water, soda, beer and good stuff were available with lots of ice. Bandleader George had strict control over the drinks, and the resulting music is probably one of the great classical jazz sessions of any style. It’s up to you to listen to “George Lewis Jam Session” on AMCD 104. The whole band is fantastic, of course, but Elmer Talbert’s trumpet and his amazing vocals on “2.19 Blues” and “Pallet On The Floor” are Desert Island Discs for me!

It was not until a few weeks later on June 5, 1950, that the band George Lewis, with the label “Coo Coo”, created four songs for the “Good Time Jazz” label on the trumpet. It was recorded in New Orleans and under the supervision of Jack Lewerke. In my opinion, this is the best sound quality and balance of the band George Lewis. I assume there is a degree of personal bias here because this version of “Burgundy Street Blues” took place at my wedding to Diana Clark at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. The CD is on Good Time Jazz L12005. GTCD 12005-2.

Finally, an aerial photograph of the George Lewis Band with Elmer Talbert was shot on the JCCD 3054 jazz crusades. It was the Dixieland Clambake program in New Orleans in September and October 1950. Some great George Lewis and Jim Robinson here and unfortunately our last chance to hear Elmer on the trumpet.