Wendell Eugene’s New Orleans Jazz Band
Born on October 12, 1923, Wendell Eugene is the youngest of five sons.He showed early interest in music and was influenced by oldest brother (guitarist/banjo/trombonist) Homer Eugene, who mentored the young Wendell. Wendell was a quick learner, spending countless hours with Auburn Method Books and Louis Armstrong recordings. Additionally, the artist whom he admired, Louis Armstrong, played at a house across the street from his; he would visit and play with the owner, who was a pianist and pharmacist. At the age of 14 he began to perform on the New Orleans Jazz scene with Avery (Kid) Howard’s (trumpet) Olympia Band. By the close of the Great Depression, he found steadier work with legendary band leaders and performers such as Oscar “Papa” Celestin, Albert “Papa” French, George Lewis, Willie Humphrey, and Albert “Don Albert” Dominique. Eugene’s musical career took a detour when he enlisted in the United States Navy at age 18. After naval boot camp he was assigned as a trombonist to the U.S. Navy Marching and 12-piece Concert Band (and a Dixieland sextet), where he remained throughout his four year military career. During this time in service, he had the honor of playing with fellow native son Louis Armstrong for a USO show at age 19: “They were short a trombone player and asked me if I wanted to play. I got up there and did the best I could.” In 1946 he began touring with Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra and the Buddy Johnson (piano) Orchestra. He returned home in 1947 and rejoined Paps Celestin and French, and the Herbert Leary Orchestra. He remained popular as a sit-in with several renowned groups including the great Lionel Hampton and Motown Artists The Temptations as well as a solo appearance in Paul Simon’s 1979 tune “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”.He also performed at the first Jazz Fest in 1970. Since its inception, Eugene has been a near-perennial musical participant. He performs frequently at the Palm Court Jazz Café, Preservation Hall and other venues with a variety of bands primarily led by Lionel Ferbos, Lars Edegran, Jamie Wight, Clive Wilson, Greg Stafford, and Barry Martyn. In August, Wendell Eugene’s New Orleans Jazz Band made their debut at the U.S. Mint during the summer concert series. In celebration of Wendell’s 90th birthday and 75th anniversary as a New Orleans Jazz Legend, Wendell is scheduled to release a new CD featuring a few of his favorite songs, in mid October.