Original Memphis Five Biography

Formed by a group of white musicians who were based in New York, the Original Memphis Five became hugely popular during the 20s. Founder members were trumpeter Phil Napoleon (2 September 1901, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 30 September 1990, Miami, Florida, USA), pianist Frank Signorelli (b. 24 May 1901, New York City, New York, USA, d. 9 December 1975), trombonist Miff Mole (b. Irving Milfred Mole, 11 March 1898, Roosevelt, Long Island, New York, USA, d. 29 April 1961, New York City, New York, USA), clarinettist Jimmy Lytell (b. James Sarrapede, 1 December 1904, d. 28 November 1972) and drummer Jack Roth. The band filled an engagement at the Balconnades Ballroom in New York, USA, and then stayed together for a number of years and made many popular records, sometimes using other names. Later, other musicians including trombonist Charles Panelli, cornettist Red Nichols, drummer Ray Bauduc and brothers, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, graced the band’s ranks but, by the end of the 20s, the band, which had been the inspiration for many young white jazzmen, broke up.

Towards the end of the 40s Napoleon re-formed the band, and some time later Signorelli also formed a band that used the same name and included Mole and Lytell. Reunions and re-formations continued during the 50s. Specializing in snappily played dixieland jazz, the band did much to popularize jazz in the early years of its development. Napoleon and Mole made notable individual contributions to the music, gaining many emulators.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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