John Marrero

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The tune entitled "Original Tuxedo Rag" by the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, recorded in the mid-'20s for the OKeh outfit, is considered something of a milestone in banjo history. The man hovering above…
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The tune entitled "Original Tuxedo Rag" by the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, recorded in the mid-'20s for the OKeh outfit, is considered something of a milestone in banjo history. The man hovering above the banjo head is none other than John Marrero, a New Orleans native whose family represents an interesting type of sibling rivalry. In this family there were two banjo players -- the other was the better-known Laurence Marrero -- and two bassists, Eddie Marrero and Simon Marrero. Father of all these boys was the bassist Billy Marrero, one of the first instrumentalists to play his instrument in a style recognized as jazz.

One thing all members of this family seem to have in common is a tendency to be confused with other people named Marrero. The New Orleans family represented part of a distinct Latin-American influence on New Orleans jazz in the early days; in subsequent decades, the surname would become associated more often with Latin music itself. John Marrero, whose gigs also included the A.J. Piron Orchestra between 1918 and 1928, should not be confused with the pianist of the same name whose recording affiliations include Bobby Paunetto.

The aforementioned Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra was named after the Tuxedo Dance Hall, a hip venue in New Orleans until it was closed down after a shooting. In light of those circumstances it is a good thing the group had out-of-town gigs. The banjoist toured with the orchestra throughout the Gulf Coast up until the depressed economic conditions of the '30s shot their own hole in the live music scene. Brother Simon Marrero also played bass in this group. John Marrero has also been credited as a violinist with groups in the latter half of the '20s, yet interviews with his brothers and peers do not mention him playing the instrument.