A little-remembered part of New Orleans' early jazz diaspora, clarinetist Whaley was nevertheless a well-respected musician in his day, playing alongside such giants as Kid Ory and Jelly Roll Morton. According to jazz historian John Chilton, Whaley played bass and guitar before taking up the clarinet, which he studied with the legendary New Orleans clarinetist Lorenzo Tio Jr.. His first gigs on clarinet were played with Armand Piron's orchestra at New Orleans' Temple Theatre. Through 1916 Whaley led his own band and worked with Ory, Buddy Petit, and other New Orleans groups. In 1917 he moved to Los Angeles with Petit and joined Morton's band, staying only briefly, then returning to New Orleans. After leading his own group for a time, he moved back to California in 1919, working with Ory and leading his own band. In 1921 Ory's band became the first black jazz group to record commercially; Whaley was the group's regular clarinetist, but he couldn't make the Santa Monica date and was substituted by Jelly Roll Morton's brother-in-law, Oliver "Dink" Johnson. Whaley played with Ory through 1925, then started his own successful band in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Black & Tan Jazz Hounds (aka the Black & Tan Syncopators). The band worked through the late '20s. Whaley played in the pit band at San Francisco's Capitol Burlesque Hall in the early '30s. He ceased playing music full-time around 1934 and worked in the San Jose shipyards. He returned to music, participating in a concert with the All-Star New Orleans Band in San Francisco in May 1943. The next year he did a radio broadcast with Ory that enhanced his renown; thereafter he worked and recorded regularly.
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