Yet another jazz horn player cut down early in life by tuberculosis, cornetist Emmett Hardy at least got started on music quite early. His parents were performers in New Orleans in the latter part of the 19th century, intriguing the youngster who fiddled with piano and guitar before touching lips to brass only one year before he became a teenager. In another two years he was good enough to join the band of Papa Jack Laine, whose nickname was perhaps earned through his acceptance of such young players in his outfit.
The cornetist went on to work with several busy groups such as Brownlee's Orchestra of New Orleans, the Carlise Evans Band, and a combo backing vaudeville artist Bea Palmer. The latter artist took him on the road and when he got as far out as Davenport, Iowa he jumped ship; or, more accurately he jumped to a ship, spending eight months performing aboard a riverboat. By the end of 1919, he was back in his hometown leading a group of his own, then was back off on another boat thanks to bandleader Tony Catalino. His next move was setting up a base in Chicago, where he was welcomed into the New Orleans Rhythm Kings band. Apparently it was the musicians' union who sent him packing back to New Orleans, where his final gigs were with Brownlee's Orchestra.
Recordings of this artist who, according to legend, could outplay Bix Beiderbecke and other brassmen of his period, seem to be a rarity indeed. Hardy's name pops up repeatedly in historic studies of jazz as many much more famous players crossed paths with him. The Metropolitan Jazz Octet are among the groups who have recorded a tune written in his honor, "Ballad of Emmett Hardy."