June Clark

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This trumpeter was born Algeria Junius Clark and had he stuck to this name, perhaps he would have been mistaken for a country rather then thought to be a female. June Clark is indeed a name that shows…
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This trumpeter was born Algeria Junius Clark and had he stuck to this name, perhaps he would have been mistaken for a country rather then thought to be a female. June Clark is indeed a name that shows up on lists of historic early female jazz players, a silly notion considering that this is the same guy who eventually became a road manager for boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, an even less popular type of occupation with women then playing jazz was in the '20s. That's not to say Clark had no female influence. His mother taught him piano, after all. From there he moved on to the bugle, baritone, and finally the cornet.

Clark was a porter prior to becoming a professional musician in a group called S.H. Dudley's Black Sensations. He met the great pianist James P. Johnson in the lineup of this group and the pair eventually decided to strike out on their own, choosing Toledo, OH for a base and collaborating regularly with Jimmy Harrison. This was still prior to 1920, making Clark a teenager at the time. He returned to Philadelphia in late 1920, and backed up the singer Josephine Stevens as well as touring theaters with pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith. A decision to go on the road with a show entitled Holiday in Dixie perhaps indicated a lack of judgment; the premise collapsed in Detroit, and Clark had no choice but to go work in a car factory. Compadre Harrison came to the rescue with a nice gig in the Fess Williams Band.

Even before the mid-'20s, Clark had packed his cornet up and moved to New York City, leading his own band at a variety of venues through the decade. In the '30s, he was more likely to be a sideman than a leader, working for the banjoist Ferman Tapp, as well as with Jimmy Reynolds from 1933 through 1935. He walked the plank musically at the Red Pirate Club in New York for two years after that, and also could be found at the Quoque Inn in Long Island, where he was part of the band of Vance Dixon. By the late '30s, his health no longer permitted regular cornet blasting, but he was still fit to travel, and went to work as a road manager for Louis Armstrong, most likely thinking that if he couldn't play a horn himself he might as well listen to someone who could every night.

Clark spent several years in the hospital suffering from tuberculosis beginning in the summer of 1939. Upon recovering, he began working as a so-called "musical advisor" to groups and a musical assistant to Earl Hines until signing on with the boxing world in the mid-'40s. He worked alongside Robinson as long as he was physically able, and died only a short while after retiring from the ringside seat.