In Balkan folklore he would be known as "the man who has seen the bear" -- the person whose presence is both historic and shadowy, always there at key moments in all the important places, undeniably a part of landmark events yet leaving behind less personal residue than a mourning dove. Sidney Desvignes' neighborhood was New Orleans, not the Balkans. He was a cornetist who really did play in the infamous red-light district of the sunken city in the first three decades of the 20th century. Desvignes was a member of the Excelsior Brass Band, the Maple Leaf Orchestra, and Fate Marable's Society Syncopators, where he played second fiddle, so to speak, to Louis Armstrong.
Desvignes was then promoted up a notch following Armstrong's epic decision to become a part of the King Oliver combo. The final years of the Roaring Twenties represent Desvignes' own musical roar simmering down to a whimper. He continued to play on riverboats and in New Orleans until moving to California in the early '30s, remarkably one of the few players from his background whose decision to go west was not motivated by or did not result in a whole new wave of musical activity. The ex-cornetist instead ran a restaurant and retired in Pacoima. The JSP label's compilation entitled Breaking Out of New Orleans 1922-1929 contains a few feathers, as in some of the very rare recordings of Desvignes playing.