Of all the members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, drummer Tony Spargo (who was known by his original name, Tony Sbarbaro, until the late '20s) had the most significant and active career. Growing up in New Orleans, Spargo was part of the local scene, playing drums with the Frayle Brothers Band in 1911 and also working with Ernest Giardina and Papa Jack Laine. In 1915 he played with Merritt Brunies and Carl Randall. He left New Orleans in June 1916 to join the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in Chicago. Spargo would be with the ODJB through all of its years, appearing on the first jazz records ("Darktown Strutters Ball," "Indiana," "Livery Stable Blues," and "Original Dixieland One Step"), performing with the band in England, and surviving all of the turnover until the historic group's official breakup in 1925. Easily the strongest improviser in the band, Spargo was a colorful player whose inventive use of the woodblock, cowbells, and cymbals would be quite influential, although overlooked by historians in later years. Spargo led a group under the name of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in New York into 1927, worked with Lacey Young's Orchestra (1927-1928), freelanced in low-profile jobs, and was part of the ODJB reunion of 1936. The drummer would be part of most of the later ODJB re-creations. In addition, he played Dixieland regularly at Nick's off and on from 1939 into the late '50s, including with Phil Napoleon (with whom he recorded), Brad Gowans, Miff Mole, Tony Parenti, Eddie Condon, and others, and recorded with Connee Boswell in the '50s. Spargo, who was also a colorful kazoo player, was active up until the early '60s, although he never led a recording session under his own name.
Share this page