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Olney Lucious Interview Clip


Olney Lucious Interview Clip


Olney Lucious talks about his experiences as a musician in Mobile


National African American Archives & Museum,
Museum of Mobile


National African American Archives & Museum,
Museum of Mobile
Mobile Public Library, Local History & Genealogy






Oral history interview




Kern Jackson


Olney Lucious


855 Allison Street
Mobile, AL 36617


Jackson: What was your first gig or your first job here in Mobile playing?

Lucious: My first night job, first job, like playing music?

Jackson: Yes, sir.

Lucious: Oh, first job playing music was with, they all dead now, it was a five-piece combo. We all were practically learning. We, we knew something bout all right but we, we didn’t know that much but we knew just enough to get by that we made some bad cards or bad tunes or something like that. We probably knew it, would correct it if we knew, if we didn’t, we just got down with it. [Laughter]

Jackson: What was the name of that combo?

Lucious: The song?

Jackson: No, the, the group that you played with what was the name of it?

Lucious: Oh, now the first group, the first group I ever played with was a was kind of a nonexperienced, didn’t have all that experience we just got together and make noise. We got paid for it. It was Walter Thompson’s, you wouldn’t anything about, Walter Thompson And His Matadors I believe it was. But anyway, the boy’s name is Walter Thompson. Yeah, he’s dead and gone and everybody else along with me that I know of isn’t still living. Wasn’t but five of us what you call a combo when it was small like that, 5 or 6 of you. But that been a long time ago you see when I first started playing music ‘round when I first come out of school. See when I first come out of school, I was around 20 years old or something like that, 19, 20, 21 or something like that. I didn’t know too much but I knew enough to get by like, like Nuckie, his name was Walter Thompson but we called him “Nuckie”. He knew more than any of us. He was kinda the leader of the band. He was a little smarter than the rest of us. But I quit him after I, I was started to, I started to going up. I started moving up just like that. See every time somebody was, was learning me playing bout the way I doing on that banjo. They said, “well, if you, if you, if you wanna make a change we got a place for you. We got a chair for you in our band.”

Jackson: What were some of the bands you played for?

Lucious: This boy was one, Walter Thompson and His Matadors, that was one. Wilson Red Hot, I don’t know if you ever heard of him or not, that was two and the most, the band with the, was the most anchored band I ever played in was Melody Masters. Now you talking bout a band. Every band would come through here wouldn’t wanna come back here anymore when they heard us. And then, and then sometimes they don’t wanna come through and get what they call a double rush with us.

Jackson: A double rush.

Lucious: Yeah.

Jackson: What’s a double rush?

Lucious: A double rush? A double rush is when two bands are playing together the same night in the same place. See and what the really called they self doing is kind of, vying and vying with each. One, one trying to out play the other and all that old kind of stuff, you know. See especially if you got a good reputation. Now it takes some bands with a pretty good reputation to call themselves double rush. Some bands gon double rush and ain’t got know reputation behind ‘em and somebody find out, “well, who gon come here, I don’t know nothing about them guys. I don’t know about ‘em. You ain’t gon have no, you’n gon hardly have nobody at your affairs. But if it somebody come to you like Days of Old. Somebody say when uh, Duke Ellington man, they double rushing with old uh, what's this other guy name used to dancing and hollering [he hums a Cab Calloway tune].

Jackson: Oh uh….

Lucious: You know what I'm talking about [ he hums a Cab Calloway tune].

Jackson: Mitty the Moocher. Ah, Cab Calloway.

Lucious: Yeah, Cab Calloway. Now when somebody, when you say, you double rushing between Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, you can’t hardly get in the place. See.

Jackson: Uh, huh.

Lucious: But it seldom happened but it did happen.

Jackson: In Mobile too?

Lucious: No, that didn’t happen in Mobile but they came through here on singles. Cab Calloway would come through Mobile on his own. Duke Ellington would come through here to Mobile on his own. Eddie Hayward, I worked with Eddie Hayward while he was here. Now, the Ms. What-you-call-it can tell you all you wanna know about me and Eddie Hayward.

Jackson: Who’s that?

Lucious: Ms, Ms. Hortence, what’s her name? Pauline…

Jackson: Oh, Ms. Paul…. Horton.

Lucious: Paulette Horton, yeah. ‘Cause she got the whole history of it too, you see. When he, when he came through here, I was strutting my stuff then.

Jackson: No kidding.

Lucious: Yeah, I was strutting my stuff. I knew music and I would write and all read it. I got stuff around here that I wrote, transposing and everything for the band what the band could play in the key that we could play better in. See if a piece was written in a piece, if a piece was written in a certain note, in a certain key and the band can’t, can’t can’t do so much with it. In that key I’ll say, “Five flats.” And everybody know that five flat, that’s five flats in “D” for signature is a “D”. That’s for an ackward key to play in too.

Jackson: Tell me where did, where did the Melody Masters play? What kind of venues, what kind of places, what kind of halls did y’all play in in Mobile?

Lucious: Oh they, man they played in some of everywhere you, you would give an affair.

Jackson: Tell me some of ‘em.

Lucious: Played Fort Whiting. You ever heard of Fort Whiting now?

Jackson: Yes, sir.

Lucious: All right, they played at the Columbus, Columbia, Columbus Hall I guess that’s Catholic building on Government Street. And we just played, lined up all the time up here at Gomez Auditorium. And ah…

Jackson: The Elks, you ever played at the Elks?

Lucious: Elks, yeah, Elks down on State Street. And ah…

Jackson: ILA?

Lucious: Who?

Jackson: The ILA Hall?

Lucious: Yeah, ILA too. Yeah on Davis Avenue all those places and not, not and not only we went to, went to New Orleans played down there, a club down there, it was a Colored club at that time, I forgot the name of it. It’s a rich club, man, one that make a lot of money. It’s on Iberville where, you ever heard of Iberville, that’s where… That clubhouse, one of the beautiful clubhouse, now that was years ago. I don’t know whether it’s still in business or not. All those large places cause I, there’s a picture of our band over there.

Jackson: Yeah, I saw that picture.

Lucious: Oh, you did.

Jackson: Who were some of the members, can you name some of ‘em?

Lucious: Yeah, I remember all of em. Now I can put some only one person in there is living besides me.

Jackson: Who’s that?

Lucious: Ms. Olivia Rivers.

Jackson: Piano player?

Lucious: Yeah, she, she Ms. Olivia Rivers, she’s downtown, she’s on Ann and Basil, the only two-story house in that block in the area right in there. And that’s her home. Her husband died and left her that home. Nice place. Two-story place. Her name is Rivers and she can play some organ and she can play some piano and that was a group that didn’t bother nobody that came in here or out of here.

Jackson: No kidding.

Lucious: When they comes here, just telling you, I’m telling you the truth. I’m not bragging because I played with ‘em but I played with em for years and I, and they had top notch musicians and I’m not saying because I happen to be a member. I was glad to be a member that, a group like that that carried that kind of a reputation.

Jackson: Who were some of the other people in the band?

Lucious: Fred Jackson was one, he was a school teacher over here at Owens.

Jackson: Uh, huh. A. F. Owens school.

Lucious: A. F. Owens, yeah. He would, he could write that stuff. We could, we had folks of us could write that stuff. I wasn’t the only one that said could write that stuff. Fred Jackson and Millers Holmes. I don’t know whether you remember, Millers Holmes he was a old timer around Mobile here too. And I hear you say something about Lang being related to you. Seem like to me one of them Langs used to be, used to be a postman, I know him well. But anyway, I’m trying to, Olivia, she was the only lady and it was 13 of us. Twelve men and that one lady. And it was 13 of us. And we had 3 changes of uniforms.

Jackson: Tell me about ‘em.

Lucious: Well, we had, we had tuxes you know, because we played for balls. We played a lot of balls.

Jackson: Who, who were some of the balls you played?

Lucious: Oh, we played just about all of the, the Comrades, the some of ‘em I can’t call the name right off hand, I…

Jackson: Utopians?

Lucious: Who?

Jackson: Utopians Ball? The Utopians Ball? That sound familiar?

Lucious: I didn’t quite hear you.

Jackson: Utopians.

Lucious: Oh, yeah, Utopians yeah. Utopians and that was one of the main ones, Alec Herman’s bunch. Sure. I just it slipped it remembrance now ‘cause it been so long so long ago. Alec Herman and we played for his group and then we played for oh a bunch of ‘em now. Alfred Davis, let me see, what is Alfred Davis’ group. Oh, but I can’t call the names.

Jackson: That’s all right.

Lucious: See. What’s this boy that just died here, buried him here, The Comrades. We used to play with them, their ball. Ah, now what’s his name.

Jackson: Richardson?

Lucious: Richardson, yeah. Oscar Richardson. We used to play for their balls. And Alec Herman and Dr. Russell, Dr. Russell was Utopian. See, he was, he the member or the Utopian. That was easy…

Jackson: Did you know any of the people in the brass bands?

Lucious: Brass band?

Jackson: Yeah, you ever heard of brass band like the Eureka Brass Band or the Excelsior Brass Band?

Lucious: Yeah, yeah, I knew all of them fellows when they… I’m a turn some heat on. Where were we?

Jackson: We’re talking about the Eureka Brass Band and the Excelsior Brass Band.

Lucious: Oh, yeah the Excelsior Brass Band. Yeah, now Eureka, they played out before the Excelsior. The Excelsior lasted a long time. They life lasted them a long time. Well, they played for about every all the Mardi Gras parades even if it was White parades and all.

Jackson: But the Eureka played out?

Lucious: Yeah, yeah, Eureka didn’t… They had a good band while they were going but something, I don’t know what happened. Maybe they all died out or something or other.

Jackson: Who did Mr. Besteda play with?

Lucious: Besteda?

Jackson: The trombonist.

Lucious: That was my cousin.

Jackson: That was your cousin.

Lucious: Yeah, he played with the Melody Masters. We all played together. He’s right up there on the picture.

Jackson: No kidding.

Lucious: He and I both right up there. And he was and believe me and I’m not saying because he was cousin. But he could play ‘cause he got his training at Tuskegee too.

Jackson: So a lot of y’all got your training at Tuskegee.

Lucious: Yeah, a lot of us did.

Jackson: Isn’t that a blessing.

Lucious: Sure did. Especially musicians, you know.

Jackson: Yes.

Lucious: See so Mr. Besteda got his training right up there at Tuskegee and he died right out here at this nursing home out here on Halls Mill Road.

Jackson: How about the E. B. Coleman Band?

Lucious: E. B. I know E. B. Coleman. E. B. Coleman got a good band too. He’s always had a good band, he got a big band. He usually carry a big band around 12 to 14 pieces and all like that see. And he’s got good musicians in his band. Now some instances, his fellows I didn’t teach ‘em but I have taught some of their offsprings. Like this boy, a lot of ‘em fellows. My memory, my memory is just short now, you know when you get old your memory get short and you can’t remember things like you used to. What’s that boy name, his mother and father died here not long ago. He played trumpet with E. B. I taught his, his, his 2 boys and one of ‘em turned sour on the family by taking stuff, taking that dope and stuff.

Jackson: Right.

Lucious: I don’t know if you would remember that case or not.

Jackson: Uh, uh.

Lucious: But that’s what happened. So E. B. has got, he has a good thing

Original Format



13 min 11 sec



National African American Archives & Museum, and Museum of Mobile, “Olney Lucious Interview Clip,” Mobile Public Library Digital Collections, accessed June 27, 2019,

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