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Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz

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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life

William Geary "Bunk" Johnson

(b New Orleans 27 Dec 1879; d New Iberia, LA 7 July 1949)


His first musical training and lessons on the cornet were at the age of eight from Wallace Cutchey at New Orleans University. In 1894, at the age of fifteen, he received his first professional job with Adam Oliver’s Orchestra. He played in a band in the U. S. Army during the Spanish American War in 1898, and during WW I in 1918. He was a very active cornetist, playing with the Olympia Brass Band, the Superior Brass Band, Frankie Dusen’s Eagle Band, P. G. Lowery’s Band, McCabe’s Minstrels, Smart Set Minstrels, and the Vernon Brothers Circus between the years of 1895 and 1919.

According to Marquis, Bunk was not born as early as originally thought, may have been born as late as 1889, and may not have perfromed with Buddy Bolden at all. His research is based upon photos, testimonies of George “Pops” Foster (1892-1969) and Peter Bocage (1887-1967), and the fact that Bunk was not mentioned by any musician other than himself as a fellow performer with Bolden (Marquis 1978, 1-9).

In the decade beginning with 1920, he performed with theater and dance orchestras, and between 1935 and 1937, he taught music under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (later called the Works Projects Administration). Begun in 1935, the Administration was formed by the Government to decrease the unemployment resulting from the Depression. It was discontinued in 1943 with the economic boom of WWII (The Wordsworth Encyclopedia, "Works Progress Administration").

He frequently performed rags and popular songs, but not the usual blues and New Orleans standard tunes. He also preferred to work with schooled musicians, which broke the mold of the stereotype of early jazz musicians (Eileen Southern, "Johnson, Bunk [William Geary]," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians).

He made his first record in 1942 in New Orleans, and during the 1940’s, played in bands in New York, Chicago, and Boston. In 1945, he played with Sydney Bechet on recordings, and in 1947, with "Doc" Evans. He ranks along with "Buddy" Bolden, Freddie Keppard, and Joseph "King" Oliver in establishing the cornet/trumpet as a mainstay of early New Orleans Jazz (Eileen Southern, "Johnson, William Geary ‘Bunk’," in BDAAM). Keppard and Oliver are not included in this document because their careers began and continued in the twentieth century. Sources of information appear throughout this entry.

Mabel Keith Leick

(b Holdrege, NE 7 Nov 1883; d Denver, CO 1961)

Her first music lessons were on the piano from her mother, a pianist herself. She was later given lessons on the cornet, and between May and July 1899, she attended the C. G. CONN Conservatory of Music at Elkhart, Indiana. She took her first three months of instruction at the Conservatory with Jules Levy, who was hired by Colonel Conn to teach cornet at the school. She later learned conducting from John Philip Sousa, who called her "The Sousa Girl" (Bridges [1972], 48c). She toured under this name with the Military Octet, as its director and cornet soloist. A virtuoso on the instrument, she toured across the country with the booking agency of Rolfe and Laskey. She married cornetist and bandmaster John Leick, with whom she made seven European tours including a performance for the Coronation of King George in 1911! Shortly before 1910, she replaced Florence Louise Horne as cornetist in the Navassar Band.

Both Mabel and her husband, John, directed bands in Nebraska, and later as residents of Denver, they performed for years with the Denver Municipal Band under the baton of Al Sweet and later Frederick Innes. Mabel directed and taught members of the first DeMolay Band of Denver, Colorado, and later taught at Denver University. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 48b-48c).

Anton H. Knoll, Jr.

(b Erie, PA 2 July 1855)

He studied cornet at an early age presumably from his father, a bandmaster and cornetist. He played with the Knoll Band, founded by his father in the early 1850’s. It consisted of his seven sons and five daughters, with himself as leader. The band became rather famous and toured throughout the eastern United States. It enlisted as a unit in the Navy and toured on board the U.S.S. Michigan during the summer of 1874 sailing from Buffalo to Duluth on the Great Lakes. At twenty-five years of age, he played as solo cornet with the Boston Cadet Band, replacing Walter Emerson. On 3 June 1883, Knoll won a cornet solo competition in Detroit, Michigan, beating all other contestants by sixty-seven points playing John Hartmann’s Carnival of Venice. His score was a 97% out of 400 possible points! (Bridges [1972], 52).

In 1885, Knoll played next to Walter Rogers in Cappa’s Band at Brighton Beach, and in the summer of 1886, he was involved in a playing competition with Jules Levy at the Subtropical Exposition Building in Jacksonville, Florida. His strength in his playing was his extremely high register and lip trills.

The cornet team of "Knoll & [Mary] McNeil" traveled all over the United States giving concerts. Having a repertoire of over 300 pieces, they would sometimes each play two cornets at the same time – a total of four instruments. They were featured at the Panama Exposition in 1912 and stayed together until McNeil’s retirement. Knoll played at least until 11 August 1925 on Coronado Beach. See Chapter 3 for more information on Mary McNeil. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 51-52) and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 413).

Emile Koenicke

(b Magdeburg, Germany 7 Apr 1866; d Camden, NJ 1930)

Koenicke [Keneke or Kenecke] received his early musical training at the Leipzig Conservatory of Music. He emigrated to the United States in the 1890’s and played in New York and Boston bands and orchestras. He was equally adept at the cornet and trumpet, which may have been a reason he was hired by the Victor Company at the turn of the century. In 1909, he was Clarke’s assistant in Sousa’s Band and played first chair during Clarke’s leave of absence from the band in 1912 and 1913. Later he performed with Innes’ Band, Stewart’s Band in Boston, and Pryor’s Band. He worked for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey. With Victor Records, he played duets with H. L. Clarke, Arthur Pryor, and Walter Rogers. He also played in Brass Quintets with Clarke and Pryor. With the company, he recorded the famous The Trumpet Shall Sound of Handel and many other solos.

In 1913, Koenicke worked with the Victor Recording company steadily for years as first trumpet. He experienced the artistry of many great musicians at the studio, including Enrico Caruso and Dame Nellie Melba. Throughout the years he performed frequently with various groups in New York and Philadelphia in theaters as well as in concert venues with various orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 52 -53) and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 395).

Herman Koenig

Koenig was a famous German cornetist, and played violin, as well. He played [cornet] in the Drury Lane Orchestra in 1840. Between 1849 and 1851, he was in a partnership with Pask (known as Pask & Koenig) in London. Instrument dealers, the company was represented at the London Exhibition of 1851 with many brass instruments and one clarinet (Waterhouse 1993, 211). He remained in Europe most of his life, but did travel to the United States when Louis Jullien’s orchestra came to New York City’s Castle Garden in 1853. The concert series began on "MONDAY EVENING, Aug. 29,1853, and … continued EVERY EVENING for ONE MONTH ONLY" (Schwartz 1957, 24). The orchestra contained twenty-seven of Jullien’s personally selected players from Europe, augmented by 100 performers from New York City. Flamboyant and an opportunist, Jullien left the United States for England one year later in June 1854. He organized many Promenade Concerts at Covent Garden and toured extensively, only to lose everything in a few years. Jullien’s legacy was primarily left in documents and programs, for all of his major works have been lost. Even his library of original quadrilles and polkas were destroyed in the 1856 Covent Garden fire. The end of his life was ridden with tragedy, for he was hounded by creditors and died in a lunatic asylum near Paris in 1860.

Koenig did go back to Europe with Jullien in 1854. COURTOIS developed two different Koenig models between 1856 and 1858 and possibly as late as c1871. Of the three other models, the "Levy" model had the smallest bore, the "Arbuckle" model had a medium bore, and the "Emerson" model had the largest bore (Eldredge 1999). It was Koenig’s performances on COURTOIS cornets that influenced S. Arthur Chappell to be the sole selling agent for Courtois in England in the mid-nineteenth century (Rose [1995], 172). In 1855, Koenig was responsible for inventing the "Koenig Horn" in F built by A. COURTOIS. He is also known for his Post Horn Galop, a popular novelty piece that actually uses a short English post horn in its performance. The piece was premiered in 1844 at the winter promenade concerts at Covent Garden by Koenig himself. The famous soloist Herman Koenig preferred the sound of the lower German Posthorn, but suggested to his students to practice on the smaller English post horn to achieve lip flexibility and technical agility (Anthony Baines, "Post horn," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians). While he was in America with Jullien, he taught Arbuckle the cornet.

Known as the "King" of the cornet, Koenig maintained that it was the mouthpiece that primarily governed the quality and clarity of tone, "the facility of enunciation, and, especially, the production of the highest and lowest tones" (Rose [1995], 39). The cornet, in Koenig’s opinion, could rival the voice, when "skillfully played and similarly treated," and it has the capacity to produce loud and soft tones "in a most effective degree" (Rose [1995], 181). Koenig would sing on the cornet. "His tone was lovely, his phrasing perfect, and his style not unlike that of Bottesini on the double bass. Yes, Koenig was a great artist!" (Lazarus [1995]).

Koenig was a composer, as well. Besides the Post Horn Galop, Koenig wrote the Eclipse Polka, Bird of Paradise Waltz, and March in Bb (Rehrig 1991, 441). Sources of information appear throughout this entry.

Bohumir Kryl

(b Horice, Bohemia 2 May 1875; d Chicago 7 Aug 1961)

Young Kryl was multi-talented even before he came to the United States. He performed on the cornet and the violin. He was an acrobat with the Rentz Circus and studied the art of sculpting, probably from his father, a sculptor himself. After a circus accident in 1886, Kryl quit the circus, arrived in America in 1889, working his way overseas by performing cornet and violin in the ship’s orchestra. He traveled to Indianapolis hoping to find family. He was employed as a sculptor on both the Ben Hur statue at General Lew Wallace’s home in Crawfordsville, Indiana and on the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Monument in Indianapolis (Bridges [1972], 54). Kryl performed solo cornet with the When Clothing Company Band of Indianapolis during this time period. Walter F. Smith replaced Albert Bode when Bode left the Sousa Band in 1894, but Kryl eventually did fill Smith’s spot. The exact date of Kryl’s appointment is not exactly known. The story that young Kryl was hired on the spot to play in the Sousa Band is apparently not factual (Bridges [1972], 54, 79). Kryl decided to leave the Sousa band in 1898 performing two years with Thomas Preston Brooke’s Chicago Marine Band from 1899 to 1900. It is here that Kryl studied with Weldon, conductor of Chicago’s Second Regiment Band. When Kryl left Brook’s band at the end of the 1900 season, he was replaced by Alice Raymond for the 1901 and 1902 seasons. Bohumir then played in 1901 with the Duss Band at Madison Square Garden. This fifty-piece band was not as renowned as many other bands were, so Innes’ offer of solo cornet to Bohumir Kryl was gladly accepted in 1902. His first experience with Innes was a four month 150 concert transcontinental tour, in which he played, on average, two solos each concert ( not including encores) (Noble 1964, 21). What a schedule! His performances drew large and appreciative crowds. He received $200 a week, all expenses paid, no extra band duties, accolades for his virtuoso solo performances, and became assistant conductor in 1903. Kryl’s name appeared actually in a print size only a bit smaller than that of Innes’. It was during this period that Kryl’s playing was at it peak, even though beginning in 1906, Kryl played with his own band for another twenty-five years (Schwartz 1957, 230).

His playing was compared to Caruso’s incredible voice. Kryl had an exceptional range, a rich clean tone, and an exceptional triple tonguing technique. He may have actually been one of the first cornetists to produce multiphonics on the instrument. He would play a low pitch on the instrument and hum a higher one, thus producing actually a third "difference tone." He was so good at this technique that the difference tone was actually louder than either the note or the hum itself.

After watching Maestros Creatore and Marco Vessela for years, Kryl’s hairdo became a tangled lion’s mane hairdo. Early in 1904, he stopped cutting his hair and by 1906 it became his trademark (Schwartz 1957, 232-233). In 1906, Kryl left Innes’ band forming one of his own. He was replaced by Herman Bellstedt, but Innes felt the effect on his ticket sales. Herman Bellstedt was not the unusual showman that Kryl was. On 15 April 1906, Kryl’s band opened in Kansas City and continued on to St. Louis, Louisville, and Chicago.

Bohumir began concerts at Riverview Park in Chicago in the month of May 1906. His playing was the biggest attraction by far, but the twenty-week concert series was a part of a larger "circus" of events. The Igorrotes from the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 and a "Two-headed Monster" from the tropics were among the attractions. There was an obvious competition between bands, specifically between Innes’ and Kryl’s. Innes may have billed Bellstedt as "Germany’s Greatest Cornet Soloist" to offset Kryl’s popularity, and when Innes was interviewed during this time period concerning bands and their popularity, he did not mention Kryl’s band at all. The bands mentioned by him that would take the lead in the musical arena were Morin’s Kilties, Weil’s band, and above all, Pryor’s band. Innes may still have had some bad feelings about the fact that Kryl left his group to form one of his own, and felt it necessary to promote other groups over Kryl’s.

Kryl’s band performed and toured the country for almost thirty years. He made solo recordings for Columbia, Edison, Victor, and Zonophone. As lieutenant, he served as director of all military band camps from 1917 to 1919. He also organized a large 250 special Army band to give competition to Sousa’s famous Great Lakes Battalion Band (Schwartz 1957, 276-277). He had a band and opera company on the Chautauqua circuit for five years, and organized his "Women’s Symphony Orchestra" at a later date. He was its conductor and soloist, his daughter Josephine was a violinist in the group, and his daughter Marie was a piano soloist with the group a well. He continued performing until his sixties, playing over 12,000 solos and traveling over one million miles in his career (Bridges [1972], 55).

Kryl was quite a frugal man, as he was known to have taken the replacement cost of lost piece of a uniform out of a members paycheck (Schwartz 1957, 277). At times, Kryl was a difficult person for whom to work. He would point out a musician who made a mistake in a performance with his left hand and continue to conduct with his right. For whatever reason, Kryl discontinued musical activities when he ran into some trouble with the American Federation of Musicians (Schwartz 1957, 277-278). Despite these facts, Kryl was an incredible soloist, musician, conductor, and a fine businessman, as he formed a booking agency and music bureau, and left an estate of over one million dollars! He made records for the Edison Phonograph Company with Edison himself doing the recording on one of the first cylinders. Sources of information appear throughout this entry.

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