Strike Up the Band! – The Clyde Kerr Orchestra

Countless generations of New Orleanians have benefitted from the ubiquitous nature of music in the city, learning from an early age an appreciation for both instrumental and vocal music. At one time, scores of revered “piano professors,” and music teachers were scattered across the city, often offering instruction in their own homes. Among this number, was the legendary teacher and orchestra leader, Clyde Kerr, Sr.

Born in Bastrop, Texas in 1913 to Edward and Lillian Heck Kerr, Clyde Kerr Sr. grew up in New Orleans in the Roaring Twenties, during the heyday of Jazz. He became a featured trumpeter with the McDonough No. 35 High School Orchestra, under the tutelage of Professor Osceola Blanchet. Kerr graduated from Xavier University in 1935, where he served as the bandleader for the Xavier Orchestra and where he first formed the Clyde Kerr Orchestra. During World War II he was assigned to the New Orleans Navy Band, where he played with many of the city’s other great musicians. After the War, he returned to the city and re-established the Clyde Kerr Orchestra. In 1946, he embarked upon a career in teaching at Booker T. Washington High School. He would also teach at Xavier University Preparatory School and Priestley Junior High School. His passion for teaching was not limited to the classroom however, he opened his home at 820 North Rocheblave to students seeking private instruction.

Shown here from roughly 1947 at the Booker T. Washington Auditorium, are Mr. Kerr and his orchestra with selected junior musicians from his private classes. The pretty little miss featured at center is a young Janice Smith (née Duplantier). She fondly recalls her featured saxophone solo that evening, Alice Blue Gown, and of course Miss Duplantier was attired in her own pretty gown of blue.

J.C.L.H.

2 thoughts on “Strike Up the Band! – The Clyde Kerr Orchestra

  1. Mr. Kerr was a great influence in my life. His calm, caring nature, demonstrated what a true teacher is and should be. I was one of those students invited to attended private, Saturday, music classes at his home. I felt so honored to be on of those students. The greatest lesson I received from Mr. Kerr was to have passion about everything you do in life.

  2. Clyde Junior and I met in September of 1960 just after his 17th birthday. As freshman trumpeters along with principal trumpeter Milton Ward from Xavier U. Prep. we performed in the X U Concert band under Mr. Harry Mendelson and the XU Jazz band THE COLLEGIANS headed by an XU Senior Morris Lawrence whose father taught science at L. B. Landry in Algiers, LA. Upper classmen trumpeters were glad for us to relieve them. I met Mr. Kerr by my association with his son. He was very calm and approachable and much admired.

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