Of course, that was the type of number that, er, the type of number that they used to play in the French Opera House. And it was one of the tunes that, er, has always lived in my mind as one of the great favourites of the opera singers. I’ll tell you the truth, of course. I transformed a lot of those numbers into jazz time. And from time to time — for an instance, “Sextet” from Lucia — of course there’s a little . . . different little variations and ideas in it . . . no doubt would have a, a tendency to detract, or to masquerade the tunes.
As I mentioned before, that my name was Lamothe. Lamothe was really my name. But father wanted me to be a hard-working boy. He wanted me to, er, work in the bricklayer trade. He wanted to pay me two dollars a day as a foreman. I decided after I learned to play music that I could make more money, which I interceded.
In my younger days I was brought in to the Tenderloin District by friends — young friends, of course — even before we were in long pants. We used to steal long pants from around the fathers and brothers and uncles and so forth and so on.
Could you go down there before you had long pants on?
No, why, the policemen would run you right in jail. They’d run you ragged. I remember Fast Mail very well. Fast Mail was his — known to be Fast Mail because he had two legs and feet that couldn’t be beat. Of course, we kids from time to time would climb those eight and ten board, er, ten feet-high board fences. We’d really climb ‘em and get away from these people, but they kept us right out of the District. Take the straps on the end of the clubs and . . . and just make switches out of ‘em — cut our legs into ribbons. I was very frightened, I was very much frightened.
I happened to invade that section, one of the sections of the District where the birth of jazz originated.
Where was this, and how old were you?
Er, at that time, er, that was the year of nineteen-two. I was about seventeen years old. I happened to go to Villere and Bienville, at that time one of the most famous nightspots after everything was closed. No, only a backroom, where all the greatest pianists frequented after they got off from work. All the pianists got off from work in the sporting houses at around four or after, unless they had plenty of money involved. And they would go to this Frenchman’s — that was the name of the place — saloon. And there would be everything in the line of hilarity there. They would have even millionaires come to listen to the different great pianists, what would no doubt be their favourites maybe among ‘em.