Did they used to call you sissy?
Er, well, no, they didn’t . . . they didn’t call me sissy, but they always said that, er, that, er, a piano was a girl’s instrument. So then I had taken to the guitar, er, that was due to the fact that my godmother was always interested in me. And I become to be a very efficient guitarist, until I met, er, Bud Scott, one of the famous guitarists in this country today. I was known to be the best. And when I found out that, er, he was dividing with me my popularity, I decided immediately to quit playing guitar and try the piano, which I did secretly — that is, with the exception of my family. They’re the only ones that knew.
I taken lessons. I tried under different teachers and I’d find that most of them were fakes, those days. They couldn’t read very much theirselves. During that time they used to have, er, in the Sunday papers different tunes come out, and when these tunes would come out, it would be my desire to have to play these tunes correctly.
At the time I had a coloured teacher by the name of Mrs. Moment. Mr. Moment was no . . . Mrs. Moment was no doubt the biggest ham of a teacher that I’ve ever heard or seen since or before. She fooled me all the time. When I’d take these numbers and place in front of her, she would rattle them off like nobody’s business. And at about the third one she rattled off sound like the first one. Then I began to get wise and wouldn’t take lessons any further. Then I demanded I would either go by myself and learn the best way I knew how, or be placed under an efficient teacher, which I was then placed under a teacher at the St. Joseph University, a Catholic University in, in the city of New Orleans.
And I become to learn under the Catholic tutelage, which was quite efficient. I then later taken lessons from a, a known professor, coloured professor, named Professor Nickerson, which is considered very good. I tell you things was driving along then.
Then one day at the French Opera House, going there with, with my folks, I happened to notice a pianist there that didn’t wear long hair. That was the first time I decided that the instrument was good for a gentleman, same as it was a lady.
What was his name and when was this?
Well, I don’t remember his name but I . . . undoubtedly I was . . . must have been about ten years old. I don’t remember his name.
That was about when?
Well, er, er, that was no doubt about the year of nineteen ninety-f . . . er, er, eighteen ninety-five.
Was he from France?
Well, he’s supposed to be. All the French Opera players was supposed to be from France. I remember the old building very well on Royal Street.
Do you remember any of the stuff they used . . . the pianists used to play in the French Opera?
Well, they used to play numbers like “Faust” and tunes like that, you know — French numbers. And for an instant, they used to play this number and sing it and . . .
Did they, er, play any Debussy? Do you remember?
What was that?
Did they play any Debussy?
Well, I don’t remember now, it’s . . .
Did you ever hear . . . of a composer named Gottschalk?
Did they use to play his stuff around there?
No doubt they did, but I was kind of young at that time. This is “Miserere” from Il Trovatore.