What did they used to play?
Well, they played every type of music. Everyone, no doubt, had a different style.
Were they white and coloured both?
They had every class — they had Spanish, they had coloured, they had white, they had Frenchmen, they had American . . .
Do you remember, er, specifically, they . . . Were they Frenchmen who had just come from France, there in those places?
Well, er, we had ‘em from, er, all parts of the world. New Orleans was the stomping grounds, we’ll say, for all the greatest pianists in the country. Because there were more jobs in that section of the world, in that . . . for pianists, than any other ten places in the world. The reason for that, they had so many mansions — sporting houses that paid nothing to no pianist. Their salary was a dollar a day in the small places that couldn’t afford to pay. The big places guaranteed five dollars a night. If you didn’t make five dollars, they would pay you five dollars. But that was never the case, because when you didn’t make a hundred dollars, you had a bad night.
Such houses as Hilma Burt’s next, next door to Tom Anderson’s saloon, corner of Custom House . . . and Basin Street was one of her mansions. Tom Anderson was supposed to be the husband of this Hilma Burt. Was no doubt one of the best paying places in the city.
How much would you make there?
Well, I never made, never no night, as I remember, under a hundred dollars. It was a very bad night when we made a hundred dollars. It was very often, men would come into the houses and hand you a twenty, or hand you forty, or fifty-dollar note. It was just like a match.
Wine flowed . . . much more than water, di, er, did, during those periods. And many of those houses, there’s more wine sold than beer — I mean, the kind of wine I’m speaking about I don’t mean sauterne or nothing like that — I mean champagne. Beer was sold for, for a dollar a bottle. Wine sold from five to ten, depending upon the type of wine that you bought. Of course, they were all imported. Er, among the main ones were Clicquot, which is a Fran, er, which is a French wine, and Mumm’s Extra, er, Extra Dry — that was an English wine.
Well, you were tellin’ us about this hangout for pianists.
Who used to be down there?
Well, I, I didn’t finish on that — I was only getting to this point — why we had so many pianists. Well, after four o’clock in the morning, all the girls that could get out of the houses, they were there. There weren’t any discrimination of any