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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
Fate Marable's jazz band with Louis Armstrong. Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
Louis Armstrong and the "Palmetto Jszzerites."Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer
JAZZ. Captain John Streckfus, owner of the STRECKFUS STEAMBOAT LINE, in 1907 hired Fate Marable, a native of Paducah, Kentucky, to play steam calliope and accompany Emil Flindt, of Clinton, Iowa, a violinist, on his steamboats. Marable remained with the steamboat company and in 1918 organized the first New Orleans-based band to perform for passengers. (1) Marable had "an ear" for great musicians and assembled the great Louis Armstrong (cornet), Johnny Dodds (clarinetist), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo/guitar), George "Pops" Foster (bass) and Warren "Baby" Dodds. Armstrong was then seventeen years old and only recently had decided to be a professional musician. (2) Captain Streckfus often sat in on rehearsals and insisted the tempo of fox-trots be 70 beats a minute and 90 beats for one-steps.

Marable's jazz band moved to St. Louis aboard the steamer "Sidney" and in 1919 they entertained on cruises between there at St Paul, Minnesota. A cruise was held for the KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS on June 19, 1919 and for ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH on July 1, 1919.

In 1920 Marable and "The Palmetto Jazzerites" were moved to the steamboat "Capitol." Performers included Louis Armstrong (cornet), Boyd Adkins (clarinet, saxophone and violin), Norman Brashear, "Baby" Dodds (drums), David Jones, Henry Kiball and Johnny St. Cyr (banjo). They performed on two Dubuque-based excursions on June 20, 1920. On Labor Day weekend the Capitol with its band returned for an afternoon and moonlight dance.

Despite his ability, Armstrong was only allowed to play a cornet solo with piano accompaniment on a song called "La Veda." His desire to be a featured player and singer, blocked by Marable and Streckfus, may have been a major reason for him moving on after three years. (3) He had used his three years wisely by establishing professional contacts that helped him in later years. In segregated America, black musicians were generally denied long-term engagements and lived by constantly moving from town to town. In playing to the white steamboat passenger's expectation of mystery, gaiety and a bit of danger from blacks, Armstrong developed his eyeball-rolling, handkerchief waving, hoarse yells, and scat singing act. (4)

Jazz is considered the only musical art form to have begun in America and is usually associated with New Orleans, Louisiana. Dubuque as recently as 1987 had two Dixieland jazz bands-the Dukes of Dubuque and the Dixieland All-Stars.

The Dixieland All-Stars, Dubuque's longest playing jazz band, formed in 1975 and played Sunday nights in the Dubuque Holiday Inn lounge. Members of the group included Larry Busch, music director and trumpeter; Dick Spautz, band leader and drummer; Harley Grant, clarinetist; Dave Richter, bass; Marty Busch, trombone; and Al Schmidt, piano. The All-Stars' brand of jazz was described as Chicago-style with piano and string bass in place of the tuba and banjo.

The Dukes of Dubuque featured arrangements from the 1940s and 1950s belonging to Mark Gavin, an East Dubuque Dixieland bandleader. Formed in January 1987, the Dukes members were Paul HEMMER, pianist; F. Hunter FUERSTE, trombonist who also toured with the Guy Lombardo Royal Canadians in the 1970s; Randy Schneeberger, trumpet and cornet; Roland Anfinson, clarinetist; Keith Marugg, drummer; and Dick Kriz, bass.



1. "Fate Marable," All About Jazz, Online: https://musicians.allaboutjazz.com/fatemarable

2. Provizer, Steve, "Fate Marable, Louis Armstrong, and the Big River," The Syncopated Times, May 27, 2019, Online: https://syncopatedtimes.com/fate-marable-louis-armstrong-and-the-big-river/

3. Ibid.

4. Kenney, William Howland, "Jazz on the River," Online: https://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/437337.html