Lionel Ferbos, New Orleans' Oldest Jazz Musician, Dies at 103

Saturday, 19 Jul 2014 03:06 PM

 

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Trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, New Orleans' oldest jazz musician, died on Saturday days after his 103rd birthday, local media reported.

Ferbos stayed active long after reaching his century and last performed in public in March, CBS affiliate WWL-TV reported.

Asked if he had any advice for young musicians, he told WWL in a birthday interview, "Practice and practice and practice, and you'll make friends all over the world."

The New Orleans native suffered from asthma as a child and his parents initially refused to let him take up a wind instrument, the station said.

He got his start in music at 15, when he saw an all-girl orchestra at the Orpheum Theater and argued that he ought to be able to do anything a girl could. He bought a cornet from a pawn shop and began taking lessons.

Ferbos played with jazz bands in the New Orleans area and backed blues singer Mamie Smith while playing with the Fats Pichon Band.

He worked as a laborer for the federal Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and played trumpet in the WPA jazz band. Ferbos was the band's last surviving member.

He toured Europe eight times with the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, which he helped found. He also led the French Quarter's Palm Court Jazz Band for more than two decades, WWL said.

Ferbos, who had a day job for many years as a metal worker, was a member of the stage band for the Vernel Bagneris musical "One Mo' Time" in 1979.

Ferbos, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, died at his home in New Orleans, said the station, citing family members.

His wife died in 2009 after 75 years of marriage. He is survived by a daughter, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, WWL added.

 

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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