Tag Archives: history of jazz in omaha

Early History of Jazz Around Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

1 Feb
Band leader Dan Desdunes served as band director for Father Flanagan’s Boys Home band seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History can be found in many ways as one drives about and visits places in and around Siouxland. A companion exhibit to one about Billie Holiday at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE recounts through photographs early days of jazz in the Omaha area. Names of early musicians who led the way to a changing style of music.

An exhibit of early African American jazz groups of Omaha currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Band leader Dan Desdunes with the Boys’ Town band outside of Union Station in Omaha, NE circa 1928 seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Basie Givens was an important musician in Omaha during the second World War and formed a 16-piece orchestra with fellow works from the then local bomb plant called the “Basie Bombadiers”. Earlier in the late 1920′ he played in a local group called the “Jungle Rhythm Boys”. A number of photos documenting the history of jazz in Omaha is on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A number of musicians then as now played in a variety of groups and different venues to make a living creating “sound” or music and pursuing their particular passion. Even now in the Old Market area of Omaha one will find street musicians playing, providing entertainment (depending on one’s taste) and during the warmer months can be found around the area.

The “Jungle Rhythm Boys” was a musical group started in the late 1920’s by Basie Given and Alvin “Junior” Raglin which is part of an exhibit about the early Omaha jazz era currently at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Band leader Dan Desdunes had his own band, the Dan Desdunes Band and a number of known musicians played with him and in other groups during those early jazz days in Omaha, NE seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not a frequenter of the clubs in the Omaha area, I can only surmise that this tradition continues probably buoyed by the internet which would allow musicians to draw a wider audience to hear the music produced. But even with an online outlet, there is nothing quite like listening to music played live, in person which becomes part of the ambience and charm of the day or night when you encounter it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The photograph is of Ruth Brown performing at the Dreamland Ballroom in 1949 and is part of an exhibit of the history of jazz in Omaha, NE currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. The ballroom hosted jazz greats that included Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An exhibit of early African American jazz groups of Omaha currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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