Buddy Bolden: the father of jazz who ended up in a madhouse

Among the most listened to names in jazz is that of Buddy Bolden, a man who enjoyed music and was a pioneer in the genre, paving the way for what would be a musical trend that continues. This legendary trumpeter forged the foundations of jazz, but his sanity was questionable, so he ended his life in a mental hospital.


The story goes that the music that Buddy Bolden played with the best trumpet ( if you click here, you will find several products to choose from ), could be heard up to a distance of 15 kilometers. This man had an innate ability, which is why he laid the foundations of the musical genre, making him a pioneer of jazz. 

History remembers him as a legendary person because he was one of those who promoted the genre from the city of New Orleans, in the United States. Although jazz did not arise at the hands of a single person, but was about the union of many musicians, Buddy Bolden is commonly recognized as one of its founders and a legend in the jazz world. 

His career was before the records were produced and a record of recordings and sounds remained, so he did not have a commercialization. There are no records of their presentations. In fact, there is only one photo of him, so everything around him has become a myth, a legend that has rolled in the memory of New Orleans, along with other pioneers of music who played alongside him to late 20th century, like Bunk Johnson and King Oliver. 


A mystery, a legend, a trumpet artist 

Much about the life of Buddy Bolden is ignored and it is precisely this that makes him so fascinating for many. His biography has perhaps been praised, because his story may have a bit of fantasy and a bit of reality.

What is known is that he was born in September 1877, in the city of New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana. Little is known about his early years. According to some stories, he initially devoted himself to the trade of barbershop, but at some point he became attracted to music, since his hometown was the capital of sounds, from blues to French opera.

According to the historical data that are had about him, he ventured into music as a young man with an accordion, but then left when he found his first trumpet on the street. Like many at that time, Bolden could not read music. However, this was not an impediment to stand out in her.




King bolden

By the end of the 1890s, this man was the head of one of the most successful bands in his native city of New Orleans, which is why he became known as King Bolden, being a figure of the genre is rising ragtime, which today it is known as jazz. Although there is no record of his musical prowess, there were many who heard him play. 

In this sense, the clarinetist Alphonse Picou even commented that it was the strongest, because its sound with the trumpet was so high that it would be heard at the same level as Louis Armstrong playing with the microphone in front.

In addition, many of his companions made reference to his charm with women and charisma. According to those who knew him, Bolden was a tall, handsome man with brown skin, thin and a terror among the young ladies. 

Bolden’s dominance in the New Orleans music scene held firm until the mid-1900s, when his health played a trick on him. By 1906, the artist frequently complained of severe headaches. 


The descent of the king

In 1906, the decline began with headaches, then he lost his ability to play, and by April 1907 he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Some time later he was discharged and then he was left in the care of his mother and sister in his native New Orleans.

Although he was released, his condition had not improved, so after a while he was again admitted to the psychiatric hospital, where he remained until the date of his death on November 4, 1934. 

The musician was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some time later, after studying his medical records, a jazz historian compared his illness to that of the painter Vincent Van Gogh, so it was a delicate condition. 

Bolden went through difficult times during his illness. According to some records, he lost his memory and when he left the public arena, everyone forgot about him, even those who had crowned him king.

In this regard, the historian Joachim-Ernst Berendt explained that at least 40 documents about Buddy Bolden were obtained at the hospital where he was admitted. However, none of them shows that he was a musician and creative in a genre that he chose and that he helped to forge. 

His music did not go down in history, because there was no way to listen to it again. Bolden took the stage in the late 1890s, when recordings were not popular. Willie Cornish, his trombonist, claimed that a phonograph cylinder had been made with the music of Bolden’s group, but there was no way to access this material, since no copies were made either. 




Jazz legend

Despite having been at the same time as other jazz greats, there was not much left of him, only the memory that his companions continued to give about their music, as a way of keeping his presence and talent alive. Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz, hailed Bolden as the most powerful trumpet in the world. 

Another of the jazz greats was Armstrong, who was only a kid when Bolden played in New Orleans. He even said that the musician was very good for his time. All this has led to a legend being forged and being considered a king. His name appears in almost every jazz book and there is even a movie about his life. The life of a legend who transformed jazz with his strength, but who succumbed to the madness resulting from addictions and mental disorders.



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