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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - With the undeniable opening of the song, Louis Armstrong sent a shot across the jazz world in his 1928 recording of King Oliver'sWest End Blues. And while the song has an important place in the history of American music, Oliver wrote it to pay tribute to a different West End than the one we know today.
Chris Cook of The Historic New Orleans Collection says, "This was to the New Basin Canal, which opened in 1838. It was a shipping canal that ran from here on the West End to about where the Superdome is today. It brought lumber and goods directly into now what we consider the CBD. The access allowed regular people from New Orleans to get out to the lake and resorts popped up for them. Hotels, dancing halls, in the 1890s the streetcar company even had an amusement park out here with a Ferris wheel, acrobats and everything you'd expect."
Still standing in West End Park is the remnants of a once popular fountain.
According to Cook, "The fountain was completed in 1916. It's a dancing fountain. The technology they had at the time, there was at one point a control booth, where an operator would have controlled the jets, to make the fountain appear to dance in time to whatever band was performing."
Now back to that Pops recording of the song. Irvin Mayfield says it shook up the jazz world - and for good reason.
"There are a lot of songs about West End this or river that, but the opening phrase of that is so ridiculously hard to play as a trumpet player, bip bip bip, very difficult" Mayfield said with a laugh.