22 January 2016
Post 381: MEYER THE HATTER
When I was about 50 years old and visiting New Orleans for the first time, I was told by local musicians that Meyer's Hat Shop at 120 Saint Charles Avenue was the place where all the jazz men bought their hats - especially this type, as needed for brass band parades. Apparently the store had been there since 1894 and was considered the biggest hat shop in the Southern States of the USA.
At the time, I was trying to learn to play jazz trumpet and I (foolishly?) couldn't resist going to the shop and buying this hat in the photo above. I would probably have very little use for it back in England, but it would be a great souvenir and an emblem of the music I wanted to play.
Thirty years later, in April 2016, when I found myself in New Orleans again, I stepped one day into Saint Charles Avenue - and there was the shop, still in business, and still selling hats identical to mine! You can see the hat in the foreground of this first picture.
What an amazing shop it is!
Over the years, I have enjoyed owning the hat but it has been stored away and hardly ever used. However, I took it out occasionally for playing at jazz funerals. This picture was taken at one.
Yes, though you may be surprised to hear it, we do on very rare occasions have jazz funerals in England. They are of course inspired by the band-accompanied funerals in New Orleans. Usually they are funerals of jazz fans who have left instructions with their families that this is what they want.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans itself during April 2016, I of course saw dozens of musicians wearing these hats for the more formal gigs.
Here's the lovely and wonderful trombone player Haruka Kikuchi, properly dressed for the concert given by The Audacity Brass Band, in which she was about to play at The French Quarter Festival.