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Frank Moliere

Frank "Little Daddy" Moliere was a traditional jazz piano player and singer from New Orleans.

Frank Moliere

Frank “Lil Daddy” Moliere was a traditional jazz piano player and singer from New Orleans. Although relatively little is known about Moliere’s life, this largely self-taught pianist played with many greats of New Orleans jazz, including Isaiah Morgan, Kid Howard, Danny White, Smilin’ Joe, Octave Crosby, Dave Oxley, and George Lewis. In the last decades of his life, Moliere was a member of the George Lewis Preservation Hall Band and a featured pianist at the Red Garter, a notable jazz venue.

Moliere was born on October 4, 1914. Born and raised on Burgundy and St. Ann Streets in the French Quarter, he came from a musical family that included cousins Paul Moliere, a cornetist and teacher to Dede Pierce, and Ernest Moliere, a clarinetist. Although he would later take formal piano lessons, Moliere was largely self-trained. His first gig is believed to have been at Maison Bourbon as a sideman in a quintet with Hollis Carmouche on clarinet, Walter Payton on bass, and Joe Lambert on drums.

In the 1930s Moliere played with Isaiah Morgan in Mississippi and Thomas Jefferson and Dave Oxley in New Orleans. Moliere also performed with Kid Howard at the Palace Theater in the French Quarter for four years. In 1942 Moliere joined the US Army and served overseas during World War II. After his military discharge in 1946, he played with Earl Williams in Mobile, Alabama, but returned frequently to New Orleans to play nightclub gigs on Bourbon Street. In the late 1940s Moliere took formal lessons on piano at the Grunewald School of Music on Camp Street; he likely attended the school on the G.I. Bill, just as Earl Palmer and a number of other notable musicians had done at that time. At Grunewald, Moliere learned to read music, which he cited as being helpful for his professional career.

After performing with Earl Williams, Moliere joined Danny White’s band at the Sand Club, a venue on St. Charles Avenue, where he would play for two years. He then joined Smilin’ Joe at the Famous Door. That gig was followed by a long engagement at the Paddock Lounge on Bourbon Street with Clement Tervalon, where he replaced Octave Crosby on piano. Throughout his career he would also take many solo gigs playing at piano bars.

In 1965 Moliere joined the George Lewis Preservation Hall Band, with whom he appeared often at the Red Garter. After this engagement came to an end, Moliere stayed on at the venue as a featured pianist. In 1971 Moliere worked with British trumpeter Clive Wilsonn in 1971. In Tony Scherman’s book on rhythm and blues drummer Earl Palmer, Palmer recalls that Moliere was a rather infamous ladies man with a signature “pimp limp” walk.

Moliere died on April 17, 1984, in New Orleans.