64 Parishes

Kid Howard

Avery “Kid” Howard began his musical career in New Orleans, performing with the Eureka Brass Band and the Tuxedo Brass Band before going on to lead his own group, the Kid Howard Brass Band.

Kid Howard

Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum

Avery "Kid" Howard. Marks, Grauman (Photographer)

Avery “Kid” Howard began his musical career performing with the Eureka Brass Band and the Tuxedo Brass Band before going on to lead his own group, the Kid Howard Brass Band. He was a student of cornetist Chris Kelly and heavily influenced by Sam Morgan, a traditional jazz and brass band trumpeter from New Orleans. Howard’s career would also be marked by a musical partnership with clarinetist-bandleader George Lewis, with whom he would record, perform, and tour. Because of a severe alcohol addiction that would plague him throughout his life, many critics consider him brilliant but erratic.

Howard was born on April 22, 1908, in New Orleans. He was greatly influenced by hearing Sam Morgan’s band as a youth, and Morgan gave Howard his first cornet. Howard’s first instrument, however, was the drums—he taught himself the basics of percussion on household items until he had a proper set, at which time he became the regular drummer for Chris Kelly’s band, occasionally filling in on drums with Kid Rena’s band as well. After receiving instruction on the cornet from Kelly, and later from Professor Delmar, Howard chose the cornet and trumpet as his primary instruments.

After Kelly’s death, Howard began leading his own band in New Orleans. During this time he also debuted on drums with Sam Morgan’s group. With his own band, Howard played throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, and in the late 1920s the group played on excursion trains to Chicago, Illinois. In the 1930s Howard performed in a number of dance bands with Big Jim Robinson and Captain John Handy. From 1938 to 1943 he performed in the pit orchestra of the Palace Theater in New Orleans.

The clarinetist and bandleader George Lewis was a member of the Kid Howard Band in the mid-1930s. In 1943 Howard recorded with Lewis for Climax Records. The result, George Lewis and His New Orleans Stompers, was a series of recordings considered by many critics to be Howard’s finest. In 1946 Howard would record as leader of the Original Zenith Brass Band. From this period until the late 1950s, public performances were rare as Howard battled his alcohol addiction.

Despite these difficulties, Howard returned to public performance in the late 1950s, again with Lewis, touring Europe in 1959. Although another bout of serious illness in 1961 kept him from the public eye, Howard recorded with Lewis as late as 1963, and from 1961 to 1965 he led recordings of his own for the Icon, Jazzology, San Jacinto, Nobility, and Japanese Dan labels.

Howard died on March 28, 1966, in New Orleans.