Born: December 19, 1911 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Lu Watters - trumpet, bandleader
The great New Orleans Revival, which influenced the development of traditional jazz through the 1940s in the U.S. and abroad, was launched by trumpeter Lu Watters and his young Yerba Buena Jazz Band. More than half a century later, their music continues to enjoy considerable popularity, and is prized and sought after by collectors, researched and analyzed by jazz historians.
Cornetist Lu Watters began his career as a cruise ship musician. During the 1930s he worked with the Carol Lofner Orchestra and led his own big band at Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland. In 1940 he formed a new outfit, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band. Watters' new group rejected all modern forms of jazz and embraced the older New Orleans sound. In their effort to return to the pure roots of jazz, they ignored even the white bands of the 1920s and instead focused on such artists as King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. However, Yerba Buena wasn't just an attempt to recreate the past; the group also added a great deal of local San Francisco flavor to its music, producing its own unique style.
The Yerba Buena Jazz Band spent its lifetime in San Francisco, settling in the Dawn Club until WWII broke out. During the war Watters led a twenty-piece Navy band in Hawaii. After the war he reformed Yerba Buena, again taking up residence at the Dawn Club. In 1947 Watters opened his own jazz club, Hambone Kelly's in San Francisco, where the group remained until its breakup in 1950. After that Watters retired from the music business to study geology but formed a new band later that decade. He retired again in the late 1950s, and passed November 5, 1989.