Cornetist Buddy Bolden is one of the premier legendary figures of jazz. Credited as the founder of jass, later to be called jazz, he was the first player to pursue an improvisational style. Much is unknown about Bolden's life, however, and it has been difficult for jazz historians to separate myth from reality, and the legend continues to grow.
Charles Joseph Bolden was born in New Orleans to Westmore Bolden and Alice Harrison on September 6, 1877. In December of 1883, Bolden's father died and his mother began working to support the family. At the age of ten, Bolden, along with his mother and sister, Cara, moved to 385 First Street. It is possible that Bolden attended the nearby Fisk School for Boys, an institution noted for its discipline and excellent music program. His other musical influence came from St. John's Baptist Church, where his family attended services. By 1894 Bolden had begun playing the cornet, and received his first lessons from a neighbor, Manual Hall, who was dating his mother.