Great New Orleans trumpeter and vocalist Gregg Stafford spent much of his childhood in the Central City neighborhood. He saw lots of parades, often sang in church, and developed a real love of music.
When it came time for high school, Stafford had the chance to join the school band — if his mother approved. So he told her, “I don’t have an elective at the moment, so the band instructor asked me, would I be interested in music? ‘Oh no, no, no, no; I don’t have no money to pay for no horn, so you can just scratch that,’” she told him.
But the band instructor told Stafford that he would be willing to give him an instrument. So Stafford told his mom that.
“She said, ‘No, I’m not going to sign anything like that because if you lose it I’m still responsible for the instrument.’ So I was a little upset. I went back to school the next morning. So the band instructor, he was standing in the office waiting for me. I said, ‘Well look, my mother don’t want to sign the papers.’ He says, ‘Well, why wouldn’t she sign?’ I said, ‘Because she feels that I’m gonna lose the instrument and that she’s still going to be responsible for paying for it.’ He said, ‘Tell her don’t worry about the instrument. If you lost it, don’t worry about it.’”
Stafford thought that was great. However, when he went home — ”My mother says, ‘No, no, no; I don’t want to hear that. You’re not going into no instrument or music. And furthermore, that’s that.’ So I cried like a baby all night long. The next morning, you know, my mother was working at Woolworth’s at the time, and she would get up at maybe 4:30 in the morning, and she would be leaving out the door around 6. So, she got up early and she came touched me and says, ‘Look, I’m going to sign this paper, but you tell that man I’m not going to be responsible if you lose the instrument.’ So, I went to school, and that began my introduction to the wonderful world of instrumental music.”
Gregg Stafford started on trumpet, developed fast, and has stayed with it. He has lead his own fine ensembles now for many years, and plays Jazz Fest Saturday, April 27 with his Young Tuxedo Brass Band, and Sunday, April 28, with his Jazz Hounds.