Louis Mitchell was a drummer and bandolin player, born in Philadelphia in 1885. He played in vaudeville and minstrel shows in the early 20th century. He moved to New York in 1912 and started an intense career throughtout the 10’s. Dates vary from one source to another but he did tour Europe with Irene and Vernon Castle, directed the Southern Symphony Quartet, then the Seven Spades, wich played mostly in the UK, but also in Paris, and played with The Ciro’s Club Coon Orchestra and apparently with Jim Europe too.
In 1919, the Old World is eager for the new, exotic American sounds. Mitchell, who has many contacts in the parisian show business, is commisionned by the manager of the Casino De Paris, to find American musicians ready to come and play in Paris. That’s how he started his new band, the Mitchell’s Jazz Kings, with renowned musicians, such as William “Crickett” Smith (cornet), James Show (saxophone), Joe Meyers (piano), Frank Withers (trombone), Walter Killdare (banjo) and it is said that Sidney Bechet played in the band too [1].
At the Casino De Paris, they played Mistinguett‘s revue muscial accompaniments, and played also at the above restaurant, Le Perroquet; and at the dance hall L’Apollo not far from there.

Mitchell’s Jazz Kings, Paris, Le Perroquet ,1919

They recorded intensively and exclusively for Pathé from Januray 1922 to July 1923. The band recorded once as Mistinguett’s backing band; they appeared anonymously on a few records but hopefully, mostly under their own name.
The recordings were released on 30cm, 80rpm, vertical cut records. Some sides were released on lateral cut records though: four of them on the US Pathé Actuelle under the Casino Dance Orchestra moniker (they can’t be confounded with the other US bands under that same name, as the song titles are in french !). and a few others dubbed on the later french Salabert.

Beside Mistinguett, the band had fans such as Jean Cocteau who never hide his admiration, or Stéphane Grappelli, for whom the Mitchell’s Jazz Kings records were the first contact with jazz played by Afro-american musicians, and awoke his vocation of playing jazz [2].

The band recorded American songs, like on the following Pathé 6550, some of its own compositions but mostly worthwhile jazzified french success from various operettas, like on the following Pathé 6554 and 6557.

Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “The Sheik Of Araby” (02/1922 – Mx 5926)
Due to flaws on this side, the first 15 secondes of the song are missing. All my apologies.
Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “Now And Then” (02/1922 – Mx 5927)

Appears on the above labels the mention “specially adjusted for dancing by Mistinguett”, sometimes, even, with a picture of her sticked on the label. The music has not been prepared at all; but, Mistinguett being a Pathé Frères shareholder, her name on the label of a record ensured substantial sales.

Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “Indecision” (04/1922 – Mx 6070)
Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “Indecision” (04/1922 – Mx 6075)
Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “Ça c’est une chose” from the operetta “Ta Bouche” (04/1922 – Mx 6062)
Mitchell’s Jazz Kings “Machinalement” from the operetta “Ta Bouche” (04/1922 – Mx6064)

Between late 1923 and early 24, Louis Mitchell stoped playing to concentrate on his new occupation: club manager. He indeed opened several nightclubs and bars in the north of Paris, in the Pigalle area. Quite successful, he hired Florence Embry Jones and Ada Smith (as Bricktop), for whom he renamed several clubs, and a small band led by Bechet in 1928. But Louis lost a lot of money on the other side, gambling too much.
The rest of the band, now led by Crickett Smith and joined by drummer Benny Peyton, took the name The Real Jazz Kings.

The Real Jazz Kings au Perroquet (source: Black Europe vol. 2 p. 231)

They played in Paris and toured Europe until 1933, but it doesn’t seem they ever recorded – at least not under that name.
Louis Mitchell, on his side, went back to the US in 1930 after the bankrupcy of his last nightclub called Le Plantation, based rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in Paris. He barely played until his death in 1957.

[1] I haven’t read any deep biography about Sidney Bechet, so I’m only presuming here. I have read several times that he played with the Mitchell’s Jazz Kings, but he actually didn’t recorded with them. Beside that, it is known that he was in Will Marion Cook’s Syncopated Orchestra from 1919. He may have stayed shortly in Paris after the band’s tour in England in 1920, and before recording with Clarence Williams in 1923. One thing is sure is that he knew Paris before coming back with the Revue Negre in 1925.
[2] “Une histoire du jazz en France, de 1917 au début des années 1950” (Alain Fauconnier, dans Société des amis des arts et des sciences de Tournus, tome cent-unième, année 2002, p.306)

More early Jass recordings in Paris on Lost Songs: F. Howard Jackson’s Orchestra and Bands you know nothing about.

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