Manuel Mello

1886 – 1961


Self-taught cornetist Manuel John Mello (1886-1961) was born in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans and co-led a marching band, The Big Five, with his younger brother, trombonist Leonce Mello (1892-1954), around 1903. He was a valued member of Jack Laine’s Reliance Brass Band from 1908, frequently with Leonce on trombone, and his sister was married to Jack Laine’s son, Alfred. Mello patterned his sound after Manuel Perez of the Onward Brass Band and Imperial Orchestra, as well as responding to the music from other African-American marching bands that he heard on the streets. In the 1920s he had offers from clarinetist Ted Lewis to leave New Orleans but declined because he did not like to wear a tuxedo. He also worked as the “straw boss” leader of Johnny Fischer’s Brass Band for a time. In later years Manuel Mello led his own band, Mello’s Original Jazz Band, and continued to play music until the late 1940s.

An interview with Manuel Mello can be found here:

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