John McCusker is a passionate authority on early jazz and how New Orleans’ musicians helped shape an uniquely American art form.
His roots in Louisiana extend back 250 years to the Spanish colonial period. John McCusker’s grandmother and father were both born in Treme and attended St. Augustine Church. Flooded out by Hurricane Katrina, his family rebuilt and returned to their Gentilly neighborhood in 2008.
John, a New Orleans native, spent nearly 30 years as a staff photographer for The Times-Picayune. He was part of the team that shared the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its immediate aftermath. Throughout his career, John has documented the people and places that gave New Orleans one of its many nicknames – The Cradle of Jazz.
An ardent amateur historian, John started offering Cradle of Jazz tours in the 1990s and continues to dig for players and insights that give the city’s early jazz scene flesh, bones and nuances beyond popular – and at times misleading – history.
John combined his passions in Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz, a biography of the late musician and band leader, Edward “Kid” Ory, who helped shape the evolving jazz scene in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th Century. His research for Creole Trombone not only documented vital jazz history but also produced the first definitive work on Kid Ory.
The book, part of the American Made Music Series published by the University Press of Mississippi, will be released Oct. 2, 2012.
The Cradle of Jazz Tour, now called the New Orleans Jazz History Tour, combines a jazz lover’s appreciation of the art and a journalist’s devotion to the facts. His New Orleans roots run deep and jazz enthusiasts benefit for it.