Phil Napoleon was a classically trained trumpet player, but he turned his back the concert hall and formed The Original Memphis Five with pianist Frank Signorelli in 1917. The band was one of the most popular and prolific outfits of the 1920's and featured the trombone playing of Miff Mole. They recorded hundreds records under their own name and a variety of a pseudonyms, including Bailey's Lucky Seven, The Southland Six, Ladd's Black Aces, Jazzbo's Carolina Serenaders, Charleston Chasers and Napoleon's Emperors. The Original Memphis Five broke up in 1928 and Phil began making his living as a studio musician until 1937 when he formed his own orchestra, but it didn't go anywhere and he soon returned to session and studio work.
In 1946 he got a call from Jimmy Dorsey who was in desperate need of a trumpet player, due to the draft. He joined him in L.A. You can see him in the band in the movie 'Four Jills And a Jeep". He stayed with Dorsey until 1947. He the came back to New York and worked as a studio musician at NBC until 1950. He re-formed the The Original Memphis Five and played at Nick's in New York City for the next six years. In 1956 Phil moved to Miami, Florida and opened his own club called Napoleon's Retreat where he continued to lead a band. Phil Napoleon died on September 13th, 1990, at his home in North Miami. He was 89 years of age. Napoleon's influence was best felt in Jazz in the early 1920s when The Original Memphis Five were a progressive force that moved the music beyond the style of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and towards the more sophisticated White Jazz that
Bix Beiderbecke and Red Nichols would build upon throughout the rest of the decade.