by Ted Gottsegen
Buddie Petit was, at the height of his powers, considered one of the greatest of the New Orleans cornet players. Although he never recorded, many of the second and third generations of Crescent City jazzman revered him and got their professional start in his many bands.
Petit was born Joseph Crawford in 1895 in White Castle, a small town
about one hundred miles west of New Orleans. His father died while he
was still a young man and his mother decided to move to New Orleans
around the turn of the century. Soon after arriving she married
trombonist Joseph Petit. Buddie took his stepfathers surname and, to
avoid confusion with Petit Sr, changed his first name to Buddie.
He began playing music shortly after moving to New Orleans, presumably after hearing his stepfather, learning from one of jazz's most infamous characters, Bunk Johnson. Many of the later day New Orleanian trumpeters
like Lee Collins and Punch Miller recalled Petits style as modeled very
closely on Bunks.
By age 20, Petits reputation as a solid player was firmly established
and in 1917 Petit and trombonist Frankie Dusen headed west for Los Angeles
to join Jelly Roll Mortons band. The experience was apparently not a
great one, and Petit returned to New Orleans refusing to tour outside of
the gulf coast again.
Buddie continued to lead successful dance and brass bands for the next several years and, unusual for a band leader, always played second cornet. Collins did recall that during funeral processions on the way
back from the cemetery Petit would take solos. One of Louis Armstrong
earliest band experiences was playing second-line cornet in one of
Petits marching bands.
During the later part of his life, Buddie seems to have been relatively
inactive in music and died in 1931. Louis Armstrong was one of the
pall-bearers at Petits funeral. Unfortunately, there are no known
recordings featuring the great cornetist.