Wilbur Sweatman's musical career reads like the history of African-Americans in popular music. He got his professional start in a circus band, then moved on to minstrel shows and vaudeville. He led a successful syncopated orchestra based in Chicago early in the century and made the first recording of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" in 1903. In the years before World War I, Wilbur Sweatman lead a band at the Big Grand Theatre in Chicago (3110 State Street at 31st Street). He moved to New York in 1913 and was one of the first African-Americans to join ASCAP in 1917. After the success of Original Dixieland Jass Band, Sweatman jumped on the jazz bandwagon and released dozens of records in the Teens and 1920s the most famous being "Down Home Rag". Sweatman gets my vote for being the first African-American to record Jazz, but he is remembered less as a jazz musician and more as a great showman famous for playing at first two then three clarinets at once. Duke Ellington, Sonny Greer, Otto Hardwick, Cozy Cole and Coleman Hawkins all played in his orchestra early in their careers. In the 1930s Sweatman was active in music publishing and was the executor of Scott Joplin's estate. Unfortunately after Sweatman's death in 1961, Joplin's estate fell into disarray and many unpublished and original manuscripts were lost. In the 1940s he led a trio at Paddells Club in New York and continued to play live into the 1950s.

Wilbur Sweatman and his Band Wilbur Sweatman and his Jass Band
Wilbur Sweatman's Jazz Orchestra Wilbur Sweatman's Brownies
Wilbur Sweatman and his Orchestra Wilbur Sweatman and his Acme Syncopators
Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Battleship Kate
(Wilbur Sweatman)
1930 New York, New York Victor
23254-B
Breakdown Blues
(Wilbur Sweatman)
4-29-1930 New York, New York Victor
V-38597-B
Down Home Rag
(Wilbur Sweatman)
12-1916 New York, New York Emerson
7161

2377-1
Down Home Rag
(Wilbur Sweatman)
12-1916 New York, New York Emerson
5163

1202-1
Get It Now
(Pearl)
3-1926 New York, New York Dandy
5156
Grey Gull
1340
'Got 'Em Blues'
(Wilbur Sweatman)
1930 New York, New York Victor
23254-A
My Hawaiian Sunshine
(L. Wolfe Gilbert)
12-1916 New York, New York Emerson
5166

1200-1
My Hawaiian Sunshine
(L. Wolfe Gilbert)
12-1916 New York, New York Emerson
7120

2375-1
Poor Papa
(Billy Rose / Harry Woods)
3-1926 New York, New York Dandy
5156
Grey Gull
1340
Sweat Blues
(Wilbur Sweatman)
4-29-1930 New York, New York Victor
V-38597-A
Sweat Blues
(Wilbur Sweatman)
3-1929 New York, New York Radiex
1706

Lost Sounds; Blacks And The Birth Of The Recording Industry by Tim Brooks, Appendix by Dick Spottswood, University of Illinois Press, 2004