Publication: The Times-Picayune
Author: Keith Spera
Date: November 12, 2012
Robert “Bob” French Sr., the longtime leader and drummer of the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band and an outspoken, at times controversial, WWOZ-FM deejay, died on Monday, Nov. 12, after a long illness. He was 74.
Mr. French last performed with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in the summer of 2011. Afflicted with dementia and suffering from diabetes-related complications, he then moved into an assisted-living facility.
Mr. French grew up immersed in the traditional sounds of New Orleans. His father, banjo player Albert “Papa” French, took over the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in the 1950s after the death of Oscar “Papa” Celestin, who founded the group in 1910.
As a young man, Mr. French rejected his father’s music in favor of rhythm and blues. His first gig in 1954 included Art and Charles Neville and piano wizard James Booker. One day, Papa French recruited his son to fill in for the Original Tuxedo’s ailing drummer. Bob French was so mortified by his sloppy performance that he committed himself to a proper study of traditional New Orleans jazz.