New Orleans jazz band leader and drummer “Bob” French Sr. died Nov. 12 after a long
illness. He was 74 and had been aflicted with dementia and diabetes-related complications.
French was the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band drummer and band leader and an oftentimes outspoken DJ at WWOZ-FM. He last performed with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in 2011.
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 following the death of Oscar “Papa” Celestin, who founded the group in 1910. As a young man, 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.
After his retirement in 2011, his nephew Gerald took over the drum chair and leadership of the band
Following Hurricane Katrina, French used his position at WWOZ as a bully pulpit to berate elected
officials he believed let the city down.
Survivors include two brothers, George and Albert French; and four children.