The Martel Family Band

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I have spoken to different people here in Opelousas who remember the Martel Family Band. They were well known in the area and played well. They were also known as The Martel Family Orchestra. The father, Albert Martel, was a talented musician who could read and transpose music. He taught his children to play various instruments forming a family band.

The following article was taken from an article entitled "Music in the Country" in The JazzGazette January /February 2003.
Up the River
'When I was working with the Maple Leaf we worked every night, having sometimes two jobs in one day. Manetta was playing with us. One day Manetta decided to go to Opelousas to teach a band there, the Martel band. He wanted me to go with him to play drums. I wanted to take some vacation so I went with him to Opelousas. We stayed there for three months. Martel's band was a family band and a reading band. They played the same things and in the same way as New Orleans bands. David [Dayton] Martel played trombone, a daughter, Hillary, banjo, Chester was on bass and the father played violin. Manetta was on sax. Another Martel son played trumpet. The band played every night in small towns around Opelousas, like Ville Platte. Manetta was asked to be the leader of the band, because the other band members didn't know about the New Orleans tempos.'(Alex Bigard)

In his book "Second Linin' - Jazzmen of Southwest Louisiana, 1900-1950", Austin Sonnier Jr came up with the following line-up for the Martel family band : Bert Martel, trumpet, Dayton Martel, trumpet and trombone, Hillery Martel (wikipedia), violin, Willie Martel, banjo, Joe Darensbourg (Jazzbeat Magazine), clarinet, Bradford Gordon, violin and various bass players and drummers

I bought Jazz Odyssey - The Autobiography of Joe Darensbourg and after reading to find more information about the Martel Family Band, I scanned the cover and some pages in which he recalls the time that he played with the band as a young man. Although Mr. Darensbourg's recollections are subjective, they do document the fact that The Martel Family Band was numbered among the more popular bands of that period, and that they played jazz as well as the popular music of the period. As my Uncle George once said that, after hearing my brother Steve sing while I played the guitar, your talent goes way back to the Martel Society Band who played all over Southwest Lousiana. They certainly did.