Eurreal Wilford "Little Brother" Montgomery (April
18, 1906 – September 6, 1985) was a jazz and blues pianist and singer.
Largely self-taught, Montgomery is often thought of as just a blues
pianist, but he was an important blues pianist with an original style.
He was also quite versatile, however, and worked in jazz bands including
larger ensembles that used written arrangements. Although he did not
read music, he learned band routines by ear, once through an arrangement
and he had it memorized. He was a singer with an immediately
recognizable, rather affecting wobble: an oral historian as full of
musical anecdotes as Jelly Roll Morton.
Montgomery was born in the town of Kentwood, Louisiana, a sawmill
town near the Mississippi Border, across Lake Pontchartrain from the
city of New Orleans, where he spent much of his childhood. As a child he
looked like his father, Harper Montgomery, and was called Little Brother
Harper. The name evolved into Little Brother Montgomery, a nickname
which stuck. He started playing piano at the age of 4, and by age 11 he
was playing at various barrelhouses in Louisiana. His own musical
influences were Jelly Roll Morton who used visit the Montgomery
Early on he played at African American lumber and turpentine camps in
Louisiana and Mississippi, then with the bands of Clarence Desdunes and
Buddy Petit. He first went to Chicago from 1928 to 1931, where he made
his first recordings. From 1931 through 1938 he led a band in Jackson.
In 1942 Montgomery moved back to Chicago, which would be his base for
the rest of his life, with various tours to other United States cities
and Europe. His repertoire alternated between blues and traditional jazz
(he played Carnegie Hall with Kid Ory's Dixieland band in 1949). In the
late 1950s he was "discovered" by wider white audiences. He toured
briefly with Otis Rush in 1956. His fame
grew in the 1960s, and he continued to make many recordings, including
on his own record label, FM Records (formed in 1969). FM came from
Floberg, his wife Jan's maiden name and Montgomery, his own surname.
These and other recordings added momentum to Montgomery’s career and he
became a world traveller, visiting the UK and Europe on several
occasions during the 1960s, cutting several of his 20-odd albums there,
while remaining based in Chicago. Montgomery appeared at many blues and
folk festivals during the following decade and was considered a living
legend, a link to the early days of blues and New Orleans.
Among his original compositions are "Shreveport Farewell", "Farrish
Street Jive", and "Vicksburg Blues".
Montgomery died on September 6, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois, and is
interred in the Oak Woods Cemetery.
Paul Gayten is his nephew.