In these Fox Movietone News outtakes filmed in December 1928, two boys dance in a New Orleans park while a third plays music on a homemade drum kit. Greg Lambousy, Director of Collections at the Louisiana State Museum, believes he has identified the drummer in the clip as New Orleans jazz artist “CoCoMo” (sometimes KoKoMo) Joe Barthelemy. Lambousy offers as evidence a photograph of CoCoMo Joe on Royal Street in 1981, playing a drum set like the one pictured in our film. While we cannot affirm the identity of the musician with absolute certainty, the date, location, age of the boy, and the makeshift drums, in particular, argue persuasively for the case of CoCoMo Joe.
Published information about CoCoMo Joe is limited, though a New York Times article about his funeral is available here. Born in New Orleans in 1913, Barthelemy was a street performer and a fixture in the French Quarter until his death in 1990. He was known for drumming on a handmade kit of metal cans attached to a wooden crate. The Louisiana State Museum holds one of these homemade kits its music collection.
When CoCoMo Joe died he was given a traditional New Orleans send off, a picture of which can be found here.
A photo of Barthelemy as a young man would provide the best evidence to support this identification. If you know of such a photo or have any additional information that may help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks to Greg Lambousy and the Louisiana State Museum for making the discovery!