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One of the most important writers and historians involved in the New Orleans Revival of the 1940s, Bill Russell had many accomplishments behind the scenes. A violinist who had extensive study in both performance and composition, Russell was with the Red Gate Shadow Players from 1934-40. During that period, he became enamored with New Orleans jazz. He bought and sold records through the Hot Record Exchange, which he ran starting in 1935. Russell was a jazz journalist by the mid-1930s, contributing three chapters to the 1939 book Jazzmen and writing articles for Jazz Hot. Russell helped discover Bunk Johnson in 1942, recording the forgotten cornetist. Russell documented a variety of famous and obscure New Orleans musicians on his American Music label from 1944-57; many of its sessions have since been reissued by GHB. Russell worked in New Orleans as the curator of the jazz archive at Tulane University from 1958-65, and his interviews helped document the early history of jazz. During his later years, starting in 1967, Bill Russell had opportunities to play violin with the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra. His love for New Orleans jazz never wavered, and throughout his life, he did his best to save as many details of jazz’s early history for posterity as he could.

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