Bubber Miley

James Wesley “Bubber” Miley (April 3, 1903 – May 20, 1932) was an American early jazz trumpet and cornet player, specializing in the use of the plunger mute.

Miley was born in Aiken, South Carolina, United States, into a musical family. At the age of six, he and his family moved to New York City where, as a child, he occasionally sang for money on the streets, and later, at the age of 14, studied to play the trombone and cornet.

In 1920, after having served in the Navy for 18 months, he joined a jazz formation named the Carolina Five, and remained a member for the next three years, playing small clubs and boat rides all around New York City. After leaving the band at the age of 19, Miley briefly toured the Southern States with a show titled The Sunny South, and then joined Mamie Smith‘s Jazz Hounds, replacing trumpeter Johnny Dunn. They regularly performed in clubs around New York City and Chicago. While touring in Chicago, he heard King Oliver‘s Creole Jazz Band playing and was captivated by Oliver’s use of mutes. Soon Miley found his own voice by combining the straight and plunger mute with a growling sound. Miley’s alcoholism terminally affected his life. On May 20, 1932, at the age of 29, he died of tuberculosis, on Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island, in New York City. Miley lived just a little longer than his contemporary, jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, whose life was also cut short due to alcohol abuse.

Share this post

Leave a Comment