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The Dukes of Dixieland was an American, New Orleans "Dixieland"-style revival band, originally formed in 1948 by brothers Frank Assunto, trumpet; Fred Assunto, trombone; and their father Papa Jac Assunto, trombone and banjo. Their first records featured Jack Maheu, clarinet; Stanley Mendelsohn, piano; Tommy Rundell, drums; and Barney Mallon, tuba and string bass. The 1958 album “Marching Along with the Dukes of Dixieland, Volume 3,” lists Frank, Fred, and Jac Assunto, along with Harold Cooper (clarinet), Stanley Mendelsohn (piano), Paul Ferrara (drums), and Bill Porter (tuna and string bass). During its run the band also featured musicians such as clarinetists Pete Fountain, Jerry Fuller, Kenny Davern, drummers Barrett Deems, Charlie Lodice, Buzzy Drootin and guitarists Jim Hall, and Herb Ellis. The band also recorded with Louis Armstrong.
Fred and Frank Assunto both died young, and the original Dukes of Dixieland disbanded in the early 1970s. In April 1974, producer/manager John Shoup restarted the Dukes of Dixieland with Connie Jones as leader, leased Louis Prima's nightclub atop the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter and renamed it "Duke's Place". The Dukes of Dixieland have not been affiliated with the Assunto Family since 1974. The Assunto Family has denied giving away the permission to use the band name with the new line-ups, none of which have included any of the original musicians.
The original Dukes of Dixieland were featured on the first stereo record, released November 1957, on the Audio Fidelity label. Sidney Frey, founder and president of Audio Fidelity, had Westrex cut the disk for release before any of the major record labels. In 1978, the Dukes, under John Shoup's direction, recorded the first direct-to-disk album, and then, in 1984, were the first jazz band to record on CD. In 1980, they recorded a television special at the old Civic Theater in New Orleans, with the New Orleans Pops Orchestra and later performed in a TV special with Woody Herman, Wood Choppers Ball. In 1986, they invited jazz musician Danny Barker to perform with them at Mahogany Hall to record a television special, Salute to Jelly Roll Morton. In 2001, their gospel CD Gloryland was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 2011, they recorded with The Oak Ridge Boys, in Nashville, Tennessee, titled Country Meets Dixie.
They have performed with symphony orchestras, including the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, National, New York Pops (in Carnegie Hall), and 29 other orchestras around the world. In 2005, they traveled aboard the Steamboat Natchez up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Cincinnati, Ohio, raising money for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Relief Fund, while many of the band members' homes were still destroyed. In 2011, they performed with the Boston Pops.
In a commentary to an article published by The Syncopated Times, Deano Assunto, the son of trumpeter Frank Assunto (of the original Dukes of Dixieland) states: "due to a court settlement against John Shoup there is to be ‘no implying any historical connection’ between Shoup’s copy band and the original pre-1974 Dukes of Dixieland [...] Your article also stated that John Shoup says that Freddie’s widow Betty Assunto gave him the rights to the Dukes of Dixieland name which is not true. In our first lawsuit against Shoup he could provide no documents to prove [that claim]." The Assunto family now has a popular tribute band, "The Assunto Dukes, a Dixieland Tribute", featuring Frank's granddaughter Lexie on vocals.