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Armand J. Piron

Armand John "A.J." Piron (1888 - 1943) was a United States jazz violinist and band leader.

Piron was born on August 16, 1888 in a Creole of Color family in downtown New Orleans. From his childhood he had to use a crutch to walk. He began playing violin professionally about 1904, and was leading the Olympia Orchestra (which included Bunk Johnson and Big Eye Louis Nelson Delisle) by 1912.

In 1915 Piron partnered with Clarence Williams to start a publishing company. After touring briefly with W.C. Handy in 1917 he started an orchestra under his own name, which soon included such notables as Lorenzo Tio and Steve Lewis. Piron's New Orleans Orchestra soon became the best paid African American band in New Orleans, for Piron landed regular jobs at both the Spanish Fort amusement park and the exclusive white New Orleans Country Club.

In 1923 Piron took his band to New York City as part of his ambitions to make the group nationally known. He succeeded in making a hit in the big city, landing a residency at the Roseland Ballroom and making recordings for 3 different companies. The influence of Piron's band on the New York scene can be heard in the records of other New York bands of that time, such as Fletcher Henderson's (although Piron's influence on New York music would be eclipsed a year later when Louis Armstrong arrived in the city). In early 1924 some of Piron's band members were finding the cold northern winter and unfamiliar food and culture objectionable. Piron put the matter to a vote, and to Piron's frustration the majority of the band voted to return home.

Back in New Orleans he again lined up good jobs, returning to the Country Club, playing at Tranchina's Restaurant and on the excursion steamships Capital and President into the 1930s; about 1935 he decided to dramatically change the sound of his orchestra to swing group in line with the currently popular tastes. Piron died on February 17, 1943.