He was born in Woodland Planation near LaPlace, Louisiana.
Had one of the best bands in New Orleans in the 1910s, hiring many of the greats, including Joe King Oliver, Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, Mutt Carey, Louis Armstrong. He moved to California in 1919 and made his first recordings there around 1921. In Chicago for most of the 1920s, he was very active in recording studios, with bands of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Joe King Oliver, and others.
After this he returned to California and in the 1940s and 1950s his band was an important force in reviving interest in New Orleans style jazz, making popular radio broadcasts and recordings. Ory is also credited as the composer of numbers including Muscrat Ramble, Savoy Blues.
He died in Hawaii.