Narvin Kimball, 97; Was Last of Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Founders

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From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Narvin Kimball, 97, the last founding member of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who was known for his vocal stylings and banjo playing, died Friday at his daughters’ home in Charleston, S.C. He and his wife, Lillian, had been staying there since shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Kimball’s vocal renditions of “Georgia on My Mind” always brought standing ovations, said hall director Ben Jaffe, whose parents founded Preservation Hall in 1961.

“He was really our last connection to a bygone time in the history of New Orleans,” Jaffe said.


Kimball was the son of bassist Henry Kimball, and he made his first banjo with a cigar box, stick and string.

He began playing professionally in the 1920s on Mississippi riverboats and made his first recording for Columbia Records in 1928.

Kimball’s band, Narvin Kimball’s Gentlemen of Jazz, played around New Orleans for 40 years.

He also worked for 37 years with the U.S. Postal Service.

His last performance with the band aired on PBS in 1999.

Not long afterward, he suffered a series of strokes that ended his banjo playing.