Noel Rockmore (American/New Orleans, 1928-1995), "Bill Russell with Pretty Baby", 1966, oil on canvas, signed, titled and dated upper and mid-right, 40 in. x 30 in., framed. Note: In 1962, Noel Rockmore was commissioned by Larry Borenstein to paint portraits of Preservation Hall musicians, proprietors and close friends. He often sketched the musicians quickly in polymer on masonite while they performed on stage and later made appointments for formal sittings, taking sometimes two to three hours to depict them in oil on canvas.
One of Rockmore's favorite sitters was Bill Russell (1905-1992), a prominent jazz historian who ran a record store and violin repair shop near Preservation Hall. In the painting offered here, Rockmore depicts Russell with his pet parakeet, named Pretty Baby after the Tony Jackson tune. In Tom Sancton’s book “Song for My Fathers” he writes, “[Bill’s] real allegiance was to Pretty Baby, his talking parakeet, who did a perfect imitation of Bill’s Midwestern accent.”
Ref.: Sancton, Tom. Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White. New York: Other Press, 2006.