Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

I.H. Smalley Collection:

An Inventory of his Records at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Descriptive Summary

Creator Smalley, Jr., Isaah H.
Title I.H. Smalley Collection
Inclusive Date 1928 to 1975
Identification MSS 349
Extent .5 lin. ft.: 1 doc. boxes, 2 cassette tapes
Language Materials are in English.
Repository Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Biographical Note

I. H. “Ike” Smalley (1915 to 1991) began his musical career playing clarinet in the Antioch Baptist Church orchestra. Within a short time his older brother sent him a saxophone indicative of the musical interest of his family. From that time, Mr. Smalley played the saxophone exclusively.

Being a native Houstonian, Mr. Smalley was dedicated to the jazz cultivated by the city. He was noted as saying that jazz is a part of Houston, and in Houston there will always be a demand to listen to jazz. In this environment Mr. Smalley’s unique sound had developed by the 1940s. He remained true to this style throughout his career.

The first professional venues he played were in Houston and included the El Dorado on Elgin and Dallas in Houston’s 4th Ward. He was part of the house band for the club for eight years. His principal influence was Johnnie Hodges of Duke Ellington’s band.

Mr. Smalley offered a practical and authoritative voice to younger musicians during his time by advising them to join the local union and to obtain a second job. He believed this was the safer route to a comfortable existence and lived his own life accordingly. In his later years he continued with his music while working at the Houston Public Library as a groundskeeper. He was a continual member of Houston’s Local 699; the union in that region for musicians. For pleasure he traveled and played with his contemporaries; noting L. D. Macintosh and Arnett Cobb in Los Angeles.

I. H. Smalley remained in Houston until his death in 1991.

Scope and Contents

The material in the I.H. Smalley Collection chronicles the beginning of Mr. Smalley's life and his musical career. The collection consists of two comprehensive taped interviews of Mr. Smalley over the course of two meetings between 1975 and 1976. The interviews are completely transcribed to 15 and 16 (respectively) pages of text. The remaining materials are promotional clippings and reviews, 41 photographs and a radio interview that is also transcribed aired on KUHF.



Materials in the I. H. Smalley Collection are arranged by item type or format. All photographs are described at the item level.
The oral history tapes are housed with the Oral History Collection OH 170.1 and OH 170.2, separate from MSS 349, the I.H. Smalley Collection
Series 1: Oral History Interviews
Series 2: Clippings, Awards, Promotional Materials
Series 3: Photographs


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the I.H. Smalley Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Index Terms

Jazz musicians--Texas--Houston
African Americans--Texas
Subjects (Organizations)
Milton Larkin Orchestra (Musical group)
El Dorado Club (Houston, Tex.)
Houston Public Library
Subjects (Persons)
Smalley, Jr., Isaah H.

Related Material

MSS 345 Jimmy Ford Collection

MSS 322 Arnett Cobb Collection

MSS 252 Milton Larkin Collection

MSS 403 Illinois Jacquet Collection

MSS 442 Herb Brochstein Collection

MSS 390 Campbell Tolbert Collection

MSS 337 Jewel Brown Collection

MSS 336 Florence "Bu" Pleasant Collection

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

I.H. Smalley Collection. MSS 349. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Donated by: Mattie Williams, April 25, 1991 and Sammie Jackson, June 27, 1991. Interviews given by I.H. Smalley, June 9, 1975 and February 17, 1976.

Processing Information

Processed by: Charles Stephenson, May 11, 2007. Biographical Note written by Tammy Jordan.

Detailed Description


Oral History Interviews

Box Folder
1 1 Personal interview transcript, June 9, 1975
2 Personal interview transcript, February 17, 1976 duplicate
3 Radio interview transcript, KUHF Jazz Insights, August 21, 1979


Clippings, Awards, Promotional Materials

Box Folder
1 4
Newspaper photograph of I. H. Smalley with caption. Bailey, Greg. (no date). Hot Licks. Houston Post.
Obituary. Unknown author. (1931). In Memoriam: I. H. Smalley, Sr.
Order of Service, Funeral. (March 22, 1991). Home Going Celebration for Isaac [i.e. Isaah] H. Smalley.
Award. City of Houston. (July 26, 1981). Award for faithful and meritorious service.
Certificate of Achievement. Houston Public Library. (February 24, 1982). In recognition of 10 years of service.
Newspaper clipping. Obituary. Carman, Tim. 1991 Late Houston jazz man just content to entertain. Houston Post.
Newspaper clipping. Unknown author. (1968). California visits Houston [Mattie S. Williams]. Forward Times.
Newspaper clipping. Obituary. Unknown author. (1991). Services to be held Saturday for saxophonist I.H. Smalley. Houston Chronicle.
Magazine clipping. Unknown author. (1987). Texas swing launches Cullen Center stage Fall season, October 14.
Membership certificate. Jazz Heritage Society of Texas. (August 10, 1987). [issued to I.H. Smalley]
Autographs. (August 10, 1987) [illegible]



Box Number
1 MSS 349.001 I. H. Smalley and car
MSS 349.002 I. H. Smalley and __?_
MSS 349.003 I. H. Smalley during performance
MSS 349.004 I. H. Smalley during performance
MSS 349.005 I. H. Smalley band
MSS 349.006 I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.007 Unidentified and I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.008 I. H. Smalley and Arnett Cobb
MSS 349.009 I. H. Smalley, Arnett Cobb and unidentified
MSS 349.010 Crafton Williams and I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.011 I. H. Smalley with three unidentified persons
MSS 349.012 I. H. Smalley and unidentified woman
MSS 349.013 I. H. Smalley and five unidentified persons
MSS 349.014 I. H. Smalley with his parents
MSS 349.015 I. H. Smalley and unidentified woman
MSS 349.016 I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.017 I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.018 I. H. Smalley and two persons
MSS 349.019 Unidentified musicians
MSS 349.020 I. H. Smalley and two unidentified men
MSS 349.021 I. H. Smalley during performance
MSS 349.022 I. H. Smalley; unidentified woman; Arnett Cobb
MSS 349.023 I. H. Smalley and unidentified persons
MSS 349.024 I H. Smalley
MSS 349.025 I. H. Smalley and unidentified man
MSS 349.030 I. H. Smalley during performance
MSS 349.031 Milton Larkin and I. H. Smalley
MSS 349.032 I. H. Smalley and sister (Mrs.) Williams
MSS 349.033 Group photograph; no identification
MSS 349.034 I. H. Smalley Band
MSS 349.035 I. H. Smalley playing saxophone
MSS 349.036 I. H. Smalley Band
MSS 349.037 I. H. Smalley, cutting a cake
MSS 349.039 I. H. Smalley Band
MSS 349.040 I. H. Smalley Band
MSS 349.041 I. H. Smalley