Our Story

The Swamp Donkeys are an extremely versatile group of young musicians who play traditional jass, blues, vaudeville, original music, modern jazz adaptations, and many other jazz and New Orleans-derived styles. They have beginnings and educations in the authentic, New Orleans, grassroots music scene, playing local festivals and second lines, then transitions into world-class music education programs, playing in concerts all over the globe. Their sound is enormously accessible with their frontmen, the Louis Armstrong-sounding, soulful and sweet James Williams, and the audience-wooing, banjo-strumming, song-writing extraordinaire Sam Friend. (Though James does plenty of audience-wooing himself!)

The Swamp Donkeys can play large and small venues, intimate crowds and boisterous audiences just the same. Formed recently in the fall of 2012, the band is coming off of an extremely successful year. After selling out the Blue Note NYC in February of 2014, the Donkeys released two brand new albums "Swamp Donkey" (all pre-1930s covers) and "Donkey Business" (all original material). They closed out the first weekend of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The group then gained international internet fame when their version of the Game of Thrones theme - performed at NYC's B.B. King's Blues Club - went viral, garnering close to a million views!
They followed up this success with a European tour featuring performances at JazzAscona in Switzerland, Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Netherlands, along with special appearances in France, Spain, and Monaco. 

The Swamp Donkeys bring a remarkable, diverse appearance and sound to the stage; hailing from the south, north-east and -west, this melting-pot of American musical culture brings people together from all walks of life. Welcome to the most exciting, soulful, foot-tapping, New Orleans-style band to storm the planet in years. Welcome to Original Jass.


swamp don·key noun \ ˈswämp däŋ-kē \
1. A Swamp Donkey is a member of a New-Orleans based traditional jazz band that plays old style jass from the 1900s - 1930s. Founded in October 2012, they've already sold out major venues and rocked stages for thousands, in the United States and abroad.
<"We love Louis Armstrong and old-timey jazz so we went and saw the Swamp Donkeys and their music was breathtaking.">
<"That jass band transported me in a time machine to a special music heaven and I just had to kiss a Swamp Donkey.">
See also: "What's a Swamp Donkey?"
See also: "Our Story" down further on this webpage.

What's a Swamp Donkey?