Our Story

This is a resolutely New Orleans style from the beginnings of jazz. You've found the hottest band to do the earliest jazz in years. 

The New Orleans 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 started in the authentic, New Orleans, grassroots music scene, playing local festivals and second lines, and transitioned into world-class music programs, festivals, and events, playing in concerts all over the globe. Their sound is enormously accessible with their frontman, the Louis Armstrong-sounding, soulful and sweet James Williams.

The Swamp Donkeys can play large and small venues, intimate crowds and boisterous audiences just the same. Formed in the fall of 2012, the band got off to an early start touring nationally in 2013. Then 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 (JazzFest). The group then gained international internet fame when their version of the Game of Thrones theme - performed at B.B. King's in NYC - went viral, growing past 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.

In 2015, they did it again, performing at Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Fest, Monte Carlo Sporting Summer Fest, and North Sea Jazz Festivals; along with Ronnie Scott's in London, The Hamilton in Washington, DC, Cliff Bell's in Detroit, and many more. Plus, the band recorded an EP with Alia Shawkat; the music video for the title song, A Fine Romance, was nominated for an Offbeat Award for Best Music Video.

In 2016, they've already performed Jazz à Megève, with French Quarter Fest and JazzFest in New Orleans coming up next.

Featuring an all-star cast of fresh, brilliant musicians, The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys bring a remarkable, diverse appearance and sound to the stage with members current and past hailing from around the USA and the world. These are passionate jazz musicians who love the style of a hot 1910s New Orleans speakeasy, all at once resoundingly joyous and independent, soulful and rebellious. Welcome to Original Jass with the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys.


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?