Edgar Lawrence “Dooky” Chase Jr. was born on March 23, 1928, in New Orleans, the second child of Edgar Lawrence “Dooky” and Emily Tennette Chase. The family was reared in strong faith with an innovative entrepreneurial drive and passion for music. Dooky Jr. began to cultivate his love for the art form at a very young age by singing and playing with his mother as she played the piano. Both Mrs. Chase and Dooky Jr. often played with other family members.
Dooky Jr. began playing the trumpet in the Joseph Craig Elementary School Band and continued to develop his musical skills as he played in the Booker T. Washington High School Band. He later established the Dooky Chase Orchestra in 1940, which included his sister Doris as vocalist. Dooky Jr. was known for his keen band management skills. He became the Musicians Union’s Treasurer and was able to raise the pay scale for local artists. The Orchestra performed throughout the city and southeast region and had its last performance in 1949, as the big band era came to an end. This did not stop Chase’s desire to stay connected to music. He became an entertainment promoter, from which he developed a life long relationship with Ray Charles and Quincy Jones.
Dooky Jr.’s parents were generous people who thrived off the strong sense of community, culture, and family traditions that ran through the Tremé Neighborhoods. In 1941, Dooky Chase Restaurant opened its doors at its present location on 2301 Orleans Avenue. Dooky Jr. and his sister, Doris, worked with their parents and assisted with the operations of the family business.
In 1945, Dooky Jr. and Leah Lange met and later married in 1946. Leah joined him in operating the restaurant when their four children, Emily, Stella, Edgar “Dooky” III, and Leah entered school. The restaurant would naturally serve as host to several entertainers including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, and countless others. Dooky Jr. took control of the business along with his mother following the passing of his father in 1957.
Dooky played a vital role in the Civil Rights movement as he, along with others, spoke on radio and canvassed various neighborhoods registering people to vote. He served as Vice President of the New Orleans Tourist Commission from 1978 to 1983; was a member of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Board of Directors during its formative years and also served as a member of the committee for the 1984 World Fair.
Chase has been a drum major for change, innovation, and community development who has enjoyed many accomplishments as a father, band leader, businessman, restaurateur and community activist throughout his life.