Celestin was born in Napoleonville, Louisiana, to a Creole family, son of a sugar-cane cutter. In his youth he worked on rural Louisiana plantations. Eager for a better life, he worked as a cook for the Texas & Pacific Railroad, saved up money and bought used musical instruments. He played guitar and trombone before deciding on cornet as his main instrument. He took music lessons from Claiborne Williams, who traveled down the Bayou Lafourche from Donaldsonville. He played with the Algiers Brass Band by the early 1900s, and with various small town bands before moving to New Orleans in 1904, at age 20.
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