Sometime in either late 1911 or early 1912, bassist Bill Johnson, who had been making his career in Los Angeles, California since 1909, started the initiative to organize an "Original Creole Ragtime Band" to play the New Orleans style across the country. He invited players from his hometown of New Orleans, including Freddie Keppard, to join him in this enterprise. After Keppard accepted his invitation to play cornet for this band, Johnson managed to get Eddie Vinson on trombone, George Baquet on clarinet, Norwood Williams on guitar, Jimmy Palao on violin, and later Dink Johnsonam Schlagzeug. Diese Gruppe trat 1913 als "Original Creole Orchestra" in das Orpheum Theatre von San Francisco aus ein. In den folgenden Jahren tourte die Band durch Chicago und New York. Bei ihrem Auftritt im Winter Garden von 1915 für eine Show mit dem Titel Town Topics wurde die Gruppe als "That Creole Band" in Rechnung gestellt. So war Freddie Keppard einer der ersten Musiker sowie der erste Kornettist, der den New Orleans Ensemble-Stil außerhalb der Stadt trug.

Keppard, who signed one photograph of himself with a caption describing himself as the "star cornetist" of the "Creole Ragtime Band," probably considered himself the star of the Original Creole Orchestra. Although he was the youngest member of the band, he is perhaps the most well-known of all of its members and is more often mentioned in histories of jazz. This is most likely because he was one of the few members to make surviving recordings. Because of his relative fame compared to the other band members, many assume that the Creole Band was led by Keppard. There is, however, no evidence that Keppard played any major role in the organization of the band (planning tours and events, choosing songs for the repertoire, signing contracts, etc.). As such, Bill Johnson was most likely the leader of the group.

Von 1915 bis 1917 bekam das Original Creole Orchestra (manchmal auch als "Original Creole Band" bezeichnet) Jobs in Loews Orpheum, Lexington Opera House und dem Columbia Theatre sowie eine Rückkehr in den Winter Garden. Zeitungsrezensenten in New York kommentierten die "ziemlich zerlumpte Auswahl" des Repertoires der Band sowie den "komödiantischen Effekt der Klarinette", ein Beweis für die Unvertrautheit des amerikanischen Publikums mit dem "heißen" Stil von New Orleans. Während der Zeit der Band an der Ostküste gehörten Bab Frank an der Piccoloflöte und Big Eye Louis Nelson (De Lisle) an der Klarinette zu den anderen Mitarbeitern des Original Creole Orchestra .

Das Original Creole Orchestra gab nach Tourneen durch die Vaudeville- Rennstrecke anderen Teilen der USA einen ersten Vorgeschmack auf die Musik, die noch nicht als "Jazz" bekannt war . Während eines erfolgreichen Engagements in New York City im Jahr 1915 wurde der Band die Chance geboten, für die Victor Talking Machine Company aufzunehmen. This would probably have been the first jazz recording. An often repeated story says that Keppard didn't want to record because then everyone else could "steal his stuff." This fear, however, was not too far-fetched if we think forward to the Alligators in Chicago taking King Olivers' material, such as in the case of the recording of Oliver's "Eccentric" by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Another well known story is that he was so worried about being copied that he sometimes played with a handkerchief over his hand to conceal his fingering. Keppard's famous tendency to hide his fingerings during performances, however, was most likely a publicity stunt intended only to amuse the crowd. After all, a real musician would steal by ear and not by eye. In any case, the recording company offered him a $25 flat fee to make a record (a fairly standard rate for non-star performers at the time), far less than he was earning on the Vaudeville circuit. His retort to this offer, according to Lawrence Gushee, was: "Twenty-Five dollars? I drink that much gin in a day!" The reminiscences of the other members of the Creole Orchestra reveal that another factor was that the Victor representative had asked them to make a "test recording" without pay. The band balked, fearing it was a ploy to have them make records without being paid. Another popular rumor which traveled through some of the New York jazz circles for some time also suggested that Keppard had refused to record because he had been afraid of being cheated by the record company and had demanded the same fees as that of the Victor Company's highest paid and best-selling artist of the time, Enrico Caruso.

The band continued touring successfully until the group finally broke up in 1918. According to Dave Peyton, who had been the leader of the Grand Theater Orchestra in 1915, the Original Creole Band had been so popular when the group hit Chicago that they "were bidded for by every theatrical agency in the city." They were so popular, in fact, that, a few years after the band dissolved, Peyton asserted that "when they hit Broadway they were a great sensation and would be on the road today were it not for dissatisfaction among themselves and the loss of several of their members by death."