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Weldon Leo "Jack" Teagarden (August 20, 1905 – January 15, 1964) was a jazz trombonist and singer. According to critic Scott Yannow of Allmusic, Teagarden was the preeminent American jazz trombone player before the bebop era of the 1940s and "one of the best jazz singers too". Teagarden's early career was as a sideman with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman and lifelong friend Louis Armstrong before branching out as a bandleader in 1939 and specializing in New Orleans Jazz-style jazz until his death.
Teagarden c. 1944
|Birth name||Weldon Leo Teagarden|
|Born||August 20, 1905|
Vernon, Texas, U.S.
|Died||January 15, 1964 (aged 58)|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Genres||Jazz, dixieland, swing, big band|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer, bandleader|
|Labels||Died from pneumonia and found in his room dead|
|Associated acts||Peck Kelley, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Bobby Hackett, Bix Beiderbecke, Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman|
Born in Vernon, Texas, his brothers Charlie and Clois "Cub" and his sister Norma also became professional musicians. His father was an amateur brass band trumpeter and started him on baritone horn; by age seven he had switched to trombone. His first public performances were in movie theaters, where he accompanied his mother, a pianist.
Teagarden's trombone style was largely self-taught, and he developed many unusual alternative positions and novel special effects on the instrument. He is usually considered the most innovative jazz trombone stylist of the pre-bebop era – Pee Wee Russell once called him "the best trombone player in the world" – and did much to expand the role of the instrument beyond the old tailgate style role of the early New Orleans brass bands. Chief among his contributions to the language of jazz trombonists was his ability to interject the blues or merely a "blue feeling" into virtually any piece of music.
By 1920 Teagarden was playing professionally in San Antonio, including with the band of pianist Peck Kelley. In the mid-1920s he started traveling widely around the United States in a quick succession of different bands. In 1927, he went to New York City where he worked with several bands. By 1928 he played for the Ben Pollack band.
Within a year of the commencement of his recording career, he became a regular vocalist, first doing blues material ("Beale Street Blues", for example), and later doing popular songs. He is often mentioned as one of the best jazz vocalists of the era; his singing style is like his trombone playing, in much the same way that Louis Armstrong sang like he played trumpet. Teagarden's singing is best remembered for duets with Armstrong and Johnny Mercer.
In the late 1920s he recorded with such bandleaders and sidemen as Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Jimmy McPartland, Mezz Mezzrow, Glenn Miller, and Eddie Condon. Miller and Teagarden collaborated to provide lyrics and a verse to Spencer Williams' Basin Street Blues, which in that amended form became one of the numbers that Teagarden played until the end of his days.
Teagarden sought financial security during the Great Depression and signed an exclusive contract to play for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra from 1933 through 1938. The contract with Whiteman's band provided him with financial security but prevented him from playing an active part in the musical advances of the mid-thirties swing era (although Teagarden and Frank Trumbauer recorded a number of small group swing classics throughout his tenure with Whiteman on Brunswick).
Teagarden then started leading his own big band. Glenn Miller wrote the song "I Swung the Election" for him and his band in 1939. In spite of Teagarden's best efforts, the band was not a commercial success, and he was brought to the brink of bankruptcy.
In 1946 Teagarden joined Louis Armstrong's All Stars. In late 1951 Teagarden left to again lead his own band, then co-led a band with Earl Hines, then again with a group under his own name with whom he toured Japan in 1958 and 1959.
Teagarden appeared in the movies Birth of the Blues (1941), The Strip (1951), The Glass Wall (1953), and Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), the latter a documentary film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. He recorded for RCA Victor, Columbia, Decca, Capitol, and MGM Records.
Early in 1964 Teagarden cut short a performance in New Orleans because of ill health. He briefly visited a hospital, then was found dead in his room at the Prince Conti Motel in New Orleans on January 15. The cause of death was bronchial pneumonia, which had followed a liver ailment. He was buried in Los Angeles.
Awards and honorsEdit
As a jazz artist he won the 1944 Esquire magazine Gold Award, was highly rated in the Metronome polls of 1937-42 and 1945, and was selected for the Playboy magazine All Star Band, 1957-60. Teagarden was the featured performer at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957.
In 1969, Jack Teagarden was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1985. Other honors have included induction in the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame in 2005 and inclusion in the Houston Institute for Culture's Texas Music Hall of Fame.
Jack Teagarden's compositions include "I've Got 'It'" with David Rose, "Shake Your Hips", "Big T Jump", "Swingin' on the Teagarden Gate", "Blues After Hours", "A Jam Session at Victor", "It's So Good", "Pickin' For Patsy" with Allan Reuss, "Texas Tea Party" with Benny Goodman, "I'm Gonna Stomp Mr. Henry Lee" with Eddie Condon, "Big T Blues", "Dirty Dog", "Makin' Friends" with Jimmy McPartland, "That's a Serious Thing", and "'Jack-Armstrong' Blues" with Louis Armstrong, recorded on December 7, 1944, with the V-Disc All-Stars and released on V-Disc in March, 1945.
Among his early recordings is A Hundred Years from Today (1933). Later recordings include:
- 1950 Jazz Original
- 1954 The Club Hangover Broadcasts with Jackie Coon (Arbors)
- 1955 Big Jazz (Atlantic)
- 1955 Jazz Great (Rhino)
- 1956 Big T's Jazz (Decca)
- 1956 This Is Teagarden (Capitol)
- 1957 Swing Low Sweet Spiritual (Capitol)
- 1957 Red Allen, Kid Ory & Jack Teagarden at Newport (Verve) with Red Allen and Kid Ory
- 1958 Big T's Dixieland Band (Capitol)
- 1958 Jack Teagarden in Concert (Sounds)
- 1958 Jack Teagarden Sextet Featuring Don Ewell (Pumpkin)
- 1958 Jazz Ultimate (Original Jazz Sound) (Capitol)
- 1959 At the Roundtable (Roulette)
- 1959 Dixieland (Bethlehem)
- 1959 Shades of Night (Capitol)
- 1961 Jazz Maverick! (Roulette)
- 1961 Portrait of Mr. T (Roulette)
- 1961 The Dixie Sound of Jack Teagarden (Roulette)
- 1961 Mis'ry and the Blues (Verve)
- 1961 Chicago and All That Jazz! (Roulette)
- 1962 Think Well of Me (Verve)
- 1962 Jack Teagarden (Verve)
- "Jack Teagarden - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
- "Teagarden, Jack (Weldon Leo)" Archived 2012-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians.
- "The Best Trombone Player in the World", by Gary Giddins, originally published in The Village Voice, March 1977; reprinted in Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz & American Pop, Oxford University Press, 1981.