Jack Teagarden

Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden Billboard.jpg
Teagarden c. 1944
Background information
Birth nameWeldon Leo Teagarden
Born(1905-08-20)August 20, 1905
Vernon, Texas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 1964(1964-01-15) (aged 58)
New Orleans, Louisiana
GenresJazz, dixieland, swing, big band
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, bandleader
Years active1920–1964
LabelsDied from pneumonia and found in his room dead
Associated actsPeck Kelley, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Bobby Hackett, Bix Beiderbecke, Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman

Weldon Leo "Jack" Teagarden (August 20, 1905 – January 15, 1964) was an American jazz trombonist and singer.[1] 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".[2] 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.

Early life

Born in Vernon, Texas, United States,[1] 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.[3]

Music career

From left: Jack Teagarden, Sandy DeSantis, Velma Middleton, Fraser MacPherson, Cozy Cole, Arvell Shaw, Earl Hines, Barney Bigard, Palomar Supper Club, Vancouver, B.C., Canada (March 17, 1951)
"'Jack-Armstrong' Blues" by the V-Disc All Stars, featuring Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong, V-Disc, U.S. War Department release, March 1945

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"[4] – 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.[citation needed]

By 1920, Teagarden was playing professionally in San Antonio, including with the band of pianist Peck Kelley.[1] 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.[1]

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;[citation needed] 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.[1]

In the early 1930s, Teagarden was based in Chicago, for some time playing with the band of Wingy Manone. He played at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago.

Teagarden sought financial security during the Great Depression and signed an exclusive contract to play for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra from 1933 through 1938.[1] 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.[1] In late 1951, Teagarden left to again lead his own band,[1] 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 honors

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.


  • Big Jazz with Rex Stewart (Atlantic, 1953)
  • Holiday in Trombone (EmArcy, 1954)
  • Jack Teagarden Plays and Sings (Urania, 1954)
  • Meet the New Jack Teagarden Volume I (Urania, 1954)
  • Jazz Great (Bethlehem, 1955)
  • Accent On Trombone (Urania, 1955)
  • Big T's Jazz (Decca, 1956)
  • This Is Teagarden! (Capitol, 1956)
  • Swing Low, Sweet Spiritual (Capitol, 1957)
  • Jazz Ultimate with Bobby Hackett (Capitol, 1958)
  • Jack Teagarden at the Roundtable (Roulette, 1959)
  • Shades of Night (Capitol, 1959)
  • Mis'ry and the Blues (Verve, 1961)
  • Think Well of Me (Verve, 1962)
  • The Dixie Sound of Jack Teagarden (Roulette, 1962)
  • Jack Teagarden (Verve, 1962)
  • The Blues and Dixie (Rondo-lette, 1963)
  • A Portrait of Mr. T (Roulette, 1963)
  • Swinging Down in Dixie (Golden Tone, 1963)
  • King of the Blues Trombone (Epic, 1963)
  • Big T's Dixieland Band (Capitol, 1977)
  • Big T & the Condon Gang (Pumpkin, 1978)
  • Original Dixieland (Everest Archive, 1978)
  • Big Band Jazz (Everest Archive, 1979)
  • Mighty Like a Rose (Koala, 1979)
  • The Swingin' Gate (Jasmine, 1981)
  • The Big Band Sound of Bunny Berigan & Jack Teagarden (Folkways, 1982)
  • Tribute to Teagarden (Pausa, 1983)
  • Birth of a Band (Giants of Jazz, 1985)
  • 100 Years from Today (Grudge, 1990)
  • The Complete Capitol Fifties Jack Teagarden Sessions (Mosaic, 1996)
  • It's Time for T (Naxos, 2006)

As guest

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1165. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ "Jack Teagarden - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Teagarden, Jack (Weldon Leo)" Archived 2012-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians.
  4. ^ "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.