Okeh 41577 – The Charleston Chasers – 1931

Jack Teagarden in marching band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1938, photo by Charles Peterson.

Jack Teagarden in band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1939, photo by Charles Peterson.

August 20 marks the day that we pay homage to that great trombone man from down in Texas, Jack Teagarden, who was born on that day in 1905.  In celebration of the occasion, here is a record that holds great significance in the development of swing music.  It is credited by Benny Goodman himself as the record that really saw him come into his own element, well on his path to becoming the King of Swing.

Jack was born Weldon Leo Teagarden in the small town of Vernon, Texas.  His father was an oilfield worker who played cornet in a brass band, and his mother played ragtime piano and church organ.  Jack took up the baritone horn, soon switching to trombone, his brothers Charlie and Clois chose trumpet and drums, respectively, and sister Norma learned piano.  In 1921, Teagarden joined Peck Kelley’s band in Houston, and was offered a position in Paul Whiteman’s band when the famous bandleader was passing through, though Jack opted to remain in Texas.  He made it to New York City in 1926, where he recorded with the orchestras of Ben Pollack, Roger Wolfe Kahn, and various bands organized by impresario Irving Mills, as well as numerous jazz bands led by the likes of Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Hoagy Carmichael, and Louis Armstrong, establishing himself as the finest jazz trombonist of the age (and perhaps of any age), and a popular blues vocalist on the side.  In the early 1930s, Teagarden played with Benny Goodman’s orchestras, helping to percolate the early inklings of swing at its best, but in 1933, he signed a contract with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra for five years, preventing him from leading his own band as the swing era kicked off soon after.  Despite having fairly little opportunity for solo work with Whiteman, Teagarden was able to get in a bit of side work during that time, and started his own band after parting ways with Whiteman in 1939.  Though his orchestra lasted until 1946, it found little in the way of success.  After World War II, Teagarden played with Louis Armstrongs All-Stars, and toured internationally more than once, remaining a mainstay in the jazz scene until his death from pneumonia in 1964.

Okeh 41577 was recorded February 9, 1931 in New York City by the Charleston Chasers, under the direction of Benny Goodman.  It is a dub of the original issue on Columbia 2415-D (why they dubbed it, instead of master pressing, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure someone could.)  The almost unbeatable band features Charlie Teagarden and Ruby Weinstein on trumpets, Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Sid Stoneburn on alto sax, Larry Binyon on tenor sax, Dick McDonough on guitar, Arthur Schutt on piano, and Harry Goodman on string bass.  Jack Teagarden sings the vocals on both sides.  Unfortunately, some dumbbell thought it was a bright idea to carve an “X” into both labels.

Besides perhaps Louis Armstrong, “Basin Street Blues” is associated with no musician more than Jack Teagarden, who performed and recorded it a number of times.  It was in fact Teagarden and Glenn Miller who were responsible for adding the opening verse, “Won’t you come along with me. / To the Mississippi,” to Spencer Williams’ famous song.

Basin Street Blues

Basin Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Also quite associated with Teagarden is W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues”, which he recorded again soon after for Vocalion with Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang’s All-Star Orchestra.

Beale Street Blues

Beale Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Brunswick 8063 – Glenn Miller and his Orchestra – 1937

Glenn Miller. From Esquire's Jazz Book, 1944.

Glenn Miller. From Esquire’s Jazz Book, 1944.

On March 1, 1904, one of the great heroes of American music was born: Glenn Miller.  Miller worked with many great jazz men and future swing bandleaders as a studio sideman and member of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the late 1920s and 1930s.  After working as an organizer and arranger for Ray Noble’s American orchestra, Miller struck out on his own in 1935 with a Columbia engagement featuring a band put together to help get him started as a leader on his own.  He organized his first “real” band in 1937 and cut a few sides  for Decca and Brunswick, but broke that group up at the start of 1938 following an unsuccessful run.  After that, Miller put together his most famous orchestra and signed with Bluebird, with whom he made some of the seminal records of the swing era, including “Moonlight Serenade”, “In the Mood”, and “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, among a great number of other classics.  In 1942, Miller enlisted in the Army Air Force, where he would lead the band in the war years until his disappearance over the English Channel on December 15, 1944.

Brunswick 8062 was recorded November 29, 1937 in New York City.  Miller’s band includes the talent of Pee Wee Erwin, Bob Price, and Ardell Garrett on trumpets, Glenn Miller, Jesse Ralph, and Bud Smith on trombone, Irving Fazola on clarinet and alto sax, Hal McIntyre and Tony Viola on alto sax, Jerry Jerome and Carl Biesacker on tenor sax, J.C. “Chummy” MacGregor on piano, Carmen Mastren on guitar, Rowland Bundock on string bass, and Doc Carney on drums.

On “Doin’ the Jive”, one of Miller’s more memorable Brunswick sides, Kathleen Lane sings, assisted by Miller, McGregor, and Jerome speaking.  “Well tell me some more, my suck egg mule!”

Doin' the Jive

Doin’ the Jive, recorded November 29, 1937 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.

Next up, we hear Miller’s swinging arrangement of Antonín Dvořák’s “Humoresque”.  You can hear a bit of that signature “Miller” sound in this one.


Humoresque, recorded November 29, 1973 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.

Brunswick 3975 – Bennie Goodman’s Boys – 1928

Today, May 30, is Benny Goodman’s birthday, so what better way to celebrate than with one of his earliest records?

On June 4, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, in what I believe was only his third session under his own name, future King of Swing Benny Goodman (credited here as “Bennie”) and his Boys recorded Shirt Tail Stomp and Blue, issued on Brunswick 3975.  Also recorded that day were Jungle Blues and Room 1411.

In addition to Goodman on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, the band includes Jimmy McPartland on cornet, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Fud Livingston on clarinet and tenor sax, Vic Breidis on piano, Dick Morgan on guitar, Benny’s brother Harry Goodman on tuba, and Ben Pollack on the drums.

According to legend, Shirt Tail Stomp was intended as a parody of Dixieland jazz and deliberately played as corny as possible, which, to the musicians surprise, turned out to be a hit with audiences.  Nevertheless, the excellent musicianship shows through, and it remains an excellent, if somewhat novel piece.

Shirt Tail Stomp, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman's Boys.

Shirt Tail Stomp, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman’s Boys.

On the flip-side, Benny’s Boys play a little slower on Blue, a 1922 Lou Handman, Grant Clark, and Edgar Leslie composition, credited on the label to Clark, Leslie and Pete Wendling.

Blue, recorded by Bennie Goodman's Boys

Blue, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman’s Boys.

Updated on June 24, 2016 and with improved audio on November 13, 2016 and May 28, 2017.