Weldon Leo (Jack) Teagarden, jazz musician, known also as Jackson T., Mr. T, and Big Gate, was born in Vernon, Texas, on August 20, 1905, to Charles and Helen (Geinger) Teagarden. His father, an amateur comet player, worked in the oilfields, and his mother was a local piano instructor and church organist. All four Teagarden children became prominent musicians. Jack was given piano lessons when he reached the age of five. He took up the baritone horn for a time but switched to trombone when he was seven. He and his mother played duets (trombone and piano) as background to the silent films at a Vemon theater. In 1918, after his father’s death, the family moved to Chappell, Nebraska, where he and his mother again worked in the local theater. The following year the family moved to Oklahoma City. At sixteen Teagarden first played the trombone professionally, at a concert near San Antonio as a member of Cotton Bailey’s dance and jazz band. Later the same year (1921) Teagarden joined Peck Kelley’s Bad Boys in Houston. Visiting band leader Paul Whiteman heard the group there and offered Teagarden a position in his New York orchestra. For several years, however, Jack continued to play with local groups. About 1923 he briefly attempted to enter the oilfield business in Wichita Falls but soon gave up the venture and returned to music. Teagarden made his first trip to New York in 1926 as a performer on the eastern tour of Doc Ross’s Jazz Bandits. The next year he went to New York on his own. He originally planned to join Whiteman’s ensemble but happened to hear Ben Pollack’s band first. After two months with the Tommy Gott Orchestra Teagarden secured a position in Pollack’s organization, where he beat Glenn Miller for the seat of first trombone. He made his first recording in 1927 as a member of the Kentucky Grasshoppers, an offshoot of Pollack’s group. Teagarden later recorded with many of America’s jazz greats including Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong. He performed with Eddie Condon, Bix BeideIbecke, Paul Whiteman, the Dorsey brothers, Bob Crosby, Eddie Lang, Peck Kelley, and others. He was considered by many to be the greatest jazz trombonist of his era, but his style was so unusual that others did not follow his example.

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