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Ben Pollack’s “Pick a Rib” Boys: My Wild Irish Rose

March 5, 2010

Ben Pollack, from http://www.redhotjazz.com.

Ben Pollack’s “Pick a Rib” Boys
My Wild Irish Rose

Recorded in 1937

The Depression was hard on Ben Pollack, and he was never much of a businessman to begin with. In 1935, Ben Pollack’s entire band resigned all at once and formed a cooperative. Then they went looking for a leader, settling eventually on Bing Crosby’s younger brother Bob, a second-rate singer but all-around nice guy who looked good in front of a band and brought a famous name with him. It was a very rare thing for the leader to be a paid employee of the band rather than vice-versa, but the arrangement worked out, and Bob Crosby and His Orchestra were a bigger hit than Ben Pollack and His Orchestra had ever been.

Meanwhile, Pollack formed another band that sounded very similar, one that briefly included the unknown trumpet dynamo Harry James before Benny Goodman snatched him away.

Here is Ben Pollack in 1937 playing what the world has unaccountably decided to call “Dixieland” jazz, a style invented by Chicago musicians, most of them discovered by Pollack. Although Pollack preferred to stand in front of his orchestra, he got back on the throne to take over the drums for these small groups. You’ll hear an extended drum solo on this side. I believe the trumpet is Muggsy Spanier.

The odd name must refer to a venue in which Pollack was playing. Harry Goodman, Benny’s brother who played bass off and on in Benny’s band, owned a restaurant called “Pick-a-Rib”: was Pollack playing there? At any rate, the name stuck, and even in the 1950s Ben Pollack could be found playing Dixieland with a group called the Pick-a-Rib Boys.

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