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Kentucky Grasshoppers: Makin’ Friends

March 6, 2010

Kentucky Grasshoppers
Makin’ Friends

Recorded in 1930

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Ben Pollack week ends without Ben Pollack. This is most of Pollack’s band recording a blues song credited to Jimmy McPartland and Jack Teagarden, both of whom are at their best here. In fact, I’ve heard jazz critics say that this is the best recording of Jack Teagarden’s career. Yet I’ve never seen it appear on an anthology. It’s very hard to come by, unless it just happens to appear in a box of miscellaneous records from a junk shop.

So here we have Ben Pollack’s best musicians doing their best work without Ben Pollack, which is the tragic story of Ben Pollack’s life. Jack Teagarden and Jimmy McPartland grew into jazz legends. Pollack’s whole band left him and recorded some big hits under Bob Crosby that are still standards today. Benny Goodman’s was top band in the polls. Then Glenn Miller’s was top band in the polls. Then Harry James’ was top band in the polls. All Ben Pollack discoveries—but who ever spared a thought for Ben Pollack?

As Pollack got older, every once in a while someone would look him up, but always to talk about one of his famous discoveries. He probably reached his widest audience ever playing himself in The Benny Goodman Story—once again a footnote in the biography of one of his sidemen. That was what he was to most people: a footnote in jazz history. The man who had practically invented jazz drumming, who led one of the greatest bands of the 1920s, who had the longest list of great discoveries in the history of talent-scouting, was forgotten—not even a has-been, because there had never really been a time when he was famous. In 1971, at the age of 68, Ben Pollack hanged himself.


From → Jazz

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