TEAGARDEN, CHARLES, JR. [CHARLIE]
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TEAGARDEN, CHARLES, JR. [CHARLIE] (1913–1984). Charlie Teagarden, jazz trumpeter, was born Charles Teagarden, Jr., in Vernon, Texas, on July 19, 1913. He was the son of Charles and Helen (Geinger) Teagarden. Charlie spent most of his career in the shadow of his brother, Jack. Although the Teagarden parents both played instruments, Helen was the more accomplished musician; she sang, read music, and played piano, guitar, and horn. She taught her children to read music and performed professionally as a pianist.
After Charles Sr. died of influenza in 1918, Helen moved her family to Chappell, Nebraska, where she played at theaters during silent movies and taught music. She then moved the family to Oklahoma City. There her children, Jack, Norma, Charlie, and Clois, started their music careers playing in local bands. Charlie played trumpet expertly in big bands and Dixieland combos. His playing style was often compared to that of Red Nichols—a pleasant, effective sound.
Teagarden worked as a Western Union messenger when he first left school. Later, he played with Herb Book and his Oklahoma Joy Boys, and then he toured with Frank Williams and his Oklahomans. In 1929 the Oklahomans folded in New York, and Teagarden joined Ben Pollack's Orchestra. He left Pollack in September 1930 and played for a year with Red Nichols. He married Drucilla Strain on October 3, 1931, and they later had a daughter, Druanne.
On October 22, 1931, he participated in a recording session with the Eddie Lang–Joe Venuti All-Star Orchestra, which was led by Benny Goodman and included Charlie's brother, Jack. Among the numbers recorded at that session were "Beale Street Blues," "After You've Gone," "Someday Sweetheart," and "Farewell Blues." According to jazz critic Gunther Schuller, Charlie's solo on "Beale Street" stood "unequalled as a fine example of white blues trumpet-playing for many years."
Teagarden played with Roger Wolfe Kahn in 1932 and with Paul Whiteman from 1933 to 1940. During the decade of the 1930s he did freelance studio work. Also, from 1936 to 1940, he played with Jack and saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer in a jazz trio called the Three T's, as well as other band combos under Jack's leadership. By this time, Charlie had earned the nickname "Little 'T'" to Jack's "Big 'T.'" During the 1940s, Teagarden alternately played with his brother in Jack Teagarden's Big Band and led his own bands or played in theater orchestras for performances such as Ethel Waters's show Cabin in the Sky (1941).
In late 1942 Teagarden enlisted in the Ferry Command Service. Upon demobilization, he played freelance in Los Angeles entertainment and recording studios. He and Jack played with Harry James in 1946, and they shared the leadership role in Jack's jazz combo until Charlie joined Jimmy Dorsey's Original Dorseyland Jazz Band in 1948. That same year, on September 19, Teagarden (now divorced) married La Nora Burney. Charlie again played with Ben Pollack and Jack, and he did studio work with Jerry Gray, while leading his own trio with Ray Bauduc and Jess Stacy in the early 1950s. Teagarden appeared on a daytime TV show and did studio work with Bob Crosby in Hollywood throughout much of the mid-to-late 1950s.
He moved to Las Vegas in 1960 and led a combo that played regularly in the Cinderella Club at the Silver Slipper, while he continued to freelance, doing relief band work on the Strip. In 1963 Charlie, Jack, Norma, and Helen Teagarden recorded together at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The same year, Charlie was elected to the executive board of the Local 369 Musician's Union; he became an assistant to the union president in 1968 and gave up his active music occupation for a career in politics. Teagarden died in Las Vegas on December 10, 1984, and was buried in Bunkers Memory Gardens Cemetery in that city.
Teagarden worked with many musicians during his forty-year music career, including Drew Page, Carson Smith, Henry Cuesta, Billie Holiday, Art Karle, Larry Binyon, Babe Russin, Art Miller, Arthur Schutt, Shirley Clay, Eddie Lang, Carl Kress, Harry Goodman, and Allan Reuss. His trumpet can be heard on such albums as Fats Waller's You Rascal You (1929); Billie Holiday's Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933) and Quintessential Billie Holiday (1933); Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (1939); Jimmy Dorsey's Dixie by Dorsey (1950) and America's Premier Dixieland Jazz (1998); Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden's B. G. & Big Tea in NYC (1929); Benny Goodman's 1931–1933, 1934–1935, Best of Big Bands (1989) and Permanent Goodman, Vol. 1 (2000); and Cole Porter's Stars of the 30's (1991). Teagarden can also be heard on numerous other titles by Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, as well as on titles by Ethel Waters, Red Nichols, Pete Fountain, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Alex Hill, George Wettling, and Paul Whiteman. He appears on most of Jack Teagarden's titles and his own 1962 recording, The Big Horn of Little "T," as well as a more recent release, Live at the Royal Room Hollywood (2000).
Whitney Balliett, American Musicians: 56 Portraits in Jazz (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). John Chilton, Who's Who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street, 4th ed. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1985). Leonard G. Feather and Ira Gitler, The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies (New York: Horizon Press, 1976). Richard Hadlock, Jazz Masters of the Twenties (New York: Collier, 1965). H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (New York, Macmillan, 1986). Roger D. Kinkle, The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz: 1900–1950 (4 vols., New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1974). George and Shirley Teegarden, Genealogy and Biographical Sketches of Descendants of Abraham Tegarden (http://www.abrahamtegarden.com/images/BookPages/S_426.jpg), accessed January 20, 2009.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Cheryl L. Simon and Roy G. Scudday, "Teagarden, Charles, Jr. [Charlie]," accessed February 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fte50.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 26, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.