Tony Weitzel, Chicago Daily News, January 17, 1964
First time I ever heard Jack Teagarden blow that big sliphorn was like maybe
1936. The world was full of sitdown strikes and big depression and govern- ment alphabet soup. And Jack was blowing his big horn around a shattered segment of the old Keith vaudeville circuit.
He had 14 side men in his band and the band fronted a stage show you could get in to see for 85 cents if you had 85 cents, which not many people did.
As I said, the big depression was on, and I had just wangled a cozy WPA job for the best cymbalom player I ever heard. I tried to get him on the WPA symphony where he deserved to be but the stinking little bureaucrat who directed the symphony refused to recognize the cymbalom as a civilized instrument.
So my Hungarian friend went on the book-binding project but he toted his cymbalom along and the book bindery became the most melodious WPA project that never got off the ground.
My cymbalom player was truly a fine artist but he did not protest his ignoble reduction to book binding. His former wife had taken all the spirit out of him when she sued for divorce and got custody of the restaurant which supported him and his cymbalom.
But the cymbalom chap did manage to pick the books he wanted to bind, and the first tome he put back into reading condition was a treatise on the sliphorn. He stole this from the WPA and presented it to me as a token of fealty and I took it backstage at the Palace and gave it to Jack Teagarden.
Jack said," Meet me after the last show in the cafe next door and we will go see the town." So I sat around until Jack and the boys earned their money and along about 11:15p.m. the tootler from Texas strode in.
We had one drink and Jack dumped that one down his throat before the bartender could reach for the soda. Jack said," Let's get out of here. I gotta keep moving."
So we grabbed a taxi and rode over to a shoddy little cabaret. And Jack had another drink which he poured down pronto. Let's go," he urged. "I got to keep moving."
Finally, in the sixth successive joint, I demurred. "What's the big rush? The Scotch is the same in all these places."
Jack sighed, "You don't understand. I promised my wife a mink coat six months ago, before I hit the road. Tonight she blew into town and she is gonna haunt me until I come up with a mink!"
I said," Jack, nobody could catch up to us now. We have been all over this silly town. Relax."
So Jack sat back and ordered a second drink. And what do you know? He was just downing the dregs of it when the door of the dive opened and in burst a very cute little blond. Jack took one look and busted out the back door. The little blond trudged wearily over to the table and sat down.
I said, "Mrs. Teagarden?" She nodded. I asked, "Do your really want a fur coat that much?"
She stared and then she laughed bitterly. "I don't want a coat," she wailed. "I love that big lug and I just want him to save some of his money!"
Well, I took her back to Jack's hotel and I have never, come to think of it, seen the lady since. I have run into Jack from time to time, because he never did stop blowing that big sliphorn and he never did stop going to night clubs.
Being a friend and not a snoop I never dug into Jack's personal affairs so I do not know whether he stayed married very long to that cute little blond girl or not.
What mattered was that Hack was a guy dedicated to the sound a hard-lipped genius can get out of a sliphorn. To a guy like Jack, I suspect that was more important than almost anything else in the world.
And beyond that, Jack had been a loner ever since he blew the scene down Texas way at 15 and went out to try the taste of the world.
He was a nervous guy, never quite comfortable sitting down or standing still. I asked him a couple of years ago when he was playing in Chicago if he ever felt really peaceful.
Jack said, "When I blow a big noise out of that old horn, then I feel peaceful. I guess that's the only time."
Wednesday they found Jack in a New Orleans hotel room, cold and dead. He was 58, the wire story said, and he had run up a lot of mileage since the year he left Texas at 15.
Eddie Shields, the circulation driver who writes songs, phoned the minute he read about Jack. He said back in May of 1939 he was driving home from NBC after plugging a song he wrote, "You Know, Just As Well As I Know."
And as he drove along another car hit him from the rear. Eddie got out, mad as a hornet, and the other driver said he was Jack Teagarden and he was sorry and how could he make things okay?
Eddie said, "Why don't you record my song?" And that's what Teagarden did. The song earned $22,000, Eddie swears, and Jack wouldn't take a dime.
Come to think of it, that sounds like Jack. I'm sorry He's gone. And wherever he is now, I hope the guy from Texas has a big sliphorn to make that noise that brings him peace.