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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
Through the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and even into the 50’s, there was a self-taught
drummer, born in Chicago in 1903, named Ben Pollack who, over that span,
led a number of bands through which passed players who comprise a
veritable Jazz Hall of Fame. Not that many people know the name “Ben
Pollack,” but if it weren’t for him we might not ever have heard of such
other names as Jack Teagarden, Harry James, Matty Matlock, Glenn Miller,
Benny Goodman, Ray Bauduc, Frank Teschmacher, Charlie Spivak, Wingy
Manone, Bud Freeman, Irving Fazola, and a whole lot more.
We might have heard more about him if he’d been able to hold on to some
of these players; but the fact is their stars began to rise only after they had
passed through one of Pollack’s groups. This happened pretty regularly.
Thus Ben was constantly forming new bands, and constantly populating
them with great players; and then they too moved on.
designated as the inventor of “brushes” (as was Warren “Baby” Dodds, or
Pollack, named as one of the controversial triumvirate of early drummers
Vic Berton), became the drummer in 1921, for the famed New Orleans
Rhythm Kings. In 1925, he traveled to the west coast where he spent almost
a year with the Harry Bastin Band which he later took over. From there he
went back and forth between California and Chicago until, in 1927, he took
his orchestra to New York and the Park Central Hotel. This band recorded
widely and was full of stellar talent. By this time Ben had come out from
behind the drums and fronted his bands as a conductor.
With the stock market crash and depression things got tough for everybody
including scuffling musicians. By 1933, a number of players had left
Pollack and formed a co-operative band under the name of Bing Crosby’s
brother, Bob. The Bob Crosby Band and the Bobcats (band within a band)
took off from there.
Here are a few tunes credited to Ben Pollack:
DEEP JUNGLE - written by Ben Pollack with trumpeter Wingy Manone, it
was recorded for Columbia in New York City in 1933.
TIN ROOF BLUES - composed by Ben Pollack and trombonist George
Brunies for Paul Mares (to whom credit for it is sometimes given) and the
New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1923. Parts may have been “modified” from
Richard Jones” “Jazzin’ Baby Blues.”
PECKIN’ - written in 1937, with trumpeter Harry James and recorded for
the Variety label. It was also recorded by the Benny Goodman Orchestra in
1937, for Victor.
SWING OUT - titled after an element of the Lindy Hop dance, this
Pollack/Manone collaboration was written in 1933, and recorded by Ben
Pollack’s Whoopee Makers for the Columbia label in New York.
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