Big T and the Water Glass

I didn’t realize how much of a reaction I would get to my last post, but I haven’t found anything inspiring to follow it up.  I’m happy to see the negativity of the Teachout debate begin to fade, and to be back in class, but the increase in my outside activities is probably going to change the feel of the site over the next few months.

In the meantime, watch this highly entertaining clip of my man Jack Teagarden:

Notice that he plays his opening solo with his slide attached to a water glass!  Trust me — this is REALLY hard to do.  When Teagarden began his professional career a teenager in San Anselmo, Texas, he heard that Larry Conley, a rival trombonist in Dallas, was playing tunes with the bell removed.  Jack never found out if the rumor was true, but figured out how to do it — just in case.

When I heard Jack tell that story (in a 1947 interview with C.E. Smith) I was reminded of something that many jazz fans and historians forget: these guys practiced their butts off!  It may be a boring fact of a musician’s life, but it’s one that is common to everyone who became known as great jazz musicians.  This “trick” alone — playing without the bell — would have taken hours of focused practice to work out.  It’s pretty easy to tell that the work paid off!

Also of note in the video: Jack’s younger brother Charlie takes an impressive trumpet solo.  He doesn’t quite steal the show from his big brother, but he certainly holds his own.  If you ask me, Charlie Teagarden is one of the most-underrated trumpet players of the swing era.

So enjoy some more of my favorite ghost, and watch this space for some changes soon!

About Alex Rodriguez

Jazz Writing, Engaged Buddhism, Improvised Music
This entry was posted in Trombonists and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Big T and the Water Glass

  1. Bob Lang says:


    I saw your post to the Trombone Mailing List about Jack Teagarden and the water glass trick, and then came upon your web site. I never was able to hear the Teagarden interview — where did you find it? Joe Showler filled me in on some of the details many years ago. We were interested because Larry Conley was my late wife’s father. The web site about Conley that you link to is ours.

    By the way, if you know anyone looking for a research subject — We believe that Larry Conley, when he was in St. Louis in the 1920’s, occasionally played with
    Chales Creath’s Band. I did a lot of searching through St. Louis newspapers, and although we found connections between Conley and some of the Afican American musicians, I haven’t come up with anything positive between him and Creath.

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