Monday, December 29, 2014

Jack Teagarden, model-train enthusiast

The trombonist Jack Teagarden loved model trains. Here is how Barney Bigard told it. Bigard, who played clarinet and tenor saxophone for many years with Duke Ellington, played alongside Teagarden as members of Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars:

If we played a long engagement somewhere and you went into Jack’s hotel room, you’d see nothing but all kinds of wires, little whistles and steam engine things. He told me that he learned about all that stuff when he was a kid. One time, we were checking into a hotel and he had this great big trunk like a sailing trunk. He had all his contraptions in there, all this iron and steel stuff. So the bus driver helped him put this trunk on the sidewalk and here came the bellboys. “Which one is yours, Mr. Teagarden?” “This one, this one and this trunk.” Do you know, those bellboys had to send for help to get that thing up to his room. He was quite a man.

The girls all used to flock around Jack. He had that sort of personality where they would want to “mother” him; to take care of him. They all thought they were on to something big when he would ask them to come up to see the steam engines in his hotel room after the show. Those poor chicks would just sit on the bed waiting for something to happen, while Jack laid out on the floor blowing the whistles and making the engines work.

With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
A related post
Bix to Yoko in three or four

[This story makes me think of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and uncle Toby’s interest in military fortifications.]

comments: 3

Pete said...

Those poor ladies must have equated "see my steam engines" with "watch the submarine races."

J D Lowe said...

I think there must be a number of 'secret model railroaders' out there. Nat Hentoff mentioned in The Jazz Life that Count Basie had a basement filling model railroad in his home

Michael Leddy said...

I had no idea — thanks. In the course of looking up Basie, I just discovered that Oliver Nelson and Creed Taylor were also train enthusiasts.