Helen Teagarden

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Helen Teagarden was simply one of the great den mothers of classic jazz, raising four children who all enjoyed substantial careers in classic jazz. The top of the heap would have to be trombone-wielding…
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Helen Teagarden was simply one of the great den mothers of classic jazz, raising four children who all enjoyed substantial careers in classic jazz. The top of the heap would have to be trombone-wielding Jack Teagarden, a brilliant instrumentalist as well as vocalist whose jovial and creative relationship with Louis Armstrong was key in launching a successful solo career. The trombonist often provided employment for his siblings such as pianist Norma Teagarden and brother Clois "Cubby" Teagarden, whose talents included drums, singing, and clarinet. The fourth brother, Charlie Teagarden, was a trumpeter.

The family started out based in Vernon, TX, but had moved to Oklahoma City by the time Helen Teagarden's children were old enough to climb on bandstands, which for some of them meant still in their early teens. A historic moment in this dynasty eventually took place at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1963, mother Teagarden performing together with three out of four of her children. This event resulted in one of two existing recordings of Helen Teagarden on piano, the other a live Jack Teagarden session dating from the early '50s in which the matriarch takes the lead on ragtime classics such as the in reality immortal "Tickled to Death."