King Jackson

Biography by

Should "caterer" be added to this man's list of accomplishments? Because that is what King Jackson wound up doing after making the barest shadow of the mark made by other members of the nominal jazz royal…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Should "caterer" be added to this man's list of accomplishments? Because that is what King Jackson wound up doing after making the barest shadow of the mark made by other members of the nominal jazz royal family such as Count Basie or Duke Ellington. Nonetheless, Jackson was a rip-roaring, widely expressive classic Texas jazzman who sandwiched a stint in the first version of Spike Jones & His City Slickers between periods of playing straight-ahead jazz.

As a young man in the '30s, Jackson played in the bands of Marshall Van Pool, Seger Ellis and Dixieland trumpeter Wingy Manone. For two years beginning with the historic first Victor recording sessions in 1941, he was a member of the first congregation of Slickers. This was where Dixieland roots were collectively transformed into something that would make listeners laugh while still tapping their feet, although a few toes might get broken keeping up with the tempos. For example, Jackson was the trombonist sitting next to Tommy Dorsey the night this famous bandleader and fellow bone player decided to sit in with Jones. The first chorus of "Muskrat Ramble" was a cinch, after all Dorsey had started out with this kind of music. But when Jones doubled the tempo, Jackson recalled Dorsey sitting there in shock, unable to blow a single note. The Texan had no such trouble keeping up with the music, as one can audibly hear him pumping up the band with his every move on these early sessions. He also shines on the transcriptions series recorded for RCA Victor during this period. These were discs that were sold or leased to radio stations for broadcast, most of which has been re-released on compact disc. The earliest material includes a country & western parody, "Barstool Cowboy," in which Jackson taunts singer Cindy Walker in his Texas drawl. Jackson and Del Porter provided the musical arrangements for much transcription material. In 1942, Jackson was at the crest of the band's zany new direction. But a stretch of duty for Uncle Sam ended his involvement with Jones, and he was replaced in the band by John Stanley. Following the war, he went back into the Hollywood recording studio scene, where Jones had first found him. Jackson is a presence on a good number of recording sessions, featuring Bing Crosby and Judy Garland and also worked for a time in the big band of Woody Herman. In 1950, he was called back into action by Jones for the odd Spike Jones Plays the Charleston album. This was considered a departure for Jones, as it downplayed humor in favor of an authentic '20s swing sound. Yet it was right up Jackson's alley, and it is common for reviewers to mention the King as dominating this album with his blustery solos. Mainly, Jackson gravitated toward the better paid work on radio shows, including Kraft Music Hall, Burns and Allen, the immortal Baby Snooks Show, and the Don Ameche Show, on which he worked under the baton of conductor Carmen Dragon. Another member of the Kraft houseband was trumpeter Red Nichols, with whom Jackson formed a band, releasing the interesting Syncopated Chamber Music album on Audiophile in 1953. In the '60s, Jackson quit music entirely to operate a catering truck.