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Ben Pollack and his Orchestra

(Excerpt from Ben Pollack: Profile in Jazz, by Scott Yanow)

Ben PollackUnfortunately Ben Pollack was still thinking of himself as a singer (he had a weak voice) and often ended recordings with the corny phrase “May it please you, Ben Pollack.” Worse was that Pollack had become more interested in promoting his girlfriend Doris Robbins as a singer (she was an average vocalist) and an actress than he was in leading his band. One can see that in a film short from 1934 where the jazz is de-emphasized and Robbins and Pollack sing together on “Love Me Tonight.”

Of the 13 recordings made by the Ben Pollack Orchestra in 1934, Doris Robbins sings on four songs, Joe Harris (trying to emulate Teagarden) is on seven, there is one vocal by Pollack, and the only instrumental is a forgettable rhumba number. Virtually no jazz of interest was recorded.

In Sept. 1934 during an engagement in Los Angeles, the band had a mutiny and all of the musicians left Pollack. They would soon reform as the Bob Crosby Orchestra. Pollack, who was still just 31, hurriedly put together a new big band to fulfill engagements and in 1935 married Doris Robbins, a union that lasted until their 1940 divorce. She never recorded again nor made any films.

ben-pollackThe Ben Pollack Orchestra next appeared on records in 1936 and Pollack’s band was once again filled with impressive players. The sidemen included trumpeters Harry James, Shorty Sherock, and Charlie Spivak, Glenn Miller (who was temporarily back on trombone), clarinetist Irving Fazola, and pianist Freddie Slack, with tenor-saxophonist Dave Matthews contributing many of the arrangements. Pollack, who was back on drums, was still singing a little but was wise enough to feature Harry James (who was then 20) quite a bit including on “Spreadin’ Knowledge Around,” “Zoom Zoom Zoom,” “Jimtown Blues,” and “Peckin’.”

However Pollack was now considered in the minor leagues and his lineup was ripe for other more prosperous bandleaders to raid. By January 1937 James was part of Pollack’s former sideman Benny Goodman’s big band and his other top players were soon lured away.

Pollack moved to Los Angeles where he led a new band in 1937 filled with fine local players plus the great cornetist Muggsy Spanier. In addition to a series of big band titles, he led a small-group from the orchestra, called Ben Pollack’s Pick-A-Rib Boys (featuring Spanier), and accompanied Connee Boswell on some of her recordings. Spanier stayed with Pollack until a serious illness knocked him out of action. The hot trumpet chair was taken by Clyde Hurley in 1938 (who later joined Glenn Miller) and finally by Andy Secrest who is on the last Pollack big band recordings. It is ironic that while many of his former sidemen (Goodman, Teagarden, James, Slack, and much of the Bob Crosby Orchestra) were major names, Pollack (who was still only 36 in 1939) was becoming increasingly forgotten by the end of the 1930s.

Thanks to Wim van der Brugghen and Owen Miller for their help with this page.

Ben Pollack and his Orchestra

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
After You’ve Gone
Vocal Chorus by Paula Gayle

(Henry Creamer / Turner Layton)
4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2057 A
Alone On The Range
(Mabel Wayne / Mack David)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2910-D
As Long As I Live 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2005
Beale Street Blues (Duke Wilson and His Ten Black Berries)
(W.C. Handy)
3-2-1931 New York, New York Perfect
15617

10422-5
Beale Street Blues
(W.C. Handy)
3-2-1931 New York, New York unissued
10422-6
Cryin’ For The Carolines
(Lewis / Young / Warren)
1-15-1930 New York, New York Hit Of The Week
Dancing In The Moonlight
(Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2901-D
Deep Elm
(William R. Clay / Willard Robison)
12-18-1936 Hollywood, California Variety
504
Vocalion
3769
Deep Jungle
(Mannono / Ben Pollack)
12-28-1933 New York, New York Columbia
2879-D
Everybody’s Doin’ It 4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
1891
Freckle Face, You’re Beautiful
(Cliff Friend / Carmen Lombardo)
5-29-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2931-D
Goin’ To Heaven On A Mule
(Al Dubin / Harry Warren)
3-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2886-D
Got The Jitters
(Loeb / Rose / Webster)
12-28-1933 New York, New York Columbia
2870-D
Have You Ever Been In Heaven? 8-31-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1476
Here Goes
(Harold Arlen / Ted Koehler)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2905-D
I Couldn’t Be Mad At You
(Bob Rothberg / Joseph Meyer)
9-15-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7751
If I Could Be With You
(One Hour Tonight)

(Henry Creamer / James P. Johnson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0747
Broadway
1409

9819-2
If I Could Be With You
(One Hour Tonight)

(Henry Creamer / James P. Johnson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0747
Broadway
1409

9819-3
If I Could Be With You
(One Hour Tonight)

(Henry Creamer / James P. Johnson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0747
Broadway
1409

9819-4
If You Ever Should Leave 8-31-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1435
I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas
(Phil Baxter)
2-12-1931 New York, New York Crown
91088

10418-1
I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas
(Phil Baxter)
2-12-1931 New York, New York Crown
91088

10418-2
I’m Dependable (You Can Count On Me) 8-31-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1435
I’m Following You
(Dreyer / Macdonald)
1-15-1930 New York, New York Hit Of The Week
I’m Full Of The Devil
From M.G.M. Picture “Fugitive Lovers”

(Jimmy McHugh / Dorthy Fields)
12-28-1933 New York, New York Columbia
2870-D
I’m One Step Ahead Of My Shadow
(Sammy Cahn / Saul Chaplin)
9-15-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7751
I’m Yours For The Asking 8-26-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1424
In A Sentimental Mood 12-18-1936 Hollywood, California Variety
556
Vocalion
3819
I’ve Got A Warm Spot For You
(Harold Spina / Johnny burke)
5-29-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2931-D
I’ve Got Five Dollars
(Hart / Rodgers)
2-12-1931 New York, New York Romeo
1576
Jimtown Blues
(Charlie Davis)
9-16-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7764
Linger A Little Longer In The Twilight
(Woods / Campbell / Connelly)
3-19-1933 Chicago, Illinois Victor
24284
Looking At The World Through Rose-Colored Glasses 4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2057 B
Mama, I Want More Rhythm 8-31-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1476
Meet the Beat Of My Heart 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2005
My Little Grass Shack In Kealekakua, Hawaii
(Bill Cogswell / Tommy Harrison / Johnny Noble)
3-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2886-D
Naturally 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2012
Night On The Desert
(Billy Hill)
5-29-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2929-D
Now Or Never
Vocal refrain by Jim Hardy

(Sam Lewis / Peter DeRose)
9-16-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7747
Ole Mammy Ain’t Gonna Sing No More
(James V. Monaco / Herb Magidson / Maurice Sigler)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2901-D
Peckin’ 12-18-1936 Hollywood, California Variety
556
Vocalion
3819
Rollin’ Down The River
(Adams / Waller)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0752
9818-1
Rollin’ Down The River
(Adams / Waller)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0752
9818-2
Rollin’ Down The River
(Adams-Waller)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0752
9818-3
Sing A Song Of Sixpence 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2006
Sing-Song Girl 1-21-1931 New York, New York Regal
10250
Sleepy Head
(Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson)
5-29-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2929-D
So Unexpectedly 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2012
Song Of The Islands
(Charles King)
9-15-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7764
Song Of The Islands
(Charles King)
8-26-1937 Los Angeles, California Decca
1424
Spreadin’ Knowledge Around
(The Dean and His Kids)
9-16-1936 New York, New York Vocalion
3342
Sweet And Hot
(Jack Yellen / Harold Arlen)
3-2-1931 New York, New York Perfect
15431

10417-4
Sweet And Hot
(Jack Yellen / Harold Arlen)
3-2-1931 New York, New York Banner
10417-5
Swing Out
(Ben Pollack / Wingy Manone)
12-28-1933 New York, New York Columbia
2879-D
The Beat Of My Heart
(Burke / Spina)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2905-D
The Moon Is Grinning At Me 12-18-1936 Hollywood, California Variety
504
Vocalion
3769
The Voodoo
(Don Azpiazu / Marion Sunshine)
2-23-1934 New York, New York Columbia
2906-D
There’s A Wah-Wah Gal Down in Agua Caliente
(Donaldson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0750

9820-1
There’s A Wah-Wah Gal Down in Agua Caliente
(Donaldson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0750

9820-2
There’s A Wah-Wah Gal Down in Agua Caliente
(Donaldson)
6-23-1930 New York, New York Banner
0750

9820-3
There’s Rain In My Eyes 4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
1815
This Is The Life / The International Rag 4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
1891
Thru’ The Courtesy Of Love
(Jack Scholl / M.K. Jerome)
9-15-1936 New York, New York Brunswick
7747
Two Tickets To Georgia
(Young / Tobias / Coots)
3-19-1933 Chicago, Illinois Victor
24284

75412-2
Two Tickets To Georgia
(Young / Tobias / Coots)
3-19-1933 Chicago, Illinois Victor
24284

75412-2R
What Are You Doing Tonight? 8-4-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
2005 B
(When You Fall In Love)
Fall In Love With Me
1-21-1931 New York, New York Regal
10250
You Didn’t Have To Tell Me
(I Knew It All The Time)

(Walter Donaldson)
1-21-1931 New York, New York Regal
10266
You’ll Be Reminded Of Me 4-18-1938 Los Angeles, California Decca
1815
Zoom Zoom Zoom
(The Dean and His Kids)
9-16-1936 New York, New York Vocalion
3342

Ben Pollack and his Orchestra

Artist Instrument
Don Anderson Trumpet
Ray Bauduc Drums
Al Beller Violin
Ed Bergman Violin
Larry Binyon Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Flute
Sterling Bose Trumpet
Gil Bowers Piano
Vic Briedis Piano
Bud Carlton Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Opie Cates Alto Saxophone
Shirley Clay Trumpet
Ray Cohen Violin
Ralph Copsey Trombone
Irving Fazola Clarinet
Frank Frederico Guitar
Mort Friedman Tenor Saxophone
Paula Gayle Vocals
Benny Goodman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet
Harry Goodman Brass Bass, String Bass
Bob Goodrich Trumpet
Earle Hagen Trombone
Alan Harding Tenor Saxophone
Jim Hardy Vocals
Al Harris Cornet
Joe Harris Trombone
Bob Hemphill Guitar
George Hill Tenor Saxophone
Frances Hunt Vocals
Clyde Hurley Trumpet
Harry James Trumpet
Jerry Johnson String Bass
Ben Kanter Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Dean Kincaide Alto Saxophone
Bob Laine Piano
Nappy Lamare Guitar, Vocals
Yank Lawson Trumpet
Peyton Legare Alto Saxophone
Jim Lynch String Bass
Carol Mackay Vocals
Peggy Mann Vocals
Matty Matlock Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Dave Matthews Tenor Saxophone
Garry McAdams Guitar
Jimmie McPartland Cornet
Joe Meyer Trumpet
Eddie Miller Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Glenn Miller Trombone
Dick Morgan Banjo
Benny Morton Trombone
Francis Palmer String Bass
Ben Pollack Drums, Leader, Vocals
Sammy Prager Piano
Joe Price Steel Guitar
Frankie Quartell Cornet
Artie Quenzer Tenor Saxophone
Doris Robbins Vocals
Gil Rodin Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Babe Russin Tenor Saxophone
Bill Schumann Cello
Andy Secrest Trumpet
Shorty Sherock Trumpet
Freddy Slack Piano
Muggsy Spanier Trumpet
Charlie Spivak Trumpet
Bruce Squires Trombone
Graham Stevenson Drums
Lois Still Vocals
Slim Taft String Bass
Sammy Taylor Drums
Charlie Teagarden Trumpet
Jack Teagarden Trombone, Vocals
Thurman Teague String Bass
Carroll Thompson Guitar
George Thow Trumpet
Ruby Weinstein Trumpet
Ray Woods Trumpet
Joe Yukl Trombone

 

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