June 22, 1903 to June 7, 1971Ben Pollack was a talented drummer and an even better bandleader, with a great ear for talent but none of the luck needed to hold onto his discoveries. He always worked without ever quite hitting the big time himself; but his bands of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s included such future luminaries as Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy McPartland, Harry James, Yank Lawson, Muggsy Spanier, Jack Teagarden, Joe Marsala, Eddie Miller, Frank Teschemacher, Dick Cathcart, Irving Fazola, Freddie Slack, and Bud Freeman.
Pollack was born in Chicago, to a family in the fur business. He played drums in various high-school groups and an all-city band, and also picked up occasional work with professional outfits while still in his teens. Pollack became a member of the Harry Bastin Band, before moving on to work with a groundbreaking ensemble as the drummer for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the pioneering white Dixieland ensemble, during the early '20s.
He formed his own band in 1926, and for the next eight years he was host to some of the biggest future talents in jazz, as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Jimmy McPartland, and later, Yank Lawson and Matty Matlock passed through his lineup. The group finally broke up in December of 1934, and its membership immediately became the core of Bob Crosby's band.
In 1942, he became the leader of the touring band working behind music/comedy star Chico Marx. By this time, the field of big-band music was dominated by his former alumni, most notably Miller, Goodman, and James. Pollack was working out of New Orleans in the late '40s, and hosted the Second Annual Dixieland Jubilee in 1949, after which he led a sextet. Pollack was an important and popular enough figure among his fellow musicians to justify appearing (as himself) in the 1955 feature film The Benny Goodman Story (starring Steve Allen as the legendary clarinetist and bandleader), but by the late '50s he had left music in favor of opening a club of his own in Los Angeles and then a successful restaurant in Palm Springs, California. Pollack recorded throughout his career, for Bluebird, Brunswick, and Vocalion, among other labels. Pollack committed suicide by hanging himself in 1971.
Song of the Blues 1929
Vitaphone Short 1929
I've Got A Warm Spot In My Heart For You 1934
Sleepy Head 1934
Keep Your Undershirt on 1929
Crying For The Carolines 1930
Louisville Rhythm Kings In A Great Big Way 1929
New Orleans Rhythm Kings Tin Roof Blues 1923
Deep Elm 1936