Pollack, Ben

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Pollack, Ben

Pollack, Ben , jazz drummer, band leader; b. Chicago, Ill., June 22, 1903; d. Palm Springs, Calif., June 7, 1971. He considered joining the family fur business but instead gigged around Chicago, then in 1922 he joined the Friars’ Inn Orch. (New Orleans Rhythm Kings). He also worked quite a bit in Los Angeles before 1926, then from May 1926 led his own band in Chicago, was on the West Coast in late 1927, and in N.Y. in March 1928. Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller were in his band, and later Harry James. The band did several long residencies in N.Y., Chicago, and broke up in Calif, in December 1934. Most of his sidemen formed the nucleus of the first Bob Crosby Band. He was dubbed “The Father of Swing.” He led in New Orleans (1935), Chicago, and Los Angeles from 1936 until 1942, then directed a touring band for comedian Chico Marx. From August 1943, he ran his own booking agency and record company (Jewel), resuming more active performing in 1949. Later he opened his own club in Los Angeles. Pollack appeared as himself in film The Benny Goodman Story (1956). During the 1960s he mainly ran a restaurant in Hollywood, and later a nightclub in Palm Springs. He committed suicide by hanging. Pollack left a suicide note, explaining his act as prompted by despondency over personal and financial problems.


Ben Pollack and His Pick-A-Rib (1950); Dixieland Strut (I960).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter