Spanier, “Muggsy” (Francis Joseph)

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Spanier, “Muggsy” (Francis Joseph)

Spanier, “Muggsy” (Francis Joseph), influential early jazz cornetist; b. Chicago, Nov. 9, 1906; d. Sausalito, Calif., Feb. 12, 1967. He was nicknamed after “Muggsy” McGraw, a baseball manager. Spanier started on drums, but switched to cornet at age 13. He played in Holy Name Cathedral School Band and then, while working as a messenger boy, did semi- professional jobs with Elmer Schobel during 1921. He made his professional debut with Sig Meyers’s Band at White City, Chicago (1922), and worked with Meyers until 1924. From late 1925–28, he worked primarily with Floyd Town’s Band although he gigged with others. In October 1928, he joined Ray Miller’s Orch., where he came to the attention of Ted Lewis; Spanier subsequently joined Ted Lewis in San Francisco in 1929, and remained with him until late 1936 (including a European tour in 1930). Spanier joined Ben Pollack from December 1936 until early 1938, when a near-fatal illness forced his temporary retirement. He resumed regular playing early in 1939, and organized his own band, Ragtimers, which played gigs in Chicago and N.Y. through the end of that year. Spanier rejoined Ted Lewis briefly in late 1939, and then joined Bob Crosby’s Band through mid-1941. After that, he formed his own big band, which was active for the next two years, until its membership was depleted because of World War II. Spanier was briefly incapacitated by an injury incurred in car accident, but then led his own sextet in Chicago. He returned to N.Y. in March 1944, and gigged with Art Hodes and others. He then rejoined Ted Lewis from May-August 1944, and played on the west coast (October 1944), until finally he joined Miff Mole at Nick’s, N.Y. From mid-1940s through early 1950s, Spanier played club dates in Chicago and N.Y. with various others. From 1951 until summer of 1959 he worked on and off with Earl Hines in San Francisco. In 1957, he made his permanent home in Calif. He continued to lead and tour until 1964, with frequent residencies in San Francisco, and also played a season at Bourbon Street, New Orleans (1961). Not long after being featured at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival, ill health forced him to retire.


At the Jazz Band Ball (1929); Great Sixteen (1939); Spanier’s Ragtimers (1944); Relaxin’ at the Touro (1952); Rare Custom 45’s (1956); Hot Horn (1957); Spanier in Chicago (1958); Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean (1962); Great Moments at Nezvport (1964).

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

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Spanier, “Muggsy” (Francis Joseph)

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