Teschemacher, Frank (aka Tesch)

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Teschemacher, Frank (aka Tesch)

Teschemacher, Frank (aka Tesch), early jazz clarinetist, alto saxophonist, violinist, arranger; b. Kansas City, Mo., March 13, 1906; d. Chicago, March 1, 1932. He was raised in Chicago, attended Austin H.S., and began gigging with classmates Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman, and Jim Lanigan in The Blue Friars. In 1924, he worked at Merry Gardens Ballroom with Wingy Manone and played alto with the Red Dragons, which was essentially The Blue Friars under Husk O’ Hare. The title also served as the group’s name while they were house band for WHT Radio. During the following year, while playing a season at Lost Lake, Wise, he took up clarinet and received some instruction from Bud Jacobson. He worked in a band opposite Sig Meyers in White City, Chicago, then played briefly in Fla. with Charlie Straight. From 1926-28, he worked mostly with Floyd Town’s Band, but also played with Charlie Straight and Art Kassel and did various recording sessions. Teschemacher arranged the four tracks on the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans recording date in 1927. In June 1928, he went to N.Y. with the Chicagoans (later called the Chicago Gang), worked for a week accompanying a variety act, and then gigged around N.Y. He deputized for Gil Rodin in Ben Pollack’s Band (August 1928); recorded with Ted Lewis, Red Nichols, and Miff Mole, and played tenor sax on the first recording session led by the Dorsey Brothers. He went to Atlantic City as a member of Sam Lanin’s society band, then played there with Nichols for a month before returning to Chicago in September 1928. In Chicago, he played for various bandleaders, including Joe Kayser, Charlie Straight, Floyd Town, and with Jess Stacy’s Aces, and possibly Eddie Neibauer, Eddie Valzos, and Benny Meroff. During the last two years of his life. Teschemacher worked mainly on alto and violin. He toured with Jan Garber in autumn 1931, but left the tour and returned to Chicago, where he continued gigging. He then served as musical director of Bill Davison’s Big Band. Davison could not read music in 1932, so Teschemacher essentially co-led the group, which performed Reginald Forsythe’s sophisticated arrangements.

Teschemacher’s death is shrouded in myth and legend. He was killed in a head-on automobile collision early in the morning hours of March 1, 1932. Davison was driving the car, which was struck head on by a taxicab driver. It is said that the passenger in the taxi was a bouncer who had a beef with Teschemacher; although he didn’t intend to kill the musician, he hoped to at least ruffle his feathers. Additionally, Davison and Teschemacher probably had been drinking prior to getting into the car. The bouncer was said to have mob connections, which helped to cover up the true cause of the accident.


McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans: “Sugar,” “China Boy” (both 1927); “Nobody’s Sweetheart,” “Liza” (1927). Jungle Kings: “Friars Point Shuffle,” “Darktown Strutters Ball” (1928).

—Tom Smith/John Chilton