Teddy Wilson

Theodore Shaw Wilson, also known as “Teddy”, was an American jazz pianist. He lived from November 24, 1912 to July 31, 1986. Scott Yanow described Wilson as the “definitive swing pianist”. His sophisticated and elegant style was recorded by many jazz legends, including Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. He was possibly the first black musician to perform publicly in a group that was racially mixed with Goodman. Wilson was not only a sideman but also managed his own bands and recorded sessions between the 1920s and the 1980s. Wilson was born in Austin on November 24, 1912. He studied violin and piano at Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee (Alabama). Wilson was a member of the Lawrence “Speed Webb” band with Louis Armstrong and understudied Earl Hines in Hines’s Grand Terrace Cafe Orchestra Orchestra. In 1933, Wilson joined Benny Carter’s Chocolate Dandies. He joined the Benny Goodman Trio in 1935. It consisted of Goodman and Wilson, as well as drummer Gene Krupa. Later, the group was expanded to include Lionel Hampton. The trio performed during intermissions for the big band. Wilson was the first black musician to perform publicly with an all-white jazz band by joining the trio. John Hammond, a noted jazz producer and writer, was instrumental in getting Wilson a Brunswick contract. Wilson started in 1935 to record hot swing arrangements of popular songs, keeping in mind the growing jukebox market. He had fifty hits with many singers, including Helen Ward, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne. He also participated in many well-respected sessions with a variety of swing musicians, including Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and Charlie Shavers, Red Norvo and Buck Clayton, as well as many other highly respected sessions. Wilson started his own small-scale big band in 1939 and then headed a Cafe Society sextet from 1940 to 1944. Howard “Stretch”, Johnson called him the “Marxist Mozart” for his support of left-wing causes. Wilson was a performer at benefit concerts for The New Masses journal for Russian War Relief, and chaired The Artists’ Commission to elect Benjamin J. Davis. Wilson was a teacher at the Juilliard School in the 1950s. Wilson can be seen as himself in The Benny Goodman Story, 1955. He was also the music director of The Dick Cavett show. Wilson lived in quiet suburb Hillsdale, New Jersey in the 1960s, 1970s. He played solo and with pick-up bands until his last years. Wilson, 73, died in New Britain CT on July 31, 1986. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, New Britain, Connecticut. From Wikipedia

Leave a Comment