Frankie Trumbauer

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Frankie Trumbauer
Background information
Birth nameOrie Frank Trumbauer
Also known asTram, Frankie
Born(1901-05-30)May 30, 1901
Carbondale, Illinois, U.S.
OriginSt. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJune 11, 1956(1956-06-11) (aged 55)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
GenresJazz, Dixieland
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer

Orie Frank Trumbauer (May 30, 1901 – June 11, 1956)[1] was one of the leading jazz saxophonists of the 1920s and 1930s. His main instrument was the C-melody saxophone, a now-uncommon instrument between an alto and tenor saxophone in size and pitch. He also played alto saxophone, bassoon, clarinet and several other instruments.

He was a composer of sophisticated sax melodies, one of the major small group jazz bandleaders of the 1920s and 1930s. His landmark recording of "Singin' the Blues" with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang in 1927, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1977. His major recordings included "Krazy Kat", "Red Hot", "Plantation Moods", "Trumbology", "Tailspin", "Singin' the Blues", "Wringin' an' Twistin'", and "For No Reason at All in C" with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang, and the first hit recording of "Georgia On My Mind" in 1931.

"Tram" was described as one of the most influential and important jazz saxophonists of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly influencing the sound of Lester Young.[2] He is also remembered for his musical collaborations with Bix Beiderbecke, a relationship that produced some of the finest and most innovative jazz records of the late 1920s. Trumbauer and Beiderbecke also collaborated with jazz guitarist Eddie Lang.

He was featured in the 2001 documentary Jazz by Ken Burns on PBS on the topic of the first jazz soloists and as an iconic image to symbolize jazz music.

Life and career[edit]

Photograph of Frankie Trumbauer featured in Ken Burns' Jazz.

Born of part Cherokee ancestry in Carbondale, Illinois, United States,[1] Trumbauer grew up in St Louis, Missouri, the son of a musical mother who directed saxophone and theater orchestras. His first important professional engagements were with the Edgar Benson and Ray Miller bands, shortly followed by the Mound City Blue Blowers, a local group that became nationally famous through their recordings on Brunswick.

Trumbauer recruited Bix Beiderbecke for Jean Goldkette's Victor Recording Orchestra, of which he became musical director.[1] After leaving Goldkette, he and Beiderbecke worked briefly in Adrian Rollini's short lived "New Yorkers" band, then joined Paul Whiteman in 1927.[1] The same year7, Trumbauer signed a contract with OKeh and released a 78 recording of "Singin' the Blues", featuring Beiderbecke on cornet and Eddie Lang on guitar. "Singin' the Blues" was a jazz classic originally recorded and released by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1920. The Okeh recording became a hit. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra recorded it in 1931 in the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke version.

Trumbauer played with Whiteman for eight of the following nine years. He had a separate contract with OKeh from 1927 through 1930, he recorded some of the small group jazz recordings of the era, usually including Beiderbecke until the April 30, 1929, session. He recorded a handful of sides in 1931 for Brunswick. In 1932, he organized a band in Chicago and recorded for Columbia, but gave up the orchestra and returned to New York late in 1933. During 1934–1936, while again a member of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, he also made a series of recordings for Brunswick and Victor, often including Jack Teagarden.[1]

In 1936 he led The Three T's, featuring the Teagarden brothers; in 1938, he and Mannie Klein started a band which they co-led; he billed himself as "Frank Trombar."[3] In 1939, Trumbauer, a skilled pilot, left music (after recording a series of records for Varsity) to join the Civil Aeronautics Authority.[1]

During World War II he was a test pilot with North American Aviation, and trained military crews in the operation of the B-25 Mitchell bomber. He continued to work for the CAA after the war, and also played in the NBC Orchestra. After 1947, although he continued to play and record, he earned most of his income in aviation.[1]

Last years and death[edit]

Trumbauer died of a heart attack in Kansas City, Missouri, where he had made his home for some years. He was 55 years old.[citation needed]


Lester Young acknowledged and cited Trumbauer as his main influence as a saxophonist. When an interviewer asked Young about his influences, he stated that Frankie Trumbauer was his major influence: "So, it's Trumbauer?" Young replied: "That was my man."[citation needed]

His life and career were documented in the biography Tram: The Frank Trumbauer Story by Philip R. Evans and Larry F. Kiner with William Trumbauer (Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers and Scarecrow Press Inc., 1994).

He was featured in Episode 3, "Our Language", in the 2001 documentary Jazz by Ken Burns on PBS on the topic of pioneering jazz soloists. A photograph of him holding his Holton C-melody saxophone was one of the images chosen by Burns to symbolize jazz. The photo is featured on all the intros and outros as well as in Episode 3, "Our Language". His 1927 solo in "Singin' the Blues" is analyzed as well.

He was known for double tonguing.[4]


"Singin' the Blues", released by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke on cornet and Eddie Lang on guitar in 1927 as Okeh 40772-B, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1977. Frankie Trumbauer played the C-melody saxophone solos on the landmark jazz recording.

In 2005, his 1927 recording of "Singin' the Blues" with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang was placed on the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

In 2008, his recordings of "Ostrich Walk" and "There'll Come a Time" with Bix Beiderbecke were included on the soundtrack to the Brad Pitt movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story from Tales of the Jazz Age.

Ken Burns used a photograph of him in the 2001 documentary Jazz, on PBS, on the topic of pioneering jazz soloists and as an image to represent jazz music.


Trumbauer's compositions include:

Major recordings[edit]

Okeh 78, 40772-B, "Singin' The Blues", with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang, early 1930s pressing.
Columbia 78 reissue, 35667, "For No Reason at All in C", with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang.
  • "I'm Glad"/"Flock O' Blues," Sioux City Six featuring Bix Beiderbecke and Miff Mole, recorded October 11, 1924, New York, released as Gennett 5569
  • "Clarinet Marmalade"/"Singin' the Blues," recorded on February 4, 1927, in New York and released as Okeh 40772
  • "Riverboat Shuffle"/"Ostrich Walk," recorded May 9, 1927, New York, Okeh 40822
  • "I'm Coming, Virginia"/"Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," recorded on May 13, 1927, in New York and released as Okeh 40843
  • "For No Reason at All in C"/"Trumbology," recorded on May 13, 1927, in New York and released as Okeh 40871, Columbia 35667, and Parlophone R 3419
  • "Wringin' an' Twistin'," recorded on September 9, 1927, in New York and released as Okeh 40916 and Vocalion 3150
  • "Krazy Kat" recorded September 28, 1927, New York Okeh 40903
  • "Baltimore" b/w "Humpty Dumpty," recorded September 28, 1927, New York, Okeh 40926
  • "Mississippi Mud" (vocal by Bing Crosby)/"There'll Come a Time (Wait and See)," January 9, 1928, New York, Okeh 40979
  • "Ol' Man River" (From "Show Boat") recorded with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra on January 11, 1928 in New York and released as Victor 21218-A and Victor 25249 with Bing Crosby on vocals and Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. No. 1 for 1 week
  • "Borneo"/"My Pet," recorded on April 10, 1928, in New York and released as Okeh 41039
  • "Georgia On My Mind," recorded September 24, 1931, Chicago, Illinois, Brunswick 6159
  • "Troubled"/"Plantation Moods," recorded November 20, 1934, New York, Victor 24834, HMV B.D. 158 in the UK


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 401/2. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Biography by Jason Ankeny (1956-06-11). "Frankie Trumbauer | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  3. ^ "Band Reviews: Frank Trombar." Tempo, April 1938, 13. The ensemble was then playing at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
  4. ^ Compeán, Joe (2007-12-01). "Yes! Saxophonists Can Double Tongue" (PDF). Texas Bandmasters Association. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-06-13. Retrieved 2022-06-13.


  • Evans, Philip R. and Larry F. Kiner. Tram: The Frank Trumbauer Story. Studies in Jazz ; No. 18. New Jersey: Institute of Jazz Studies - Metuchen. The Scarecrow Press, 1994.
  • Kinkle, Roger D. The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz 1900-1950. (Arlington House Publishers, 1974).
  • Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. Jazz: A History of America's Music. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

External links[edit]