Teddy Powell Biography

Alfred Paolella, 1 March 1905, Oakland, California, USA. As a boy Powell studied violin and music theory privately, then attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1927 he was playing guitar and banjo with Abe Lyman’s band, staying with them until 1935 when he became a radio producer for an advertising agency. He also branched out as a songwriter, with hits such as ‘Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle’, ‘All I Need Is You’, ‘Snake Charmer’ and ‘March Winds And April Showers’. Royalties from these and other songs helped to finance a big band in 1939, which included some key personnel from the Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman bands and had Ray Conniff contributing some arrangements. At first recording for Decca Records, some of the band’s tracks appeared in the UK on Brunswick Records (Conniff’s ‘Feather Merchant’s Ball’/‘Teddy Bear Boogie’ by Powell). After a year Powell moved to the Bluebird Records label, and Regal Zonophone Records issued only four tracks in the UK: ‘Straight Eight Boogie’/‘Ode To Spring’ and ‘Sans Culottes’/‘In Pinetops’ Footsteps’, all the work of new arranger Bob Mersey. The band opened at New York’s Famous Door club to local acclaim but had less success further afield and, returning to Manhattan, Powell bought the club as a showcase for the group. It was a good, clean-sounding outfit with imaginative scores by Mersey and Conniff, and the leader maintained his policy of using jazzmen in key positions no matter how commercial the band’s output. Peggy Mann and Gene Barry were the band’s vocalists. After the swing era Powell adopted a more commercial policy for hotel work and eventually left the band business to return to songwriting and publishing.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.