Buckner, John Edward [Teddy] (1909–1994)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: November 27, 2006

Updated: September 10, 2015

John Edward (Teddy) Buckner, Dixieland jazz trumpeter, was born in Sherman, Texas, on July 16, 1909. Buckner spent five years of his childhood in Silver City, New Mexico, then grew up in the Los Angeles area. His first musical experience came from an uncle who taught him to play the drums and ukulele; later he studied the trumpet under Harold Scott. By the age of fifteen Buckner was playing with the band of Buddy Garcia, then with "Big Six" Reeves and Speed Webb. In the early 1930s he joined Sonny Clay, and in 1934 he went to Shanghai with the Buck Clayton big band.

Buckner reportedly played with several bands in the mid-1930s, including a stint with the Brownskin Models Revue, before joining Lionel Hampton in the summer of 1936. In November of that year, when Hampton left to join Benny Goodman, Buckner took over as leader. Also in 1936 he stood in for his idol, Louis Armstrong, in the film Pennies from Heaven. Hampton recalled that Armstrong once gave Buckner a horn, saying, "Man, you're a real trumpet player!" Armstrong's influence may have been a mixed blessing, however; one latter-day critic has averred that Buckner, while a technically impressive player, never developed "a sound of his own."

After the former Hampton band broke up during World War II, Buckner worked and recorded with Benny Carter, Kid Ory, and Hampton's new band in the 1940s and 1950s. In the mid-1950s he formed his own group to record and tour the West Coast, and he released ten albums during the 1950s and early 1960s, including A Salute to Louis Armstrong (1957). Buckner also gained national attention for his solo work on "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" while playing with Ory's band on live radio broadcasts from New Orleans in the mid-1950s. During that decade, he worked with Texas guitarist Aaron (T-Bone) Walker and the legendary New Orleans clarinetist–saxophonist Sidney Bechet. His trumpet playing was featured in the film Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), and he also appeared in D.O.A. (1950), The Wild Party (1956), St. Louis Blues (1958), 4 for Texas (1963), the short film The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes (1964), and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Into the 1980s he continued to lead his own band, which worked regularly at Disneyland from 1965 to 1981. He died in Los Angeles on September 22, 1994.

All Music Guide website (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=B7ddnvwrva9uk), accessed February 12, 2002. Big Bands Database Plus (http://bbdb.us/b9.html), accessed September 16, 2015. John Chilton, Who's Who of Jazz: From Storyville to Swing Street (London: Bloomsbury Book Shop, 1970; American ed., New York and Philadelphia: Chilton, 1972; 4th ed., New York: Da Capo Press, 1985).

  • Music
  • Genres (Jazz)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Buckner, John Edward [Teddy],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/buckner-john-edward-teddy.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 27, 2006
September 10, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: