Born: October 11, 1903 | Died: 1941 Primary Instrument: Piano
Teddy Weatherford, a highly rated and legendary pianist, has been an obscure and mysterious figure whose few records are prized by collectors. His resume and career traverse international boundaries in his quest to present American jazz in the far corners of the globe. Back then, when the jazz label got pasted on any music that moved, there was some confusion abroad about just what jazz was. Was its essence syncopation or improvisation? Was it considered futuristic, or a novelty act with drummers doing tricks with sticks? Was it folk music or a more refined expression? For that reason, American musicians on foreign soil were enormously important locally, even if little remembered back home.
Theodore Weatherford was born on Oct. 11, 1903, in West Virginia. He moved with his family to New Orleans as a child, where he studied the piano, then to Chicago in 1921, where he was reputed to have impressed a young Earl Hines with his piano virtuosity.
Weatherford recorded as a sideman with Jimmy Wade's Moulin Rouge Orchestra the years of 1923 to ’24. He went on to wax with Erskine Tate's Vendome Orchestra in 1926, a band that included Louis Armstrong.
He left the USA in 1926 for Asia as a member of Jack Carter’s Orchestra, where he stayed for eight years. While in Shanghai in 1929, he recruited Buck Clayton for his band for a season there in 1934. After a brief return visit to the states, he went back overseas where he joined Cricket Smith's band in Jakarta, Indonesia. Weatherford took over leadership of Smith's band in Ceylon in 1937. By the 1940’s he had settled in Calcutta, where he recorded some interesting small group sessions, and did broadcasts for the Armed Forces Radio.
Seven solos made during Paris visit to 1937 International Exhibition have been issued on various compilations, revealing swing resembling James P. Johnson and treble voicing that may have influenced Earl Hines. He also made eight tracks for EMI/Columbia while in India in 1942, four with bass and drums, four in an octet, Weatherford doing vocals on six.
Teddy Weatherford died of cholera in Calcutta, in 1941, aged 41.