Muggsy Spanier Day

November 9, 1901 – February 12, 1967

The hot cornetist is remembered

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Cornetist Francis “Muggsy” Spanier was born on November 9, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois.

Spanier began on the drums before switching permanently to the cornet when he was 13.

A professional by the time he was 15, Spanier became one of the most significant cornetists based in Chicago during the 1920s.

He worked with Elmer Schoebel (1921), Sig Meyers (1922-24), Charlie Straight, Charles Pierce, Floyd Town (1925-28) and Ray Miller, making his earliest recordings with the Bucktown Five in 1924.

Spanier, who was influenced by King Oliver and to a lesser extent Louis Armstrong, always had his own sound and he added a strong jazz content during 1929-36 to Ted Lewis’ band.

After a stint with Ben Pollack’s big band (1936-38), Spanier survived a serious illness and in 1939 led his Ragtimers, a four-horn eight-piece dixieland band that recorded 16 selections which would inspire the dixieland revival movement.

Unfortunately the group was not able to find much work during the height of the swing era so Spanier became a member of the Bob Crosby Orchestra during 1940-41 and led his own similar big band during 1941-43.

From 1944 on, Muggsy Spanier was mostly heard in freewheeling combos, usually as a leader other than dates with Eddie Condon and in the 1950s with Earl Hines, staying active until 1964.

The cornetist is heard in top form on “At The Jazz Band Ball” from an episode of Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual television series in 1963.


Muggsy Spanier, cornet
Darnell Howard, clarinet
Bob Mielke, trombone
Joe Sullivan, piano
Pops Foster, bass
Earl Watkins, drums

-Scott Yanow


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