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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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JENNEY, Truman Eliot "Jack" (Mason City, Iowa, May 12, 1910– Los Angeles, California, Dec. 23, 1945) Jenney, a celebrated jazz trombonist who was best known for instrumental versions of the song Stardust, was one of the United States' most popular musicians of the 1930s and 1940s. Christopher Popa, in an article for Big Band Library.com, quoted jazz critic and author Leonard Feather as saying Jenney was known "for the quiet beauty of his tone and style on sweet melodic variations, of which 'Stardust' was the most extraordinary example." (1) George T. Simon, historian and author, commented that Jenney "blew his instrument with great feeling, what for me is the warmest, most personal sound I've ever heard from any horn."

Born in Mason City, Iowa, Jenney moved to Dubuque with his family in 1910. John Jenney, his father who his son credited for his success in music, taught the brass instruments at COLUMBIA COLLEGE. He was also the founder of the Dubuque Band Academy and organized the Band Grandioso, the first touring band ever assembled in Dubuque. (2)

Jack attended PRESCOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and FRANKLIN SCHOOL and played with his father's band from age eleven. (3) He first played professionally locally at the age of thirteen with "Art Braun and his Novelty Boys," a Dubuque JAZZ band before transferring from DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL on a music scholarship for three years at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. (4) In 1926 he was a member of the orchestra that entertained Queen Marie of Romania during her visit to Chicago. (5)

Jenney's first professional job was with Austin Wylie in 1928. By 1935 he was rated at the foremost trombonist in the dancing world enabling him to earn $550 each week as he performed with Victor Young's recording orchestra. (6) He also had stints with Isham Jones (recording with the latter) and Mal Hallett (1933). Jenney was in great demand for studio work in New York, working with Victor Young, Fred Rich, radio staff orchestras and appearing on recordings with ensembles led by Red Norvo, Glenn Miller (1935), Dick McDonough, the trombonist's wife singer Kay Thompson (1937), and Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. (7) Jenney won the Down Beat Reader's Poll for trombone in 1940 and was voted into the Metronome All Star Band the same year. (8) He appeared in such movies as "Second Chorus" (1940), "Syncopation" (1942) and "Stage Door Canteen" (1943), performing in the latter with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. (9) In correlation with the movie, "Syncopation," RKO joined with the Saturday Evening Post in conducting a poll of 100 radio stations to determine what musicians the nation would prefer in a "dream team." The trombonists selected were Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden and Jenney. (10)

Jenney was one of two trombonists (the other was Jack Teagarden) who played as part of the Metronome magazine all-star band, which recorded King Porter Stomp for Columbia on February 1, 1940. In 1939-40 Jenney led his own band which included Peanuts Hucko, Paul Fredricks, and Hugo Winterhalter. (11) Although it appeared at the World's Fair and Loew's State Theatre in New York City the following year, the band became only marginally successful.

By the summer of 1940, Jenney gave up his band and accepted a position with Artie Shaw's orchestra. Jenny's trombone solo on Shaw's recording of "Stardust" with an octave leap to high F, is considered a classic jazz moment. Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC-kWPfBc1Q (12) Shaw disbanded the group in the spring of 1941, but when he organized another large band that August, Jenney re-joined him.

Jenney briefly worked with Benny Goodman's band around the end of 1942 and the start of 1943. He was drafted and served in the Navy during WORLD WAR II. During 1943-44, he led a Navy band, but was discharged for health reasons. Jenney settled in California to do studio work, but developed kidney trouble and died a short time later.

On April 19, 2007, the Iowa Senate approved a resolution making the trombone Iowa's “premier instrument.” Singled out were Glenn Miller and Jack Jenney.

In remembrance of his accomplishments, the first "Jack Jenney Music Festival" was held on June 9, 2001 in Dubuque, Iowa at EAGLE POINT PARK. The event was coordinated by Paul HEMMER and developed by the DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and the music department of the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7usT_SFy3E

We thank Paul HEMMER for the use of the following images illustrating the life of this gifted musician.

Isham Jones and his Orchestra (1933)
Mal Hallet's jazz band (1933)
Jack Jenny's CBS band.



1. Longdon, Tom, "Jack Jenney," Des Moines Register, December 28, 2008, http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/99999999/FAMOUSIOWANS/812280321

2. "Wins Fame as Trombonist," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, April 21, 1935, p. 31

3. Yanow, Scott. "Jack Jenney," All Music. Online: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jack-jenney-mn0000100636

4. Voight, Sandye, "Jenney Festival Filled With Jazz," Telegraph Herald, May 30, 2001, p. 52

5. "Wins Fame..."

6. "Wins Fame..."

7. Yanow

8. Tigges, John. They Came From Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1983, "Jack Jenney," written by Paul Hemmer, p. 30-31

9. Ibid.

10. "Former Dubuquer Is One of 14 'Kings of Swing," The Dubuque News, Apr. 9, 1942, p. 1

11. Popa, Christopher, "A Sprinkle of Star Dust," Big Band Library.com Online: http://www.bigbandlibrary.com/jackjenney.html

12. Voight

Rifftides, http://www.artsjournal.com/rifftides/2010/11/great_solos_jack_jenney_stardu.html