Weldon Leo Teagarden was born in Vernon, Texas on August 29, 1905. His brother Charlie Teagarden and his sister Norma Teagarden also became noted professional musicians. Teagarden's father was an amateur brass band trumpeter and started young Jack on baritone horn; by age 10 he had switched to trombone. He first heard jazz music played by the Louisiana Five and decided to play in the new style.
Teagarden's trombone style was largely self taught, and he developed many unusual alternative positions and novel special effects on the instrument. He is usually considered the most innovative jazz trombone stylist of the pre-Bebop era, and did much to expand the role of the instrument beyond the old tailgate style role of the early New Orleans brass bands.
By 1920 Jack Teagarden was playing professionally in San Antonio, Texas, including with the band of Peck Kelly. In the mid 1920s he started traveling widely aroud the United States in a quick succession of different bands, staying longest with the band of Ben Pollack. In the late 1920s he recorded with Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Red Nichols, Eddie Condon and many other jazz notables.
In the early 1930s Teagarden was based in Chicago, for some time playing with the band of Wingy Manone. From 1933 through 1938 he played with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Teagarden then started leading his own big band. He acted and played in the film "The Birth of the Blues".
In 1946 Jack Teagarden joined Louis Armstrong's All Stars. Armstrong and Teagarden's work together shows a wonderful rapport between the musicians. In late 1951 Teagarden left to again lead his own band, then co-led a band with Earl Hines, then again with a group under his own name with whom he toured Asia in 1958 and 1959.