Norma Teagarden. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Norma Teagarden

Pianist and vocalist Norma Teagarden was born in Vernon, Texas in 1911, the sister of Jack and Charlie Teagarden.  She started her career in music in Oklahoma City around 1926 and played in various territory bands in the Southwest until 1935, when she moved back to Oklahoma City and began leading her own band.

From 1944 to 1947 and from 1952 to 1955, she toured with her brother, trombone giant Jack Teagarden's band. When not leading her own band or performing with Jack, she worked with jazz greats Ben Pollack, Matty Matlock and Ray Bauduc, and others.

Norma Teagarden settled in San Francisco in 1957 where she remained active on the traditional jazz scene, playing alongside Turk Murphy, Dick Cary, Walter Page, Carl Kress, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy McPartland, Kenny Davern and Eddie Condon. In 1963 she joined her brothers Jack and Charlie and her mother for a recorded performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. In the 1970s and 80s Norma taught piano and played long running engagements in San Francisco, notably the Washington Square Bar & Grill. In 1983 she was honored as "Empress of Jazz" at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.

Longtime San Francisco Bay Area jazz supporter Charles N. Huggins noted, “When she made the decision to marry John Friedlander and make San Francisco her home, Norma Teagarden was just 44 years old. She was by then an established rarity within the predominantly male world of jazz bands—a female jazz pianist who could not only hold her own against any male jazz pianist of those times, but excel as well artistically.”

Norma Teagarden died in 1996.