Freddie Slack

Photo of Freddie Slack
  • Birth Name

    Frederick Charles Slack
  • Born

    August 7, 1910
    Westby, Wisconsin
  • Died

    August 10, 1965 (age 55)
    Hollywood, California

Bandleader and pi­anist Freddie Slack is best re­mem­bered for his boo­gie-woo­gie rhythms of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Slack was a very ca­pa­ble pi­anist and quite able to per­form­ing other kinds of mu­sic, and in fact he pre­ferred to do so. His ma­jor fault, though, was that he never tried very hard to break from the boo­gie-woo­gie genre. Each at­tempt to rein­vent him­self seemed to lead right back to an eight-beat bar.

Originally trained on the drums, Slack at­tended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and from 1927 to 1931 worked with Johnny Tobin’s or­ches­tra. In 1931, he moved to Los Angeles, where he spent time in the or­ches­tras of Henry Halstead, Earl Burtnett, Archie Rosate, and Lennie Hayton. In the mid-1930s he joined Ben Pollack, leav­ing in 1936 to work with Jimmy Dorsey.

While with Dorsey’s band, Slack be­came good friends with drum­mer Ray McKinley. When McKinley left Dorsey to form an or­ches­tra with trom­bon­ist Will Bradley, Slack went with him and emerged as a key com­po­nent in the new group’s boo­gie woo­gie stylings.

Slack left Bradley and McKinley in 1941 and formed his own or­ches­tra in 1942. He fol­lowed in his for­mer em­ploy­er’s foot­steps, rid­ing the then-cur­rent boo­gie-woo­gie craze. His band be­came one of the first signed to the newly-formed Capitol Records and gave the la­bel its first big hit, Cow Cow Boogie.” Slack’s most fa­mous vo­cal­ists was Ella Mae Morse. Other singers over the years in­cluded David Allen, Imogene Lynn, and per­haps Jimmy Cook. Future ex­ot­ica or­ches­tra leader Les Baxter served as arranger.

Slack dis­banded his or­ches­tra in the early 1950s but con­tin­ued to per­form on the West Coast as part of a pi­ano duo and with his own trio. Slack also wrote sev­eral songs dur­ing his ca­reer, the most pop­u­lar be­ing The House of Blue Lights,” co-au­thored with Don Raye. Freddie Slack passed away in 1965.


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  • Cow Cow Boogie
    Freddie Slack (Ella Mae Morse), Capitol (1942)
  • Mister Five by Five
    Freddie Slack (Ella Mae Morse), Capitol (1942)

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    "Cow Cow Boogie"
    Freddie Slack (Ella Mae Morse)
    from the film Reveille With Beverly, Columbia (1943)

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