Muggsy Spanier was a member of the famed Austin High Gang and fell for jazz the minute he saw King Oliver playing live in Chicago. His first professional job came in 1921 with the Elmer Schoebel band. In 1927 Muggsy cut his first sides with the Chicago Rhythm Kings alongside Frank Teschemacher on clarinet, Mezz Mezzrow on tenor saxophone, Gene Krupa on drums and Eddie Condon on banjo and vocals. Muggsy was back in the studio in 1928 with the Jungle Kings which was the same group except George Wettling replaced Krupa on drums. In 1929 Spanier joined Ted Lewis and his Band appearing in two films, "Is Everybody Happy?"(1929) and "Here Comes The Band"(1935).
He joined Ben Pollack's group in 1936 but left the band in 1938 due to a debilitating alcohol related illness that almost killed him. Returning to music in 1939, Muggsy led several traditional / "hot" jazz bands, most notably Muggsy Spanier and His Ragtime Band (which did not, in fact, play ragtime but, rather, "hot jazz" that would now be called Dixieland. This band set the style for all later attempts to play traditional jazz with a swing rhythm section. It's key members, apart from Muggsy, were: George Brunies - later Brunis- (trombone and vocals), Rodney Cless (clarinet), George Zack or Joe Bushkin (piano), Ray McKinstry, Nick Ciazza or Bernie Billings (tenor sax), and Bob Casey (bass). A number of competent but unmemorable drummers worked in the band.
The Ragtime Band's theme tune was "Relaxin' at the Touro", named for Touro Infirmary, the New Orleans hospital where Muggsy had been treated for a perforated ulcer early in 1938. He had been at the point of death when he was saved by one Dr. Alton Ochsner who drained the fluid and eased Muggsy's weakened breathing.
Relaxin' At The Touro" is a fairly straightforward 12 bar blues, with a neat piano introduction and coda by Joe Bushkin. The pianist recalled, many years later: "When I finally joined Muggsy in Chicago (having left Bunny Berigan's failing big band) we met to talk it over at the Three Deuces, where Art Tatum was appearing. Muggsy was now playing opposite Fats Waller at the Sherman hotel and we worked out a kind of stage show for the two bands. Muggsy was a man of great integrity. We played a blues in C and I made up a little intro. After that I was listed as the co-composer of "Relaxin' at the Touro".
In his time, Muggsy made numerous Dixieland recordings that still serve as favorites today. Apart from the famous Ragtime Band, his other most important venture was the traditional band he co-led with pianist Earl Hines at the Club Hangover in San Francisco in the 1950s.
Although Muggsy's real name was Francis Joseph Julian Spanier, he acquired the nickname "Muggsy" either because of his youthful enthusiasm for a baseball hero ("Muggsy" McGraw), or because of his obsession with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. He was known to have shadowed and "mugged" both of them, copying their styles and incorporating them into his own music. He was allowed, on at least one occasion, to sit in with King Oliver's band (with Louis Armstrong on second cornet) at the Lincoln Gardens, Chicago, in the early 1920s.
He ended his days in the 1960s, leading a traditional jazz band that included old friends like Joe Sullivan (piano), Pops Foster (bass) and Darnell Howard (clarinet). Illness forced Spanier's retirement in 1964 after playing The Newport Jazz Festival, and he died on February 12th, 1967, at the age of 60, in Sausalito, California. (info mainly Wikipedia)