One of the great Dixieland drummers, George Wettling's ability to alertly change patterns behind each soloist usually inspired the other musicians to play their best. He was part of the Chicago jazz scene of the 1920s (where he moved with his family in 1921), and Baby Dodds was his main idol. Wettling, who recorded with Paul Mares in the mid-'30s, was still mostly an unknown when he came to New York in 1935, playing briefly with Jack Hylton Orchestra.
He did a fine job with Artie Shaw's 1936 big band, as well as the orchestras of Bunny Berigan (1937), Red Norvo, Paul Whiteman (1938-1940), and Muggsy Spanier. However, his most rewarding work was done with small groups, notably his sessions in 1938 with a trio also including Bud Freeman and Jess Stacy; he also recorded with Jimmy McPartland, Wingy Manone, and Eddie Condon.
The Condon connection was most significant, for after stints with Joe Marsala and Ben Pollack, Wettling became a regular with Condon on his Town Hall broadcasts and at his club. Wettling's "day job" was as a staff musician at ABC (1943-1952). He worked off and on with Condon to the end of his life and also gained some notoriety for his abilities as an artist (some of his work appeared on album jackets) and as an occasional jazz critic for Downbeat and Playboy.
He played with virtually everyone in the Chicago jazz field, as well as Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet, and even Chico Marx. Although he did not lead bands on a regular basis for long, George Wettling led excellent Dixieland dates for Decca (1940), Black & White (1944), Keynote, Stycon, Columbia (1951), JSP, Kapp, and Stereocraft (1958).