“I Cried for You” (1938) Bunny Berigan and Kathleen Lane

“I Cried for You”

Music and lyric by Arthur Freed, Gus Arnheim and Abe Lyman. Arranged by Joe Lippman.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra for Victor on November 22, 1938 in New York.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Johnny Napton and Irving Goodman, trumpets; Ray Conniff and Bob Jenney, trombones; Murray Williams, bass clarinet and alto saxophone; Gus Bivona, B-flat clarinet and alto saxophone; Georgie Auld and Clyde Rounds, tenor saxophones; Joe Bushkin, piano; Dick Wharton, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass; Buddy Rich, drums; Kathleen Lane, vocal.

The story:

Berigan at the Valencia Ballroom, York, PA on November 24, 1938. He is playing seated because of his broken ankle. The saxophonists are L-R: Chuck DiMaggio (subbing that night) and Gus Bivona.

Between September 24 and October 1, 1938, when the Berigan band resumed activity (after being blown out of a multi-week engagement at Boston’s Ritz Carleton Roof Garden by the Great Hurricane of 1938), by playing a one-night dance date in Westchester, New York, Bunny broke his leg or ankle. Clyde Rounds recalled the surrounding circumstances: “We were all surprised to see Bunny climb on the stand with his leg in plaster. He explained that he’d been at home, spending a rare night with his family and playing ball, when he slipped on a rug and fell. He heard and felt a sickening crack as a bone broke. Donna drove him to the hospital, where they X-rayed him and put the leg in a plaster cast. Then she drove him back to their apartment, where he rested until the Westchester date.”  ‘This crack is going to be heard all over the country,’ Bunny declared. ‘Anytime when I’ve drunk a few too many, only a very few people knew or cared, as long as the band sounded okay. And now, although I was sober, no one will ever believe it!’ I don’t know if it was because of that, but he went on the wagon for some time after his accident. “[i]

Alto saxophonist/clarinetist Gus Bivona with Berigan. Both had well-developed senses of humor.

Bunny’s broken leg or ankle slowed him down considerably. Gus Bivona had vivid memories of this situation: “Bunny had his leg in a plaster cast for five or six weeks. He used a cane to get around and a chair or a stool to rest his foot while he was playing. He claimed he’d broken his ankle at home while playing with his daughters, but I don’t know how many of the guys believed that. Sometime later, while riding in the band bus, he had his foot propped up on the heater and when the bus went over a big bump in the road, it knocked his foot down on to the floor, cracked the plaster and broke the bone again!”[i]

Berigan’s guitarist Dick Wharton reported that: “Bunny had to have the broken leg (sic) re-broken and reset. It became very painful and he went back to NYC to have it taken care of.” [ii]

Berigan’s streak of bad luck, which included the cancelled Boston residency, his broken and rebroken ankle, and an untoward incident, when he fell off the stage at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh while being tipsy,  continued.

Many of Berigan’s sidemen went on to very successful careers in music. In this photo taken outside the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh in late August 1938, L-R: Hank Wayland, Clyde Rounds, Ray Conniff, Nat Lobovsky, Joe Dixon, and Buddy Rich.

The episode where Bunny had fallen off the stage had engendered much insidious gossip in the band business. The result of this was that MCA (his booking agent) was now finding it very hard to sell the Berigan band to the operators of major theaters. It seems that Bunny’s drinking had now reached the point where he was always under the influence, to some degree. The only variable was how he was able to handle it from day to day. Trumpeter Johnny Napton remembered:  “He could talk to you at the end of the evening, and you’d have no idea that he’d knocked off a whole bottle of scotch. He could drive, he could play, and you’d never be able to tell a thing.”[iii] Gus Bivona had a slightly different take on this situation: “Don’t get me wrong. Bunny was playing good— he always played good, even when he drank. He was the best trumpet player ever!  But there were times when he was sloppy, when it just wasn’t up to what he could do.”[iv]  Ray Conniff agreed: “There was definitely some deterioration. He was drinking too much, and he missed an awful lot. But when he wasn’t drinking—well, he was the best. Really great! Inimitable! And don’t forget, things may have been getting worse, but we were having one continuous good time, like a non-stop party. And that counted for a lot.”[v]

In the 1930s, people who drank a lot were often regarded as being colorful and entertaining “characters.” In 1938, when pianist/arranger Claude Thornhill (later the leader of one of the most exquisite bands of the swing era), who was an alcoholic, went to Hollywood to work as an arranger with the Skinnay Ennis band on the Bob Hope radio show, he quickly established a reputation for eccentric behavior. Carmine Calhoun Ennis, Skinnay’s wife, recalled how Thornhill would, on occasion, enter the posh Victor Hugo restaurant, where the Ennis band often worked: “He used to come into the Hugo, laugh hysterically, and crawl around on the floor, barking at people. Being drunk in those days was looked on differently—drinking wasn’t looked on as the disease of alcoholism. If a celebrity like Claude did crazy things, it was passed off as a joke.”[vi] Although Bunny had numerous embarrassing experiences while under the influence, he never did anything quite like this.

Statuesque Kathleen Lane, pictured here in 1938, was Berigan’s best female vocalist.

At about the same time (early November 1938), the best girl vocalist Bunny ever employed joined the band. This was Kathleen “Kitty” Lane, a shapely redhead whose every attribute, definitely including her voice, exuded sex appeal. She sang both ballads and up-tempo tunes with a beat, had excellent voice quality, and very good pitch control and range. Beyond that, she was a very easygoing girl who had no attitude issues. Almost immediately, she became one of the most popular members of the Berigan band.

Through much of November 1938, the Berigan band was on the road. They returned to Manhattan just in time for their November 22 Victor recording session. In spite of the recent turnover of some of its musicians, the Berigan band that entered the RCA Victor recording studio on that date sounded very good. In addition, they finally had four excellent arrangements on four tunes that seemed to fit the style of the band to record. (#) Bunny’s old friend Leonard Joy was back in the control room that day to supervise the session, and as a result, there was very good karma in the studio. It seems that Bunny’s luck, if only temporarily, was back in a positive phase. The recordings he made on this date are among his finest.

The music:

Kathleen Lane at the November 22, 1938 Berigan recording session, singing “I Cried for You.”

The song “I Cried for You” was an oldie, but goodie, dating from 1923. The Berigan recording set off a bit of a revival of the tune. Joe Lippman provided the arrangement, and we hear Kathleen Lane’s first recording with the Berigan band. I suspect that she was not yet completely acclimated, because the RCA manifest shows that three separate masters of “I Cried for You” were cut. Two of them are extant. The issued recording is lovely except for one point in Ms. Lane’s vocal were she is a bit flat.  I had been annoyed by that little imperfection for over forty years. Since I have had the digital equipment to remaster vintage recordings—and spent many years learning how to use it, I tried many times to correct that flaw. Finally I did it. The resulting performance (which I present here) has Ms. Lane singing perfectly on pitch throughout the entire recording. I smile every time I listen to it.

A photo of the Berigan band bus – 1942.

The photo of Ms. Lane above left shows her in the Victor studio working to get her vocal on “I Cried for You” to be just right. Ms. Lane, who was a very good looking woman, looks a bit bedraggled in this photo. We rarely think about what the performers of the swing era were doing before and after they were in the studio making records. Very often, they were in the band bus, racing to the recording studio overnight after having played in some ballroom several hundred miles from Manhattan the evening before. Any sleep they might have gotten was snatched on the bus. Meals were taken on a strictly catch-as-catch-can basis. All of this was difficult for the young men who made up the bands. It was almost impossible for the girl singers with the bands who had to worry about many more issues when traveling, not the least of which was traveling almost constantly with twelve to fifteen men. Ah, the glamorous life of female big band singers!

After Kathleen Lane’s vocal chorus, Berigan enters with that warm, velvety sound of his, and creates some truly splendid jazz. Many of the trademark Berigan touches are present as he shapes his notes: glissandi, lip vibrato and trills, and lots of emotion. Tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld plays next, and his solo is also excellent. He is clearly inspired by what Berigan had just played. The band’s powerful ensembles (with Berigan leading the trumpets) after these solos are first rate. This is wonderful swing recording.

[i] White materials: October 12, 1938.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Bluebird, Vol. III

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Gil Evans—Out of the Cool; His Life and Music, by Stephanie Stein Crease, A Cappella Books, (2002) 66.

[i] White materials: October 1, 1938.

(#) The other three selections Bunny recorded that day were: “Jelly Roll Blues,” “Sobbin’ Blues,” and “‘Deed I Do.”

The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

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