Bunny Berigan and the Saturday Night Swing Club -“Down By the Old Mill Stream” (1936)

“Down by the Old Mill Stream”

Composed by Tell Taylor and Arthur Clough; unknown arranger.

Recorded live on October 31, 1936 from a broadcast of the Saturday Night Swing Club over the CBS radio network.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, with the CBS house band directed by Johnny Augustine. Probable personnel: Lloyd Williams, Mike Miolla, unknown, possibly Dave Wade or Cliff Natoli, trumpets; Wilbur Schwichtenberg (Will Bradley), Joe Vargas and Jerry Colonna, trombones; Artie Manners and Pete Pumiglio, alto saxophones; Hank Ross and Irving “Babe” Russin, tenor saxophones; Walter Gross, piano; Vincent Maffei or Frank Worrell, guitar; Lou Shoobe, bass; Johnny Williams, drums.

This broadcast emanated from the main CBS studio location, 485 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The CBS announcer was George Hogan.

Note: This is a more detailed analysis of Bunny Berigan’s time at CBS in 1936 than appears at swingandbeyond.com.

The story – Part 1: CBS – Haven and incubator for talented people.

Bunny Berigan’s on-again-off-again relationship with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), which began in 1931 and continued until early 1937, has rarely been explained in any fashion that can make it understandable. In essence, CBS in the 1930s was a great place to work if one was a top-flight musician. The pay was excellent. Opportunities to use and indeed improve one’s overall musicianship abounded. Generally, the atmosphere was stimulating. CBS was peopled by a lot of very talented musicians, actors, producers, singers, writers and technicians of every sort. The basic orientation of the network, which was guided from the top by CBS president William Paley, was one of quality in programming, and variety – wide variety.

Last, but certainly not least, there was an air of glamour about CBS then. Many of the people who worked at CBS in the 1930s went onto successful careers in the entertainment business.

Andre’ Kostelenetz – 1930s.

CBS in the mid-1930s, was a haven and incubator for some of the most creative people on the entertainment and broadcasting scene at that time. The musical fare at CBS then was so widely varied that it boggles the mind, especially when compared with the generally homogeneous and unimaginative offerings found on radio today. At CBS, one could within a single broadcast day, run the gamut from outright concert music (The Ford Sunday Evening Hour), to the light classics, with André Kostelanetz, to pop singer Kate Smith, to the eccentric quasi-swing stylings of Raymond Scott, to The Saturday Night Swing Club, which had a great deal to do with establishing swing and jazz as a part of the American cultural scene.

Orson Welles – 1930s.

In addition, there was a wide variety of what are now called “scripted shows,” from soap operas to dramas to comedies. The Mercury Theater of the Air, under the wildly unconventional leadership of the prodigious Orson Welles, was allowed to appear and thrive on CBS radio. The music for Welles’s radio dramas was provided by CBS staffer Bernard Herrmann, who followed Welles to Hollywood, and composed the music for Welles’s classic film Citizen Kane. Herrmann later went on to a now legendary collaboration with film director Alfred Hitchcock, composing the music for such memorable films as Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, and Psycho. (1)

Edward R. Murrow – 1930s.

The mid-1930s also marked the beginnings of the renowned news division at CBS, which ultimately produced the first superstar news person: Edward R. Murrow. (2)

By 1938, CBS was broadcasting, via live relay from WGAR in Cleveland on Sunday afternoons, the first network radio program that was dedicated to Afro-Americans: Wings over Jordan. It came to be recognized as the first radio program of the American civil rights movement.

CBS was not the largest radio network in America (NBC was), but it could certainly claim to be the most creative and inclusive. Bunny Berigan was at CBS in the midst of this heady atmosphere, and he encountered many people there whose creative outlook must have been a healthy antidote for the very often grueling and stultifying work he had to do in the music department. Berigan, like every other musician at CBS in the early and mid-1930s, functioned as a “pool musician,” one of many cogs in the large and diverse musical machine that produced music of every sort for a wide variety of programming. This kind of work could become tedious and stultifying if done over a long period of time.

The Berigan home at 83-28 Sixty-third Avenue, Rego Park, Queens, New York.

The nation was deeply mired in an economic depression in the mid-1930s. Berigan’s work at CBS, tedious and exhausting as it often was, paid very well, and due to his schedule there, he was free most evenings to take outside jobs. Some of these, like the ones with Joe Moss at the Meyer Davis office, were hardly satisfying in the musical sense, but they paid well. Financially speaking, Bunny was doing very well through the mid-1930s. There were few musicians in New York or anywhere who were making more money in 1934–1935 than he was. His wife reported that he was often earning $500 weekly, and if this amount is multiplied by fifteen, we can approximate the value of those Depression era dollars today. It appears that by 1935, Bunny had his own car, and he and his family resided in the comfortable house at 83-28 Sixty-third Ave. Rego Park, in Queens that he had purchased upon his first return to CBS in early 1934. (3) This residence is located near Juniper Valley Park and St. John’s Cemetery, and was not far from the Forest Hills home of singer Mildred Bailey and her husband Red Norvo.

Part 2: Workaholic to alcoholic.

Bunny Berigan – 1936.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Bunny Berigan was a workaholic. Whenever he worked at CBS in New York, he always did other work on the side, including many record dates, and also some performances before audiences, likely dance jobs, as pointed out above. Although there is no doubt that Berigan loved to play the trumpet, his workaholic ways seemed to betray an obsessive dimension to his personality that undoubtedly was also involved in his deepening reliance on alcohol. His use of alcohol had progressed to the abuse stage during the year 1934 while he was at CBS. A destructive pattern of Berigan overworking, then drinking, followed by him collapsing on occasion as a result of being drunk had started.

Undoubtedly, the long hours, and downtime between broadcasts at CBS, on top of the incredible demands of playing a wide variety of music on live network radio on a stop watch schedule, plus his outside work, all combined to increase his perceived need for alcohol to help him get through. Unfortunately, when the rare opportunity to play a little jazz came along, Bunny was often too tapped out and/or inebriated to play at the top of his ability. His use of alcohol to “help” him at such times often had precisely the opposite effect. Still, he was able to stop drinking periodically, or reduce his intake to levels where he was not incapacitated, no doubt to convince himself that he didn’t have a problem. His coworkers knew differently. He now had to have alcohol to perform at all. He was in the process of learning how to be a functioning alcoholic.

Alcohol was not only affecting Bunny Berigan’s ability to play the trumpet and his professional reliability, it was also beginning to affect his behavior.         

Buddy Sheppard, one of the musicians he worked with at CBS, recalled how Bunny was beginning to behave:

Berigan in 1936.

“Members of the various bands would receive a weekly schedule of the shows we’d play and the names of the conductors, Fred Rich, Howard Barlow, Leith Stevens, etc. Bunny Berigan at that time was a sensational musician who would almost shock us with his daring improvisations. It was always a thrill to hear him. As a person, however, he was an enigma. He could be very nice, very easy-going, but after a heavy drinking bout he could get nasty. He had many run-ins with the authorities, like the famous one with Kate Smith on her radio show. Kate was very proper and very religious and reacted strongly to an outburst of Berigan profanity! Bunny was banished from the studio and the whole episode took an awful lot of smoothing over! (4)

The incident Buddy Sheppard referred to, like so many others involving Bunny Berigan, has been greatly embellished over the years. He was certainly not fired by CBS for whatever he did. He was simply removed from the Kate Smith show, temporarily. Indeed, there is evidence that he returned later in 1935 to play often on the Kate Smith show. “Bunny’s famous ‘run-in’ with Kate Smith was indeed well known to many members of the CBS staff orchestra(s), but none interviewed could offer details of the event nor help ‘date’ it. All agreed Smith attempted to have Bunny fired, but he had only been ‘removed’ from her shows. (5) Kate Smith and her manager, Ted Collins, were held in very low esteem by most of the CBS musicians, but by 1935–36, when the event probably took place, Smith was an important source of income for CBS and she certainly had the ability to demand that something be done.” (6)  

There can be no justification of this lapse in professional demeanor by Berigan; however, there were undoubtedly reasons why it happened. Bunny, like all musicians, resented people like Kate Smith, whose musical background was limited, telling him how to play. Moreover, the musical level of the Kate Smith show was minuscule, so Bunny was probably already irritated by having to be a part of that. Add the exhaustion and boredom and tedium that were becoming greater the longer Bunny stayed at CBS, a bit of alcoholic fuel, and you have a blowup.

Berigan – 1936.

By January of 1935, Bunny Berigan had completed another full year as a CBS staff musician since returning to the network the previous year. Although he was superbly equipped to be a studio musician from the technical standpoint, he was far less well suited temperamentally to do this kind of work. He was first and foremost a jazz musician, and his duties at CBS gave him almost no opportunity to play jazz there. He chafed at the constant restrictions and confinement his employment at CBS imposed on him. His increased reliance upon alcohol and chronic overwork away from CBS were direct results of the ongoing frustration within him caused by this situation.

There were indeed other run-ins with the authorities at CBS. Trumpeter Ruby Weinstein recalled: 

“I first met Bunny Berigan when I was working with Victor Young on the Ponds radio show and we also did the Lucky Strike program with Lennie Hayton’s forty-piece orchestra, when Mr. Hill, president of the tobacco company, was alive. He gave strict orders not to deviate from the melody, so when Bunny was given a chorus, he obeyed the instruction at rehearsal. But when we went on the air, he took such liberties with the tune that Mr. Hill nearly had a fit and fired the entire orchestra! Hayton had a thirteen weeks contract and as we’d only worked for three, they had to pay him for the remaining ten weeks. Naturally, we, the musicians, didn’t get paid!” (7)

(Note: What Ruby Weinstein apparently meant was that the musicians were evidently reassigned to other duties at CBS, and didn’t work on that show any more. That makes little sense however, because the “problem” of Berigan improvising could have been solved by simply reassigning him. MZ) In any event, Bunny left CBS in July of 1935 to join Benny Goodman’s band, which was headed across the country to California.

Part 3: Berigan as a star at CBS – Saturday Night Swing Club.

In early June of 1936, Bunny Berigan returned again to CBS. Although the White materials are somewhat sketchy regarding this development, to me it is not likely that Berigan returned to CBS with the same duties he had had previously, working as a more or less on-call “pool musician.” The big difference was that now CBS was launching the weekly Saturday Night Swing Club (SNSC) program that at least in the beginning was built around Bunny Berigan. (8) We also know that singer Lee Wiley was then being featured regularly on CBS. In fact, Bunny and Wiley appeared together on a half-hour CBS broadcast immediately before the inaugural Swing Club broadcast, and on several other occasions. It was at this time that their liaison became closer and more intense.

Paul Douglas

The first SNSC showfeatured, in addition to Berigan, Frank Trumbauer, Lee Wiley, Red Norvo, and “swing commentator” Paul Douglas. (9)  What Bunny’s other duties at CBS in 1936 were in addition to SNSC and his occasional appearances with Lee Wiley, is not clear. But a careful review of Bob Inman’s Swing Era Scrapbook (see below) seems to indicate that although Bunny could have been a member of one or more of CBS’s jazz-oriented bands (with names like: the Dictators, the Merry Makers, the Instrumentalists) that broadcast at irregular times during the week, Inman did not ever identify any such appearance by him. My opinion therefore is that Berigan did not appear with these groups regularly, and possibly not at all.

“On June 13 at 8:00 p.m. over station WABC, a new and better swing program went on the air. The program is in the capable hands of Paul Douglas as announcer and commentator and Bunny Berigan with his band augmented by CBS staff musicians. The plan is to air the best swing musicians who understand it and who have always been its prophets. Therefore, guest artists are invited to sit in. On June 13 it was Red Norvo. On June 20 the guest was Red Nichols and his Five Pennies and again the program clicked. On June 27 the time was given to the Democratic convention, but for the first Saturday in July more good swing and more good swing artists are promised.” (10)

Here are the recollections of a number of people who were involved with the Saturday Night Swing Club, starting with Phil Cohan, the head of CBS’s program department, and producer of the show:

“The ingredients of the Saturday Night Swing Club included a good house band, couple of good staff arrangers, producers, writers and announcers who are hot fans themselves. Big name guests, two hours of rehearsing, available radio time on a Saturday night. The first shows were not so hot; they needed to have ‘balance’ i.e.: variety. Rehearsals were not called before 4 p.m. which didn’t leave much time to do all things, and not too many hot soloists were in New York City in the summer. Assistant producer Ed Cashman had a lot of radio experience to bring to the show. Hot men were not only willing but eager to play the show for union scale. Frankie Trumbauer flew all the way from Maine to guest. Bob Smith worked on scripts. When Bunny Berigan left, Leith Stevens, a CBS staff conductor, took over.” (11)

Lee Wiley, who was very much a part of the New York jazz scene then recalled: “the Saturday Night Swing Club show was one I dearly loved. Bunny was playing so great at that time. The orchestra consisted mostly of regular studio men at CBS, with the addition of some famous guests each week. Leith Stevens used to conduct the band and Bunny did the playing. Later on (pianist) Walter Gross took over and Ray Scott played the piano.” (12)

Lee Wiley – 1936.

Guitarist Frank Worrell had a more detailed recollection: “I started at CBS in late 1932 after working for about a year with Freddy Martin’s first band and remained as staff guitarist for about eight years. I guess Bunny came in first around 1934 and returned a couple of years later. He really was without fear and would play anything that came into his head. As a result, he probably hit more clams than any of his contemporaries.

If you were to have a meal with him, he would talk very little and usually had to go somewhere right after. We all drank quite a bit and Bunny was no exception, but no worse than the rest of us. But he let it affect his life, indeed it took his life. Sometimes he might be late for a broadcast; sometimes he might not show at all. I vaguely knew about the Lee Wiley affair, but nobody talked about it much. She seemed to be doing very well, but after Bunny she suddenly disappeared back home and out of the limelight.

Bunny never prepared a solo, although many guys did, particularly for radio, even writing out little sketches. If Bunny was in any doubt as to a chord in the tune, he’d check the piano part during a ‘five’ (five minute recess) and when he came to that bar, he would have something ready that was damned nice.

Frank Worrell accompanies singer Doris Kerr on the CBS Saturday Night Swing Club show of March 20, 1937.

One time, Nat Natoli was talking about the days when he and Bunny were playing together with Paul Whiteman. Bunny was making $300 a week, pretty good money for those days, and hating the whole thing. He was always bitching that if he could only get $200 together all at once, he’d leave the damn band and go into business for himself in radio or recording! But he was always in hock to somebody. He owed his paycheck often before he got it! His reputation was pretty bad as far as reliability and maturity went, but from my own experience, you didn’t have to be late very often to get that kind of reputation. And let’s face it, when he did show up, you had a pretty fair trumpet player!” (13) 

Drummer Johnny Williams, father of legendary film composer John Williams, was also there, as was bassist Lou Shoobe:

Drummer Johnny Williams on a Saturday Night Swing Club broadcast. The trumpeter behind him is Nat Natoli. This photo, and the one above of Frank Worrell, were taken on March 20, 1937 at CBS Playhouse – 251 West 45th Street in Manhattan.

Williams: “The Saturday Night Swing Club program was really an extension of Bunny’s Blue Boys. We got a terrific amount of mail for the ‘Blue Boys’ shows, especially as they were daytime programs. Anyway, Cohan comes up with the idea of expanding them at a better time, with Bunny taking over as leader. We were all pretty excited. Here was a chance for the jazz guys to do something on the air. But Bunny had to screw it up after the first couple of shows. Would you believe he couldn’t even walk—in the middle of the afternoon! They had to send out for Leith Stevens to come and take over the orchestra and Bunny didn’t stay to finish the show! It was such a shame, because we had real freedom at first on the choice of material, guests, etc. We’d sit down with Bunny and map out our plans for the program. However, despite Bunny’s unreliability, the show was more successful than many commercial programs of the period, which surprised the ‘powers-that-be,’ who had given us Saturday night, which was considered to be a poor night for radio, because everybody went out.” (13) (See below for some facts balancing Johnny Williams’s recollection of Berigan’s “unreliability.”)

Lou Shoobe – 1937.

Lou Shoobe: (14) “I worked with Bunny on the Saturday Night Swing Club program and also on many other shows. The guests on that show included just about everybody with any rating in jazz or popular music. Everybody at CBS liked the show, including conductors, musicians and administrators. Freddy Rich, Leith Stevens, Ray Block and others all wanted to conduct the orchestra on that show.” (15)

While the Saturday Night Swing Club was taking shape, the trade press reported the goings-on at the Club 18 in the wake of his departure from its cozy confines: “Bunny Berigan has left the 18 Club. CBS has asked him to come back and lead a swing unit for them. Bunny and his 14 Little Hares swing out regularly on Saturday evenings for that web. At the club Berigan left behind, Red McKenzie is carrying on with Stew Pletcher on trumpet, Herbie Haymer on tenor, Slats Long on clarinet, plus the original Famous Door rhythm section.”  “Bunny Berigan has left Club 18, where he played with Red McKenzie, and now has rejoined CBS. On Saturday, June 13, he appeared on WABC’s first swing program at 8.00 p.m., leading his own combination and in future he will be a regular feature on this hour.” (16)

Another photo from March 20, 1937 Saturday Night Swing Club – Fats Waller and Art Shaw.

Part 4: Was Berigan “unreliable”?

I must comment about the recollections of the musicians cited above, specifically Frank Worrell and Johnny Williams, who both worked with Bunny at CBS over a period of several years. This observation applies to the recollections of others made many years after the occurrence of a given event as well. It seems to me that peoples’ memories often jumble facts after a lengthy period of time separates them from the incidents they are recalling. Memories from 1933 are scrambled with those of 1936, for example, when being recalled in the 1950s, ‘60s, or later. Also, people very often superimpose on their incomplete remembrances after the fact information to “fill out the story.” The result may be an entertaining anecdote, but as history, it is of dubious value, and often outright misleading. I will therefore attempt to balance these anecdotes, as much as possible, with facts from other sources that contain information that was recorded almost contemporaneously with the events under discussion.

I have found The Swing Era Scrapbook—The Teenage Diaries and Radio Logs of Bob Inman, 1936–1938, compiled by Ken Vail, Scarecrow Press (2005), to be an absolute treasure trove of information about the New York swing scene during that time. Inman was a high school student who lived near New York City then. He was also a very bright and perceptive young man who had the resources, critically and financially, to seek out and listen to hundreds of live performances by just about every major, and a good many minor bands that played in and around New York in those years. The truly remarkable thing is that he meticulously made and kept notes of these experiences during or shortly after having them. It is these notes that are now The Swing Era Scrapbook. Inman saw Bunny Berigan perform in person on many occasions, and heard him on radio on many more occasions. He met and talked with Berigan and a number of his sidemen, both from the SNSC band and, a little later, from Bunny’s own band. The details of each such occurrence were recorded immediately thereafter in his diary. The Swing Era Scrapbook contains dozens of entries concerning Bunny Berigan. Although I have found a few minor errors in The Swing Era Scrapbook, I regard it as a very authoritative source of information about both the swing era and Berigan.

Bunny Berigan – 1936 .

Inman made note of the first Saturday Night Swing Club broadcast, but then seemed not to have listened to or made any notes about another Swing Club broadcast until August 1, 1936. From that date until February 27, 1937, when Bunny appeared for the last time on SNSC as a “regular,” Inman attended at least eleven shows within the intimate confines of CBS Studio One, 485 Madison Avenue, and he took detailed notes of these and all the other shows while listening to them over WABC–New York. The first weekly SNSC show, on June 13, 1936, aired at 8:30 p.mThe next show aired at 8:00 p.m., and this time continued until October 3, 1936, when it changed to 6:45 p.m. The show was a half hour in length, fast-paced, and packed with music. Frequently, at least ten different selections were played. The CBS band on SNSC during this period was conducted by regular CBS conductors, including Leith Stevens, Mark Warnow, Fred Rich, and Johnny Augustine, who alternated in some fashion.

From June 13, 1936 to February 27, 1937, there were thirty-one SNSC shows, and Bunny Berigan appeared on twenty-eight of them. On one show that he missed (November 7, 1936), he was in Boston working in the musical production The Show Is On. On December 26, 1936, it was announced that he was ill, and he may have been; but he also worked with Tommy Dorsey’s band during Christmas week on one of the few gigs outside of Manhattan that he did with them. On the other date (February 20, 1937), he was on tour with his own new big band. Ultimately, his duties as leader of his band are what took him away from the Swing Club. As will be detailed below, Bunny was also extremely busy with other activities during this period.

Given these facts, I do not think much credence should be given to anecdotes recalled long after the fact about Berigan’s “irresponsibility” during this time (1936 into 1937). A more accurate assessment would be that Bunny Berigan continued to be a workaholic, in addition to being a alcoholic. Nevertheless, he almost always showed up where and when he was supposed to, and functioned at a very high level as a trumpet virtuoso and inspired jazz soloist during this time.

Although there are reports that Bunny was rehearsing his own big band, and taking it out for occasional dates near New York City, it does not appear that whatever band he was leading that summer occupied a great deal of his time. He continued to make records at ARC as both a sideman and leader for the remainder of 1936. I suspect that now, he chose the dates he made at ARC more carefully than he had in the past. On June 23, he worked a session as a part of what was billed as “Dick McDonough and His Orchestra,” which really was a small group used to back singer Buddy Clark. That summer he also appeared with Billie Holiday on her first records as a leader. There is also a possibility that on occasion in the summer of 1936, he worked with Mark Warnow’s “Blue Velvet” orchestra, which broadcast over CBS on Thursday evenings at 9:00. (17)  My opinion is that if he worked on any CBS shows other than SNSC, it would have been infrequently if at all. Bunny’s managers were trying to build up his name, and that is best done by carefully managing how and when the name and the talent behind it are used.

Berigan solos at CBS on a Saturday Night Swing Club broadcast – 1936.

The music:

This performance was designed to basically illustrate the difference between playing a tune, even one as old-fashioned as “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” straight, and then playing jazz on it. Although this may seem rather obvious to us in 2020, we have to remember that this performance took place more than 80 years ago, that much of jazz itself had not yet developed, and that the understanding of the average person listening to the Saturday Night Swing Club about jazz was probably nearly non-existent.

In listening to this performance today, certain things are apparent about Berigan’s playing: His marvelously burnished and resonant trumpet sound is on full display here. His ability to play melodies straight is also well demonstrated. (That was an essential skill for his work at CBS when he was used there as a staff musician in the early 1930s.) What is so quintessentially Beriganesque about his unadorned melody exposition here is that by whatever alchemy, his playing evokes melancholy in the listener.That was a part of his musical persona.

I suspect that his use of the lower register in the melody part of this performance was Bunny’s idea – it would show off not only his uncommon command of his lower register, but it would also set up a contrast to the jazz in the second half of his performance, which is played in higher registers.There is also rhythmic contrast between the first part, which is played at a slow tempo, and with little or no syncopation, and the second part where the tempo moves up, and there is abundant syncopation.The cadenza at the end leads to a sequence that resembles what Berigan would do when he made his iconic Victor recording of “I Can’t Get Started” some eight months later.


“A Formal Night in Harlem”

As a special treat, I am presenting here for the first time a recording that has been lost since late 1936 when it was made – “A Formal Night in Harlem.” This was recorded from the CBS broadcast of the Saturday Night Swing Club on December 5, 1936, and  certainly has not been heard publicly since that date. I must thank Karl Pearson, collector of vintage recordings par excellence, for rescuing this unique recording from oblivion, and sharing it with me when he learned that I was preparing a post featuring Bunny Berigan at the Saturday Night Swing Club. I know that you will pardon the hiss and crackle in this recording because it comes from a one-of-a-kind acetate disk that unfortunately was played quite a bit and damaged by whomever “owned” it starting in late 1936. The CBS announcer, whose voice is barely audible in the introduction, is Paul Douglas. The personnel for the CBS house band is similar to that set forth above.

The recordings presented in this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo. “A Formal Night in Harlem” required a good bit of audio restoration as well.


(1) A vivid summary of so-called serious music at CBS in the 1930s is to be found in A Heart at Fire’s Center, The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann, by Steven C. Smith, University of California Press (1991).

(2) Edward R. Murrow gathered around him at CBS a great number of exceptional broadcast journalists including: Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, and Daniel Schorr. Mr. Schorr was the last survivor of that illustrious group, working as a senior news analyst on National Public Radio until his death in 2010.

(3) White materials: April 20, 1935. One recollection has the Berigan family living in a house. Another has them living in an apartment. Currently, 83-28 Sixty-third Avenue, Rego Park, Queens is in a residential neighborhood block that contains spacious brick homes that are contiguous, so I guess both characterizations are correct.

(4) White materials: January 1, 1935.

(5) Robert Dupuis in his biography of Berigan offered an explanation of what happened between Berigan and Kate Smith in his Berigan biography, at page 97. There is no indication as to where the information to support this report came from however.

(6) Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born on May 1, 1907, in Greenville, Virginia. As Kate Smith, she began her recording career in the late 1920s, then moved on to a popular radio program on NBC, then on to a series of ever more popular radio shows on CBS built around her singing, starting in 1931. Smith was a large woman who weighed about 230 pounds, and was the object of many jokes by musicians at CBS. Her commercial success was no joke, however. She went on to even greater popularity in the 1940s, fueled by her singing of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” during the trying years of World War II. She made a successful transition from radio to television and had continued success in that medium in the 1950s. She died on June 17, 1986, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(7) White materials: January 1, 1935.

(8) There is much excellent Berigan playing on the extant recordings made of the Saturday Night Swing Club broadcasts on which he appeared. Presumably, all of the shows were recorded. Unfortunately, only a few of those recordings have been issued to date.

(9) Swing Era Scrapbook: 25.

(10) The American Music Lover: July 1936, cited in the White materials: June 13, 1936. The American Music Lover was a monthly periodical published from 1935–1944 in New York City by Peter Hugh Reed. Reed was the editor, and the AML, which was subtitled “The Record Conoisseur’s Magazine,” consisted of record notes and reviews. After August 1944, it was known as Listener’s Record Guide. Information regarding this publication comes from big band historian Christopher Popa.

(11) Down Beat: April 1938, cited in the White materials: June 13, 1936.

(12) White materials: June 13, 1936.

(13) Ibid.

(14) Lou Shoobe was a bass player who worked at CBS in the 1930s, and became known to the public as a result of his work as the bassist with the Raymond Scott Quintette. He later became a music contractor at CBS and independently, and as such was responsible for hiring musicians for literally thousands of radio and television shows and recording sessions in New York during a career that extended into the 1960s.

(15)  White materials: June 13, 1936.

(16) Metronome: July 1936, and Tempo: July 1936; both cited in White materials: June 13, 1936.

(17) White materials: June 24, 1936; See also Swing Era Scrapbook: 37.

One thought on “Bunny Berigan and the Saturday Night Swing Club -“Down By the Old Mill Stream” (1936)

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  1. Great to see the expanded edition here. … I never cared for Kate Smith’s singing and developed a positive antipathy for her after first reading of her attempts to tell Bunny how to play trumpet in the Robert Dupuis book!

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