Blog

Berigan at the Paradise Restaurant -“How’d You Like to Love Me?” (1938)

“How’d You Like to Love Me?”

Composed by Burton Lane (music) and Frank Loesser (lyric); arranged by Joe Lippman.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra live from the Paradise Restaurant in New York City on April 10, 1938.

Bunny Berigan first and solo trumpet; directing: Steve Lipkins, Irving Goodman, trumpets; Sonny Lee, first trombone; Al George, trombone; Mike Doty first alto saxophone, Joe Dixon, alto saxophone; Georgie Auld and Clyde Rounds, tenor saxophones;  (all saxophonists double on B-flat clarinet); Joe Lippman, piano; Tom Morgan, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass; Johnny Blowers, drums.

This is the fourth in a series of broadcast recordings by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra from the Paradise Restaurant in Manhattan in the spring of 1938.

The story: 

Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra opened at the Paradise Restaurant on March 20, 1938. That engagement was extended several times, eventually running seven weeks.  They closed at the Paradise on May 6. Berigan’s sidemen greatly enjoyed their stand at the Paradise because they were able to stay for a period of time in the band’s home, New York City. Although Bunny himself also enjoyed playing at this high-level nightclub, he was well aware of the fact that what he was being paid by the Paradise did not completely cover his weekly “nut,” that is, the overall expenses of running his band. His ability to earn some money making records for Victor while he was at the Paradise (on April 21), helped a little. But overall, Bunny’s stay at the Paradise cost him quite a bit of money. (*)

Variety reported the basic information concerning the new Paradise “review” in its March 16 issue. (Note the Depression era prices): “Bunny Berigan orchestra heads the show opening Sunday, March 20.  Acts include Lionel Rand and his boys (rhumba band), Barbara Parks, Liberto and Owens, Alan Carney, McNally Sisters, Four Grand Quartet and Johnny Coy.” A dinner menu dated Saturday April 16, 1938, lists three shows nightly—“7:30 p.m., midnight, and 2 a.m. ‘Never a cover charge’ but there was a minimum ‘spending charge’ per person for dinner of $1.50. Saturday and Holidays: $2.00, Ringside: $2.50.”

Shortly after the show opened, Variety published this review: “A light and spring-like show, fittingly costumed and carrying special music, opened here Sunday (20th) night under a new policy to frequently change orchestras. Changes will be made probably every two weeks. Rudy Vallee is due in next. Management is making a pull for the dancing public. Figured that any deficits can be made up if the Paradise gets the younger generation. Bands will be booked with that in mind. The new floor show doesn’t include any name acts, but the Berigan band is being depended on for box office. However it’s an agreeably entertaining production with capable talent. Well rounded and moving along at a good clip, show is effectively emceed by Alan Carney. Special music is by Dave Oppenheim and Henry Tobias. Singers include Barbara Parks, Four Grand Quartet, while the McNally Sisters sing and dance. Johnny Coy also sings and tap dances.” [1]

The personnel of the Berigan band had remained unchanged through the early weeks of 1938, except that Joe Lippman returned on piano because Graham Forbes, his temporary replacement, did not have a Local 802 union card. (**)  Much later, there were reports by Berigan sidemen that during the first part of 1938, they auditioned for a number of sponsored radio shows, but did not get hired for any of them. One of these, for which the band auditioned while they were at the Paradise Restaurant, was for Griffin shoe polish. Hal Kemp got that gig. There had also been rumors in the trade papers for several months (planted by MCA no doubt), that the Berigan band would soon be heading for California to work on radio with Bob Hope.[2] This had not (and would not) come to pass either. Some of the veteran sidemen, most notably Sonny Lee, sensed that these strikeouts indicated that the Berigan band had perhaps topped out in terms of its commercial appeal. Lee received an excellent offer from Jimmy Dorsey while he was with Berigan at the Paradise. He discussed the offer with Bunny, who was in no position to equal it. Bunny told Lee to take the JD offer, and they parted on friendly terms. (Lee would remain with Jimmy Dorsey for the next seven years.) But Bunny now had to look for a top-notch trombonist who could play both lead and jazz.

As fate would have it, at the very same time as Bunny was dealing with Sonny Lee’s situation, a dispute erupted between him and his other trombonist, journeyman Al George. As a result, George  was on his two-week notice. Lee departed a few days before George. Bunny replaced Lee with Nat Lobovsky, an excellent lead trombonist, who really didn’t play jazz.

A very young Ray Conniff.

The trombone openings in the Berigan band had set the Manhattan musicians’ grapevine into  high gear.  The young trombonist Ray Conniff  later recalled:  “I ran into Joe Dixon one day at the Forrest Hotel in New York and he told me that Al George had just had a run-in with Bunny and as a result, he was working out his notice. Bunny was auditioning trombone players at the Paradise Restaurant, so I went down and was lucky enough to get the job. The trombone parts had been written for Sonny Lee, who had not only played lead, but took all the jazz solos as well. Nat Lobovsky had inherited that situation although he didn’t consider himself a jazz player, and was quite content to confine himself to playing lead parts after I joined. I took all the jazz solos after that.

I soon got to know all the stories that were told about Bunny. Of course, he was a marvelous musician, who could outplay all of us, a very warm-hearted guy, but the world’s worst businessman! Although I got my salary, which was $60 a week, I didn’t get paid for any of my arrangements! I did a couple of originals, ‘Little Gate’s Special’ and ‘Gangbusters’ Holiday’ and I was told I would receive $35 per score. Well, I waited for what I thought was a reasonable time, and when I heard nothing I reminded Bunny that I hadn’t been paid. ‘How much was I going to pay you?’ he asked. ‘$35 was it?  Well make it $40.’ And each time I asked him for payment, he’d raise the offer, but I never did get any money for those charts!

I recall Andy Phillips with the band when I joined at the Paradise in April ‘38 and about a week before Joe Bushkin I think; he replaced Joe Lippman; Lobovsky was still the other trombone. [i]

It should be noted at this juncture that even though Bunny Berigan never paid Ray Conniff for the arrangements he did on “Little Gate’s Special”[i] and “Gangbusters’ Holiday” (a story Conniff told for sixty-plus years), he did record them. This, coupled with the fact that Bunny did not put his name on these Conniff originals as a co-composer, allowed Conniff to receive all of the composer royalties on the sale of these recordings for many, many years. (Indeed, under the current copyright law, they are still accruing to his heirs.) Most bandleaders in the 1930s and 1940s routinely insisted that before they would record an original composition by members of their bands or arrangers they did business with, they be given co-composer credit. The result for the actual composer was that his composer royalty was suddenly and forever reduced from 100 percent to 50 percent. The reasoning was that this was payment to the bandleader for the great promotional push any original composition received as a result of it being recorded, especially by a popular band. In terms of abstract justice therefore, I think by Ray Conniff receiving 100 percent of the composer royalty instead of 50 percent, he was very well paid by Bunny for these two arrangements. Indeed, this could be regarded as yet another example of Berigan’s deficiencies as a businessman. He certainly could have used the 50 percent composer royalty revenue.

[i] Ray Conniff recycled many of the original composition/arrangements he wrote for Bunny Berigan’s band. “Little Gate’s Special,” with some small modifications, was later sold to Teddy Powell, whose band recorded it on May 20, 1940, as “Feather Merchant’s Ball.” The same basic arrangement of “Little Gate’s Special” played by Berigan was later played by Artie Shaw’s band, when Conniff played trombone and arranged for Shaw. Conniff’s original compositions/arrangements of “Savoy Jump” and “Familiar Moe” were later retooled by Conniff and recorded by Shaw as “Just Kiddin’ Around” and “Prelude in C Sharp Major.”

Berigan and his saxophone section. L-R: back – Georgie Auld and Joe Dixon; front – Clyde Rounds and Mike Doty.

Years later, Ray Conniff (1916–2002), as the leader of and arranger for the Ray Conniff Singers, went on to become the most financially successful ex-Berigan sideman by far. From the mid-1950s until his retirement around the year 2000, he made over ninety albums, won a Grammy, two Golden Globe awards, had two platinum albums, and at least ten gold albums. But his big-time musical career started with his association with Bunny Berigan.

Ray’s daughter Tamara, who has worked in the music industry for many years, once asked him about his early years and recorded his recollections. Among them were his memories of joining the Berigan band:

“I was sitting at the Forrest Hotel Bar with Joe Dixon, a friend of mine from back in New England. He told me that Bunny Berigan had just had a run-in with one of his trombone players, so there was a spot open, and asked me if I would like to give it a shot. Would I! The next night I went to the Paradise Restaurant and sat in. The band started playing ‘It’s Wonderful.’ So Bunny came over to me and asked, ‘Do you know this song, kid?’ Of course I did because I was making the rehearsal band scene, so instead of giving the girl singer the chorus, I played it solo on trombone. I knew it note for note in any key, so I could watch the band as I played. Bunny looked over at Georgie Auld for approval, and Georgie gave him the code—the old index finger to the eye trick—meaning ‘get a load of this!’ I knew that I was in. Touring with Bunny was my first big-time gig, and it was one of the highlights of my life.” [ii]

[i] White materials: April 30, 1938.

[ii] This quote was taken from the Ray Conniff website called: “my web pages.comcast.net Ray Conniff,” January 2008.

Even though Berigan was drinking no more (or less) than he had previously, and the band while it played at the Paradise was in fine shape musically, for whatever reason(s) they were unable to land a sponsored radio show, the gold-standard of success for any band during the swing era.  The reason given as to why they were not getting these jobs were that: 1) Berigan was unreliable because of his drinking. That was not totally accurate. (***)  And 2) that he could not engage in the jovial repartee that was so much a part of network radio then, without stumbling, which was more accurate. (As an aside, no one was more awkward than Benny Goodman when he first began speaking on radio broadcasts featuring his band. On one notable occasion during the Christmas holidays, Benny was required to introduce the tune “Jingle Bells” to a national radio audience. He did so as follows: “And now, in honor of the season, ‘Jingle Balls.’” His MCA handlers quickly arranged for him to take elocution lessons, after which his radio voice was a cross between the south side of Chicago and Park Avenue. Benny wanted success very badly, and would do what it took to move his band ahead.)  Bunny wanted success very badly too, but there were certain things he would not/could not/did not do to move his band ahead. He never took elocution lessons; never got his dead front tooth fixed; and of course, never stopped drinking, at least not for long.

In spite of all of this, as the summer of 1938 approached, he was still a spectacular musician, and his band was  one of the hottest swing bands in the country.

[1] Variety: March 30, 1938, cited in the White materials: March 20, 1938.

[2] Leslie Townes “Bob” Hope was born in Eltham, London, England on May 29, 1903. Hope emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family in 1908, and became a U.S. citizen in 1920. He spent most of the 1920s as a touring vaudeville performer, dabbling in song and dance, and developing a comedy routine that became increasingly successful. By the middle 1930s, Hope began to appear in comedy/musical short-subject films for Warner Brothers/Vitaphone. He was signed by Paramount Pictures in 1938, and it was there that he met Bing Crosby, then fast becoming one of Paramount’s biggest stars. Their pairing in many films over the next dozen years proved to be very successful. Hope initiated his own network radio program in 1937 on NBC, first sponsored by Woodbury Soap. A year later, he began an association with Pepsodent which lasted for fifteen years. By the early 1950s, Hope had made the transition from radio to television, and achieved much success in that medium which continued into the 1970s. Hope was also very well known for entertaining U.S. military personnel around the world from the 1940s until the 1970s. Bob Hope died at age one hundred on July 27, 2003, in Toluca Lake, California.

Gail Reese – 1938.

The music:

“Howdja Like to Love Me?” (*) is a delightful rhythm tune written by Burton Lane (music), and Frank Loesser (lyric) in 1938 for the Paramount film College Swing, in which it was sung by Bob Hope.

Joe Lippman’s arrangement is given an exuberant performance here by Bunny and the band. Vocalist Gail Reese, whose often listless singing weighs down many of Berigan’s late 1937-early 1938 Victor records, here demonstrates that she could be a very effervescent and saucy singer. The four clarinet transition after her vocal, juxtaposed with Sonny Lee’s muted trombone, is a particularly inspired Lippman touch. Berigan’s madcap entrance after the vocal suggests a skydiver who is frantically groping for his ripcord as he hurtles toward earth. Clarinetist Joe Dixon has a few bars of happy clarinet, and then the band takes it out.

This is another example of the true character of the 1938 Berigan band, which unfortunately was so seldom presented on its Victor recordings.

(*) Bunny was also hustling a few bucks by appearing as a guest with his former employer Paul Whiteman on a radio broadcast on April 1, and by appearing as a guest on the NBC Steine Bottle Boy Swing Club radio show on April 14.

(**) There were also changes in drummers. The great Dave Tough powered the Berigan band from mid-January through mid-March.  Then, as a result of the instability in the rhythm section of Benny Goodman’s band resulting from Gene Krupa’s departure, Benny, was casting about for a new drummer. BG, who had a network radio show as a financial base, offered Tough more money than Bunny could pay, so he left reluctantly. He was replaced by the exuberant and swinging Johnny Blowers, whose work with the Berigan band was consistently excellent.

(***) Despite Berigan’s drinking, with very rare exceptions, he was always where he was scheduled to perform on time, and was ready to play. Indeed, two days before his death, he was where he was supposed to be on time and was ready to play. Unfortunately, the bus carrying his band had gone in the wrong direction when traveling to the engagement. When they finally arrived, the venue where approximately 2,000 people had shown up to dance to their music, was closed, dark, and locked.

This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

“Blue Lou” (1939) Metronome All Star Band

 “Blue Lou”

Composed by Edgar Sampson; arranged by Horace and Fletcher Henderson. (*)

Recorded by the Metronome All-Star Band on January 12, 1939 in New York.

Metronome All-Star Band:  Bunny Berigan, Harry James, Charlie Spivak, Sonny Dunham, trumpets; Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden, trombones; Hymie Shertzer, lead alto saxophone; Arthur Rollini and Eddie Miller, tenor saxophones; Benny Goodman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Bob Zurke, piano; Carmen Mastren, guitar; Bob Haggart, bass; Ray Bauduc, drums.

(*) The arrangement was also further revised in rehearsal (see below).

The Story:

Bunny Berigan – January 12, 1939 – entering the Victor recording studio.

On January 12, 1939, at 1:18 a.m., Bunny Berigan walked into RCA Victor’s Twenty-fourth Street recording studio in Manhattan. In the studio already were Arthur Rollini, Jack Teagarden, Charlie Spivak, Carmen Mastren, Mr. and Mrs. Hymie Shertzer, Benny Goodman, and Harry James. Shortly after, Tommy Dorsey, his manager Bobby Burns, lawyer John Gluskin (who was also a business partner of Berigan’s soon to be fired personal manager Arthur Michaud), and recording supervisor Eli Oberstein arrived.

Also in the studio was George T. Simon, the editor of Metronome magazine (which sponsored the date), who in the previous two years had never missed an opportunity to report anything negative about Berigan and/or his orchestra, often without having obtained all of the facts.  One can reasonably conclude that Bunny would have had some ill will toward Simon. But despite the almost nonstop lambastings Simon had given Berigan in the pages of Metronome, enough of that publication’s readers thought enough of Bunny Berigan’s playing to vote him into the 1939 Metronome All-Star band. Even though Bunny probably would have liked to have told Simon that he thought he was an unfair little so-and-so, he did no such thing. He simply came in and performed as the quintessential professional he was.

The rest of the musicians selected for the date, including trumpeter Sonny Dunham and four men from the Bob Crosby band (Simon’s favorite in the 1930s), arrived late. The four Crosby musicians were nevertheless fine players: bassist Bob Haggart, tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller, pianist Bob Zurke (who had problems with alcoholism not unlike Berigan’s), and drummer Ray Bauduc. The Crosby musicians, sans Zurke, entered the studio at 2:08 a.m. Zurke finally appeared at 2:21. At that point, Bunny Berigan had been in the studio for over an hour.[i]

Bunny had every reason to be apprehensive about this date. He had no idea what Simon had in mind, and had to feel a bit of a twinge knowing that the other three trumpeters on the session, Charlie Spivak, Sonny Dunham, and especially Harry James, were each masters of their instrument, who undoubtedly would play well. Spivak was a lead trumpeter, so it was assumed that he would play lead. Dunham was a soloist specializing in forays into the high register of the trumpet that were not necessarily done with the utmost of musical taste. He was not an especially convincing jazz player. Harry James at that time was a superb lead trumpeter, and also a spectacular and often compelling jazz soloist. In terms of sheer technique, there was no trumpet player in 1939 who could surpass Harry James. (*)

Although Simon did not reveal how it was decided who would solo at which point on each of the two tunes recorded that night, I will speculate that since the arrangement on “Blue Lou,” used by both Tommy Dorsey’s and Benny Goodman’s bands (the first tune recorded), was used as the basic road map for the performance of that tune, and Tommy led the band through the recording of it [ii], TD had some input as to who would solo and where.

At the Metronome All-Star recording session – L-R: Tommy Dorsey; Bobby Burns; Berigan; George T. Simon; Benny Goodman.

The musicians started to rehearse “Blue Lou” at approximately 2:22 a.m. Choruses were assigned at 2:40, and a test was made at 2:45. After the band listened to the playback, it was decided to make another test. This was done at 2:55, but it was still not acceptable. Dorsey was leading the musicians through all of this, and making minor revisions to the arrangement as they went on. A third test was made at 3:08, and it was much better. The first master was attempted at 3:18; a second at 3:25; and a third at 3:29, which was marred by clinkers. The final master was made at 3:30, and this is the recording of “Blue Lou” that has been released and rereleased dozens of times since 1939. [iii]

The music:

This recording of Edgar Sampson’s tune is certainly among the best. The solos, in order, are by Berigan, Teagarden, Miller, Dunham, Goodman (who also played third alto in the sax section on a borrowed horn), Zurke, Bauduc, and then some parting thoughts by Berigan. These solos reveal that all of the featured musicians were excellent soloists, and when compared with the solos on the alternate takes, show that they were very comfortable improvising. On the issued take, the most fascinating comparison to be made however is in the jazz solos of the trumpeters Berigan and Dunham. Berigan’s sixteen swaggering bars are quintessential: he covers much of the range of his instrument, his sound is fat and round, even in the highest register; his jazz ideas are cogent; and his solo is suffused, bar by bar, with the feeling that anything might happen. There is nevertheless a very keen musical intelligence informing this solo.

Berigan solos on “Blue Lou” at the Metronome All-Star recording session. Under his trumpet are Hymie Shertzer’s hairline and Jack Teagarden’s head.

Here are trumpeter/writer Richard Sudhalter’s thoughts about Berigan’s and Dunham’s playing: “Berigan charges in with a typically long-lined, shapely four-bar phrase. An aggressive edge adds intensity to his tone, and when he shouts out his high D to open the second extended phrase, the sheer size of the sound seems about to overload the microphone. He rounds out his half-chorus solo with another pair of phrases. The first one dwells for a while on some almost growled blue minor thirds, accentuating the rather tough-minded mood of the solo. Then, in another leap to his high register, he concludes with a descending phrase of considerable eloquence. Dunham, taking it from the bridge, tries to equal Berigan, opening with a long middle-register exposition before leaping to his high register for a climax. His spectacular high-note playing on trumpet and trombone with the Casa Loma orchestra had made him something of a celebrity, but here he cannot compete: he lacks the full, compelling Berigan tone and overriding sense of purpose and form.” [iv]

Sonny Dunham: What am I going to play after that?

The progress of the development of the solos shown by the alternate takes reveals that Bunny was listening carefully to the way Dunham was organizing his solo, and then, when it came time to make the master, used all of that information to completely upstage Dunham. He in no way copied what Dunham had played. He simply distilled Dunham’s approach, which was to challenge Berigan, and turned it around and used it to cut Sonny. As Richard Sudhalter correctly observed, Bunny was definitely in the mood for combat that night: “It’s an affirmation, like a prizefighter who’s been on the ropes a time or two bringing his gloves together over his head to proclaim, ‘See, I’m still the champ.’” [v]  I have often wondered what Sonny Dunham was thinking immediately after he heard Berigan play the solo that is on the issued record. Most likely, it was, what am I going to play after that?

Tommy Dorsey, Berigan and Jack Teagarden.

Forty-two years later, George T. Simon made this comment about Bunny Berigan’s participation at the recording date that produced this version of “Blue Lou”: “All the musicians worshipped this guy. And that night he was in fine shape. No problems at all. He just pitched in—and played great.”[vi]  It is too bad that Simon could not have said this while Bunny was struggling to keep his band together in early 1939, or indeed while Bunny was still living. He certainly could have used some good press.

(*) Although because of some contractual reason Harry James’s name does not appear on the listing of musicians on the Victor disk containing “Blue Lou,” I think that he did play trumpet in the ensemble passages on this recording.

[i] Simon Says—The Sights and Sounds of the Swing Era, 1935–1955, by George T. Simon, Galahad Books (1971), 453–454, hereafter Simon Says. The liner notes for RCA Bluebird LP 7636-1-RB (1988), entitled The Metronome All-Star Bands, indicates that Leonard Joy supervised this session. Perhaps Eli Oberstein was “just visiting.”

[ii] Ibid.: 455.

[iii] Ibid.: 454. The White materials state that the arrangement on “Blue Lou” was the one Benny Goodman used, which had been written by Horace Henderson, and modified by his brother Fletcher. That does not mean, of course, that Tommy Dorsey’s band was not playing the same arrangement.

[iv] Giants of Jazz: 48.

[v] Lost Chords: 514.

[vi] Ibid.: 513. The second tune recorded that night was a blues on which Berigan did not solo.

This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Berigan with Tommy Dorsey – 1940 – episode two

Berigan rehearses with Tommy Dorsey’s band – early March 1940. His swollen condition is evident. Dorsey is at Bunny’s right, and to his right is trumpeter Ray Linn. Drummer Buddy Rich is in the background.

The story: The interlude from early March until late August 1940, when Bunny Berigan was with Tommy Dorsey’s band as its featured trumpet soloist, was a critical time for Berigan for a number of reasons. In late 1939 and into 1940, Bunny was hospitalized because the effects of cirrhosis on his liver and on his general health had caused him to suffer a physical collapse. Berigan had known at least since 1938 that his continuing consumption of alcohol was causing irreparable damage to his liver. He was shocked by this discovery, as one might expect. Nevertheless, his method of dealing with this dire chronic condition was to attempt to reduce his drinking. Being an alcoholic, this attempt at dealing with his cirrhosis was doomed to failure because Bunny had to have alcohol every day simply to function. After many months of him trying episodically to reduce his drinking, Berigan, feeling strong and well, concluded that he was “healthy.” So he continued living the life of a virtuoso trumpeter leading a a band that was almost constantly on tour, and drinking more or less as he always had. Then he collapsed around Christmas of 1939.

Another photo of Berigan at the same TD rehearsal depicted above. The derby on his head was used to mute his trumpet.

Berigan was leading a working, touring band when this health crisis occurred. His hospitalization required him to be away from his band for about two weeks. MCA (Music Corporation of America), the agency that booked the Berigan band, kept the band together and working while Bunny was away, usually by placing some “name” musician in front of it while it fulfilled committed play dates. Among the musicians who fronted the Berigan band in Bunny’s absence were trombonist Jack Teagarden and trumpeter Wingy Manone. When Berigan returned, still noticeably swollen and walking unsteadily on a cane, his musicians were unsure of how long his health would allow him to lead his band on tour while playing any number of demanding trumpet solos each night. Remarkably, the band continued to work with Berigan as its leader, and with very few personnel changes.

But as is so often the case, money factors, not human factors, brought about the end of this Berigan band. Due to a strange financial arrangement Bunny had become ensnared in in the summer of 1939, which involved MCA, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM – the musicians’ union), and Berigan, it was decided that Bunny owed more that $5,000.00 to MCA and AFM. Various agreements were put in place that would allow Bunny to continue leading a band (which he very much wanted), while a part of the Berigan’s earnings from the operation of the band would go to MCA and AFM to reduce the debt. MCA was the sole decider of where the Berigan band played and how much it would be paid. The agency booked the band to work steadily, but seemingly for less and less money. In the weeks after Bunny returned from his illness, there wasn’t enough money coming in to pay MCA and keep the band going. At that point, MCA pulled the plug on the Berigan band.

TD band members and others backstage at the Paramount Theater NYC – spring 1940. Among those pictured L-R: Red Skelton, second; Frank Sinatra, third; Ray Linn, sixth; Berigan and Les Jenkins seventh and eighth, both are imitating one of Skelton’s vaudeville poses. Ar right with a ping-pong paddle, Tommy Dorsey.

Enter Tommy Dorsey (who was having his own financial problems in early 1940). After some negotiation between MCA, TD and Bunny, it was agreed that Bunny would join the Dorsey band for a period of time, be paid an excellent salary (probably a base of $250 weekly, plus extra for recordings and sponsored radio shows – at a time when the average sideman in a big band was making between $60-$100 a week), and allow his creditors to be paid directly by Dorsey out of his weekly earnings. This strategem resulted in large chunks being taken out of Berigan’s debt, but Bunny himself being left with very little money each week. Still, Berigan went along with this plan because he saw it as a way of enabling him to resume leading his own band. It also took him off the road for awhile, allowing his exhausted body to recuperate, insofar as that was possible.

What it didn’t do was to address his underlying alcoholism. Even those around him, most certainly including Tommy Dorsey, told him he would have to stop drinking in order to continue his career in music, Bunny, being so strongly addicted to alcohol, did what he had done in the past: he tried to drink less. This plan of treatment was doomed to failure. Indeed, it ultimately resulted in Berigan’s death in June of 1942.

Against this background, I will set out the narrative of what went on in the summer of 1940, after Berigan had functioned rather well as the featured trumpet soloist in Tommy Dorsey’s band for the previous four months.

***************

Tommy Dorsey band mid-1940. Berigan is the first trumpeter at left of the four trumpets.

On June 25, the Dorsey band began their thirteen week stint as Bob Hope’s summer replacement on the NBC Pepsodent radio show, entitled Summer Pastime during the thirteen weeks of its run. Variety reviewed the first broadcast: “Tommy Dorsey presides at a thoroughly enjoyable variety session, which should make listeners Pepsodent conscious. The spot is nicely paced with other talent, including vocalists Frank Sinatra and Connie Haines, who get a single each in which to show off their nice pipes. Tommy makes an amiable emcee and is allowed a good script. Guest is Jerry Lester, a fine comedian on a night club floor, who is handicapped by poor material and bad timing from the stooges. The show is over 62 NBC stations. If proof were needed, this half-hour reveals Dorsey as a showman capable of spreading his canvas over a full-sized radio lot.” [i]

 One of those “stooges” may have been Bunny Berigan. Bunny never excelled at public speaking, and apparently muffed some scripted lines on the first Pepsodent show, causing TD to become enraged. Soon thereafter, probably on the very next Pepsodent show, an untoward incident involving Berigan occurred.

30 Rock today. In 1940 this building housed the main studios for the NBC radio network.

Sometime during the run of the Pepsodent show, for which the Dorsey band was required to leave the Hotel Astor Roof Garden on Times Square and go by taxi to the NBC studios in Rockefeller Center for the 10:00–10:30 p.m. broadcast, the following tableau unfolded. There are numerous variations to this story, but the basic outline is as follows: “One night, Bunny told Bobby Burns (TD’s manager) that his wife, Donna, was coming into the Astor Roof for dinner, and he asked if it would be alright to sign the check. Bobby said that it was OK. Bunny sat at the table with Mrs. Berigan between sets. At the end of the dinner session, Bobby okayed Bunny’s dinner check which came to about $21.00. The band went to NBC to do the Pepsodent radio show. ‘Marie’ was on the program. When Bunny stood for his solo, he fell off the stand. ‘When we got back to the Astor Roof’ said Burns, ‘Tommy asked me to dig out Bunny’s dinner check and see what he (and Donna) had for dinner. On close scrutiny it showed a tab for twelve scotch and sodas and one ham sandwich.’” [ii]

Protagonists/antagonists: Bunny Berigan and Tommy Dorsey. They had a complicated relationship.

Ray Linn, who sat next to Berigan in TD’s trumpet section that night, picks up the narrative: “Bunny got quite a few lines of dialogue on the Pepsodent show, which also starred comedian Jerry Lester who did a lot of clowning around, including blowing a trombone. The pairing of the world’s greatest trombonist along with the planet’s very worst must have seemed like a natural to the masterminds at the agency that put the show together! That night, Bunny completely fell apart on, of all things ‘Marie,’ the opening number on the broadcast! He was the drunkest I’d ever seen him. How he was able to stand, let alone try to play, was a testimony to his rugged constitution. Attempting his F to high F glissando entrance to his 32 bar solo, nothing but a series of funny noises came out and it got worse! We were on the air, coast to coast on the NBC network, some 200 (sic) or more stations. Bunny stayed on his feet for about 8 bars, trying to fight it through, as he had done so many times before, but this time the booze was the winner. He literally could no longer play and putting down his horn, he fell heavily toward his chair, which he missed and dropped about four feet from the section-riser to the floor! Had he been sober, he would have undoubtedly broken several bones, but in his benumbed state he was unhurt and clambered back up on the bandstand with Jimmy Blake’s assistance. He didn’t attempt to play another note during the remaining 25 minutes or so of the program. He just sat it out and luckily there was nothing more for him to do on the show. This created a lot of disturbance during the broadcast, because all the mikes were wide open. Tenorman Don Lodice was the one who alertly jumped up when Bunny collapsed and blew the remaining 24 bars of Bunny’s chorus. Don really saved the day, because Clyde Hurley and Blake and I were dumbstruck by all this! After the show, Tommy came back of the bandstand and said to his manager Bobby Burns, ‘Get rid of him now, Burns, pay him off. I don’t want to see him back at the Astor!’ I was standing about six feet away, putting my horn in its case and overheard the whole thing. So Bunny was given a check for two week’s salary, fired on the spot and told never to come back!” [iii]  But as we shall see, Berigan did return, a bit later, to the Astor.

The date of this incident has usually been given as August 20, 1940, which appears to be the date Berigan and Dorsey finally parted company. I think it happened earlier than that, probably on July 2, because the NBC radio logs housed at the Library of Congress for the Pepsodent show indicate that “Marie” was the first tune played on that broadcast,[iv] and after that date, Berigan’s presence with the Dorsey band was sporadic. The Dorsey band began its appearance on the Pepsodent show on June 25. Trumpeter Clyde Hurley had left Glenn Miller’s band on May 31,[v] and joined TD’s band shortly thereafter. “I joined Tommy Dorsey in mid-June at the Astor Roof and I was given some solos right away. I figured Tommy wanted everybody to know that he’d hired me away from Glenn Miller! Bunny was still around, of course, but he was being featured less and less. (Trumpeters) Ray Linn and Jimmy Blake were both playing some lead parts and Bunny was still playing pretty good jazz horn, but he could only get up and blow for one chorus, after that he hadn’t much left. He no longer had the stamina to play long solos, his wind and his lip were both going. He was drinking heavily and was deep in debt, always trying to borrow from everybody. Tommy was holding back part of his wages each week, but Bunny didn’t gripe about it. Playing in the Dorsey band was a ball compared with the rigid inflexibility of the Glenn Miller band.” [vi]

Berigan solos with Tommy Dorsey’s band -1940.

There is evidence that Berigan was present and quite active  in the Dorsey band through mid-June. After the June 19 broadcast from the Astor Roof, there was another broadcast, on June 22, which featured Berigan playing a solo on “Dark Eyes.” Another such broadcast, from June 26, had him playing on “East of the Sun” and “Symphony in Riffs.” The White materials indicate that his solo on “East of the Sun” is not up to par.[vii]  On June 27, the Dorsey band recorded five tunes for Victor, all featuring vocals.[viii] There is no aural evidence that would indicate the presence of Berigan at this session. A photo of the Dorsey band from this period does not include Berigan.[ix]  But as we know, he was present for the Pepsodent broadcast on July 2. The Dorsey band checked into the Victor recording studios again on July 17, when they recorded seven titles, including the romping Buddy Rich drum feature “Quiet Please!” with Clyde Hurley taking the trumpet solo. Berigan was not at that recording session. There is a paucity of aircheck recordings of the TD band from June 26 to July 20, so we do not know if Bunny was in the Dorsey band during that time. One source indicates that during this period “Dorsey sent Berigan away for rehabilitation.”[x] This is far from an established fact, however, as I have seen only one other reference to Bunny going away for rehabilitation.[xi] Nevertheless, it is possible that at this juncture (through almost all of July) Berigan sought treatment for his alcoholism.

The July 20 broadcast from the Astor Roof includes numerous tunes with trumpet solos on them. The White materials indicate that Bunny may have been present, but did not play all of these trumpet solos. The titles on which he appears to solo are “Whispering,” “The Lonesome Road,” and “East of the Sun.” I have not heard these airchecks so I cannot comment on them. Likewise, I have not heard any of the recordings from the July 24 broadcast, but the White materials indicate that Bunny played a solo on “Swing High” on that date. I have heard “Old Gray Bonnet” from the July 27 broadcast, and can say with certainty that the trumpet solo on that tune was played by Clyde Hurley. And then there is the aircheck of “I Found a New Baby,” which appears to have been recorded from the August 3 broadcast, which definitely contains an excellent trumpet solo by Bunny Berigan. No diminution of his powers is noticeable in this performance.

Hotel Astor 1515 Broadway, Times Square NYC – 1940s. This building stood from 1904-1967. The site is now occupied by a nondescript skyscraper. Lindy’s Restaurant, favored by TD and Berigan, was on the 45th St. (north) side.

Recently, due to the great work being done by Dennis M. Spragg at the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the full Tommy Dorsey broadcast from July 27, 1940 has been made available. I have heard the entire broadcast and can say that with the exception of “Old Gray Bonnet,” referred to above, Berigan was present and playing wonderfully both in the trumpet section (sometimes on lead trumpet), and as an inspired soloist.

The music: Presented here are two off-the-air recordings made from that NBC broadcast of the Tommy Dorsey band from the Hotel Astor in Manhattan on July 27, 1940, “Swingtime Up in Harlem,” and “March of the Toys.” It opens with a bit of TD’s theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” followed by NBC announcer Lyle Van introducing Tommy, and then talking with him about an amateur songwriter contest TD was running for a number of reasons having to do with his music publishing companies. Tommy then sets-up the new swinging rhythm tune, “Swingtime Up in Harlem,” composed by Joe Thomas who was the featured tenor sax soloist in the Jimmie Lunceford band. This version was arranged by Sy Oliver, formerly of the Jimmie Lunceford band, but by 1940 TD’s chief arranger.

“Swingtime Up in Harlem”

Composed by Joe Thomas; arranged by Sy Oliver.

Recorded from an NBC broadcast by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra at Hotel Astor Roof Garden  in New York City on July 27, 1940.

Tommy Dorsey, trombone, directing: Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet; Ray Linn, Clyde Hurley, Jimmy Blake, trumpets; George Arus, Les Jenkins, Lowell Martin, trombones; Hymie Shertzer, first alto saxophone; Johnny Mince, alto saxophone; Don Lodice and Paul Mason, tenor saxophones; Freddie Stulce, baritone saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano, Clark Yocum, guitar; Sid Weiss, bass; Buddy Rich, drums; Connie Haines, vocal.

In this happy performance, the Dorsey band is tight and swinging. Tenor sax soloist Don Lodice plays a piquant solo, as does pianist Joe Bushkin, who rated an introduction from TD. Connie Haines swings the lyric quite effectively. Noteworthy for Berigan fans is the fact that Bunny is playing first trumpet throughout this performance, and then lights-up the last chorus with some spine-tingling high-register solo trumpeting. Despite comments mentioned above that Berigan’s playing was not up to his usual standard at this time, I sense no deterioration in his trumpeting skills. Indeed, Bunny’s high-register playing here is spectacular, and quite beyond the ability of most trumpeters in 1940.

“March of the Toys”

Composed by Victor Herbert; arranged by Deane Kincaide.

Deane Kincaide – 1940s.

This arrangement was very popular in the 1939-1940 time period, and it represented something of a watershed for arranger Deane Kincaide (1911-1992). After working his way through a number of bands in the mid and late 1930s, he landed in Tommy Dorsey’s band in early 1939, playing whatever saxophone needed covered in the section. The TD-Kincaide relationship predated that by about two years, however. Tommy first began buying arrangements from Kincaide in 1937. “Beale Street Blues” was one of the first Kincaide arrangements Dorsey recorded. It had a semi-Dixieland/semi-swing feeling to it that typified the music made by the Bob Crosby band (for whom Kincaide was a staff arranger), in the mid and late 1930s. Other similar Kincaide arrangements made their way into the TD library and onto record through 1938 and into 1939, including: “Washboard Blues,” “Panama,” “Tin Roof Blues,” “Copenhagen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Down Home Rag,” “Davenport Blues,” and “Milenberg Joys.” All of these had an old-timey feel, yet at the same time were “modern” enough to be enjoyed by Tommy Dorsey’s mainstream swing-oriented audience. TD began to urge Kincaide to broaden his scope in 1938. The first two results of this were Kincaide’s arrangements of “Boogie Woogie,” and “Hawaiian War Chant,” both of which were very successful as TD Victor recordings and with the folks who came out to hear the Dorsey band in person. Kincaide’s first major success with a song from the classic American songbook was Victor Herbert’s “March of the Toys,” from Babes in Toyland. After his success with “March of the Toys” (recorded by TD on August 10, 1939 for Victor), Kincaide continued arranging classic pop tunes for TD until he moved on to other employment. Post-TD, Kincaide sold many arrangements to many other bandleaders throughout the 1940s, and then was a successful arranger in television through the 1950s and beyond.

Risk-taker Berigan.

In this performance we once again hear the beautifully rehearsed Tommy Dorsey band doing what it did do well for so long, …keeping the customers satisfied. By the time of this performance, Tommy and his band had played this arrangement literally dozens of times. On all extant recordings, the solos played by Johnny Mince on clarinet and Tommy Dorsey on trombone are virtually identical with earlier versions. Although Bunny Berigan had also played this arrangement many times in his previous five months as a Dorsey sideman, he never played the same solo twice. And what he does here is even more risky and challenging than anything he had ever done before in delivering this solo. He takes the Harmon mute he had been using with the other trumpeters in the preceding ensemble passage,  removes it from the bell of his trumpet, and uses it in mysterious ways by manipulating it in front of the bell of his trumpet and creates an other-worldly sound. Also, check out his extreme change of registers. Whenever Berigan played a solo, listeners were sure to be treated to the sound of surprise.

Note: I have received feedback from trumpeters whose expertise I respect that the mute Berigan used on his solo on “March of the Toys: was a Buzz-Wow mute.

[i] Variety: July 3, 1940, cited in the White materials.

[ii] Tommy and Jimmy—The Dorsey Years, by Herb Sanford, Arlington House (1972), 193. When it came to drinking, Bunny’s wife Donna was not a positive influence on him. In fact, she was a bad influence, not that he abstained when he was away from her.

[iii] White materials: August 20, 1940.

[iv] The NBC radio logs housed at the NBC Archive, Library of Congress, indicate that “Marie” was the first tune played on the Pepsodent Summer Pastime show that aired from 10:00–10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, 1940. Information provided by Carl A. Hallstrom.

[v] Moonlight Serenade—A Bio-discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band, by John Flower, Arlington House (1972), 178.

[vi] White materials: June 14, 1940.

[vii] White materials: June 26, 1940.

[viii] One of the tunes recorded that day was “Only Forever.” After Frank Sinatra recorded “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else),” he angrily walked out of the ongoing recording session because of a disagreement with TD over Tommy having Frank record cover versions of Bing Crosby tunes, one of which was “Trade Winds.” One more Sinatra vocal remained to be recorded on that date, “Only Forever.” TD tapped Clark Yocum from the Pied Pipers to sing the tune for the recording. When the Victor record came out, it identified the vocalist on “Only Forever” as “Allan Storr.” To compound this, MCA then began circulating promotional photos of TD and his singers, with Clark Yocum being identified as “Allan Storr.” To complicate this further, an autograph book containing the signatures of many of the members of Tommy Dorsey’s band in early 1938 contains the signature of Allan Storr. Clark Yocum, who was also one of the singing Pied Pipers, did not join the TD band until 1939.

[ix] White materials: June 22, 1940.

[x] Livin’ in a Great Big Way: 131. This biography of Tommy Dorsey is worthwhile, but is not particularly scrupulous in terms of scholarship, and contains numerous factual errors. The definitive biography of Tommy Dorsey is yet to be written.

[xi] Berigan band vocalist Danny Richards told one of the White researchers that Bunny attempted some sort of assisted rehabilitation on one or two occasions. If this ever occurred, it seems that the period from early July, 1940 into August, 1940, when Berigan appeared with Tommy Dorsey’s band only sporadically, was when it could have happened.

The unique recordings posted here are provided courtesy of Dennis M. Spragg of the Glenn Miller Archive of the University of Colorado-Boulder. The digital transfers from the original 16″ acetate disks on which these recordings were made were done by Mr. Spragg. I must also acknowledge Sony Legacy which archives these historical recordings. Digital remastering of these recordings by Mike Zirpolo.

Episode One of the Bunny Berigan – Tommy Dorsey story can be found here:

http://swingandbeyond.com/2016/12/01/on-the-air-with-the-great-bands-1940-tommy-dorsey-hallelujah/

“I Can’t Get Started” (1937)

I have received a number of inquiries asking why I haven’t posted Bunny Berigan’s most famous recording, “I Can’t Get Started,” yet here at bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com  The answer is that I have posted it already at swingandbeyond.com  That of course does not mean that I can’t or shouldn’t post it here also. So, here it is:

“I Can’t Get Started” (1937) Bunny Berigan

 Music composed by Vernon Duke, lyric by Ira Gershwin.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra for Victor on August 7, 1937 in New York.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Steve Lipkins, first trumpet, Irving Goodman, trumpet; Thomas “Sonny” Lee, first trombone; Al George, trombone; Robert “Mike” Doty, first alto saxophone; Giuseppi Ischia (Joe Dixon), alto saxophone; Clyde Rounds and Georgie Auld, tenor saxophones; Joe Lippman, piano; Tommy Morgan(elli), guitar; Frederick “Hank” Wayland, bass; George Wettling, drums. Arrangement by Bunny Berigan, adapted for this band by Joe Lippman.

The Story:

Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan (1908-1942), was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of his time, and a giant of the swing era. The fact that he died when he was thirty-three years old (from cirrhosis of the liver), only five years after he began to lead his own band, is the largest reason why he is not better known to the general public today. There are many other smaller reasons. Nevertheless, among those who have some knowledge of the history of jazz, his name is well-known. His reputation for most of the last seventy-five years has been based largely on a few commercial recordings, most notably his bravura performance of the Vernon Duke-Ira Gershwin song “I Can’t Get Started,” which he used as his theme, cm_0001_0002_0_img0010and a handful of the other records he made with his band for RCA Victor. In the more recent past, other commercial recordings he made as a bandleader have provided some additional evidence of what a great jazz trumpeter he was, and what very good bands he usually led. Still other studio recordings he made, either as a featured soloist (as with Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey), or as an anonymous sideman (the dozens of commercial records he made in the early to mid-1930s where he functioned as a member of ad hoc bands, usually backing a vocalist), provide still more proof of his stature as an inspired jazz soloist and flexible session player.

We know that the basic outlines for Berigan’s classic Victor Records performance of “I Can’t Get Started” had been created by him in early 1936 when he first began to perform it at a small jazz club, the Famous Door, on Manhattan’s fabled “Swing Street,” West 52nd, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues. The Vocalion recording he made of the song on April 13, 1936 (posted elsewhere on this blog, with a link to it provided below), provides an early snapshot in the evolution of his treatment of it. But over time, Berigan made subtle changes in the arrangement. By the time he was ready to record it with his big band, his conception of how it should be presented had been carefully refined, and now included an extended rubato (out of tempo) opening cadenza to display his virtuosity on trumpet, and fill space on a twelve-inch record (see below). Later in the spring of 1936, he became the featured trumpet soloist on the CBS network radio show Saturday Night Swing Club, and continued on that show into 1937, when his duties leading his own band took all of his time and attention.

The Berigan band’s recordings of “I Can’t Get Started” and “The Prisoner’s Song” were issued back-to-back on the twelve-inch Victor record 36208, and were a part of an album of four such records entitled A Symposium of Swing, Victor C-28. “RCA Victor has given the wax cult something to really shout about. Spreading their stuff on 12 incbb-paradise-005hes of wax and packeted in an album dressed up with concert notes by swing critic Warren Scholl, candid camera shots of the wand-wavers and personnel of the tooters, Victor Hall of Fame’s A Symposium of Swing(C-28) features Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman & Bunny Berigan.”  (Billboard: September 18, 1937) Benny Goodman’s contribution to this collection was the two-sided blockbuster “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Tommy Dorsey’s was “Stop, Look and Listen,” backed by “Beale Street Blues.” Fats Waller’s disc in this set had “Honeysuckle Rose” on side A, and “Blue Turning Gray over You” on side B. Both of these performances were by Fats Waller and His Rhythm.[i]

[i] The information concerning the Waller disc in the album A Symposium of Swing came from big band historian Christopher Popa, who operates the Big Band Library website.

The music:

The late jazz trumpeter Richard M. Sudhalter, a most sensitive and perceptive critic of Berigan’s music, analyzed this classic recording as follows:

“An introduction—an extended cadenza over four different sustained chords in the key of C—had been added by this time, but otherwise Berigan’s routine had  not changed since the Vocalion recording. But whereas the Vocalion comes across as a virtuoso performance of a great song, the Victor version presents itself as a kind of concerto, a tour de force for a trumpeter of imagination and daring having impeccable command of his instrument. A younger player, raised on the finger-snarling complexities of bebop, might listen to this recording and wonder what all the fuss was about—until he tried to play it and learned the killing difficulty of executing this kind of top-to-bottom endurance contest with polish, power, and Berigan’s broad tone. It is both an athletic feat and a supreme test of musicianship and emotional strength.

lippman-001The introduction itself is no small feat, ranging from the lowest note on the trumpet to more than two octaves above that, with every note struck square, full, and fat. Berigan follows with eight bars of straight melody, as he did on the Vocalion record. But there is a different feeling here: something tighter, grander in scope, more aware, perhaps, of the importance of this performance. His tone is especially broad and lustrous, his phrasing generous.

The saxes take eight more bars while Berigan moves to the microphone for his vocal. He sings the Ira Gershwin lyric again in that curiously appealing voice. His phrasing constantly recalls his trumpet playing: Note the snap he gives to ‘still I can’t get no place with you,’ and his note-for-trumpet-note rendering of ‘…cause I can’t get started with you’ at the end of the chorus.

There is no tenor solo after the vocal on this one—just the full band sustaining big, fat chords and drummer George Wettling laying down a solid beat as Berigan takes to his horn for the climax. (Above left are the Berigan band rhythm section in the spring of 1937: L-R Tommy Morgan, guitar; Arnold Fishkind, bass; Geroge Wettling, drums; and Joe Lippman, piano. By the time the Victor recording of “I Can’t Get Started” was made, Hank Wayland had replaced Fishkind on bass.) Again, there are four little episodes of two bars each: two in the upper middle register, two lower down, then a final clarion call, a series of strong, singing high Cs, balanced on perfectly cmr-trumpet-cover-2-003ontrolled lip trills, to push off his half-chorus assault on the summit. It is all done in that punishing high register, and all with no loss of power, tone size, or melodic shape. There is a magnificent lunge to a high F in bar three, the chimelike E flats at the end of bar four, the same descent with its echo of Louis Armstrong. There is no longer the thrill of discovery in this performance. Berigan is retracing familiar steps by now, but because of that this performance radiated a greater assurance. At the end, rather than going straight to the high E flat as he had a year and a half earlier, Berigan spins things out a bit for the sake of drama. He plays first his B flat, drops to a G for a moment to build tension, and then, after an artful pause, vaults to the high E flat and finds it waiting there for him as the band chimes in underneath to finish the performance.”[i]

[i] Time-Life Records Giants of Jazz-Bunny Berigan (1982), by Richard M. Sudhalter, page 43.

Numerous trumpeters have pointed out to me that the contrasting low-register and high-register playing for which Bunny Berigan was renowned, and which is on full display in this classic performance of “I Can’t Get Started,” is something that was facilitated by his uncommon control of the trumpet’s lowest range. Berigan’s frequent vaults into the highest register of the trumpet were very often “set-up,” both technically and musically, by his playing in the lowest range of the horn immediately before. This allowed his chops to receive maximum blood circulation so that when he went upstairs, his sound would remain full and rich, not pinched or piercing.

Another interesting sidelight to both this recording and its predecessor is how much Bunny Berigan had altered the original Ira Gershwin lyric. Most of this retooling had been done by the time the Vocalion recording was made. But the process of evolution had nevertheless continued after that recording. Here is a comparison between the original lyric as written by Ira Gershwin and what Berigan sang on his Victor recording:

imgres

IG: I’ve flown around the world in a plane;

BB: I’ve flown around the world in a plane;

IG: I’ve settled revolutions in Spain;

BB: I’ve settled revolutions in Spain;

IG: The North Pole I have charted, but I can’t get started with you.

BB: And the North Pole I have charted, still I can’t get started with you.

IG: Around a golf course, I’m under par;

BB: On the golf course, I’m under par;

IG: And all the movies want me to star;

BB: Metro-Goldwyn have asked me to star;

IG: I’ve got a house, a showplace, but I get no place with you.

BB: I’ve got a house, a showplace, still I can’t get no place with you.

IG: You’re so supreme, lyrics I write of you;

BB: ‘Cause you’re so supreme, lyrics I write of you;

IG: Scheme, just for the sight of you;

BB: I dream, dream day and night of you:

IG: Dream, both day and night of you,

BB: And I scheme, just for the sight of you,

IG: And what good does it do?

BB: Baby, what good does it do?

IG: In nineteen twenty-nine I sold short;

BB: I’ve been consulted by Franklin D.;

IG: In England I’m presented at court;

BB: Greta Garbo has had me to tea;

IG: But you’ve got me downhearted,

BB: Still I’m broken hearted,

IG: ‘Cause I can’t get started with you.

BB: ’Cause I can’t get started with you.[i]

******************************************

I’ll leave it to you to judge which lyric works best.

[i] This comparison was first made by Vince Danca in his self-published booklet entitled Bunny (1978), 18–19.

This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Here is a link to Bunny’s earlier small-group recording of “I Can’t Get Started”:

https://bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com/2017/07/18/swing-street/

 

“Heigh-Ho – The Dwarfs’ Marching Song” (1938)

ed

Flagship store: Sak’s Fifth Avenue – Thanksgiving night, 2017. This light display covered the entire eight story Fifth Avenue facade.

I was recently in Manhattan. New York during the holiday season is always particularly exciting, especially along Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center, where the many retail retail stores go all-out to try to top each other with their holiday decorations. Year-after-year, it seems that the folks at Saks Fifth Avenue, whose flagship store is directly across Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller Center, impress me most with the incredible illuminated decorations on the exterior of their eight story building, and the life-like and animated displays in the many display windows at sidewalk level. This year, Saks partnered with Disney to create many window displays and a magnificent light display that celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length totally animated Hollywood feature film.

I was there there on Thanksgiving night with those who are near and dear to me. The sea of humanity surrounding Saks,  and across Fifth Avenue on the Promenade and around the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, was so dense that it was almost impossible to walk. But it was a delightful experience because it was a brisk evening, everyone was excited by the many illuminated holiday displays, and the by generally stimulating Gotham atmosphere.

The Saks displays reminded me of a delightful recording made by Bunny Berigan of one of the most memorable songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Heigh-Ho, The Dwarfs’ Marching Song.” Here is that classic swing take on Disney:

“Heigh-Ho (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song)”

Composed by Frank Churchill (music) and Larry Morey (words); arrangement probably by Joe Lippman.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra for Victor on January 26, 1938 in New York.

Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet, directing: Steve Lipkins and Irving Goodman, trumpets; Thomas B. “Sonny” Lee and Al George, trombones; Mike Doty and Joe Dixon, alto saxophones; Clyde Rounds and Georgie Auld, tenor saxophones; Fulton McGrath, piano; Tom Morgan, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass, Dave Tough, drums; Gail Reese, vocal.

The story: The Berigan band did some one-nighters within a 150 mile radius of the New York area for a few days before they opened for a week at the Brunswick Hotel in Boston on Tuesday, January 18, 1938. That job ended on the 24th. They then returned to New York for a Victor recording session on the 26th. Bunny’s band was used by Victor to promote four current pop tunes with Gail Reese vocals. The most notable of  these was “Heigh-Ho, (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song),” which was a part of the musical score for Walt Disney’s film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

By this time Joe Lippman, who had spent the previous eleven months touring with Berigan, as well as playing piano in the Berigan band,  was remaining in New York to write arrangements for Bunny. He probably fashioned the joyously romping arrangement  we hear on “Heigh-Ho.” His place in the band had been taken on an interim basis by pianist Fulton “Fidgey” McGrath. 

On this recording, the Berigan band and Bunny himself were obviously energized by Dave Tough’s electric presence on drums. After being fired by Tommy Dorsey for drunkenness, Tough was hired by Berigan, probably around January 15. Tough was not a super-technician on the drums, nevertheless he had the uncanny ability to impart enormous swing in any band he played with and at any tempo. Bunny and his sidemen were elated. Berigan’s stalwart saxophonist Clyde Rounds recalled the diminutive Mr. Tough:

Dave Tough and Berigan at the January 26, 1938 Victor recording session.

“Davey, as we all called him, was a man of many parts. Of Scottish descent, he could be as dour as any true member of the kilt set, or convulse us with his outrageously wild sense of humor. Also highly intelligent and imaginative, he could have been a successful writer, poet or composer. He was the best and most solid drummer I ever worked with, who despised the idea of a drummer being a flashy soloist in the Krupa tradition, and played very few solos himself. Like Bunny and his predecessor George Wettling, Davey had a strong affinity for hard liquor, and also like Bunny, he couldn’t stay on the wagon for long. Rollo Laylan (an interim drummer with Berigan) couldn’t swing the band, and the difference with Davey Tough in the driving seat was obvious to musicians and listeners alike. Bunny had auditioned several drummers, but none of them had what he was looking for. When he heard that Tough was available, he went all out to get him, and dispensed with an audition.”[i]

Dave Tough.

[i] White materials: January 26, 1938.  In addition to having a chronic problem with alcohol, Dave Tough was epileptic. These two demons were difficult for him to control, and he suffered periodic collapses. Nevertheless, during the periods he was well, he provided nonpareil rhythmic support for many of the best bands of the swing era.

The music: “Heigh-Ho” is given a romping up-tempo treatment in 2/4 time. This is a happy-sounding performance that I’m sure the band didn’t take too seriously. But that doesn’t mean they did not invest the music with great spirit. There has been speculation about the source of the arrangement on “Heigh-Ho”; Deane Kincaide has been mentioned as the possible writer. I cannot say definitively who wrote this chart, but it certainly does not sound like anything Kincaide was writing then for the Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, or Tommy Dorsey bands. Nevertheless, Kincaide himself recalled “doing a Disney tune for a Berigan record date,” so on that basis, it is certainly possible that this arrangement is his. My educated guess however is that Joe Lippman wrote this chart. He was, after all, Bunny’s chief arranger, and go-to man for any arrangements that would showcase Berigan’s dynamic trumpet playing.

Bunny and Gail Reese – on tour, fall 1937.

After the fanfare-like marching intro, Bunny states the melody with great swing, using a buzzing straight mute. After the band plays a bit, Gail Reese sings the hardly poetic lyric well, projecting a happy feeling. Then the maestro returns with a few bars of torrid open horn trumpeting. Note how Tough provides a solid swinging beat behind Berigan on his high-hat cymbals, fairly levitating him. Ms. Reese returns for more hi-hoing, followed by an upward modulation by the band into Georgie Auld’s brief tenor sax solo. The entire ensemble romps on  into the joyous finale, led by Berigan’s trumpet on top and drummer Tough’s back-beats and bass drum on the bottom. Heigh-Ho indeed!

The recording presented here was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

“Tuxedo Junction” (1940) – two different versions

“Tuxedo Junction”

Composed by William Johnson, Julian Dash and Erskine Hawkins.

Arranged by Sy Oliver.

Recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra live from an NBC radio network broadcast from the Astor Hotel Roof Garden in New York City in early June, 1940.

Tommy Dorsey, trombone, directing: Bunny Berigan, Ray Linn, Jimmy Blake, Leon Debrow, trumpets; George Arus, Les Jenkins, Lowell Martin, trombones; Hymie Shertzer, Johnny Mince, alto saxophones; Don Lodice and Paul Mason, tenor saxophones; Freddie Stulce, baritone saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano, Clark Yokum, guitar; Sid Weiss, bass; Buddy Rich, drums.

Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra – spring 1940. Berigan is the trumpeter at far left.

I have previously posted at swingandbeyond.com a detailed history of the swing era classic “Tuxedo Junction.” That post focuses on the origination in 1939 of “Tuxedo Junction” in the Erskine Hawkins band, and the later phenomenally successful refashioning of it by Glenn Miller. This post will examine Bunny Berigan’s association with “Tuxedo Junction,” first in Tommy Dorsey’s band in the spring and summer of 1940, and then with his own band, starting in the fall of 1940.

Sy Oliver.

After  Glenn Miller’s recording of “Tuxedo Junction” became a runaway hit in the spring of 1940, many other bands rushed to create their own interpretations of it. One such band was Tommy Dorsey’s. TD’s chief arranger in 1940 was Sy Oliver, whose charts on new pop tunes were every bit as good as his original composition/arrangements. Oliver’s direct, colorful  and always swinging writing appealed to both Tommy Dorsey’s audiences and to the musicians in the Dorsey band.

Berigan in March, 1940, soon after joining the Tommy Dorsey band. The derby on his head was used to mute the sound of his trumpet.

Oliver’s arrangement of “Tuxedo Junction” contained a large place for an improvised trumpet solo, created especially for Bunny Berigan, who from March through August of 1940, was TD’s featured  jazz trumpet soloist. The version presented here shows that Berigan was stimulated by both “Tuxedo Junction” and Oliver’s writing. His jazz solo in this live performance is terrific. The tempo Oliver used in this arrangement was slower than that used by Erskine Hawkins and faster than the one used by Glenn Miller: half-fast, as Louis Armstrong used to say.  Berigan’s  trumpet, which he plays open throughout this arrangement,  begins this performance with a fragment of the melody as an introduction, then the TD reeds and brass deliver an entire chorus of “Tuxedo Junction.” As was often the case, there is a wonderful compositional flow to his improvised solo, which displays his broad, lustrous trumpet sound. Berigan begins his solo quitely, gradually increasing the intensity of his playing, reaching an exciting climax and relaxed denouement. That is Berigan’s trumpet by the way, leading the ensemble in the finale.

(Note: The arrangement Sy Oliver wrote for the Tommy Dorsey band on “Tuxedo Junction” included a chorus following Berigan’s solo that showcased the Pied Pipers singing quartet presenting the newly written lyric for the tune. I have excised that portion to highlight Berigan’s trumpet solo.)

 “Tuxedo Junction”

Composed by William Johnson, Julian Dash and Erskine Hawkins; head arrangement organized by William Johnson and then modified by the Berigan band.

Recorded live from an NBC radio broadcast from the “Dancing Campus” of  the New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows, New York on October 14, 1940.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Jack Thompson, lead trumpet; Frank Perry and Ray Krantz, trumpets; Ernie Stricker and Max Smith, trombones;  Eddie Alcock lead alto saxophone; Andy Fitzgerald alto and baritone saxophone, and clarinet; Frank Crolene and  Johnny Castaldi, tenor saxophones; Edwin “Buddy” Koss, piano; Tommy Moore, guitar; Morty Stulmaker, bass; Jack Maisel, drums.

Berigan in the fall of 1940, after he left Tommy Dorsey’s band and resumed leading his own band.

Berigan left Tommy Dorsey’s band toward the end of August of 1940 for a number of reasons, paramount of which was that he wanted to be a bandleader once again. He organized and began rehearsing a new big band in September, and by early October was breaking his new band on jobs in and around New York City. The book of arrangements this new band played started out with many of the charts used by the 1937-early 1940 Berigan band, some new scores written by two musicians in the new band, Andy Fitzgerald and Frank Crolene, and a few Bunny snagged from fellow bandleaders who were disposed to help him.  The arrangement Berigan used on “Tuxedo Junction” was given to him by fellow trumpet-playing bandleader Erskine Hawkins, and is the very same one the Hawkins band recorded for Bluebird in July of 1939.

Clarinetist Andy Fitzgerald.

What is interesting, in addition to Berigan’s own trumpet solos, which are fresh and new, is how the Hawkins arrangement (which was really a simple sketch prepared by Hawkins’s lead alto saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson), evolved in performance by this new Berigan band. Although there were no dramatic changes, there were nevertheless a few new twists. First and most importantly, Bunny, like Glenn Miller, slowed down the tempo from the one used by Hawkins, but not to the crawl of the classic Miller recording, and like Miller he played this arrangement in 4/4 time. Second, he allowed almost all of the solo space to himself, muting his trumpet with a plunger at first, then using a cup mute, concluding with the plunger again. (The tasty clarinet solo is by Andy Fitzgerald. The fine guitar work throughout is by Tommy Moore.) That was not because Berigan wanted to exclude his sidemen from taking solos, but because he loved playing “Tuxedo Junction,” and especially enjoyed creating new improvisations on it. Berigan’s arrangement contrasted the melodic unison saxophones with bursts of open brass. Moreover, because “Tuxedo Junction” was such an audience-pleaser, it became a feature for Berigan’s trumpet that remained in his band’s book, and was played frequently by him until the end, which sadly would come all to soon, on June 2, 1942, when he died from cirrhosis at age 33. (*)

(*) During the five years he led big bands, Berigan gradually acquired a number of medium tempo arrangements that were showcases for his solo trumpet, were ideal for dancing, and were played often by him. In addition to “Tuxedo Junction,” these included: “Trees,” and “Night Song.”

The recordings presented here were digitally remastered with considerable sonic restoration by Mike Zirpolo.

“I Poured My Heart Into a Song” (1939)

“I Poured My Heart Into a Song”

Composed by Irving Berlin; arranged by Andy Phillips.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra live at Manhattan Center, New York City, September 26, 1939.

Bunny Berigan, Jake Koven,Truman Quigley, Carl “Bama” Warwick, trumpets; Mark Pasco, Al Jennings, trombones; Charlie DiMaggio (as/cl) Joe DiMaggio (as/cl); Larry Walsh (ts/bs); Stuart Anderson (ts/cl), reeds; Edwin “Buddy” Koss, piano; Tommy Moore, guitar; Morty Stulmaker, bass; Paul Collins, drums; Danny Richards, vocal.

The story: As a change of pace, I am going to post parts of  a recent review of “Mr. Trumpet” that I think says something that Berigan fans will benefit from. Authors always are grateful for reviews because reviews indicate that: a) someone read your book; and b) they cared enough about what they read to write about it. Reviews come in all sizes and levels of seriousness. I prefer reading reviews that are thoughtful, which this one is. However, even the most even-handed review may not be 100% accurate in terms of the historical record. That is beside the point. The point is that the reviewer thought that the book he read merited some expression of his opinion, and he took the time and effort to write a review. For that, I say many thanks.

This review, by Roger A. Baylor, was posted on July 20, 2017. The full text of the review appears at this link:      http://cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com/2017/07/on-avenues-doubleheader-2-book-about.html

I am posting only the parts of the review that directly discuss Bunny Berigan and/or “Mr. Trumpet.”

“One bedrock requirement for a musician seeking such a secure and well-paid job (at CBS Radio as a staff musician, which Berigan was) was the ability to sight-read sheet music, quickly and accurately. Another was stringent professionalism, as there was no way of correcting mistakes. It was one take, and gone into the irreparable ether.

It was into this dynamic milieu that a young man named Bunny Berigan landed with noticeable fanfare. As with so many others, Berigan at first accepted the corporate paycheck. It brought him to the big city, but he yearned for something more.

The jazz bug had bitten him, and now jazz itself was morphing into something else beyond small groups in dingy speakeasies. The backroom combo became the ballroom big band, fusing the spirit of improvisation with the crowd-pleasing predictability of increasingly sophisticated arrangements, both at the point of origin and for a far wider audience of nightly radio listeners.

Berigan was perfectly suited for the advent of swing, quickly forsaking the remunerative safety of studio employment in the Big Apple to play in constantly touring big bands, first as a featured sideman, and later as leader of his own aggregations.

Berigan’s high water mark as a big band leader came during the late 1930s, when the swing era still was in its ascendancy. By the standards of the day, he had it all: professional respect, personal popularity, a wife, children, house and car. But by 1942 Berigan was dead, his liver ravaged by cirrhosis, the victim of stunningly heavy drinking. Three-quarters of a century later, very few Americans remember Bunny Berigan, but for a while before most of us were born, he could do no wrong. Even Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong thought as much.

Berigan at age 21.

Long after the big bands provided America’s WWII soundtrack, a Canadian named Neil Young suggested it was better to burn out than fade away. Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan provided a case study in how to do it, with nary an electric guitar in sight. Berigan began as a fair-haired, corn-fed lad from Wisconsin, preternaturally talented and instinctively musical. He lived the normal Midwestern life of the time, made it through high school and dabbled at college. He was quiet and generally affable, and always regarded warmly by his friends and associates.

Seemingly destined for great musical achievements, his trumpeting skills took him to New York City, where his studio prowess can be heard, usually uncredited, briefly salvaging numerous pop songs with no redeeming qualities whatever, save Berigan’s inspired soloing. Berigan’s trumpeting style still stands out from the era’s norm. He had the rare technical ability to play well in the instrument’s lowest and highest registers, with an amazingly burnished, broad clarity of tone. His was not the agitated attack of a Harry James. Berigan’s improvised solos were thoughtfully calculated, lyrical and “risky,” as trumpet players liked to describe them.

In fact, Berigan’s solos were as iconic in their time as Eddie Van Halen’s were a half century later, whether for Benny Goodman (“King Porter Stomp,” “Sometimes I’m Happy”); Tommy Dorsey (“Marie,” “Song of India”); or in the trumpeter’s own bands, as with his greatest hit, “I Can’t Get Started.”

At Metronome All-Star recording session January 12, 1939. L-R: Tommy Dorsey, Dorsey’s manager Bobby Burns, Berigan, George T. Simon of Metronome magazine, and Benny Goodman. For whatever reason, Simon’s relationship with Berigan was strained.

Earlier in the year, I read a biography of Berigan: Mr. Trumpet: The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumph of Bunny Berigan, by Michael P. Zirpolo. It is one of two major biographies written about the musician; the other is Bunny Berigan: Elusive Legend of Jazz, by Robert Dupuis. Zirpolo’s book isn’t perfect, but it’s as definitive a survey as any writer is likely to produce at this late date, when none of Berigan’s contemporaries are alive to tell the tale. Granted, the author is far from a disinterested party, and on occasion seems happy to reprise ancient blood feuds and eager to pick a side in them, as with the big band journalist George T. Simon’s purported indifference, perhaps even antipathy, to Berigan. Simon began as fanboy swing enthusiast, started young as a writer, and perhaps most unforgivably to his enemies, outlived just about everyone else who’d been there at the time, thereby achieving a cult status through sheer longevity.

Zirpolo also isn’t always kind to Berigan’s long-suffering wife, who wasn’t prepared for the jazz lifestyle or her husband’s infidelities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she had a drinking problem of her own, and probably deserves greater benefit of the doubt.

Far more informatively, Zirpolo amply describes the entertainment industry milieu in which Berigan and so many other musicians struggled to stay afloat amid the machinations of resident charlatans, piranhas and cutthroats. Indeed, these are constants throughout showbiz history, and perhaps Zirpolo’s greatest single contribution in writing his biography of Berigan is to settle accounts with those (like Simon) who continued to insist that the trumpeter was an indifferent businessman and a poor bandleader.

Berigan leads his band at the Loew’s-State Theater in New York, August 24-30 1939. L-R front row: Don Lodice, Gus Bivona, Charlie DiMaggio, Larry Walsh; middle row: Joe Bauer, Johnny Napton, Jake Koven, Al Jennings, Mark Pasco; back: drummer Paul Collins.

At least some of Berigan’s circumstances were extenuating. It’s true that as a bandleader during two separate stints, he was beset by simple bad luck, seemingly unable to catch a break. We know he drank too much. At the same time, he was badly served by monopolistic booking agencies, conniving managers and uncooperative record company executives. More importantly, far from being detached, Berigan exhibited considerable skill in recruiting and drilling his musicians, constantly receiving positive reviews from the public even when cash-poor and operating at a loss, which seems inevitable given the challenging economics of one-night stands and a paucity of recording opportunities in the latter stages of Berigan’s short career.

Berigan – December 1941. Cirrhosis was ravaging his liver by then, and he knew it.

Ultimately, the story of Bunny Berigan’s life is inseparable from the tragedy of his early death. Zirpolo cites a former Berigan sideman’s testimony that near the end, his boss was drinking two bottles of rye whiskey per day; his cirrhosis, for which the author posits a genetic predisposition, steadily worsened, and the trumpeter was broke and living out of a suitcase. Without intervention, it was only a matter of time. Still, numerous accounts confirm that Berigan’s embouchure, chops and ability to perform remained largely intact amid this onslaught, until just before his liver finally disintegrated. We now understand that alcoholism is a disease, and while Berigan certainly refrained from treating it, the support mechanism for sobriety had not yet come into its own. Taking time away for treatment subsequently became a rite of passage for rock stars, but societal attitudes hardly supported this approach at the time. Berigan was left to his own devices, stuck in a moment like a hamster on a treadmill, unable to stop trying to make money even as the pace of his efforts left him increasingly indebted, with a break-even point that arrived only when he died. It’s useless, sad and infuriating, but in the end, it just is.

Zirpolo documents Berigan’s life more than capably, and I recommend the book.

The music of the big band era has survived the departure of its creators and consumers, albeit as tribute rather than preference, according to the half-life that follows the demise of cultural relevance.

In retrospect, the era of peak big band in America was remarkably short-lived – ten, maybe twelve years at most. The music rose out of the Depression, reached a crescendo during World War II, and receded just as quickly at war’s end.

We can listen to Berigan’s recorded output; ponder his many might-have-beens, and imagine the musical scene long since passed. All of it, a society and culture, have been consigned to the history books. At times it is a melancholy remembrance, though a necessary one, at least for me.”

*********

The music: In the late summer of 1939, after a series of financial reversals, Berigan became ensnared in a tangled business situation involving MCA (Music Corporation of America), his booking agent, Arthur Michaud his former personal agent, and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the union he and all of the musicians in his band were members of. The net result was that Bunny almost lost the band he had so carefully built over the previous two and a half years. (Among those who left at the end of a successful week at Manhattan’s Loew’s State Theater in late August were: tenor saxophonist Don Lodice, alto saxophonist/clarinetist Gus Bivona, pianist Joe Bushkin, and lead trumpeter Johnny Napton.) He was forced to file a bankruptcy petition (which inexplicably did not discharge his debts), and made several other business decisions that left him utterly without money. His method of dealing with these setbacks was to leave it to others to attempt to work out a financial solution, while he continued touring, with a largely reorganized band which he whipped into shape in a short time.

Arranger Andy Phillips – 1939.

After a six week engagement at Hotel Sherman in Chicago in July and August, and then the stay at the Loew’s-State Theater, Berigan hired a number of new musicians, and began a long string of one-night stands through most of September 1939. He returned to New York for a short time at the end of that month, appearing at Manhattan Center on September 29, from where a radio broadcast of the band was scheduled. This engagement held a pleasant surprise for Bunny. Paul Collins, who was the drummer in the Berigan band then, recalled: “That broadcast was Martin Block’s Swing Session program and Glen Gray’s Casa Loma orchestra played opposite us. They played ‘I Can’t Get Started’ as a tribute to Bunny, using his famous arrangement and featuring Murray McEachern on trombone. He played it extremely well, except for very last high note on the coda, when he stopped playing, turned and bowed towards Bunny.” Berigan, who was not a man given to demonstrations of emotion, on this occasion was moved to tears.

Vocalist Danny Richards – 1939.

On “I Poured My Heart into a Song,” we hear Bunny’s capacious, velvety low register before the vocal; then after it the perfectly lip-trilled high C followed by the huge, ringing high F at the end. This is a classic example of many of Berigan’s  stylistic devices, all delivered with dramatic authority. This song was composed by Irving Berlin for the 1939 Fox film Second Fiddle, and the arrangement we hear was written by Andy Phillips. Note how effectively he deploys the open Berigan trumpet in the first chorus melody statement and transition into the vocal chorus.

Danny Richards sings here, and we hear what a fine vocalist he was. His robust voice quality, sense of pitch and range were excellent, and he could put a song over subtly but persuasively. In the two-plus years (with interruptions) he was Berigan’s boy vocalist, he was consistently popular with audiences, and much appreciated by Bunny himself. (Listen after Richards sings the word “apart” toward the end of the vocal chorus; Berigan can be heard in the background saying …“Yyyess, Danny!”) Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against Richards making many commercial records with Bunny. Andy Phillips went on to considerable success writing arrangements for Claude Thornhill.

Despite all of Bunny’s problems at the time this recording was made, the revamped Berigan band on this broadcast is loose and swinging, and his own playing is magnificent.

This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.