Bunny Berigan - Volume 1 (1938-39)

Rare Airchecks of Bunny Berigan's 1938-39 Bands and Guest Spot on Saturday Night Swing Club.

(LP Shoestring SS-100)

BUNNY BERIGAN'S reputation as the greatest white trumpet player of the 1930's (and one of the ALL TIME GREATS) is probably based on a relatively small number of recordings. Most Berigan fans have the sessions BUNNY cut with Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Red Norvo, Mildred Bailey, Bud Freeman, Gene Gifford (1935) and Red McKenzie, Billie Holiday, Frank Froeba (1936), Tommy Dorsey (1937) and the many small and big band titles Bunny cut under his own name. These alone, taken as a whole, would make BUNNY'S place in jazz history secure, but there are many dozens of sessions with Hal Kemp, Paul Whiteman, Ramona, Fred Rich, Ben Selwin, Chick Bullock, Dick McDonough, The Dorsey Brothers and many others featuring Bunny which, due to the rareity of the original 78's and the lack of LP issues, are known to only a small minority of Berigan collectors.

BERIGAN airchecks are even more rare and until recently were limited to a very few titles by Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. Two Jazz Archives LP's and these two SHOESTRING LP's (Volume 2, Bunny 1937-40 is also available) add to the Berigan reputation and show both Bunny and his band in a different and much better light that the commercial records of the same period.

Bunny's band opened at the Paradise Restaurant in NYC on March 20, 1938. Booked for a month they stayed 7 weeks, closing on May 6th. This was perhaps the zenith for the Berigan band. Never again would it play a major job of any length in the 'Big Apple' nor would it again have a network radio wire for such an extended period of time. Nor would as many top sidemen grace the Berigan band again. The band B'cast almost nightly and these airchecks feature plenty of solos by George Auld (tenor), Joe Dixon (clarinet), Sonny Lee (who recently died in Texas at age 71) who was a top trombonist and the best of any in Bunny's many bands. The sax section, lead by Mike Doty and anchored by Clyde Rounds (both very underrated musicians) was at its peak and the rhythm section had good drive with Hank Wayland on bass the standout. Johnny Blowers had just joined the band and, while quite young, seems to get better with each B'cast. BUNNY blows happy, driving horn and the band seems relaxed and really swings on the up tempo tunes. This was the band that 'cut' the Artie Shaw band in a 'battle of music' in New England around the same period.

By 1939 the band had undergone a complete change of personnel and while good sidemen are heard in solo (Buskin, Lodice, Gud Bivona - (on both alto sax and clarinett) and Paul Collins, an excellent drummer, could really drive the band), it lacked polish and both personnel and financial problems were frequent. Bunny, in spite of everything sounds as inspired as ever.

The CBS studios and the "Saturday Night Swing Club" must have been like a 'second home' to Bunny and he made guest apperances whenever he was in the NYC area. This version of 'Started' shows Bunny in less than top form, yet still displays that big tone and wonderful lower register that made him the envy of most trumpet players of the 1930's.

SHOESTRING Records hopes to locate and release other BUNNY airchecks. This writer is currently completing research on a BUNNY BERIGAN Bio/Discography to be published in 1976. Any muscian, fan, collector or researcher who can offer help or any date about Bunny or his records is urged to contact SHOESTRING Records.

BOZY WHITE, November 1975.

This text is used with the permission of mr Bozy White, owner of Shoestring Records