At 1:30pm on Friday the 18th, Zirpolo gives the first of his formal talks during the "Jubilee," at the Community Center.
"I’ll be presenting a slide show that will include many photos of Bunny, his family, musical associates and bands," he reports. "I’ll also be playing excerpts from his greatest recordings, the rarest of the rare Berigan recordings, and have a special presentation which will examine the evolution of Bunny’s performances of I Can’t Get Started over the years. This will include the alternate take to the definitive August 7, 1937 recording most people are familiar with, and at least eight other performances. All of these music presentations will involve listening to and discussing the music."
Having sat down with Zirpolo on various occasions and listened to music, I can attest that his Berigan remembrances will be time well-spent.
"What is most striking to me about the evolution of I Can't Get Started is how Berigan’s singing became much more robust as time passed," Zirpolo notes. "Unfortunately, one of the best recordings I have ever heard of Bunny performing I Can't Get Started, the one that was played for me by Loren Schoenberg at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem last spring, which is a part of the famous “Savory Recordings,” (an aircheck from a November 30, 1938 WNEW/Martin Block jam session), will not be included. That recording and all of the Savory recordings are in essence being sequestered by the NJMH because of concerns over copyright laws. I am an attorney, and I have spent a considerable amount of time researching copyright law. However I am not a copyright attorney. Nevertheless, I think that even with the existing copyright issues, those recordings can and should be released. My idea is that since NJMH is a non-profit educational institution, the production costs required to issue those recordings could be recouped by NJMH from sales. This will undoubtedly take a while, but then after those costs have been recouped, the 'net profit' from the sale of the recordings could be placed into a trust fund for any persons who might have claims for royalties for any reason based on the existing copyright law. I know that Loren Schoenberg wants to release these wonderful recordings, but I have not spoken with him recently about what if any progress is being made toward doing that."
In his book, Zirpolo's research and analysis corrected and reassessed many heretofore misunderstood events in Berigan's life.
"The single largest misconception about Bunny Berigan is the persistent myth that he was an irresponsible drunkard and lax bandleader," Zirpolo acknowledged to me. " Although there were embarrassing incidents starting in the mid-1930s, when Bunny was learning how to cope with his alcoholism on a daily basis, those were very few in number. His last major drinking fiasco took place in June or July of 1940, when he was with Tommy Dorsey. Unfortunately, those incidents were so bizarre that they immediately took on a notorious even legendary quality. This hurt Bunny professionally while he lived, and certainly has continued to color peoples’ opinion of him since his death. His early death as a result of cirrhosis has only reinforced this misconception."
What was the truth?
"In reality, Bunny Berigan was one of the hardest working, most responsible bandleaders of the swing era," Zirpolo contends. "His bands were uniformly well-rehearsed and well-disciplined. On the few occasions when he and his band did not show up on time (or in the proper place), it was not his fault. But again, the legend surrounding his drinking overshadowed the actual events. This is not to say that Berigan’s bands were comprised of Boy Scouts. There were many zany episodes in the history of the Berigan bands. But these did not differ greatly from the generally unconventional behavior of the vast majority of young dance band musicians who were required to travel constantly, eat and sleep at odd hours (if at all), and be expected to perform at top levels at all times before often highly critical audiences."
Another misconception which Zirpolo disputed in his book was that Berigan's playing declined as time went on.
"Although there were nights, especially in 1942, when he was nearing death, that the cirrhosis that would kill him made it difficult and painful to play, he still always played on engagements, frequently brilliantly," Zirpolo says. "I will present as a part of my 'rarest of the rare' Berigan recordings an aircheck from April 12, 1942, with Bunny playing I’m Confessin', which contains absolutely stunning playing by him. This was about seven weeks before he died. We must remember that he continued performing before large and enthusiastic audiences until literally a couple of days before his death. If Bunny Berigan had not been playing well, MCA, his booking agency, would not have wasted their time presenting his band."
Gratifyingly, Zirpolo's book has been well-received by reviewers and the public, and in the last six months, he has been busy promoting it from his home in Ohio. He was a guest on the "Around Noon" program on WCPN-FM in Cleveland last December, made a presentation about Berigan at the Canton Art Museum this past March, and continues to correspond with jazz fans around the world. Also, plans are taking shape for Zirpolo to participate in a "Rutgers Roundtable" sponsored by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ.
"Reaction to the book has been very positive," Zirpolo says. "Most of the people who have read the book and contacted me, so far, are people who have at least some knowledge of Berigan’s music and life. Without exception they have told me that they learned a lot more about him and his music from reading the book. Most of them seem rather surprised that he was a really major player among the great bandleaders of the swing era. Only now is the book beginning to be marketed to libraries across the nation. That will eventually bring it to the attention of people who may know little or nothing about Bunny Berigan. When I wrote the book, I took pains to set Berigan’s story in the fullest possible context. The endnotes contain many mini-biographies of people who crossed paths with Bunny. That was done because we are now at a time when most people barely know who Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby were, for example, and likely have no idea why they were important in the development of American music. These biographies explain who many great musicians, singers, arrangers, and others involved with the music business in the 1930s and 1940s were, and why they were important. I hope that gives the uninitiated reader a few more pieces to the puzzle, and will result in a clearer picture."
This year's "Bunny Berigan Jubilee" will be held 70 years after Berigan's death.
"We must never assume that younger generations will not be interested in the musical history of America," Zirpolo cautions. "Quite recently, I was astonished to learn that a young musician and historian who is 24 years old is going to present a concert of the music of Paul Whiteman and Ted Lewis this summer here in my home town of Canton, Ohio. He read Mr. Trumpet and told me that he learned a lot from it and that it imparted to him the flavor of the swing era. He is passionate about the musical history of our nation. I can’t wait to experience what he and his orchestra will bring to this vintage music. To me this is very thrilling!"
It's reassuring to know that Berigan's life and career have been documented in so much detail in Zirpolo's book, and that Zirpolo retains his interest in big band music after all these years.
"I see the music of Bunny Berigan, and indeed all of the greats of the swing era, as being a part of the continuum of American music, especially in the areas of jazz and American Popular Song," Zirpolo comments. "Most people today, including many musicians, do not have a sense that American music is like a great river, with many tributaries. At the source of this river are the progenitors, the people who actually created the music. In jazz these creators were for example Scott Joplin and the early piano titans. A bit later came Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington and the many giants who emerged in the swing era. Berigan was definitely one of these. American Popular Song was created by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and many other composers in the period 1910-1940. Once again, others followed and continued the development started by the founders. Berigan was deeply involved in all of this as a charismatic virtuoso performer. History in music is like history in all other areas of human endeavor: to understand the past allows a deeper, richer understanding of the present."
To read my 2004 biographical sketch about Bunny Berigan, click here; or to read my full review of Zirpolo's book, click here.
It was recently announced that The Glenn Miller Society, based in London, England and with members around the world, would cease operation after 62 years, including publication of its journal, the Moonlight Serenader.
Chairman Roland E. Taylor explained, "Recent financial constraints have affected the Society's Bank Balance and, as a result of the spiralling postage coupled with the cost of printing, we will be unable to continue with future issues. It is all the more poignant for us because our Society has been in existence for so many years, spreading the gospel about the Glenn Miller music, and we believe must be the the longest-serving popular music society."
I personally was a paid member of The Glenn Miller Society since 1974 (I joined through their U.S. representative, Fred Woodruf, who was based in California) and always looked forward to receiving the next issue of the Serenader.
"Whilst the Miller Society was founded early in 1950, it was 'The Glenn Miller Story' motion picture which trebled our membership and through our regular London-based GM recitals - in excess of 250 - we were pleased to meet so many members and were able to introduce a host of personalities closely associated with the Glenn miller music," Taylor said. "We have obviously much appreciated your great support as a member of this Society over many years - and for us it is regrettably the end of an era."
Taylor served as Editor of the Moonlight Serenader since late 1956, having taken it over from Geoffrey E. Butcher, who was, along with Stephen Bedwell, one of the most prominent names in the Society.
To Roly and his many colleagues and contributors over the years... including Mike Morris, Dick March, Michael Highton, Tony Eaton, and others... I give my heartfelt thanks. You all were successful in helping to introduce the Miller sound to a lot of young people, including myself.
WELL, GIT IT
Arranger - composer - bandleader Sy Oliver (1910-1988) will be inducted into the Zanesville, OH City Schools' Hall of Fame on the 12th of this month.
Born in Battle Creek, MI, Oliver grew up in Zanesville and graduated from Zanesville High School.
Oliver was best-known as an arranger and composer for Jimmie Lunceford and Tommy Dorsey. Later, he was a Music Director at Decca Records for 10 years, and in 1961 arranged and conducted an LP tribute to Tommy Dorsey, " I Remember Tommy," featuring former Dorsey vocalist Frank Sinatra, on Reprise Records.
Oliver performed at the 1973 Zane's Trace Commemoration in Zanesville.
Their Hall of Fame was created in 2007 "to recognize and perpetuate the names of those men and women who have displayed outstanding abilities in organized and recognized high school athletics, academics and/or other curricular or extracurricular activities, and/or who have contributed meritorius service to the prestige and progress of Zanesville City Schools."
NAME BANDS IN-PERSON
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey. May 15, Miller Performing Arts Center,
Jefferson City, MO.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke. May 1-2, conclusion of Mississippi River
cruise; May 3, Madison, IN; May 7, Seattle, WA; May 12, Alameda, CA; May 17,
Florence, OR; May 19, Bandon, OR; May 20, Tillamook High School, Tillamook, OR;
May 23-24, Jim Thorpe, PA.
Hal McIntyre Orchestra directed by Don Pentleton. May 6, Amazing Things Center for the
Arts, Framingham, MA; May 13, Strand Theatre, Clinton, MA.
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Nick Hilscher. May 2, Grand Theatre, Quebec, Quebec,
Canada; May 3, Salle Jean-Grimaldi, LaSalle, Quebec, Canada; May 4, Theatre
Hector-Charland, L'Assomption, Quebec, Canada; May 5, Centre Culturel de
Drummondville, Drummondville, Quebec, Canada; May 6, Theatre du Palais Municipal,
La Baie, Quebec, Canada; May 8, Salle Rolland-Brunelle, Joliette, Quebec, Canada;
May 9, Theatre du Vieux-Terrebonne, Terrebonne, Quebec, Canada; May 10, Centre des
Arts Juliette-Lasonde, St-Hyacinthe, Quebec; May 11, Centre Culturel de Beloiel,
Beloiel, Quebec, Canada; May 12, Mainson de la culture de Gatineau, Gatineau,
Quebec, Canada; May 13, Theatre des Deux-Rives, St. Jean sur Richilieu, Quebec,
Canada; May 16, Theatre de Cuivre, Rouyn Noranda, Quebec, Canada; May 17,
Theatre Telebec, Val d'Or, Quebec, Canada; May 19, Norway Fine Arts Center, Norway,
MI; May 21-22, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Oakbrook Terrace, IL; May 26, The Franklin
Theatre, Franklin, TN; May 27, University of Mississippi, University, MS.
Artie Shaw Orchestra directed by Matt Koza. May 3, Don Gibson Theatre, Shelby, NC.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
Van Alexander, b.May 2, 1915. Arranger with Webb '36-'38 and bandleader '39-'43 /
Capitol LPs '59-'62.
Buddy Catlett, b.May 13, 1933. Bassist with Basie '62-'64.
Al Porcino, b.May 15, 1925. Trumpeter with Herman '49 / '54 / '59; Kenton '55 / '60 / '65; J.
Eddie Bert, b.May 16, 1922. Trombonist with Norvo '41-'42; Herman '43 / '50; Kenton '47;
McKinley '52; Les Elgart '54; Lawrence '55-'59.
Lorry Peters, b.May 20, 1932. Vocalist with McKinley-Miller '57-'59.
Gene DiNovi, b.May 26, 1928. Pianist with Shaw '49; Goodman '48 / '59.
Josephine (Bellson) Payne, 94, d.May 1, 2012. Sister of drummer - bandleader Louis
Howie Richmond, 94, d.May 20, 2012, "after several weeks of deteriorating health."
Publicist for Miller; Herman; Krupa; Lombardo.
Carrie Smith, 86, d.May 20, 2012, cancer. Vocalist with Goodman '85-'86.
Steven Davis Miller, 69, d.May 25, 2012, "after a long illness." Son of Glenn Miller.
MORT LINDSEY, R.I.P.
Mort Lindsey, the leader of the band on Merv Griffin's TV show, died at the age of 89 on the 4th of this month, due to "complications of a broken hip."
Lindsey was one of a series of bandleaders who participated in the "Bring Back the Bands" radio show hosted by Ray McKinley, and, more famously, of course, he conducted when various big band stars appeared on Griffin's program, including two nights in January 1971 when Griffin saluted the bands.
"The hero of Griffin's two-part program," Jack Gould wrote in The New York Times, "was his own regular orchestra conductor, Mort Lindsey, the pianist, who with amazing accuracy and musicianship led his band through all the different styles and arrangements associated with the guests of honor. To shift effortlessly from the Champagne horn of Lawrence Welk to the dixieland beat of Bob Crosby left no doubt of Mr. Lindsey's versatility."
I always looked forward to the programs for which the band was enlarged, like when the Griffin show would originate from Las Vegas. Even with the curtains still closed, the band had a telltale more robust, fuller sound.
In 1955 Lindsey married former Les Brown vocalist Betty Bonney, who had recorded Joltin' Joe DiMaggio with the Band of Renown 14 years earlier.
Lindsey was also best-known for conducting the orchestra at Judy Garland's memorable April 23rd, 1961 Carnegie Hall appearance in New York City.
Rest in peace, Mr. Lindsey.
NEW COMPACT DISCS
Louis Armstrong. "Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours,"
Folkways 60005. Live performance from 1971.
Charlie Barnet. "The Navy Swings," Sounds of YesterYear [ UK ] DSOY888. Includes
programs 13-16, with such instrumentals as Rapskallion, An Evening in Azerbasia,
and Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie. Guest vocalist is Jeri Southern.
Duke Ellington. "The Treasury Shows, Volume 16," DETS [ Sw ] 9016.
Jan Garber. "Because of You," Audiophonic 120315. Transcriptions.
Benny Goodman. "AFRS Benny Goodman Show Volume 13," Sounds of YesterYear [ UK ]
DSOY889. Shows #31 and 32, including Jalousie and Oh, But I Do.
Ted Heath. "Ridin' High: Rare Transcription Recordings of the 1950s Volume 4,"
Vocalion [ UK ] CDEA 6194. Recorded 1955-56, including Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie,
The Wayward Wind, and See You Later, Alligator.
Syd Lawrence. "Holland Special / Welt Hits (Made in Germany)," Vocalion [ UK ] CDLK
4453. 2 LPs on 1 CD, recorded 1976-77.
---. "Singin' n' Swingin' / Great Hits of the 1930s," Vocalion [ UK ] 2CDLK 4467. 2-CD
set. Both LPs recorded 1975.
Si Zentner. "From Russia With Love / Warning Shot," Vocalion [ UK ] CDLK 4470. 2 LPs
on 1 CD, recorded 1964 and 1967, respectively.
Various artists. "The Best Years of Our Lives: 1947," Sounds of YesterYear [ UK ] DSOY
887. Includes Weems, Monroe, Martin, Spivak, Beneke-Miller, Howard, Prima, and
Ray Anthony. "This Could Be the Night," Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
NEW IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE
Brian Belton. "B.B.'s Big Band Beat: Brian Belton takes a look at the big band scene,"
In Tune International, No. 243 / May 2012, p.34. Complimentary reviews of recent CDs
by McIntyre, Barnet, Kenton, and Goodman.
"CD Review Extra," In Tune International, No. 243 / May 2012, p.3. Positive review of "The
Big Blast - 100 Classic Big Bands" (Properbox [ UK ] 165). "A great selection in fine
sound and a feast of listening pleasure," it is stated.
Allen Pollock. "Pollock's Picks," In Tune International, No. 243 / May 2012, p.35. Review
of "Big Band Divas of the 1940s" (Bygone Days BYD77074).
Robert W. Rice. "Stateside with Robert W Rice," In Tune International, No. 243 / May 2012,
p.15+. His writes about Vaughn Monroe, Maynard Ferguson, and others.
Kirk Silsbee. "Johnny Mandel has composed quite a life in music," Los Angeles Times,
May 29, 2012. Mandel, who wrote for the bands of Shaw, E. Lawrence, Basie, and
Herman, was in the hospital for four months recently, due to a broken hip. "The first
operation didn't take, then they replaced the hip; I'm still learning to walk," he revealed.
"I guess I'm not as hip as I thought."
In memory of the late Steve Miller, next month's "News" will be an all-Glenn Miller issue.