This doesn't quite match an article by historian Joseph E. Bennett, published in 2004, in which it's stated that Busse had come to America in 1912, when he was around 18 years old, and played the trumpet to supplement his meager income as a bus boy in a New York City restaurant. 
    Bennett also provided an interesting detail from Busse's youth: that he had great acrobatic skill as a boy, and when he suffered a broken wrist, switched from playing the violin to the trumpet. 
    However, that is in disagreement with yet a third article, which included comments by Busse's son, Henry Jr.  It's written there that Busse had been forced to play trumpet in an uncle's band after a finger he broke set crooked and he was unable to play the piano. 
    Whatever the truth, once here, Busse eventually made his way west, settling in San Francisco, CA in 1918.
    That's when and where he met Paul Whiteman, who had recently been discharged from the U.S. Navy.  Whiteman, a violinist, put together a band for an engagement at the prestigious Fairmount Hotel there, hiring Busse on trumpet.
    Whiteman and Busse became close friends, and Busse continued to work for him until late 1928, thus helping to make history as Whiteman's band enlarged in size and in reputation.
    An instrumental which Busse helped to compose, Wang-Wang Blues, featured his trumpet and was recorded at the Whiteman band's first Victor recording session on August 8, 1920.
    Later that month, the band recorded Whispering, with another Busse solo; that recording sold an incredible 2 million copies.
    Many other Whiteman recordings, but particularly Hot Lips (He's Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz), made June 23, 1922, and co-written by Busse, further cemented Busse's reputation as a top man on trumpet.  Of course, it later became his band's theme song.
    During a tour of Europe in 1926, Whiteman heard a composition by an Austrian dentist, When Day Is Done, originally titled Madonna.  He liked it so much that he had Ferde Grofe write an arrangement featuring a Busse solo.  After the Whiteman band recorded it on June 8, 1927, it became another big success (and, in fact, the tune was played at Whiteman's funeral in 1967).

vital stats:
given name   Henry Herman Busse
birth   May 18, 1894, Magdeburg, Germany
death   Apr. 23, 1955, Memphis, TN, heart attack
heritage   German
first wife   marriage annulled
second wife   Dorothy Drake, m.1929, div.1931, a model and stage actress
third wife   Lorayne [ sic ] Brox Busse
son   Henry H. Busse Jr., b.Aug. 1931, a radio announcer
residence  1776 Sullivan Canyon Rd., Westwood, CA  

    In 1928, Busse decided to leave the Whiteman orchestra and form his own 13-piece band.
    They got their first break at Castle Farms, outside of Cincinnati, OH, and then, in 1931, opened for the first time at the Chez Paree nightclub in downtown Chicago.
    In 1933, while playing at the Forest Club in Miami Beach, his pianist-arranger, Paul Sprosty,  came up with a lively, "shuffle rhythm" at the keyboard, and Busse decided to adopt it as one of the sounds of his group.
    Throughout the years, Busse's band played at a variety of venues, including hotels, across the country; among them were the Statler in New York City, the Palace in San Francisco, the Beverly-Wilshire in Los Angeles, and the Addison in Detroit.
    He also recorded for a variety of labels, including Victor, Columbia, and, most prominently, Decca.
    On what would be his final tour, Busse had left his California home on January 9, 1955, and had been making a series of one-night stands in the East and South.
    Early in the morning of April 23rd, while in his room at the Calridge Hotel in Memphis, TN, he suffered what was described as a "preliminary heart attack" or "heart seizure," but refused hospitalization, saying that he was "feeling better."  A short while later, a nurse was sent to care for him, but she found him dead in the bathroom.
    Ironically, he had performed for the Tri-State Funeral Directors' dance at the Hotel the previous evening.
    His death was front-page news in the Los Angeles Times.
    A few days later, Busse's family and friends, including fellow bandleader Freddy Martin, gathered for a memorial service in Beverly Hills, CA.
    In April 1957, trumpeter Will Lockridge recorded a tribute to Busse, and billed the band as "The Henry Busse Orchestra."
    Decades later, Busse's son, Henry Jr., started a website dedicated to his father,, but it has been inactive for a number of years.
Joseph E. Bennett, "Henry Busse and Clyde McCoy: The Case for a Commercial Band,"
    Joslin's Jazz Journal, Nov. 2004, p.6+.
"Henry Busse, Band Leader Dies; Wrote Song Hit, 'Hot Lips,'" Chicago Daily Tribune,
    Apr. 24, 1955, p.43.
"Henry Busse Estate Left to Widow," Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1955, p.32.
"Henry Busse, Trumpet Star, Taken by Death," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 24, 1955, p.1.
"Henry Busse's Horn Is Muted Forever," Washington Post and Times Herald, Apr. 24,
    1955, p.A12.
"Notables Pay Tribute at Henry Busse Rites: Hundred Attend Services for Famed
    Orchestra Leader and Trumpet Player," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 26, 1955, p.A10.
Don Rayno, Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music, Volume 1 1890-1930
    (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).
Donald J. Vance, "the 'Hot Lips' reprise," Connect Business Magazine,,

    I would like to expand this tribute with, if possible, a new interview of someone who was important to Henry Busse's life or career.  Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments?  Please contact me via e-mail

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The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
April 2009

    Between falsehoods, little white lies, rumors, anecdotes, embellishments, and faulty memories, it's sometimes difficult to know years later what was the real story.    
    Henry Busse himself claimed to be a "Dutchman," born in the Netherlands.  Actually, he was born in Germany, and spoke with a heavy German accent.  But, evidently to avoid attention after World War I began in 1914, he made that slight revision.
    In a report written many years later, the United Press International said that he had enjoyed traveling the world as a teenager and, at age 16, which would have been around 1910, earned passage across the Atlantic Ocean by playing trumpet with a ship's band.  When they reached the U.S., he decided to stay.   
Henry Busse was booked by The William Morris Agency.