Bunny Berigan: Elusive Legend of Jazz

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The accomplishments of seminal jazz trumpeter Bernard "Bunny" Berigan have secured his place in the annals of American music history. In his short lifetime (1908--1942), Berigan performed on more than six hundred recordings and served as a direct link between Louis Armstrong and later musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, and Wynton Marsalis. Berigan lent his uninhibited jazz style to the big bands of Benny Goodman, Hal Kemp, and Tommy Dorsey, and he was in demand as a studio musician for vocalists Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, and Mildred Bailey. In addition to playing for the music industry's giants, Berigan became one himself by forming his own band in 1937 and recording his most famous hit and theme song, "I Can't Get Started." In the first comprehensive biography of Berigan, Robert Dupuis draws on hundreds of interviews with family, friends, and colleagues to present a fascinating and entertaining look at the fast-paced career and personal life of this jazz great.

LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bernard ``Bunny'' Berigan (1908-1942) was only 33 when he died an alcoholic's death in New York City, far from his rural hometown of Fox Lake, Wis. Berigan, who played with Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey before forming his own band in 1937, wasn't as widely recognized as other bandleaders of his era, but his fans were intensely loyal. His own fidelity, however, comes into question: when Berigan's wife heard that the trumpeter was having an affair with singer Lee Wiley, she confronted him, saying, ``It's her or me''--Bunny choose Lee. Dupuis, a former Detroit school principal, brings together the major successes and myriad scrapes of Berigan's brilliant yet tormented career. Interviews with friends and acquaintances from Fox Lake as well as from the music industry give this enjoyable if occasionally sluggish volume a friendly, admiring tone. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Dupuis offers the first full-length biography of swing-era jazz trumpeter Bunny Berigan (1908-42). By interviewing dozens of Berigan's relatives, friends, and musical associates, he pieces together the trumpeter's life: the early years in Wisconsin; his extensive work on the CBS radio network; stints with such notables as Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman, Billie Holiday, and Bing Crosby; and the formation of the Berigan band in 1937, which hit the charts with ``I Can't Get Started.'' The author ends with the trumpeter's premature death from alcohol poisoning. Throughout the account, Dupuis places Berigan's life in a social and historical context. This lively, well-written, exhaustively researched book is highly recommended for anyone interested in jazz.-- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Tells of the life and career of swing era jazz trumpeter Bernard "Bunny" Berigan (1908-1941)--and the substantial impact he had on music during his short life. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807130681
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Dupuis is a former contributing editor to the reference book series Contemporary Musicians and a retired public school administrator. He lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

LSU Press

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