[Dixielandjazz] Joe Bushkin Obit - NY Times

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 5 08:01:13 PST 2004

Another Great is gone. He also did some gigs with various Lester Lanin bands
in NYC and around the world.

Steve Barbone

November 5, 2004 - NY Times - By BEN RATLIFF

Joe Bushkin, 87, Spirited Swing Era Pianist, Dies

Joe Bushkin, a swing-era pianist with a spirited, ebullient style whose
career wound through big bands, cabaret, Hollywood and Broadway, died on
Wednesday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 87.

The cause was pneumonia said his son-in-law Robert Merrill.

Mr. Bushkin was born in a Manhattan brownstone at 103rd Street and Park
Avenue in 1916. His father was a barber from Kiev, in what is now Ukraine,
and he played the cello between customers in his New York shop. Mr. Bushkin
started piano at age 10, stopping for a little while to learn the trumpet
after he had a bicycle accident that injured his right hand. By his early
teens he was the pianist in a band with friends from DeWitt Clinton high
school. His friendship with Benny Goodman's brother Irving led him into the
social world of jazz musicians.

At 14 he nearly played on a Goodman recording date, substituting for Teddy
Wilson. Wilson finally showed up before the tapes rolled, but Mr. Bushkin's
career was in motion: he started working for dance bands and society bands,
performing in New York, New Jersey and Florida.

At 19, he joined Bunny Berigan's band, and that year he also played on one
of Billie Holiday's early recording dates along with Berigan, Artie Shaw and
Cozy Cole, a session that included "Summertime" and "Billie's Blues."
Through Berigan he also got work with Eddie Condon's bands.

>From 1940 to 1942, again with Berigan's help, he was hired into Tommy
Dorsey's orchestra, and composed the music for a famous song during that
period, "Oh, Look at Me Now," which the band recorded with Frank Sinatra.

After military service in the Air Force and back in New York, Mr. Bushkin
spread himself around: he worked in studios for the NBC orchestra, joined
Goodman for a short and bumpy period, played a bandleader in Garson Kanin's
Broadway play "The Rat Race," and in 1951 settled into regular work at the
Embers, the Midtown jazz club, where he played alongside Milt Hinton, Jo
Jones and Buck Clayton.

That same year he led the band for Sinatra at the Paramount Theater, and the
combination of that with his growing audience at the Embers got him record
contracts with Columbia and Capitol, playing solo piano as well as with his
small band from the club and, for the hit record "Midnight Rhapsody," an

He led his own bands through the 1950's and 60's, as well as writing songs
for singers with the lyricist Johnny Burke, and went into semi-retirement
from 1971 to 1975, having relocated to Santa Barbara. He returned to the
road to tour with Bing Crosby in the mid-70's, and thereafter played only
selected engagements in New York, including the Cafe Carlyle, Michael's Pub
and the St. Regis. 

Mr. Bushkin is survived by his wife, Francice Netcher Bushkin, of Santa
Barbara; four daughters, Nina Judson of New York, Maria Stave of Santa
Barbara, Tippy Bushkin of San Francisco and Christina Merrill of Locust
Valley, N.Y.; and six grandchildren.

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