Bunny Berigan

Picture of Bunny Berigan

Bunny Berigan was one of the most talented trumpeters of The Big Band Era and a bandleader whose career was tragically cut short by alcoholism.

Berigan started his career playing with local bands as a teenager in his home state of Wisconsin. He joined Hal Kemp's Orchestra in 1929 after failing his first tryout for the band.  By late 1930 he had already become a sought out studio musician providing trumpet solos for Abe Lyman, Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman.  From late 1932 through early 1934, Berigan was a member of Paul Whiteman's orchestra, before playing with Abe Lyman's band for a bit in 1934.

In 1934, Bunny returned to freelancing and recorded as a sideman on hundreds of recordings, most notably with the Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller's earliest recordings as a band leader.

At the same time, Berigan joined Benny Goodman's Swing band. With Berigan and Gene Krupa both on board, the Goodman band made the tour that ended at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. That tour and performance are often credited with the launch of the swing era.  Berigan recorded a number of solos while with Benny Goodman, including "King Porter Stomp", "Sometimes I'm Happy", and "Blue Skies".

Listen to Bunny Berigan's version of "I Can't Get Started"

Berigan led his own band full-time from early 1937 until June 1942, with a six-month hiatus in 1940 as a sideman in Tommy Dorsey's band. Berigan's alcoholism worked against his financial success as a bandleader. The stresses of bandleading drove Berigan to drink even more heavily. Some of the most notable members of his band were Buddy Rich, Ray Conniff and Les Elgart.

Berigan sadly passed away in 1942 of cirrhosis of the liver.

You can hear Bunny Berigan right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.
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