Brunis (originally Brunies), George Clarence)

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Brunis (originally Brunies), George Clarence)

Brunis (originally Brunies), George Clarence), pioneering New Orleans trombonist; b. New Orleans, Feb. 6, 1902; d. Chicago, Nov. 19, 1974. Henry Brunies Sr., a baker who played violin, and his wife, Elizabeth, a pianist, had six sons and a daughter, all of whom were musical. The daughter, Ada, played guitar, and the oldest son, Rudy (1884–1955), played double bass, although he earned his living as a brewer. The second son, Richie (Richard) Brunies (b. New Orleans, Nov. 29, 1889; d. New Orleans, March 28, 1961), played cornet in Fischer’s Brass Band (1907–8) and also in Papa Jack Laine’s Reliance Brass Band. Trombonist Henny Brunies (b. New Orleans, 1891. d. there, 1932) played in brass bands in New Orleans but also toured Calif, and performed and recorded in Chicago (1923–26) with a group led by his brother Merritt. Abbie (Albert) Brunies (b. New Orleans, Jan. 19, 1900; d. Oct. 2, 1978) was yet another cornet player. Georg shortened the spelling of his name on the advice of a numerologist to make it 11 rather than 13 letters.

At the age of eight, Georg was playing alto horn in Papa Jack Laine’s Reliance Brass Band, and also worked with the family band. He first played trombone around age ten in a band led by Laine’s son, Alfred “Pantsy” Laine and his Wampas Cats. During his tevens, he played at Brunnin’s Hall and at Martin’s, near Lake Pontchartrain, with Leon Roppolo. He moved to Chicago c. 1919 to work in a band led by New Orleans drummer Joe “Ragababy” Stevens. After playing on the S.S. Capitol, Brunis returned to Chicago c. 1921, and joined Paul Mares’s Friar’s Society Orch. and thus became a founder-member of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. He left the N.O.R.K. in 1924, briefly worked with Eddie Tancil’s Band in Chicago, and then joined Ted Lewis (1924–34), including a trip to Europe. From 1936, Brunis was virtually a “house-musician” at Nick’s, in N.Y., playing with many New Orleans revivalists through the late 1940s. In June 1949, he moved back to Chicago and was in residence at the Club IIII from 1951 to 1959. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he also led in Madison, Wise, and in Cincinnati. He continued to work through the mid-1960s, briefly living in Biloxi, Miss., where his family had a band in 1965, and then returned to Chicago. He played at the 1968 New Orleans Jazz Festival with Art Hodes. He became seriously ill in the late 1960s but resumed blowing and began working with Smokey Stover’s Band in September 1969. He continued to play with Stover and other Dixielandrevival bands until his death.


King of the Tailgate Trombone (1950); Georg Brunis & The Original New Orleans Rhythm Kings (1954); Georg Brunis and His Rhythm Kings (1964); Georg Brunis and His New Rhythm (1965).

—John Chilton/Lewis Porter