Bushkin, Joe (Joseph)

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Bushkin, Joe (Joseph)

Bushkin, Joe (Joseph), jazz pianist, trumpeter; b. N.Y., Nov. 7, 1916. His father, who ran a barbershop in N.Y., arrived from Kiev, Russia, in 1909. Bushkin’s first gigs were college dates on Long Island with a band led by Benny Goodman’s brother, Irving. In 1932 he began working at the Roseland Ballroom, N.Y., with Frank LaMarr’s Band. He became intermission pianist at the Famous Door in 1935; that same year, he accompanied Billie Holiday on a recording session. The late 1930s were occupied with band work, including on and off work with Eddie Condon (1936–37), Joe Marsala (doubling on trumpet; 1937-early 1938), Bunny Berigan (April 1938-Aug. 1939), and Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtim-ers (through Dec. 1939). He joined Tommy Dorsey on Jan. 20, 1940, where he recorded what became his signature song, “Oh! Look at Me Now” in 1941. During the war years, he was in the Air Force, working with the Winged Victory Show as its musical director, and also playing with the show’s band, the Winged Pigeons. After being released from duty in February 1946, Bushkin did studio work, then worked with Benny Goodman from spring until November 1946. After a brief stint in Rio de Janeiro in Bud Freeman’s Trio in winter/spring 1947, he returned to N.Y A dislocated shoulder interrupted his career for a while, and then he resumed studio work. He acted and played in the Broadway play The Rat Race (October 1949 until May 1950); a decade later, he appeared in the film version. During the early 1950s, he played long residencies at various N.Y. clubs. He visited Europe early in 1953, then returned to the U.S. to tour with Louis Armstrong’s All Stars (April-June 1953). Bushkin continued to lead his own small groups throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and was also regularly featured on TV shows. In the 1960s he relocated to Marin County, Calif., and then, in the summer of 1965, he moved to Hawaii for two and a half years, playing a residency at the Gauguin Club, and also touring the Hawaiian Islands for U.S. State Department. During the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, he lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., working occasionally. He was Bing Crosby’s accompanist on tour in 1976 and in London 1977, and resumed working in N.Y. clubs during the 1980s and 1990s.


“Oh! Look at Me Now” (1941); I Love a Piano (1950); Piano Moods (1950); After Hours (1951); Bushkin-Safranski-Wilson Groups (1955); Bushkin Spotlights Berlin (1956); Night Sounds of San Francisco (1965); Road to Oslo and Play It Again Joe (1977).

—John Chilton/Lewis Porter