Erwin, Pee Wee (actually, George)

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Erwin, Pee Wee (actually, George)

Erwin, Pee Wee (actually, George), jazz trumpeter; b. Falls City, Nebr., May 30, 1913; d. Teaneck, N.J., June 20, 1981. Raised in Kansas City; his father, James O. Erwin (d. 1938), was a professional trumpeter. Erwin began playing trumpet at age four, and made his first radio broadcast at eight. He spent the 1930s playing in a variety of big bands, including a stint with Isham Jones in N.Y. (1932–34), Freddie Martin (1934), Benny Goodman (November 1934-May 1935 and again February-September 1936; briefly late 1942), Ray Noble (June 1935-January 1936 and again October 1936-January 1939), and Tommy Dorsey (February–July 1939). Erwin worked in Fla. for a while, then worked in a few minor bands before turning to studio work until 1949, along with several unsuccessful attempts to start his own band. In the 1950s, he switched to leading a Dixieland styled ensemble at Nick’s in N.Y.; he also worked with Tony Parenti in 1957, and continued studio work. During the 1960s, Erwin was active as a studio musician, and also ran a trumpet school with Chris Griffin. During the 1970s, he played regularly with the N.Y. Jazz Repertory Company. He also toured Europe with Warren Covington and his own group the Kings of Jazz. He played three weeks before his death at the Sarasota (Fla.) Jazz Festival, and the same week flew to Amsterdam, Holland, for his last appearance, at a jazz festival there. He died after a long illness.


Land of Dixie (1953); Accent on Dixieland (1955); Dixieland at Grandview Inn (1956); Oh, Play That Thing! (1958); Down by the Riverside (1960); Pee Wee in Hollywood (1980); Pee Wee in N.Y. (1980).


With Warren W Vache Sr., Pee Wee Erwin:This Horn for Hire (Metuchen, N.J, and London, 1987).

—John Chilton/Lewis Porter