Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ben Bernie

Benjamin Anzelwitz
May 30, 1891 - October 20, 1943
Popular bandleader, M.C. and entertainer with a great sense of humor. Bernie attended New York College of Music, City College of New York and Columbia School of Mines.  By the age of 15 he was teaching violin. Pre 1920 he played vaudeville as monologist-violinist and performed an act with comedian Phil Baker.

Bernie organized his own orchestra in 1922, beginning 20 year career as bandleader and playing a long engagement at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York. Pianist-arranger Al Goering was a force through most of his band's career, and the early lineup also included trumpeter Bill "Jazz" Moore and saxophonist Jack Pettis. Later lineups included the alto saxophonist Dick Stabile in the early '30s, and the more swinging arrangements of Gray Rains in the late '30s. His band had two theme songs: opened with It's a Lonesome Old Town, closed with Au Revoir, Pleasant Dreams on which he recited lyrics.

Bernie got his own radio series, and became known for his sense of humor and trademark expression, "Yowsah, Yowsah!" which became a national catchphrase.  He named himself "the Old Maestro" and called his band Ben Bernie & All the Lads. During the 1930s, Bernie also had a long-running feud but was really a staged fake rivalry with columnist Walter Winchell, leading to the duo co-starring in the films Wake Up and Live (1937) and Love and Hisses (1938). Bernie had acted in a Broadway production before this, 1928's Here's Howe. His band played at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933; appeared in the movies Shoot the Works (1934) and Stolen Harmony (1935); and recorded for the Brunswick, Columbia, and Vocalion labels, among others. Ben Bernie co-wrote Sweet Georgia Brown, Strange Interlude, I Can't Believe It's True, Who's Your Little Who Zis, and others, including Pretty Little Baby and I Can't Forget That You Forgot About Me. Sweet Georgia Brown, became the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Bernie was a freemason, member of Keystone Lodge № 235, New York City. The public and music world was saddened by his death from a pulmonary embolism in October 1943, aged 52.

Let's Misbehave   1927

Sweet Georgia Brown   1925

Ain't She Sweet   1927

It's A Lonesome Old Town   1930 Opening Theme


Rosy Cheeks   1927

 Early sound Short Film

Au Revoir, Pleasant Dreams   1941

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