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Ben Bernie

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Songwriter Ben Bernie was a popular bandleader of the late '20s and '30s who is best known as the composer of "Sweet Georgia Brown." Born Benjamin Anzelwitz in N.Y.C., 1891, he studied at the NY College of Music, CCNY, and Columbia School of Mines. Before the 1920s, Bernie performed monologues and played the violin in vaudeville, teaming up with Phil Baker for awhile. Bernie formed a dance band in 1922 and within a few years earned increasing popularity with recordings and radio play. 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. Bernie got his own radio series, and became known for his sense of humor and trademark expression, "Yowsah, Yowsah!" 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" 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." ~ Joslyn Layne

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30 May 1891 in Bayonne, NJ

Years Active:

'20s, '30s