November 21, 2004 by

Joe Bushkin

22 comments

Categories: Musicians

Joseph Bushkin, a world renowned jazz pianist and composer, died on Nov. 3 of pneumonia. He was 87.
The native New Yorker started playing the piano when he was only 10 years old. By the time he was 20, Bushkin had performed at the Roseland Ballroom in Brooklyn and at the Famous Door Club in Manhattan.
Over the course of his seven-decade career, Bushkin accompanied the Bunny Berigan Boys, Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Judy Garland. He appeared on Billie Holiday’s first recording under her own name, and played with the Tommy Dorsey band during its most celebrated years. In 1941, he and John DeVries wrote “Oh! Look at Me Now,” the song that helped launch Frank Sinatra’s solo career.
Bushkin was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II and spent his service years directing musical revues and playing the trumpet. Upon his return to civilian life, he headlined at numerous New York nightclubs and recorded dozens of records. The eight “mood albums” he produced with a full orchestra became standards in jazz circles. Bushkin also played Frankie J in the Broadway show “The Rat Race,” then reprised the role in the 1960 film adaptation, starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds.
Although he technically retired in the 1960s, Bushkin accompanied Bing Crosby on the crooner’s 1977 tour and occasionally performed at the Carlyle and St. Regis hotels in New York. In later years, he raised thoroughbred horses in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Commodore Piano Anthology Download Music by Joe Bushkin

22 Responses to Joe Bushkin

  1. maria bushkin stave

    We love and miss you so daddy. You were the greatest father ,best husband, wonderful grandfather, best friend, funniest and most lovable man in the world. Your music touched and brought so much joy to so many people. there will always be only one joe Bushkin. You will be in our hearts forever and the world is not as good a place without you. We miss you so…

  2. Guy Harrison

    I remember Joe Bushkin from my childhood in Hawaii. My parents encouraged my musical interests since I started playing drums at the age of nine. They took me to see and hear the best musicians around Honolulu. I think they were worried that I would become a rocker and do drugs,etc. (they didn’t want me to see Jimi Hendrix.)
    My parents and some of their friends were familiar with Joe and his music from before we moved to Hawaii, so they were delighted to learn that he was performing at The International Market Place in Waikiki. Naturally, they brought me along with them.
    Joe and his band were really fantastic! I didn’t realize that I could be so fascinated by music that my parents liked too. I was shocked!
    After the show I got to meet Joe and he was very friendly.I told him that I was in school with two of his daughters(Both of them lovely people.I believe the older of the two, Maria, was a year younger than me.) He said: “she’s a sweet kid”. I told him that I played drums, so he introduced me to his drummer, the great Roy Burns.Roy and I talked for awhile, and then he gave me his drumsticks.
    That night began a love affair with jazz piano that remains with me still. I am thankful that people can still find lots of Joe’s music over the internet. Although his work is more difficult to find in Tower Records than other great players like Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett, he will always have a special place in my heart, because for me he started it all.
    My most sincere condolences towards Joe’s family.
    You are in my prayers.
    Respectfully,
    Guy Harrison
    Holy Nativity School
    Class of 69

  3. Phil

    In the 50’s My dad played Joe Bushkin 33’s all the time. That’s how I was introduced to pure, good, piano playing. My heartfelt sympathy goes to his family. Thank god we can still hear his great playing. The artist lives on.

  4. Luiz

    I once met Mr. Joe Bushkin, while visiting one of his daughters back in 1995.
    From that very brief encounter, I could tell that he was a very kind man who had raised a wonderful family.
    I very much enjoyed his music and loved the thought that he had spent part of his life as a musician in my hometown of Rio de Janeiro – Brazil.
    All the best wishes to his wife and daughters.
    Sincerely,
    Luiz

  5. ilia toumadjanov

    Joe Bushkin would have been amazed to learn that he had so many fans in the former Soviet Union. In the mid-fifties the Voice of America jazz dj Willis Connover played a lot of music composed and performed by Joe Bushkin. Toots Thielemans had once jokingly said that “Bluesette” was his pension fund, well, Joe could have said the same about “Oh, Look At Me Now”. I remember how I started every morning by listening to the tune performed by Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines, the Pied Pipers and the Tommy Dorsey band. There is something very special about Joe’s piano style, an almost ethereal, gossamer-like quality, it’s wistful, evocative and humorous at the same time. For me personally, the elegant,suave, and cosmopolitan Joe Bushkin was Mr.New York, no less. Even his name had a peculiar sonorous quality to it. Anyway, a part of me died with his passage.

  6. maria bushkin stave

    I want to thank all of you that have written in about my father Joe Bushkin. It has been six months since dad died yet it seems like yesterday and at times like it just can not be possible that he is gone. Listening to his music at times is such a blessing ,to hear his voice again. At other times it is so painful. He is an unforgetable man and a part of me went with him. A few people that i have lost contact with and would love to talk to again wrote in, Luiz and my classmate Guy Harrison. If by chance you read this call me at 805-689-3059. Would love to hear from both of you.
    All my best, Maria Bushkin Stave

  7. Mark Tobak

    I was first introduced to Joe Bushkin’s music thirty years ago and I have never ceased listening. Each album is a rare treasure. He is so underrepresented in the current CD catalogue and so few of his vocals appear. It is comforting to know that the warmth of his vocals and the primacy of love–romantic, familial and fellowship–was not a public performance but essential to his nature. I can only hope the catalogue of his available works will expand posthumously. In any case his work will never be forgotten.

  8. Marv Schroeder

    I have an album (Joe bushkin piano and Rhythm).
    Which I bought, I believe, in 1960 in Japan.
    It is a 33 1/3 speed. I know this record would mean a lot more to family than me.. If you want, I can mail it to you.. Marv… marleo@consolidated.net

  9. Bradlee Hedrick

    I’m sitting here listening for the second time to a record that was given me approximately 3 years ago in Jonesborough, Tennessee. “Midnight Rhapsody”. The first time I heard it, I thought, “I love hearing this guy play! – why haven’t I heard of him before?” Now I’ve found this web page and realized I’ll never get to meet him in this world. He must have been a wonderful father.

  10. Jean Hovinghoff

    Maria … For some reason I am thinking of you and Joe … perhaps because at this time I was living in your cottage … I was so sad to hear about your fathers passing. I consider it a privilege to have gotten to know him … and amazing to read all he accomplished in his life … you must really miss him and my prayers are with you and your family. I’m living in Portland area now. Please give your mom my greetings.

  11. Timmy

    Back in the late 1980’s, while doing some work on wiring at the Bushkin residence in Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara, California, I happened to meet the man of the house, Mr. Bushkin. I was born in 1955, & was raised on Rock in Los Angeles. Joe immediately began a conversation with me & inevitably the conversation turned to music, Popular Music. Somehow I hinted to the fact that I admired The Beatles & Joe became just short of enraged. He proceeded to notify me that The Beatles were perhaps the strongest reason that music had declined in the Human Experience. I calmy tried to explain my point of view, but he would have no part of it. I recall his immence sensitivity about music & though we both agreed that music had turned somehow tasteless, during the Pop Revolution, I couldn’t help but remember him for all these years. He was the owner of what I can only describe as the most serene & naurally beautiful piece of this Earth I had ever been priviliged to stand on. Horses, Beautiful daughters, cars. He struck me as a link to a Grand Godfather looking after his somehow naive flock. A throwback to an honorable era. He kept it all in his heart. After years of being so naive, myself, he opened my eyes to another dimension of Art. Jazz, from it’s faded beginnings to it’s future possibilities. Thank you, Mr. Bushkin.

  12. Jon Hammond

    Jon Hammond here in New York…it was May 29, 1987 the night I met Joe Bushkin. He came down to the Horn and Hardart to perform at an all-night broadcast marathon I was working on with my old friend and mentor Al Jazzbeaux Collins on WNEW 1130AM in part to raise money for the NYPD to buy a horse named ‘Jazzbeaux’ for mounted patrol (we ended up buying 2 horses). I filmed the night entirely and I’m very happy to say that friends, family and fans of Joe Bushkin can see and hear him play incredibly on this film, try this YouTube Link or contact me:

    *film info:As seen on HammondCast & CNN: AL JAZZBEAUX COLLINS (WNEW) all-night broadcast at HORN & HARDART NY to raise money for NYPD Horse named “Jazzbeaux” with All-Star Musicians: LOU ROMANO (IORIO Accorgan), GIL CHIMES (drums/band)..at the Piano: JOE BUSHKIN with appearance by CNN’s CYNTHIA TORNQUIST, AL JAZZBEAUX COLLINS outside with NYPD Horse Officers *Shot personally by JON HAMMOND of CBS’ HammondCast KYCY/KYOU 1550 AM all night May 29, 1987. More will become available…stay tuned! (the first thing you hear on the tape is Joe saying “You’re gonna’ wreck his shot..” what a Cat! Rest in Peace Joe. Sincerely, Jon Hammond *Member AFM Local 802 Musicians Union
    New York, NY

  13. Ron Mercer

    He was a lovely pianist. I really only knew of him from his days with Muggsy Spanier, for example on “Relaxing at the Touro”. It was great to see him on the video mentioned above,with Al Jazzbeau Collins. Such a great shame that he has gone.

  14. JOHNNY STIRLING

    Hello Bushkin family I happened to come accross this site whilst trawling for Joe Bushkin records ,and I am hoping Nina might read it.
    In the early 70s in London I had the great pleasure, on several occasions, of having dinner with the lovely Nina Bushkin . Nina was working in London at that time and one day she took me to a lunch party and I had the chance to meet her Father who was staying at Bernie Cornfeld’s house in London. I was only about 22 years old and at the house there were many celebrities including the late Laurence Harvey ,so I was much too shy to tell Mr Bushkin that I loved his piano playing and his records and that I often tried playing my trumpet to them .
    I have often wondered what happened to Nina because after she went back to the States we lost touch.I still listen to her Dad’s playing and also have a copy of that wonderful record with all the beautiful girls on the cover! He had such a great touch and really played so beautifully whether it was swinging numbers or a sublime ballad. He was also a good trunpet player too and I saw him on stage with Bing Crosby when he played a Dizzy Gillespie Trumpet the (the one that points to the ceiling).
    If Nina reads this I would love her to contact me for a catch up after so many years.
    My email is :johnny.stirling@talk21.com and my mobile is +447785 555 650

  15. Maria Bushkin Stave

    I want to thank each and every one of you for your beautiful words and memories about my father. I brings great comfort to me to read this blog. Timmy I loved what you said about meeting dad at our farm. Yes he had very strong feelings about the Beatles! and it drove him crazy that his wife and daughters all loved them! He was a great dad and yes he looked over his flock.
    If he had not been my father I would have sought him out as a best friend. I loved his childlike joy in everything. He saw beauty in everything from clouds in the sky to a beautiful flower. He got a kick out of everything. He was a true artist. He was humble and treated everyone the same. It did not matter where you came from, what you did ,or how much money you had, he LOVED people. He made every day feel like christmas. Full of wonderment and excitement He was a great conversationalist and loved to tell great stories. He could make a trip to the grocery store fun and exciting.
    He was always there for me through thick and thin. That is the sign of a great person. I miss him so much every day. I am so lucky that I see so much of him in my beautiful children. My husband has his kindness and sensitivity and loves his family like my dad loved his wife and daughters. He also has stuck with me through thick and thin. My dad really loved him and all his beautiful grandchildren.
    I have his music in my heart and soul and he will live forever through what he contributed to jazz and the world.
    He had such a beautiful life and a beautiful death. He was ready to go meet Satchmo, Bing, and so many others that he missed an had loved so much that had gone before him. I know God has the greatest music in heaven.
    Really love the one’s you love and tell them every day.
    Maria Bushkin Stave

  16. Phil Williams

    Maria,
    I will always remember when you, Nina and Tippy were living in Belvedere, CA (just a few houses from mine) and we all spent time together. Sailing on the Lagoon was truly special. I remember some wonderful times with your dad and the wonderful music he created and played. His contribution to our world will not be forgotten. I am truly sorry for our mutual loss.
    Phil

  17. Roy Lerner MD

    Maria;
    I had the pleasure of meeting your father many years ago thru a dear mutual friend of your family. This person was my teacher and mentor. I had the pleasure of hearing your father play paino at a gathering of physicians.
    We, also met in Aspen at a conference.
    This mutual person is Dr. John Parente. I’m sure you and your family are still close with Dr. parente. He had a profound impact on me and my family. I tried reaching out to him when I was in Florida, but Diane said he see’s few people.
    In closing I wish to remember your father for his timeless contributions. The music and therefore your father with last forever.

  18. Helen

    Hi Maria, we often play your Dads music when we think about Santa Barbara and working with your Mom and Dad at Christimar. Hope all is well with you and your family. We are now living in Edinburgh-Love to hear from you

  19. Kent Houser

    Joe Bushkin ******
    To Maria Bushkin Stave & the rest of the Bushkin family:
    My dad who recently passed away at age 90 1/2 yrs. had the real honor and pleasure to have “roomed’ with your father Joe Bushkin at the exclusive Bohemian Club summer camp north of San Francisco near the Russian River in the late ’80’s. ( My dad was never a member, only a guest of a close friend )
    I wish I could remember all the stories my father had from that week at “camp”. I do remember that he spoke very highly of your father. Each member & guest at that session were required to perform skits along with more serious feats demonstrating his particular talents. I’m sure Joe Bushkin dazzled everyone from the keyboard.
    Incidentally, I have at least one of his Capitol LP’s, “Blue Angels”. I especially like the covers which feature his image. What a handsome guy he was. I just purchased a French CD of his beautful music recorded 1947-50. Along with Jess Stacy, Teddy Wilson and a very few others, one could truthfully say of Joe: “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” (!!!) Best Wishes, Kent Houser

  20. Jonathan de Rin

    Joe Buskin was a really cool guy spent the night at his house and some time helping his family.
    Joe gave me a CD and a note with words of wisdom on how to deal with difficult women 🙂
    You were right about one thing!
    All the best Joe one for the road and Rest in peace.
    JdeR

  21. Sally

    I just found this and know many years have passed since your Father passed.I am sorry for you and your families loss.Its been many years since I was in Calif. with you and your family,and many more years that we lost touch.Would like very much to catch up sometime,I met your Father during my stay and he was so friendly and nice,but so was your whole family.Sincerely,Sally Kenan

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