Benny Benack

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Benidict E. "Benny" Benack (August 31, 1921 - July 23, 1986) was at the forefront of the Pittsburgh jazz scene in the 1960s and '70s. A talented trumpet player, Benack was made famous by his song "Beat'em Bucs" and was a staple at Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers games. The Benny Benack Orchestra played the styles of traditional jazz, dixieland, and swing. He was known as the "King of Dixieland" in Pittsburgh for many years.

Benack was born to Italian immigrant parents in 1921 and grew up in Clairton, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. His father, Charlie, was a self-taught photographer who started out walking from one mill town to another in the Monongahela River valley, his equipment on a donkey, making family portraits and class photographs. Uninterested in following in the photography business, young Benny began playing trumpet at age five, and practiced for six or seven hours a day throughout his childhood.

He was educated in the fine arts department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, where he was friends with jazz composer Sammy Nestico. He also attended the University of Pittsburgh. He played at army bases in Florida and India during WWII, was director of a group of young musicians known as the Dodge Kids, and toured the country with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Raymond Scott Orchestra. During the late 50's and 1960s, he was an innovative bandleader at Clairton High School, introducing jazz, swing, and high-stepping routines to the marching band's pregame and halftime performances.

Benack died in 1986 of lung cancer. He had three children with his wife Gretchen: Peek, Flip, and Suzie, each of whom had two children of their own. Peek and Flip both live near Pittsburgh with their families, while Suzie moved to upstate New York. Peek continues the family musical tradition as Benny Benack Jr., playing trumpet, clarinet and saxophone. Peek's son, Benny Benack III, is following in his grandfather's footsteps as a jazz trumpeter and vocalist, currently building a name for himself in the jazz scene in NYC. Flip currently owns and operates Benack Sound Productions, an audio/visual production company in Pleasant Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh (about ten miles (16 km) south, along U.S. Rte. 51, within three miles (5 km) of Clairton).