Bucky Pizzarelli

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Bucky Pizzarelli
Bucky and John Pizzarelli.jpg
Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Village Jazz Lounge, Walt Disney World
Background information
Birth name John Paul Pizzarelli
Born (1926-01-09) January 9, 1926 (age 91)
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Jazz, swing, big band
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Labels Arbors, Chesky, Victoria, Savoy, Challenge
Associated acts John Pizzarelli, Martin Pizzarelli, Jessica Molaskey, Stephane Grappelli, Soprano Summit
Notable instruments
Benedetto guitar

John Paul "Bucky" Pizzarelli (born January 9, 1926) is an American jazz guitarist and banjoist, and the father of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and upright bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli has also worked for NBC as a staffman for Dick Cavett (1971) and also ABC with Bobby Rosengarden in (1952). The list of musicians Pizzarelli has collaborated with over his career includes Les Paul, Stéphane Grappelli, and Benny Goodman. Pizzarelli acknowledges Django Reinhardt, Freddie Green, and George Van Eps[1][2] for their influences on his style and mode of play.


Pizzarelli began his professional career at 17 when he joined the Vaughn Monroe dance band in 1944.[3] Near the end of World War II, while in Austria as an infantryman fulfilling wartime military service for the Army, Pizzarelli was absent from Monroe's band (though he rejoined the outfit in 1946 and played for another five years with them). While in the military, he played in an unauthorized dance band.[citation needed]

In 1952 Pizzarelli became a staff musician for NBC, playing with Skitch Henderson.[3] In 1964, he became a member of the Tonight Show Band on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. During his time spent performing for the Tonight Show, he accompanied guest bands and musicians playing through a variety of musical genres, including playing with Tiny Tim (after tuning the performer's ukulele) on the day that Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on Carson's show.[3] While not a big fan of rock and roll, he performed seven hits with Dion and the Belmonts.[citation needed]. George Barnes solo on Connie Francis's Lipstick on Your Collar has been described as " the greatest pop rock 'n' roll guitar solo of all time".[4]

From 1956–1957, Pizzarelli, using the stage name "Johnny Buck," performed with the Three Suns pop music trio. He toured several times with Benny Goodman until Goodman's death in 1986. The following year he and guitarist George Barnes formed a duo and recorded two albums, including a live performance in August, 1971 at the Town Hall for the Guitar Album on Columbia Records. Beginning in the 1970s, Pizzarelli began recording as a leader, performing many tributes to musicians of the 1930s era. He has performed at the White House in Washington, D.C. with artists such as Benny Goodman, two performances for President Ronald Reagan and one for President Bill Clinton. He also played a private birthday party for former First Lady Pat Nixon at her home.

"Jersey Jazz Guitars" was the name of a 1985 concert held at the Rutgers University Nicholas Music Center in New Brunswick. The ticket featured Pizzarelli, Les Paul, Tal Farlow, and Pizzarelli's son, John. The concert was aired on New Jersey's public radio station as part of their three-part New Jersey Summerfare Series. Pizzarelli and Les Paul had performed together before with one another, as they were neighbors and friends. The show aired for one hour in August 1985, with son John adding his vocals on two selections.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Bucky Pizzarelli was born January 9, 1926 in Paterson, New Jersey, learning to play the guitar and banjo at a young age. His uncles (Pete and Bobby Domenick) were professional musicians, and sometimes the extended family would gather at one of their homes with their guitars for jam sessions. Pizzarelli cites Joe Mooney — a blind accordion player who led a quartet that included Pizzarelli's uncle, guitarist Bobby Domenick — as a major inspiration.[3] During high school, John was guitarist for a small band that performed classical music.[2]

In addition to his son John, Pizzarelli's son Martin is a professional musician, a bassist who has recorded both with his father and brother. His daughter Mary is a classical guitarist who appeared on her father's third album as leader, Green Guitar Blues, as well on as other recordings. Pizzarelli has also appeared on three albums of his daughter-in-law (John's wife), Jessica Molaskey.

Today Bucky Pizzarelli resides in a home on the banks of the Saddle River in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife Ruth. An avid amateur painter, Pizzarelli's home is filled with his own artwork.


Pizzarelli's first guitar was an archtop Gibson, an expensive instrument at the time. He plays a Benedetto Bucky Pizzarelli Signature seven-string guitar, made by Robert Benedetto, who also makes guitars for Howard Alden and Frank Vignola, among others. He learned to play the 7-string from George Van Eps.[3] The extra string on Pizzarelli's guitar provides him with a bass line during performances. Pizzarelli currently plays a custom 7 string American archtop guitar made by luthier Dale Unger, who also makes custom guitars for Pizzarelli's partner, Ed Laub.



Album Release date Label
Five for Freddie 2007-02–13 Arbors
Around the World in 80 Years 2006 Victoria
Lost Songs of 1936
Generations 2006-04-10 Arbors
Moonglow 2005-07-19 Sindrome
Hot Club of 52nd Street 2004-05-25 Chesky
One Morning in May 2001-06-05 Arbors
April Kisses 1999-09-14
Contrasts 1999-02-09
Green Guitar Blues 1972 Monmouth Evergreen
Midnight Moods 1960-12-06 Savoy

With Jessica Molaskey

Album Release date Label
Make Believe 2004-10-05 PS Classics
A Good Day 2003-05-20
Pentimento 2002-06-04 Image

With Martin Pizzarelli

Album Release date Label
Triple Play 2004-05-24 Victoria


  1. ^ Petterson, Michael. "Recorded Telephone Interview of John "Bucky" Pizzarelli". freddiegreen.org. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  2. ^ a b Landers, Rick. "Bucky Pizzarelli Interview". modernguitars.com. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Jazz Guitar Legend Bucky Pizzarelli Still Swings". All Things Considered. NPR. February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  4. ^ Barker, Geoff. "Bucky Pizzarelli guitar credit for Lipstick on Your Collar". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Holden, Stephen (8 August 1985). "Jersey Jazz Guitars". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 

External links[edit]