Bucky and John Pizzarelli performing at Village Jazz Lounge, Walt Disney World
|Birth name||John Paul Pizzarelli|
|Born||January 9, 1926|
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||April 1, 2020 (aged 94)|
Saddle River, New Jersey, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, swing, big band|
|Labels||Savoy, Stash, Arbors, Victoria, Chesky|
|Associated acts||Benny Goodman, George Barnes, Stéphane Grappelli, John Pizzarelli|
John Paul "Bucky" Pizzarelli (January 9, 1926 – April 1, 2020) was an American jazz guitarist.
He was the father of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and double bassist Martin Pizzarelli. He worked for NBC as a staffman for Dick Cavett (1971) and ABC with Bobby Rosengarden in (1952). The list of musicians he collaborated with includes Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Stéphane Grappelli, and Antônio Carlos Jobim. Pizzarelli cited as influences Django Reinhardt, Freddie Green, and George Van Eps.
Pizzarelli was born on January 9, 1926, in Paterson, New Jersey. He learned to play 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 cited as an inspiration Joe Mooney, a blind accordion player who led a quartet that included Pizzarelli's uncle, Bobby Domenick. During high school, Pizzarelli was the guitarist for a small band that performed classical music.
In 1952 Pizzarelli became a staff musician for NBC, playing with Skitch Henderson. 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.
From 1956 to 1957, Pizzarelli used the stage name "Johnny Buck" and performed with The Three Suns pop music trio. He toured several times with Benny Goodman until Goodman's death in 1986. During 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 in New York City. Beginning in the 1970s, he began recording as a leader, issuing many tributes to musicians of the 1930s. He performed with Benny Goodman at the White House in Washington, D.C., and he performed for presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and First Lady Pat Nixon.
"Jersey Jazz Guitars" was the name of a 1985 concert held at the Rutgers University Nicholas Music Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 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, as they were neighbors and friends. The show aired for one hour in August 1985, with son John adding his vocals on two selections.
Pizzarelli continued to play into his 90s, making several appearances even after a stroke in 2016, officially retiring after a final brief appearance with Michael Feinstein in 2018. He died of COVID-19 on April 1, 2020, in Saddle River, New Jersey. He had been battling several serious health problems in recent years.
Pizzarelli's first guitar was an archtop Gibson, an expensive instrument at the time. He played a Benedetto Bucky Pizzarelli Signature seven-string guitar made by Robert Benedetto, who also makes guitars for Howard Alden and Frank Vignola. He learned to play the seven-string from George Van Eps. The extra string on Pizzarelli's guitar provided him with a bass line during performances. Pizzarelli also played a custom seven-string American archtop guitar made by luthier Dale Unger, who also makes custom guitars for Pizzarelli's partner, Ed Laub.
With Sarah Vaughan
With Robert Palmer
- Ridin' High (EMI, 1992)
With Carly Simon
- Hotcakes (Elektra Records, 1974)
With Michael Franks
- Tiger in the Rain (Warner Bros. Records, 1979)
With Aretha Franklin
- The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (Columbia Records, 1962)
- The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (Columbia Records, 1962)
With Paul McCartney
- Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music, 2012)
With Rosemary Clooney
- Do You Miss New York? (Concord Records, 1993)
With Solomon Burke
- Solomon Burke (Apollo Records, 1962)
With Anita Baker
- Rhythm of Love (Elektra Records, 1994)
With Neil Sedaka
- A Song (Elektra Records, 1977)
With Roberta Flack
- First Take (Atlantic Records, 1969)
Personal life and death
Pizzarelli married Ruth (née Litchult) in 1954. His son John is a well-known jazz guitarist and vocalist. Pizzarelli's son Martin is a professional bassist who has recorded with his father and brother. His daughter Mary is a classical guitarist who appeared on her father's third album as a leader, Green Guitar Blues, as well on as other recordings. Pizzarelli also appeared on three albums of his daughter-in-law (John's wife), Jessica Molaskey. He died on April 1, 2020, from complications to Covid-19. Pizzarelli is survived by his four children. His wife of 66 years, Ruth, died one week later. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/ruth-pizzarelli-obituary?pid=195970449
Awards and honors
- Lifetime Achievement Award, MAC Awards, 2002
- Jazz Wall of Fame, ASCAP, 2005
- New Jersey Hall of Fame, 2011
- Petterson, Michael. "Recorded Telephone Interview of John "Bucky" Pizzarelli". freddiegreen.org. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
- Landers, Rick. "Bucky Pizzarelli Interview". modernguitars.com. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
- "Jazz Guitar Legend Bucky Pizzarelli Still Swings". All Things Considered. NPR. February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- Smith, Harrison (2 April 2020). "Bucky Pizzarelli, whose guitar mastery extended to seven strings, dies at 94 of coronavirus". The Washington Post.
- Westhoven, William (2 April 2020). "Jazz-guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli dies at 94 after testing positive for coronavirus". USA Today.
- "Jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli dies from coronavirus". ABC News. 2 April 2020.
- "The King of Guitar: An Interview with John "Bucky" Pizzarelli". Local802AFM.org. April 2003. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
- Holden, Stephen (8 August 1985). "Jersey Jazz Guitars". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
- "Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli has Died at 94". The Syncopated Times. April 1, 2020. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
- Chinen, Nate (2 April 2020). "Bucky Pizzarelli, Jazz Guitarist And Prolific Session Musician, Dead At 94". NPR.
- "Bucky Pizzarelli, Master of the Jazz Guitar, Is Dead at 94". The New York Times. April 2, 2020.
- "People That Use Our Guitars". American Archtop Guitars. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
- Chinen, Nate (April 2, 2020). "Bucky Pizzarelli, Jazz Guitarist And Prolific Session Musician, Dead At 94". NPR. Washington, D.C.: National Public Radio, Inc. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
- Westhoven, William (April 2, 2020). "Jazz-guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli dies at 94 after testing positive for coronavirus". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- "2002 MAC Award Nominees and Winners". MAC Awards. Archived from the original on 27 January 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
- "Karen Mason, Craig Rubano, Sam Harris Among 2002 MAC Award Winners". Playbill. 2 April 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
- "Pizzarelli Sons To Join Bucky Pizzarelli Birthday Bash At Bickford Theatre". NewJerseyStage.com. 4 January 2018.
- "Bucky Pizzarelli's annual birthday bash set Monday". New Jersey Herald. 4 January 2018.
- "Family affair: Bucky Pizzarelli birthday bash at Bickford to include sons John and Martin, Jan. 8". MorristownGreen.com. 8 January 2018. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
- "Jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli dies from coronavirus". SFGate.com. 2 April 2020.
- Olivier, Bobby (2 April 2020). "Jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli dead at 94 from coronavirus". Chicago Tribune.