Buddy Bregman (born July 9, 1930) is an American musical arranger, record producer and composer. He has worked with many of the greatest musical artists of 20th Century popular music, including: Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Anita O'Day, Matt Monro and Frank Sinatra. He has also worked with: Count Basie/Joe Williams, Oscar Peterson, Jerry Lewis, Paul Anka, Buddy Rich, Eddie Fisher, Annie Ross, Carmen McRae and became Ethel Merman's personal arranger.
Life and career
A nephew of British-born American songwriter, Jule Styne, Bregman was born in Chicago. He studied at UCLA and during his sophomore year arranged and conducted Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')" for the Cheers – which subsequently became his first hit record – and in 1955 he was appointed orchestra leader for the Gary Crosby Show on CBS radio.
Aged just 25, Bregman became Head of A&R at Norman Granz's newly established Verve Records, following a chance meeting with Granz at the home of Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer. He inaugurated the soon to be iconic label by arranging and conducting their first single ("I'm With You" / "The Rock and Roll Waltz") and their first album ("Anita"), both featuring vocals by Anita O'Day. He would also score and orchestrate several motion pictures: The Pajama Game (Including scoring all Bob Fosse dance numbers), Crime in the Streets, Five Guns West, The Wild Party, The Delicate Delinquent, Born Reckless, Secret of the Purple Reef and The Cat Burglar.
1956 saw Bregman arrange and conduct three Verve Records albums which subsequently all went platinum; they rank amongst his greatest achievements.
Two of the albums represented the commencement of Ella Fitzgerald's epic 'Songbooks' project – Bregman's intelligent and sensitive arrangements for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook would establish Fitzgerald as an international star, and secure her legacy as one of the supreme interpreters of the Great American Songbook. (Bregman also arranged several of Fitzgerald's early Verve Records singles).
Learning that Bing Crosby was out of his exclusive contract at Decca Records, in 1956 Bregman conceived, arranged and conducted Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings, which duly also went platinum.
That same year, he was also the arranger and conductor on Verve Record's The Greatest!! Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards and Ella and Louis.
Elsewhere, Bregman arranged and conducted on albums for Toni Harper, Jane Powell and Ricky Nelson, plus various tracks for Fred Astaire – including several of Astaire's own songs. Bregman also arranged and conducted tracks such as Let There Be Love (Trend Records) for celebrated cabaret artist Bobby Shaw, and The Wayward Wind (Era Records) for Gogi Grant.
In addition, he produced a selection of his own instrumental albums, such as: The Gershwin Anniversary Album, Funny Face & Other Gershwin Tunes, Swinging Kicks, Swingin' Standards, Dig Buddy In Hi-Fi, Symphony Of The Golden West; and more recently: Anita O'Day – Rules Of The Road, and It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.
Following his tenure at Verve Records he became the Musical Director on NBC's Eddie Fisher Show, before featuring in his own show; the eponymously titled Buddy Bregman's Music Shop.
In the early 1960s Bregman became a television Producer / Director. After producing several successful T.V specials in Europe, he was recruited by David Attenborough for the fledgling channel BBC 2, in 1964. In 1966, he was appointed Head of Light Entertainment for the weekday ITV company Rediffusion London.
Bregman then wrote Jump Jim Crow – a musical for the Royal Shakespeare Company – and later moved into London-based independent TV and film production. Subsequently, he produced and directed a feature film starring Olivia Newton-John and Georgie Fame, The New-Fangled Wandering Minstrel Show
Upon returning to the United States, Bregman worked as a Producer and Director on numerous television productions; both series and specials. See credits at IMDB & jazz.com.
Recently 'Fresh Sound Records' produced a compilation album featuring multiple examples of Bregman's early orchestrations; Buddy Bregman – A Jazz Portrait of the Hollywood Arranger
In late 2004, Bregman was tasked with arranging & conducting a brand new 16-track vocal album of old and newer pop/jazz standards. It featured an 18-piece big band of the West Coast's finest sidemen (Hubert Laws, Ricky Woodard, Charles Owens, George Bohannon, Bobby Rodriguez, Patrice Rushen, Roberto Miranda etc.) teaming on a unique and eclectic selection of dramatically re-imagined swing tracks; plus several ballads. These sessions were recorded over 2.5 days in May 2006 at the Quincy Jones / Michael Jackson designed signature studio, 'D', at Westlake Recording Studios L.A, with the UCLA's & CJO's Charley Harrison serving as MD. So it was that 50 years (almost to the day) after some of his greatest musical achievements for Verve Records, Bregman found himself back on the podium – before a talented and highly-expectant Hollywood swing band – conducting his very own 'charts'...for the very last time!
A rare and quietly-historic collection of 16 autobiographical suites, the album consists of very special musical tributes to many of Bregman's esteemed Show Business friends and contemporaries. It became his passionate and deeply personal (self-declared) "Swansong" to: Hollywood, Broadway, and his long ago Verve Records years, and features his "Best Ever" arrangements. It includes several Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart standards which Bregman has not revisited – let alone comprehensively reinvented – since his now legendary collaborations with Ella Fitzgerald, at the KHJ Capitol Records Studios – 5515 Melrose Avenue, back in 1956.
This album, provisionally titled "Best Buddy's", was conceived and self-produced by Tomsk Rahma, a British art producer and semi-professional baritone who shares a mutual respect and affection for Bregman's former friends and equally legendary album collaborators Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The bridge from one of the album session-tracks (Cole Porter's "From This Moment On") features in Rahma's debut 'Sight & Soundtrack' artwork, "...To Catch And Pass The Cannes Blue Train !! ! "
All vocals were recorded by Tomsk Rahma at Westlake Recording Studios in May and November 2006. For fun and posterity, Bregman also recorded 'scratch' vocals against each and every one of his own session-tracks during studio downtime at Westlake.
In 2015 Universal Music Group (Verve Records / Decca Records) again declined an exclusive option to release this album, despite the fact that February 1, 2016 marked the 60th (Diamond) anniversary of Norman Granz founding Verve Records – with Bregman as its original Head of A&R. Given that examples of his work have already been inducted into The Smithsonian Collection, The Grammy Hall of Fame, and selected by The Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry, it is an historical anomaly that Bregman's very last album – his much-treasured final love letter to The Great American Songbook – remains unheard and unreleased to this day.