George Brunies, a.k.a. Georg Brunis, (February 6, 1902 – November 19, 1974) was a jazz trombonist who came to fame in the 1930s, and was part of the Dixieland revival. He was known as the "King of the Tailgate Trombone".
George Clarence Brunies was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 6, 1902 into a very musical family. His father led a family band, and his brothers Henry, Merritt, Richard, and Albert ("Abbie") all became noted professional musicians. By the age of 8 young George was already playing alto horn professionally in Papa Jack Laine's band. A few years later he switched to trombone. He played with many jazz, dance, and parade bands in New Orleans. He never learned to read music, but could quickly pick up tunes and invent a part for his instrument.
He first went to Chicago in 1919 with a band led by Ragbaby Stevens, then worked on riverboats going up and down the Mississippi River. In 1921 he returned to Chicago and joined a band of his New Orleans friends playing at the Friar's Inn; this was the band that became famous as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Brunies's trombone style was influential to the young Chicago players, and his records were much copied. In this era Brunies was never bested; he could play anything any other trombonist could play as well or better. He would often end battles of the bands or "cutting contests" by outplaying other trombonists while operating the slide with his foot!
After the Rhythm Kings broke up in Chicago in 1924, Brunies joined the nationally famous Ted Lewis band, which he played with through 1934.
After some time with Louis Prima's band he landed a steady gig at the famous New York City jazz club Nick's through 1938. In 1939 he joined Muggsy Spanier's band, with whom he made some of his most famous recordings. The following year he returned to Nick's, where he remained through 1946. Brunies then worked with Eddie Condon.
In 1949 Brunies moved back to Chicago to lead his own band. Brunies often showed off his unusual technical abilities and bizarre sense of humor at the same time; for example he would lie on the floor and invite the largest person in the audience to sit on his chest while he played trombone.
On the advice of a numerologist, he changed his name to Georg Brunis in the late 1940s when he was playing at the 1111 (eleven-eleven) Club in Chicago. He believed that this name change would increase his good luck. The "1111" was a very popular jazz club which was always SRO on Friday and Saturday nights with jazz lovers from the northern suburbs of Chicago. Every now and then other well-known jazz musicians such as Muggsy Spanier would drop in and sit and play until the wee hours.
Georg Brunis died in Chicago on November 19, 1974.
- Kernfeld, Barry Dean, and Stanley Sadie. "New Orleans Rhythm Kings." The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. London: Macmillan, 1988.
- New Orleans Rhythm Kings biography. The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Retrieved June 29, 2006.
- Kennedy, Rick. Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy: Gennett Studios and the Birth of Recorded Jazz. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994. Print.
- Kenney, William Howland. Chicago Jazz: A Cultural History, 1904-1930. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.