“I Cried for You” (1938) Bunny Berigan with Kathleen Lane and Georgie Auld – three versions.

“I Cried for You”

Composed by Arthur Freed, Gus Arnheim and and Abe Lyman; arranged by Joe Lippman.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra for Victor on November 22, 1938 in New York.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Johnny Napton, first trumpet, Irving Goodman, trumpet; Murray “Jumbo” Williams, first alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Arcuiso “Gus” Bivona, b-flat clarinet and alto saxophone; Georgie Auld and Clyde Rounds, tenor saxophones; Joe Bushkin, piano; Dick Wharton, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass; Buddy Rich, drums. Kathleen Lane, vocal.

The story:

Between September 24 and October 1, 1938, when the Berigan band resumed activity (after being blown out of a two-week engagement at Boston’s Ritz Carleton Roof Garden by the Great Hurricane of 1938), by playing a one-night dance date in Westchester, New York, Bunny broke his ankle. Clyde Rounds recalled the surrounding circumstances: “We were all surprised to see Bunny climb on the stand with his leg in plaster. He explained that he’d been at home, spending a rare night with his family and playing ball, when he slipped on a rug and fell. He heard and felt a sickening crack as a bone broke. Donna drove him to the hospital, where they X-rayed him and put the leg in a plaster cast. Then she drove him back to their apartment, where he rested until the Westchester date.”  ‘This crack is going to be heard all over the country,’ Bunny declared. ‘Anytime when I’ve drunk a few too many, only a very few people knew or cared, as long as the band sounded okay. And now, although I was sober, no one will ever believe it!’ I don’t know if it was because of that, but he went on the wagon for some time after his accident.’“(1) (Berigan at the Valencia Ballroom, York, PA on November 24, 1938. He is playing seated because of his broken ankle. The saxophonists are L-R: Chuck DiMaggio (subbing that night) and Gus Bivona.)

Bunny’s broken ankle slowed him down considerably. Gus Bivona had vivid memories of this situation: “Bunny had his leg in a plaster cast for five or six weeks. He used a cane to get around and a chair or a stool to rest his foot while he was playing. He claimed he’d broken his ankle at home while playing with his daughters, but I don’t know how many of the guys believed that. Sometime later, while riding in the band bus, he had his foot propped up on the heater and when the bus went over a big bump in the road, it knocked his foot down on to the floor, cracked the plaster and broke the bone again!”(1A) (At left: Gus Bivona and Bunny – both had highly developed senses of humor.)

Berigan’s guitarist Dick Wharton reported that: “Bunny had to have the broken leg (sic) re-broken and reset. It became very painful and he went back to NYC to have it taken care of.”(2)

Berigan’s streak of bad luck, which included the cancelled Boston residency, his broken and rebroken ankle, and an untoward incident a few weeks before, when he fell off the stage at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh while being tipsy,  continued.

Bunny Berigan playing with his daughters: Patty is standing while her sister Joyce rides on Daddy’s back.

The episode where Bunny had fallen off the stage had engendered much insidious gossip in the band business. The result of this was that MCA (his booking agent) was now finding it hard to sell the Berigan band to the operators of major theaters. It seems that Bunny’s drinking had now reached the point where he was always under the influence, to some degree. The only variable was how he was able to handle it from day to day. Trumpeter Johnny Napton remembered:  “He could talk to you at the end of the evening, and you’d have no idea that he’d knocked off a whole bottle of scotch. He could drive, he could play, and you’d never be able to tell a thing.”(3) Gus Bivona had a slightly different take on this situation: “Don’t get me wrong. Bunny was playing good— he always played good, even when he drank. He was the best trumpet player ever!  But there were times when he was sloppy, when it just wasn’t up to what he could do.”(4)  Ray Conniff agreed: “There was definitely some deterioration. He was drinking too much, and he missed an awful lot. But when he wasn’t drinking—well, he was the best. Really great! Inimitable! And don’t forget, things may have been getting worse, but we were having one continuous good time, like a non-stop party. And that counted for a lot.”(5)

In the 1930s, people who drank a lot were often regarded as being colorful and entertaining “characters.” In 1938, when pianist/arranger Claude Thornhill (later the leader of one of the most exquisite bands of the swing era), who was an alcoholic, went to Hollywood to work as an arranger with the Skinnay Ennis band on the Bob Hope radio show, he quickly established a reputation for eccentric behavior. Carmine Calhoun Ennis, Skinnay’s wife, recalled how Thornhill would, on occasion, enter the posh Victor Hugo restaurant, where the Ennis band often worked: “He used to come into the Hugo, laugh hysterically, and crawl around on the floor, barking at people. Being drunk in those days was looked on differently—drinking wasn’t looked on as the disease of alcoholism. If a celebrity like Claude did crazy things, it was passed off as a joke.”(6) Although Bunny had numerous embarrassing experiences while under the influence, he never did anything quite like this.

We must remember that although Bunny Berigan had been an alcoholic, although a very high-functioning alcoholic, for about five years when the incidents described above were happening, the situation he found himself in in the autumn of 1938 was new and challenging. His career as a virtuoso trumpeter had been on an upward arc for some fifteen years prior to the late summer of 1938. But then, a number of things happened, most of which had nothing to do with his drinking, that began to undermine the success of his band. These incidents had the immediate effect of reducing the amount of money he was able to earn leading his band. Rather quickly, the Berigan aggregation went from being one of the more successful bands in the world of swing, to one where Bunny was finding it difficult, on occasion, to have enough money at the end of each work week to pay all of his bills. This in turn increased the amount of stress on Bunny himself, and caused him to up his already considerable intake of alcohol each day.

In addition, during this time of increasing stress, Berigan began pressing his personal manager, Arthur Michaud, to get his band some more lucrative work, so he could catch-up financially. That did not happen. Indeed, Michaud, who was then very much involved in building the success of Gene Krupa and his band, seemed less interested in doing what was needed to keep the Berigan band successful. The relationship between Berigan and Michaud degenerated through the last several months of 1938. By the end of that year, Bunny angrily parted ways with Michaud. Him doing that is understandable. What is not understandable is that he did this without legal assistance, and soon found that his problems were compounded by what soon became a very costly legal tussle with Michaud. That situation became more fraught through the first eight months of 1939, and led to a confusing and crushingly expensive legal resolution of sorts for Berigan in late August of 1939. The net result of all of this was that Bunny Berigan would be submerged in debt from then until he gave up leading a band temporarily at the end of February 1940.

As if this weren’t enough, Berigan discovered during this time that his robust good health was also now under assault as a result of his drinking. He was hospitalized at the end of 1939 for about two weeks, his body then beginning to react negatively to the alcohol he had to have each day simply to function. I’m reasonably certain that it was explained to Bunny at this time that each drink he took literally moved him closer to death. His response then and for the rest of his life, was to try to “cut-down” his intake, instead of seeking a way of modifying his behavior so that he could stop drinking entirely. But in fairness to Bunny, he also began seeking out some external assistance to deal with his addiction. It would be easy to say that his efforts in this direction were half-hearted. But for him to earn a living, he had to play his trumpet, and travel, almost always as the leader of a band of at least 15 musicians, singers, arrangers, equipment managers, etc. So he did that constantly, and left his treatment for alcoholism to be addressed whenever he had time, which was almost never. That vicious and deadly cycle continued until his body simply collapsed in the spring of 1942.

Paradoxically, during this period of extreme challenge for Bunny Berigan, he was leading the best band he ever had. His trumpet playing was as great as ever. The young tenor saxophonist whom he had been mentoring for the previous eighteen months, Georgie Auld, was beginning to show signs of being a strong, individual jazz soloist. (At left: Bunny Berigan with Georgie Auld at his elbow – 1938.) Trombonist Ray Conniff, likewise, was playing very convincing jazz, as was clarinetist Gus Bivona. Pianist Joe Bushkin was also finding his voice as an solid jazz performer. Last but certainly not least, the drummer Buddy Rich, who already had as much technique as any drummer, was quickly learning how to drive the rhythm of a big band. Audiences for Berigan’s music expected brilliant playing from him. They were usually surprised by the jazz firepower of Bunny’s supporting musicians. Indeed, musicians were often surprised. Here is the reaction of Haywood Henry, long the baritone saxophone and clarinet soloist with Erskine Hawkins’s band, itself one of the most underrated of swing bands. On November 4, 1938, the Berigan band invaded the fabled Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to battle the Hawkins band, which had taken over as the de facto house band at the Savoy after Chick Webb began touring and playing theaters: “There are only three bands that stole the show from us at the Savoy – Duke’s, Lionel Hampton’s, and Bunny Berigan’s. Bunny took us by surprise. Usually, we’d prepare in advance by rehearsing or working over one of their specialties, just to make it more exciting. We didn’t prepare for Bunny because we thought we had him. But Buddy Rich and Georgie Auld were with him, and the house came down!  We had a number with a ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ ending, and when our drummer’s foot pedal broke, we sounded so horrible after Buddy Rich got through. As for Bunny, I have no doubt that he was the best white trumpet player. And something else – he sounded like himself.” (7) (Above right: Dancers demonstrate an acrobatic sequence in front of the famous murals in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.)

Ray Conniff, whose 22nd birthday was two days after the Berigan band played at the Savoy Ballroom that November, was affected by that experience for the rest of his life: “Whenever we’d play at the Savoy, if we’d walk along the streets of Harlem or go into a rib joint, people would say, ‘Hey Pops, them’s Bunny’s boys.’ They loved him up there. He had that beat.” (8)

One young trumpet player, among many, was very interested in what made the Berigan band, and its inspired leader, tick. Bunny’s guitarist Dick Wharton later recalled: “I remember Harry James, apparently on an off night, coming to the Savoy and standing only a few feet in front of the bandstand to hear Bunny and the band. He stood there set after set.” (9)

To get some sense of what the Berigan band sounded like on the job in the autumn of 1938, follow this link: https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/08/15/buddy-rich-at-100-moten-swing-1938-bunny-berigan/

At about the same time (early November 1938), the best girl vocalist Bunny ever employed joined the band. This was Kathleen “Kitty” Lane, a shapely redhead whose every attribute, definitely including her voice, exuded sex appeal. She sang both ballads and up-tempo tunes with a beat, had excellent voice quality, and very good pitch control and range. Beyond that, she was a very easygoing but self-assured young woman who had no attitude issues. Almost immediately, she became one of the most popular members of the Berigan band.

Through much of November 1938, the Berigan band was on the road. They returned to Manhattan just in time for their November 22 Victor recording session. In spite of the recent turnover of some of its musicians, the Berigan band that entered the Victor recording studio at 1:30 p.m. on that date sounded very good. In addition, they finally had four excellent arrangements on four tunes that seemed to fit the style of the band to record.(10) Bunny’s old friend Leonard Joy was back in the control room that day to supervise the session, and as a result, there was very good karma in the studio. It seems that Bunny’s luck, if only temporarily, was back in a positive phase. The recordings he made on this date are among his finest.

The music – the issued recording.

The song “I Cried for You” was an oldie but goodie, dating from 1923. The issued Berigan recording (which is posted above) set off a bit of a revival of the tune. Joe Lippman provided the arrangement, and we hear Kathleen Lane’s first recording with the Berigan band. I suspect that she was not yet completely acclimated, because the Victor manifest shows that three separate masters of “I Cried for You” were cut. Two of the three are presented with this post.

The photo of Kathleen Lane above right shows her in the Victor studio working to get her vocal on “I Cried for You” to be just right. Ms. Lane, who was a very good looking woman (see photo below), looks a bit bedraggled in this photo. We rarely think about what the performers of the swing era were doing before they were in the studio making records. Very often, they were in the band bus, racing to the recording studio overnight after having played in some ballroom several hundred miles from Manhattan the evening before. Any sleep they might have gotten was snatched on the bus. Meals were taken on a strictly catch-as-catch-can basis. All of this was difficult enough for the young men who made up the bands. It was almost impossible for the girl singers who had to worry about many more issues when traveling, not the least of which was almost constantly being around twelve to fifteen young men. Ah, the glamorous life of female big band singers!

Bunny was well aware of Kathleen Lane’s talent and effectiveness in front of audiences. He directed Joe Lippman to create an arrangement that spotlighted her singing. The result was this gem which basically has Ms. Lane singing for a chorus, followed by a chorus of heartfelt jazz solos by Berigan on trumpet and Georgie Auld on tenor saxophone, followed by a brief reprise of Kathleen’s singing at the end. Ms. Lane begins her vocal chorus immediately after the brief, wistful introduction.

After the vocal chorus, Berigan enters with that warm, velvety sound of his, and creates some truly splendid jazz. Many of the trademark Berigan touches are present as he shapes his notes using glissandi, lip vibrato and trills, and lots of emotion. Tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld plays next, and his solo is also excellent. He is clearly inspired by what Berigan had just played. The band’s powerful ensembles (with Berigan leading the trumpets) after these solos are first rate. This is wonderful swing recording.

Many of the musicians who worked in Bunny Berigan’s bands went on to have successful careers in music. In this picture from August of 1938 we see L-R: Hank Wayland, Clyde Rounds, Ray Conniff, Nat Lobovsky, Joe Dixon and Buddy Rich. 

The music – alternate take one:

There is some discographical confusion about the three recordings Bunny Berigan made of “I Cried for You” on November 22, 1938. There is no confusion that the recording presented at the top of this post was the best in terms of sound quality and quality of the performance. It is safe to say that this recording has been used as the “issued” version since 1938, thus it was assigned Victor’s “take 1” designation, though it was probably the third take recorded that day. The alternate take presented here is, in my opinion, the first take, possibly a test. I say this because the balance on the band and vocalist leaves much to be desired. In addition, Ms. Lane is a bit tentative in her singing. The third version that was recorded that day, probably the second one made chronologically, is posted below. We thank friend of swingandbeyond.com, Bob Conrad, for locating and sharing this rare recording for us.(11)  So for our purposes here, we will call this alternate  “take one.”

The performance of Kathleen Lane, Bunny and the Berigan band on this alternate is excellent. Unfortunately, Victor’s recording technicians had not yet achieved optimum balance between Ms. Lane’s voice and the instruments in the band. Bunny’s solo is completely different here from that on the issued recording. Georgie Auld can be heard developing the solo that he played a few minutes later on the take that would be issued. Drummer Buddy Rich’s playing on this take is barely audible. On the issued take, he can be heard providing support and gentle emphasis in exactly the right places.

The music – alternate take two:

This second attempt to get an acceptable take reveals that the imbalances between the vocal and the band have been resolved. We can now hear the subtle shading among the reeds including the bass clarinet, played by Murray Williams, and the guitar, played by Dick Wharton. Ms. Lane sings with more assurance on this take, and Georgie Auld continues to evolve the solo that he will play on the final take. The problem comes with Bunny’s solo. He was not one to play it safe. Here, he has a small misstep at the beginning of his solo, and then hits several clams in the last four bars of his solo, after a quick ascent into his high register. In between there are some choice Berigan notes. Yes, Bunny’s mistakes were the cause this take could not be used. But as was so often the case, he was trying to create an interesting improvisation.

The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo. The first alternate take required a good amount of sonic restoration to minimize the imbalances in it.

Notes and links:

(1) White materials: October 12, 1938.

(1A) White materials: October 1, 1938.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Bluebird, Vol. III

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Gil Evans—Out of the Cool; His Life and Music, by Stephanie Stein Crease (2002), 66.

(7) The World of Swing, by Stanley Dance (1974), 210. For some of the music of Erskine Hawkins at the Savoy Ballroom, follow this link: https://swingandbeyond.com/2022/06/24/swing-out-baltimore-bounce-and-gin-mill-special-1940-live-erskine-hawkins/

For information about what the Savoy Ballroom was like, follow this link:

https://www.welcometothesavoy.com/research/recreating-the-late-1930s-savoy-ballroom/

(8) Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya  …The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It, by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff (1955), 324. Ray Conniff was with the Berigan band on a previous occasion, on May 29, 1938, when they battled Chick Webb’s band at the Savoy to a draw.

(9) White materials: November 4, 1938.

(10) The other three selections Bunny recorded that day were: “Jelly Roll Blues,” “Sobbin’ Blues,” and “‘Deed I Do.”

(11) The White Materials at November 22, 1938, state that the elusive third recording of “I Cried for You” made that day, was possibly issued on RCA Victor’s “Reissued by Request” series of recordings in the late 1950s, and also possibly issued on a Franklin Mint LP set from either the late 1950s or early 1960s. If anyone has this third “take” I’d love to have a copy of it. Bozy White stated that Berigan’s solos on all three differ. We know from the recordings presented here that he was at least 2/3 correct.

Here are links to some other great recordings by Bunny Berigan:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/05/13/caravan-bunny-berigan-1937/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/11/14/high-society-1938-bunny-berigan/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/03/10/the-wearin-of-the-green-1938-bunny-berigan/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/07/10/the-pied-piper-1938-bunny-berigan-and-ruth-gaylor/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2022/09/15/in-a-mist-1927-bix-beiderbecke-1938-bunny-berigan/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/08/15/buddy-rich-at-100-moten-swing-1938-bunny-berigan/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2023/07/22/swingin-and-jumpin-bunny-berigan-1939-horace-henderson-1940/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2023/04/30/davenport-blues-1938-bunny-berigan-with-georgie-auld-ray-conniff-gus-bivona-and-buddy-rich/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2020/12/19/taint-so-honey-taint-so-1938-bunny-berigan-with-georgie-auld-joe-dixon-and-buddy-rich/

And here is a link to the most famous Berigan recording:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/10/05/i-cant-get-started-1937-bunny-berigan/

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