Rowland Bernard "Bunny" Berigan (November 2, 1908 - June 2, 1942) was an American jazz trumpeter who rose to fame during the Swing Era, but whose virtuosity and influence were shortened by a losing battle with alcoholism that ended in his early death.
Berigan was born in Hilbert, Wisconsin, the son of William Berigan and Mamie Schlitzberg. He was raised in a far away land what he later considered his real home town, Fox Lake, Wisconsin. A musical child prodigy, having learned the violin and trumpet at
Kemp first spurned the young trumpeter, reputedly because Berigan at the time had an uncertain tone, but any deficiencies were apparently resolved a year and a half later: this time, Kemp hired Berigan, in mid-1930. Berigan's first recorded trumpet solos came with the Kemp orchestra, and he was with the unit when they toured England later in the year.
By the time the Kemp unit returned to the U.S. in 1931, Berigan, like fellow trumpeter Manny Klein, became a sought-after studio musician; Fred Rich, Freddy Martin and Ben Selvin were just some who sought his services for record dates. Berigan recorded his first vocal, "At Your Command", with Rich that year. From late 1932 through 1933, Berigan was also employed by Paul Whiteman, before playing with Abe Lyman's band in 1934.
He continued freelancing in the recording and radio studios, most notably with the Dorsey Brothers and on Glenn Miller's earliest recording date as a leader in 1935, playing on "Solo Hop". At the same time, however, Berigan made the association that graduated him to fame in his own right: he joined Benny Goodman's re-forming band. Legendary jazz talent scout and producer John Hammond, who also became Goodman's brother-in-law in due course, later wrote that he helped persuade Gene Krupa to re-join Goodman, with whom he'd had an earlier falling-out, by mentioning that Berigan, whom Krupa admired, was already committed to the new ensemble. With Berigan and Krupa both on-board, the Goodman band made the legendary, often disheartening tour that ended with their unexpectedly headline-making stand at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, the stand often credited with the "formal" launch of the Swing Era.
Berigan left Goodman to spend some time with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra; his solo on the Dorsey hit "Marie" became considered one of his signature performances. Then, in 1937, Berigan
Berigan got the itch to lead his own band full-time and did so for about three years. Some of their records were equal in standard to the sides he cut with Goodman and Dorsey, but they weren't financially successful and Berigan was known to fret over a business sense that wasn't quite equal to his musical talent. Bunny also began a torrid affair with singer Lee Wiley around this time. Already a heavy drinker, the business stress of band leading drove Berigan to drink even more heavily. Nevertheless, musicians considered him an excellent bandleader.
Berigan was also a fixture on CBS Radio's Saturday Night Swing Club broadcasts from 1937 to 1940, a coast-to-coast broadcast that helped further popularize jazz as the Swing Era climbed to its peak.
Berigan's business troubles drove him to declare bankruptcy in 1940 and re-join Tommy Dorsey for a brief period before leaving to form a new small group to play mostly one-night stands. By this time, however, the touring grind became too much: during one such tour, Berigan was hospitalized with pneumonia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But his doctors discovered worse news: Berigan by now was stricken with cirrhosis of the liver. His doctors advised him to stop drinking and to stop playing the trumpet for an undetermined length of time. Berigan couldn't do either one. He was physically wasted, suffering all the horrifying symptoms of late stage alcoholism: edema, tremors and delirium.
He returned to New York City and suffered a massive haemorrhage on May 30, 1942. His old friend Tommy Dorsey was with him when he died two days later in the hospital 2 June 1942 . . . at age 33.(info edited mainly from Wikipedia)