born on 9/1/1926 in Paterson, NJ, United States
died on 1/4/2020 in Saddle River, NJ, United States
John Paul "Bucky" Pizzarelli (born January 9, 1926) is an American Jazz guitarist and banjoist, and the father of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and upright bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli has also worked for NBC as a staffman for Dick Cavett (1971) and also ABC with Bobby Rosengarden in (1952). The list of musicians Pizzarelli has collaborated with over his career includes Les Paul, Stephane Grappelli, and Benny Goodman. Pizzarelli acknowledges Django Reinhardt, Freddie Green, and George Van Eps for their influences on his style and mode of play.
Pizzarelli began his professional career at 17 when he joined the Vaughn Monroe dance band in 1944. Near the end of World War II, while in Austria as an infantryman fulfilling wartime military service for the Army, Pizzarelli was absent from Monroe's band (though he rejoined the outfit in 1946 and played for another five years with them). While in the military, he played in an unauthorized dance band.
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, Pizzarelli accompanied guest bands and musicians playing through a variety of musical genres, even playing with Tiny Tim (after tuning the performer's ukulele) on the day that Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on Carson's show. While self-professedly not a big fan of rock and roll, Bucky performed on seven hits with Dion and the Belmonts during this period.
From 1956–1957, Pizzarelli, using the stage name "Johnny Buck," performed with The Three Suns pop music trio. He toured several times off and on with Benny Goodman up and until 1986, the year of Goodman's death. Beginning in the 1970s, Pizzarelli began recording as a leader, performing many tributes to musicians of the 1930s era. Bucky has performed at the White House in Washington, D.C. with artists such as Benny Goodman, two performances for President Ronald Reagan and one for President Bill Clinton. He also played a private birthday party for former First Lady Pat Nixon at her home.
"Jersey Jazz Guitars" was the name of a 1985 concert held at the Rutgers University Nicholas Music Center in New Brunswick. The ticket featured Bucky, Les Paul, Tal Farlow, and Bucky's son John. The concert was aired on New Jersey's PBS station as part of their 3-part New Jersey Summerfare Series. Bucky and Les Paul had performed together before with one another, as they were neighbors and cordial friends. The show aired for one hour in August 1985, with son John adding his vocals on two selections.
Bucky Pizzarelli was born January 9, 1926 in Paterson, New Jersey, learning to play the 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 cites Joe Mooney — a blind accordion player who led a quartet that included Pizzarelli's uncle, guitarist Bobby Domenick — as a major inspiration. During high school, John was guitarist for a small band that performed classical music.
In addition to his son John, Pizzarelli's son Martin is a professional musician, a bassist who has recorded both with his father and brother. His daughter Mary is a classical guitarist who appeared on her father's third album as leader, Green Guitar Blues, as well on as other recordings. Pizzarelli has also appeared on three albums of his daughter-in-law (John's wife), Jessica Molaskey.
Today Bucky Pizzarelli resides in a home on the banks of the Saddle River in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife Ruth. An avid amateur painter, Pizzarelli's home is filled with his own artwork.
Pizzarelli's first guitar was an archtop Gibson, an expensive instrument at the time. He plays a Benedetto Bucky Pizzarelli Signature seven-string guitar, made by Robert Benedetto, who also makes guitars for Howard Alden and Frank Vignola, among others. He learned to play the 7-string from George Van Eps. The extra string on Pizzarelli's guitar provides him with a bass line during performances.
- June 23, 2005 - ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame Induction
- 2002 - Mac Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2011 - New Jersey Hall of Fame induction
- Main article: Bucky Pizzarelli discography
With Jessica Molaskey
With Martin Pizzarelli
- Petterson, Michael. Recorded Telephone Interview of John "Bucky" Pizzarelli. freddiegreen.org. Retrieved on 2007-05-27.
- 2.0 2.1 Landers, Rick. Bucky Pizzarelli Interview. modernguitars.com. Retrieved on 2007-05-27.
- 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Jazz Guitar Legend Bucky Pizzarelli Still Swings. All Things Considered. NPR (February 21, 2009). Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
- Holden, Stephen. 'Jersey Jazz Guitars'. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-05-27.