John 'Bucky' Pizzarelli (born 1926) is a self-taught jazz guitarist who began his professional career in 1943 at 17 years old playing in the Vaughn Monroe dance band. He toured and recorded with Monroe through 1951 (with a brief military stint in the '40s), and in 1952 he joined NBC as a staff musician. At NBC he played in the Doc Severinson Band on the Tonight Show before changing over to ABC in 1954. He recorded with The Three Sounds and toured and recorded with Benny Goodman several times over the years.
In New York City, Pizzarelli worked mainly as a freelance musician in the studios and he appeared on many recordings as part of the rhythm section. One of the era's most solid rhythm players, Pizzarelli was in high demand to provide propulsion and background for other musicians. He was a frequent session player with Phil Spector (producer of hits for The Beatles, The Ramones, and Ike and Tina Turner). He recorded with famous early rock and roll acts like Dion and the Belmonts, appearing on their hits like Runaround Sue, The Wanderer, and Teenager in Love.
His extraordinary skill as a rhythm player places him in the company of the great rhythm players like Freddie Greene and Barry Galbraith, and he continued the great chord solo tradition begun by George Van Eps and Dick McDonough. Like George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli adopted the seven string guitar (in fact, playing the Gretsch Van Eps model for many years). Although seven string guitars are very popular today, for many years Bucky Pizzarelli was considered the only guitarist next to George Van Eps to play them exclusively. Also, unlike most seven string guitarists, Pizzarelli tunes his lowest string to A instead of B.
In the 1970s he was more active in jazz, co-leading a duo with George Barnes and working with Zoot Sims, Bud Freeman, and Stephane Grappelli, among many others. Pizzarelli has since kept up a busy recording schedule and plays often at jazz parties (being honored with the Lifetime Acheivement award from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs in 2002). Bucky has also recorded with John Pizzarelli on an occasional basis since the early '80s.
Pizzarelli is the father of guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli and bassist Martin Pizzarelli.
Pizzarelli's out of print recordings include:
- Music Minus Many Men (1960, Savoy)
- Bucky Pizzarelli Plays Bix Beiderbecke (Arrangements by Bill Challis) (1972, Monmouth)
- Green Guitar Blues (1972, Monmouth)
- Nightwings (1975, Flying)
- Buck and Bud (1977, Flying)
- Bucky's Bunch (1977, Monmouth)
- 2 X 7 = Pizzarelli (1979, Stash)
- Café Pierre Trio (1982, Monmouth)
- Swinging Stevens (1984, Stash)
- Solo Flight (1986, Stash)
His more recent recordings, in print or more easily available:
- Guitar Quintet (1988, Audiophile)
- Nirvana (with John Pizzarelli) (1995, Laserlight)
- Live at the Vineyard Theatre (1996, Challenge)
- Solos & Duets (1996, Jazz Classics)
- Contrasts (1999, Arbors)
- Passion Guitars (1999, Groove Jams)
- April Kisses (1999, Arbors)
- One Morning in May (2001, Arbors)
- Passsionate Guitars (2001, LRC Ltd)
- Swing Live (2001, Chesky)
- Manhattan Swing: A Visit With the Duke (2001, Arbors)
All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com)