Obituary: Buddy Feyne

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
BUDDY FEYNE was not one of Tin Pan Alley's legendary songwriters, but, in a long and varied career, he did put words to two popular instrumental pieces, "Tuxedo Junction" and "The Jersey Bounce".

Born Bernard Feinstein in 1912, he grew up in the tough Spanish Harlem section of New York City, and longed, from an early age, to be part of the music business. While singing with various obscure bands in and around New York, he began writing special material for himself and other vocalists. He became Feyne when he met Milton Berle in the 1930s. "Feinstein sounds too Jewish," advised the comedian, who had himself begun life as Berlinger.

In 1939 "Tuxedo Junction" was introduced by Erskine Hawkins and his band at the Savoy Ballroom, in New York, and was an immediate hit. The song was named after a railroad stop in Alabama, its instrumental was co-composed by Hawkins and his saxophonists Bill Johnson and Julian Dash. Helped immeasurably by Wilburn "Dud" Bascomb's muted but swinging trumpet solo (often mistakenly credited to Hawkins), the band's recording for the Bluebird label was its biggest- ever success, and the piece soon replaced Hawkins' "Swing-Out" as his signature tune.

White bands of the day often looked to black bands for material and Glenn Miller soon recorded his own version of "Tuxedo Junction" for the same label, scoring an even greater hit. When it was decided to add words to the music, the 28-year-old Feyne was sent by his publisher to meet Hawkins as a possible lyricist. After hearing "Tuxedo" only once, he impressed the bandleader by dashing off the complete lyric on the spot. The song was successfully recorded by the Andrews Sisters and by Jan Savitt and other orchestras.

Feyne and Bill Johnson's "Dolimite" record for Bluebird by the Hawkins band caught the attention of Jimmy Dorsey, who recorded it with his orchestra for Decca (1940).

Feyne became a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1940 and continued his association with Erskine Hawkins that same year by collaborating with Robert B. Wright on the words of "After Hours", a haunting blues piece originally composed as an instrumental for the Hawkins band by its chief arranger and pianist Avery Parrish.

In the late 1930s Feyne was busy in radio, not only as a solo singer, but as a writer-producer of the series Rhythm School of the Air. During the Second World War he served overseas with the 77th Infantry Division, presenting Army shows and winning the Bronze Star. After the war, he wrote and produced for television, provided both words and music for Time for Fun, an album of children's songs, and launched a music publishing firm.

In 1946 he and Robert B. Wright put words to "The Jersey Bounce", an instrumental co-composed five years earlier by Wright, Bobby Plater, Tiny Bradshaw and Edward Johnson, and originally popularised by the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman bands. The piece had a second success as a song.

In 1954 Feyne collaborated with Maurice Shapiro on "Why". Their song (not to be confused with the 1959 ballad of that title, recorded by such artists as Frankie Avalon and Anthony Newley) gave Top Forty records to both Nat "King" Cole and Karen Chandler.

Feyne wrote more than 400 songs, his other collaborators including Milton Berle, Harry Revel, Bill Harrington, Raymond Scott, Al Sherman and Peter Tinturin.

He is survived by a son and a daughter from his second marriage, and by his third wife, the former Leatrice Ruzow, who was running his publishing company when, at the age of 82, he proposed to her. "Buddy was a sweet man, but he always had a new song on his mind," she recalls. "So I arranged for us to get married on my birthday. I figured it would give him one less big day to remember."

Bernard Feinstein (Buddy Feyne), lyricist, composer, publisher, singer: born New York 9 June 1912; three times married (one son, one daughter); died Los Angeles 10 December 1998.