Buddy Morrow: Trombonist and bandleader who shot to fame with the Fifties hit 'Night Train'

What do you call a beautiful girl on the arm of a trombone player? A tattoo.

The trombone and trombonists have been largely out of favour with American audiences for many years – since the days of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, in fact. But Buddy Morrow came after them, and he made the last great trombone hit record. It was "Night Train", done on 12 April 1952, and it swept across the world. I heard it daily for weeks over the tannoy in my National Service barrack hut. It was a brassy, raucous, blasting record, characterised by great smears from Morrow's trombone and propelled by a bumpy, repetitive rhythm theme which foreshadowed the impending rock'n'roll. Morrow became a star on the back of it. Almost everybody loved it.

But not Duke Ellington. The tune had a tawdry background. Ellington had played his own tune "Happy Go Lucky Local" in 1947 when the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest was briefly in his band. "Night Train", allegedly composed by Forrest, proved to be a note-for-note borrowing from the tenor part sheet music of "Happy Go Lucky Local". In public Ellington was gracious about Morrow's recording. "It must have been a good tune if someone wanted to steal it. We must be flattered and just go on to write something better." But in private he was enraged.

"It hurts and it's offensive. You threaten to sue and then you postpone until it's too late and then you get realmad," Ellington confided to Stanley Dance. "But you do nothing but spoil your disposition."

"Night Train" made Buddy Morrow's name and raised him to a different level as an instrumentalist. But he had already had a thoroughly worthy career in top-line bands stretching back to when he joined Artie Shaw's band in 1936. Before that, when he was 17, he had moved to New York to study at the Juilliard school of music. In 1937, he joined Bunny Berigan's band, leaving Bunny after a year to play for Tommy Dorsey, where he earned $125 a week. By now used to good wages, he became a member of Paul Whiteman's colossal orchestra in 1939. Whiteman paid him $375 for three days work a week or fewer.

For the last few years he'd been appearing under his real name, Moe Zudekoff, and also under his assumed name as Buddy Morrow. In 1940 he decided to stick to the latter and ditched Zudekoff. In the summer of 1941 he joined Bob Crosby's band and stayed for a year, soloing on three of Crosby's records, playing in the smooth style of Tommy Dorsey.

He was called up for the US Navy in 1942 and when he was discharged in 1945 he joined Jimmy Dorsey, leading the band for some time when Dorsey was ill. Morrow next formed his own band, but it wasn't a success and he went to work as a studio musician in 1946. He remained in quiet obscurity until 1950, when RCA Victor suddenly decided to promote him as a bandleader. He became almost the only big bandleader except Ellington who was able to mount tours and concerts at a time when nearly all the big bands had gone under. Some of his numbers from the time are included in the film Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra (1952). His big band was made up of obscure studio musicians, but they served him well and on the back of the success of "Night Train" they had hits with "One Mint Julep" and "Rose, Rose I Love You".

Work for the band eventually slowed down and Morrow returned to the studios, playing as a sideman in the Tonight show and continuing to tour occasionally with his own band. He also led a quartet in Las Vegas but he broke it up in 1973 and went to live in Florida.

However, a new career was to open up for him. He had been noted for his ability to copy the trombone style of Tommy Dorsey and in 1976, 20 years after Dorsey's death, Morrow played all Dorsey's solos again when he took over the leadership of the Tommy Dorsey ghost band. Amazingly, he was latterly able to lead the band from a wheelchair on stage. His last appearance with the band at the age of 91, was last Friday.

Steve Voce

Muni "Moe" Zudekoff (Buddy Morrow), trombonist, bandleader: born New Haven, Connecticut 8 February 1919; died c. 27 September 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower