Jun 12, 2011

A Bugs Bower Story

When I was in college in Portland, a fellow sax player introduced me to some great jazz duets: Bop Duets, by Bugs Bower. My friend’s teacher in Chicago had used them as lesson material when my friend was in high school.

After I finished college, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area. When I started teaching, naturally I started using the Bop Duets book with some of my students. I had no idea who Bugs was; I just liked the music.

One Sunday afternoon, after I had been teaching for 10 years or so, I was playing in a sax quartet rehearsal at the home of Bob M., the soprano player in the quartet.

We played for an hour or two, and then took a break for coffee. Bob was standing at the kitchen counter mixing up his instant coffee, and the rest of us were sitting at the table. The bari player said, “So, Peter, I hear you are a teacher. What do you use for jazz duets? I like the Lennie Niehaus duets...” I replied, “They’re OK, but I really like the Bugs Bower Bop Duets. Bob, standing with his back to us, sort of froze up and then turned around and said, "Bugs Bower? How do you know that name?"

I started to explain about the duet book, but Bob was already into nostalgic memories. He said, "I was in the Army with Bugs Bower during World War II...when the war ended, we were stationed outside Paris. One time, we had a day free, and we decided to go into Paris to look up Marcel Mule, the world's greatest classical sax player. We found him in the phone book, and took a taxi to his house, in one of the suburbs. We knocked on the door, and introduced ourselves as American servicemen, and Marcel Mule invited us in for lunch. After lunch, we went into a room where he had a collection of antique saxophones, and we played on them all afternoon..."

I couldn't believe how lucky I was to get this great story out of Bob. Besides being a great story, it gave me some idea who Bugs Bower was, besides just a name on a book. I asked Bob what Bugs’ real name was. He said, "I don't know...we called him 'Bugs,' because he was kind of crazy, like Bugs Bunny. I think his name was Maurice."

This was before the internet. I know more about Bugs now. His name is indeed Maurice. After the war, he went on to an illustrious career in the music business: record producer and A&R Director for many major labels, two Grammys, nine Gold Records, worked with Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, Perry Como, Jimmy Dorsey, Kool and the Gang, etc. He also wrote quite a few more educational publications. More recently, he put in some years teaching at Five Towns College in New York.

I managed to contact Bugs, and sent him this story, asking if he remembered it. He sent me this gracious reply:
Sorry---it was too long ago, and thanks for the nice words. I'm 89 and still creating CD's & Music Books. They are all on CD Baby including my latest: THE BEST 101 CHILDREN'S SONGS. 3 Hours of Fun & Music on 3 CD's! 
Stay Well and Happy in the Music Business-- Kindest regards, Dr. "Bugs" 

Here's a link to the site with Dr. Bower's latest books and CDs.

If you don’t know who Marcel Mule was, check out this Wikipedia article.

There’s a nice video clip of an interview with Bugs here.

Thanks again, Dr. Bugs! 

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