Buddy DeFranco Biography

Boniface Ferdinand Leonardo De Franco, 17 February 1923, Camden, New Jersey, USA. A child prodigy, DeFranco won an amateur contest playing the clarinet while still only 14 years old. Four years later he was in Gene Krupa’s band, then joined Charlie Barnet; and in 1944 became a featured player with Tommy Dorsey, who had been sponsor of the amateur contest that launched DeFranco’s career. After abortive attempts to establish his own big band, DeFranco worked mostly with small groups, including those of Count Basie and Art Blakey and in 1954 toured Europe with Billie Holiday. He premiered Nelson Riddle’s Cross-Country Suite at the Hollywood Bowl in 1958, later recording the suite for Dot Records. In the 60s, he continued playing in small groups, sometimes under his own leadership, and also taught. He led a clarinet/accordion/bass/drums quartet in the early 60s with Tommy Gumina. In 1966 he became leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, a job that lasted until 1974. Since then he has mixed teaching with playing, touring extensively, recording and developing a long-standing musical relationship with Terry Gibbs. In more recent years he has recorded with the John Pizzarelli Trio and Butch Miles.

A marvellously accomplished player, DeFranco has been criticized for sacrificing emotional depth for the sake of technique. While to some extent justifiable, this censure unfairly condemns a gifted musician who has consistently set for himself, and attained, the highest standards of performance.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.