Pee Wee Erwin Biography

30 May 1913, Falls City, Nebraska, USA, d. 20 June 1981, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA. A child prodigy, Erwin first attracted attention playing trumpet on the radio with the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks when he was only eight years old. After playing trumpet in local bands, including John Whetstine, with whom he toured when he was just 15, Roland Evans, Eddie Kuhn and Erwin joined the nationally popular Joe Haymes band in 1931. He followed this with a spell in the Isham Jones orchestra, the outstanding dance band of the day, was briefly with Freddy Martin, and then joined Benny Goodman at the end of 1934. After a short stay with Ray Noble (in a band formed by Glenn Miller which previewed the Miller ‘sound’) Erwin returned to Goodman for most of 1936 and then flitted through various bands, including Noble’s again, Tommy Dorsey’s, Raymond Scott’s and then took temporary control of the Bunny Berigan band.

From the mid-40s Erwin was often in the studios, but at the end of the decade he had become a regular at Nick’s in New York. This engagement lasted through the 50s with other regular gigs at the Metropole and on numerous radio and television shows. An enormously popular man and a gifted musician, Erwin began teaching in the 60s and his qualities were imparted to many newcomers to the jazz scene, most notably Warren Vaché Jnr. In the 70s Erwin was constantly in demand for club and festival dates and in 1979 he rejoined Benny Goodman for the Playboy Jazz Festival in Hollywood. That same year his home-town of Falls City nominated a ‘Pee Wee Erwin Day’ and presented him with the keys to the city. He worked almost until the end of his life, playing the Breda Jazz Festival in Holland in May 1981, just a few weeks before his death.

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

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