Although born in Hilbert, Wisconsin, on November 2, 1908, Bernard “Bunny” Berigan, acclaimed as one of the most prominent jazz trumpeters of all times and unexcelled for his intricate embellishments and lip vibrato, is considered Fox Lake’s own. He moved here with his parents, William and Mayme Schlitzberg Berigan, when he was only a few months old. In Fox Lake the little family, consisting of Bunny’s brother Donald and parents, were welcomed with open arms by their parents, relatives and friends.
Bunny learned to play the violin first and then the trumpet. He also played alto-horn in his grandfather, John Schlitzberg’s, 14-piece concert band that played weekly summer concerts. While still a young teenager, Bunny was discovered by Merrill Owen of Beaver Dam and he played with the Merrill Owen Penney Jazz Band for three years.
At the end of his sophomore year in the Fox Lake High School, Bunny transferred to Madison and attended Wisconsin High School. In Madison he lived with his widowed grandmother, Mrs. Margaret Berigan. Bunny joined a band in which one of his Uncles played and it was during this time at Hal Kamp heard Bunny and was very impressed. He signed Bunny up to play with the Kamp Orchestra and leaving from New York, the Orchestra had a successful tour of England and Europe. During this tour Bunny made his first trumpet solo with a big band.
Upon his return to the United States, he began to free-lance, making public and radio appearances and recordings. He was associated with such great names as Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Pied Pipers, Eddie Miller, Louis Armstrong, Big Crosby, Mills Brothers, Mildred Bailey, the Boswell Sisters, Billie Holiday, Red McKenzie, Red Norvo and Frankie Trumbauer. Later Bunny led his own band which was a top attraction in the musical field.
Bunny died in New York City on June 2, 1942 at the age of 33. His body was brought back to Fox Lake and he is buried in the St. Mary’s Cemetery two miles south of Fox Lake on Breezey Point Road.
The Bunny Berigan, Fox Lake’s Own Collection is collaborative project completed by the UWDCC and the Fox Lake Public Library.
The Bunny Berigan, Fox Lake’s Own Collection was funded, in part, through a 2010 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant. These grants provide financial support for public libraries to digitize and make available online, their local library resources. For more information about LSTA grants in Wisconsin, contact the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Division for Libraries and Technology or visit the LSTA grant Web site at http://pld.dpi.wi.gov/pld_lsta.
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