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Ben Bernie

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Ben Bernie

Radio personality

Rose Bernie (m. ?–1935)

Ben Bernie wwwoldtimeradiodownloadscomassetsimgserieimg

May 30, 1891
Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.

Jazz violinist, bandleader, radio personality

October 23, 1943, Hollywood, California, United States

Wake Up and Live, Stolen Harmony, Shoot the Works, Love and Hisses

Ben Bernie Orch. - Calling Me Home, 1926

Ben Bernie (May 30, 1891 – October 23, 1943), was an American jazz violinist, bandleader, and radio personality, often introduced as "The Old Maestro". He was noted for his showmanship and memorable bits of snappy dialogue.


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Early years

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Bernie was born Bernard Anzelevitz (another source says Benjamin Anzelevitz) in Bayonne, New Jersey. He attended Columbia University and the New York College of Music. By the age of 15 he was teaching violin, but this experience apparently diminished his interest in the violin for a time.

Ben Bernie Ben Bernie Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Bernie performed in vaudeville, appearing with Charles Klass as The Fiddle Up Boys in 1912 and with Phil Baker as Baker and Bernie, but he met with little success until 1922 when he joined his first orchestra. Later, he had his own band, The Lads, seen in the early DeForest Phonofilm sound short, Ben Bernie and All the Lads (1924–25), featuring pianist Oscar Levant. He toured with Maurice Chevalier and in Europe.


Bernie's orchestra recorded throughout the 1920s and 1930s on Vocalion (1922–25), Brunswick (1925–33), Columbia (1933), Decca (1936), and ARC (Vocalion and OKeh) (1939–40). In 1923 Bernie and the Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra recorded "Who's Sorry Now".

In 1925 Ben Bernie and his orchestra recorded Sweet Georgia Brown. Bernie was the co-composer of this jazz standard, which became the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters.


Bernie and his orchestra were heard November 15, 1926, via a remote broadcast from the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City, on the first NBC broadcast.

His musical variety radio shows through the 1930s, usually titled, Ben Bernie, The Old Maestro received ratings that placed him among radio's top ten programs. He was heard on radio as early as 1923, broadcasting on WJZ and the NBC Blue Network in 1930–31, sponsored by Mennen. After a 1931–32 run on CBS, sponsored by Pabst Beer (during Prohibition, they sold malt syrup, the primary ingredient in brewing "homemade beer"), he was heard Tuesdays on NBC from 1932–1935, also with Pabst. His announcer during this period was Jimmy Wallington.

On the Blue Network from 1935–1937, Bernie's sponsor was the American Can Company. He returned to CBS in 1938, sponsored by U.S. Rubber. With Half-&-Half Tobacco as a sponsor, he hosted a musical quiz program from 1938 to 1940. From 1940–41, Bromo-Seltzer was his sponsor on the Blue Network. Wrigley's Gum sponsored The Ben Bernie War Workers' Program (1941–43). He also made guest appearances on other radio shows. He appeared in two feature films Shoot the Works (1934) and Stolen Harmony (1935).

His theme was "It's a Lonesome Old Town" and his signature trademark, "yowsah, yowsah, yowsah" (also spelled "yowsa" or "yowza"), became a national catchphrase. The term was memorably used by a character in the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), Richie Cunningham in a 1976 episode of Happy Days, "They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They?" (1976), and by the band Chic with their hit "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" (1977).

Announcers for Bernie's programs included Harlow Wilcox, Harry von Zell and Bob Brown. With comedy from Lew Lehr and Fuzzy Knight, the line-up of vocalists included Buddy Clark, Little Jackie Heller, Scrappy Lambert, Pat Kennedy, Jane Pickens, Dinah Shore, and Mary Small.

To boost ratings, Walter Winchell and Bernie, who were good friends, staged a fake rivalry similar to the comedic conflict between Jack Benny and Fred Allen. This mutually beneficial "feud" was a running gag on their radio appearances and continued in two films in which they portrayed themselves: Wake Up and Live (1937) and Love and Hisses (1937). They are also caricatured in the Warner Bros. cartoons The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937) as "Ben Birdie" and "Walter Finchell" and The Coo-Coo Nut Grove (1936) as "Ben Birdie" and "Walter Windpipe".

Personal life

Bernie and his first wife, Rose, divorced in 1935. They had a son, Jason. Bernie's second wife was Dorothy Bradley.

Bernie died from a pulmonary embolism in October 1943, aged 52, and was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery, in Queens, New York.

Bernie has a star at 6280 Hollywood Boulevard in the Radio section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.

Selected discography

  • "Marching Along Together" August 21, 1933 (Columbia)
  • "We Won't Have to Sell the Farm" (Columbia)
  • "The Duke Is on a Bat Again" (Columbia)
  • "Ain't That Marvelous" (Columbia)
  • "This Is Romance" Voc. Frank Prince, Sept. 19, 1933 (Columbia)
  • "You Gotta Be a Football Hero", Sept. 19, 1933 (Columbia)
  • "Shanghai Lil", Sept. 26, 1933 (Columbia)
  • "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf", Sept. 26, 1933 (Columbia)
  • References

    Ben Bernie Wikipedia

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