Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Sticks And The Fedora

Sidney Bulkin, well known bebop, jazz drummer, music publisher and producer, formerly nicknamed’ Broadway Sid,’ voted one of the 10 top new star drummers in the New York Downbeat Awards. died of a heart attack in North Hollywood, CA March 1, 2008. He was 83.

Sid was born on August 3, 1924 in the Bronx, New York, the youngest of three children. His Father was an iron worker from Russia and mother, an immigrant from Poland. Sid started playing drums when he was 13 years old and was in the Army Air Force during World War II in England. After the war, he launched is musical career at Times Square Paramount Theater in NY working with all the stars: Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Rosemary Clooney, Vikki Carr, Judy Garland, Jane Russell, Benny Goodman, Terry Gibbs, Ralph Flanagan, Manny Harmon, Johnny Mandel, Maynard Ferguson, Quincy Jones, Johnny Williams, Don Elliot, Bob Florance, Pat Longo, and countless others. He produced the first All Star Band and Jazz Album at Birdland featuring Maynard Ferguson. Recently, he produced Pat Longo’s ‘Extreme Heat’ with his long time friend Vic Damone.

During the 50’s he recorded on Columbia records with Benny Goodman’s new sextet, on Mercury Record with Terry Gibbs, on Verve Records, on Jasmine records a Big Band " A Tribute to Glenn Miller" with Ralph Flanangan, Maynard Ferguson’s first All Star Album, on Savoy records, on Verve Records Cat on a Hot Fiddle, Jazztime with Terry Gibbs and the list goes on and on and on with Johnny Carsons Tonight show, The Steve Allen Show, Dinah Shore’s TV show.

In 1957, he and his wife embraced the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and opened their Burbank home weekly for 20 years with children’s classes, youth activities and adult discussions about the influence of the Baha’i faith on present day society.

Sidney will be remembered as a great drummer and creative producer who loved music more than life, for his dynamic personality and great sense of humor, and his whole-hearted dedication to the Baha’i Faith. Sid was one of a cadre of Baha’i artists in the entertainment industry along with Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Holiday and Vic Damone, he labored insistently to promote the ideal of love and unity of all mankind.

Sidney was a devoted father to his three children and a loving grandfather to his nine grandchildren. He is also survived by his older brother and sister.

My uncle Sid died on March 1, 2008. He was 83 years old, and a pretty cool dude. I think of him in many ways as my father figure, especially since I dated a number of Jewish drummers in my time!

The funeral and party afterward at the Sportsman's Lodge, was phenomenal, especially considering the occasion. It was more like a belated birthday party to Sid than it was a funeral.

My uncle was a musician, pretty much all of his life. He was not my blood uncle, but an uncle by marriage to my mother's sister, Joan. Sid came from a Russian/Polish Jewish background, and Joan came from an Irish Catholic/Norwegian Lutheran background (although my grandmother converted to Catholic after marrying my grandfather.) Sid and Joan met in Las Vegas, where I was born. Sid used to like to tell me his first date with Joan was babysitting me, but I am not 100% sure if that really was their first date (although I am sure they babysat my sister and I from time to time.)

My grandmother was the matriarch of our family, and Sid's mother was his pride and joy. We called them Grandma Kelly and Grandma Bulkin! I got a healthy dose of Jewish history from Sid and his end of the family, including learning a ton of Yiddish!

Sid was the only parental unit I knew that showed up to the dinner table (dinner was a 6:00 p.m., SHARP) in a tuxedo. Sid would often go to work after dinner, and return from his gig at 2ish a.m. I was a teenager went I went to live with Sid and Joan (and my three cousins), and I did not hit the sheets usually until after Sid would come home from work. Back in those days, lots of us smoked cigarettes under the age of 18, and many of us smoked at home. When Sid would return, I'd generally be watching television in the TV room, and he'd sit down next to me, bum a ciggie, and we'd watch TV till I usually got tired enough to go to bed.

When Sid would wake up in the morning, he'd be in his very recognizable signature trademark, the bathrobe, usually in the kitchen with a cup of coffee (in that damn gold mug) and a ciggie in his other hand, pondering. Sometimes his pondering would end in the telling of a funny joke. Sometimes his pondering would end with a statement of something rather off beat and spiritual. Sometimes his pondering would end his putting the cup of coffee down, and tapping out a rhythm he was hearing in syncopation to the washing machine noise in the background. Which probably explains why I used to have fun finding the harmonies to the sound of the vacuum cleaner (laughs - but true).

When I bought season tickets to the Dodgers back in the 1980's (and had them through to the strike in 1994, although I eventually bought into a miniplan with a friend of mine, and had four seats we split up), Sid would call ... "Mel, you got any Giant games for me to go to?" How I wish I had the foresight to tape Sid's voice messages, for as Leslie and the rest of the family know, he left some doosies!

We went to a number of ball games in the 1990's, and I even had one of my work partners go to a game with him, since they both grew up in the Bronx and were Giant fans from the old days.

Sid was an amazing drummer, and to watch him play was something. He turned into a different person when he got behind his set. And he was constantly sought after for emergency fill in on the television shows because he was very good at "cold readings." He could play any chart without a rehearsal and bring it in on time.

I was sad the first day I found out about his death, but he was 83 and lived a great life. Although, he has an older sister, Dottie and an older brother, Harry, they were sad to see their younger sibling pass before them.
I eventually got into a zone, and felt that Sid would rather we crack jokes and have a good party, eat some great food and talk about him. So that's what we did.

My aunt (Joan), me and Zaire (my grandson)

Les, me and Kel

Gary, and Kel's husband, Jerry

RIP, Sid. I created Sid Bulkin's Jazz House to highlight and honor Sid's musical career. Here at my blog, I want to highlight more of the funeral with some video and pictures.


Kata said...

My name is Kata. Sorry for your loss. I went to Sunset high with Leslie Bulkin. I used to go to the house on the bluffs in Encinitas I knew the family and they welcomed me into thier home. I would love to get in touch with Leslie as we had so much fun and craziness back then. If you could pass this along I would be grateful. My e mail is Hope you are well. Have a blessed day. Thank you. Kata

Anonymous said...

Sorry to Hear that Mr. Bulkin passed. I lived in SoCal once in the 70's and hung around Leslie and Kelley through one of their studio musicians for awhile. I met Sid at his home once and he shared stories of playing with the big bands and early TV shows. I never forgot him. I just happened to google some people I met in LA and remembered his name. He was a warm and friendly to me. A good man.