February 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Wingy Manone!

Trumpeter, singer, and composer Joseph “Wingy” Manone was born on this date in 1900. As a boy in New Orleans, he lost an arm as a result of a streetcar accident, but this didn’t stop him from taking up a musical instrument. His nickname has to rank as a bit of gallows humor, although Manone’s 1948 autobiography was entitled Trumpet on the Wing. He used a prosthetic arm so naturally when playing trumpet that his disability was not immediately noticeable.

He first played professionally around New Orleans and then took to the road in the 1920s, playing with bands from coast to coast. His performance style was somewhat reminiscent of Louis Prima - hot and fast trumpet playing and vocals sung in a rough, gravelly voice. He played on a few early Benny Goodman recordings and his band had steady radio work in the 1930s. He also appeared in the film Rhythm on the River (1940), starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin as musical ghostwriters.

As a composer, Manone’s tunes include “Tar Paper Stomp,” “There'll Come a Time (Wait and See)” (with Miff Mole; the song was recently used on the soundtrack of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), “Downright Disgusted Blues” (with Bud Freeman), and “Tailgate Ramble” (with Johnny Mercer). Manone played mostly in California and in Las Vegas from the 1950s onward, but he also continued to tour worldwide. He died in 1982.

Jazz violinist Joe Venuti, who was a notorious practical joker and good friend of Manone, used to send “Wingy” a single cufflink every year on his birthday.

Here is some rare footage of “Wingy” Manone performing.

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