Instrumentalist, Composer, Arranger
Bob Haggart played a number of instruments, among them trumpet, piano, and tuba, but he began his professional career on
guitar which he studied with the great George Van Eps. Later he picked up the bass, taught himself, and was selected as Best
Bassist of 1937 by Metronome magazine’s poll. He was one of the founding members of Bob Crosby’s Bobcats
in 1935, and the arrangements he wrote are credited with giving the band its sound.
In 1938 the Bobcats introduced his instrumental called “I’m Free” which became the theme song of the
Billy Butterfield Orchestra. The following year Johnny Burke added lyrics, and it became the poignant story of a chance
meeting of former lovers, “What’s New”. It has been recorded by numerous vocalists and jazz
instrumentalists and took on new life in 1983 when Linda Ronstadt introduced it to a new generation. Haggart also conceived
two popular tunes with drummer Ray Bauduc, “South Rampart Street Parade” (1937) and “Big Noise from
Winnetka” (1940). The latter was a show-stopping duet: Haggart whistled and plucked on the bass strings while Bauduc
played on the strings near the bridge with his drum sticks to create a captivating melodic and rhythmic experience.
When Crosby broke up the band in 1942 Haggart turned to studio work, arranging sessions for Billie Holiday and Louis
Armstrong, working with the string ensemble for a Charlie Parker recording, and writing for Sarah Vaughan’s back-up
orchestra. He also subbed on bass for the Armstrong and Duke Ellington bands and painted in his spare time. He co-led the
World’s Greatest Jazz Band with Yank Lawson from 1968-1978 and was active into his ‘90s.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com
Role: Classical Composer