Bucky Pizzarelli – West Texas Road Warrior

Happy 90th Birthday to Bucky Pizzarelli!

In Texas, there’s a saying that claims a man can be so popular “that if he sat on a fence post, the birds would feed him.” Of all the musicians attending the West Texas Jazz Parties over the years, it’s possible that John Paul “Bucky” Pizzarelli was destined to be the musician most likely fed by the West Texas birds.

Bucky has appeared at the jazz parties more times than anyone in the 50 year history of the party, and he comes by his affinity for West Texas naturally. The Bucky is short for Buckskin, the nickname his dad gave him based on time the elder Pizzarelli had spent in West Texas before 1920.

When jazz trumpeter Yank Lawson asked Bucky, “hey, how’d you like to go to West Texas for a jazz party,” Bucky remembers, “I said yes immediately.”

So Bucky first came to the Permian Basin in 1968, but his ties go back much further — so far back that oil had yet to be discovered in the region. Bucky’s father arrived in Odessa in 1916, after hitchhiking all the way from his home in Paterson, New Jersey. His dad decided to head west to be a cowboy after seeing cowboys in the movies.

john-Buckypizzarelli_katz_0166For the Pizzarelli’s, it’s all in the family. Bucky’s son John has been coming to West Texas since he was a teenager, and has been back to play the jazz party and other events numerous times.

BPizzarelli-DBaker-webNow in his 91st year – he turned 90 on January 9, 2016 – Bucky has been around the world playing jazz. He’s played for George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II, and on recordings with Zoot Sims, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and Sir Paul McCartney. But he seems to make it back to Odessa and Midland for a jazz party each year, and while Bucky loves coming to West Texas – it’s clear he is loved in return.