Jazz pianist and songwriter Joe Bushkin, who co-wrote Frank Sinatra's first hit and performed with some of the best jazz musicians of his time, has died of pneumonia. He was 87.
Mr. Bushkin died Wednesday at his Santa Barbara home, his daughter Nina Bushkin Judson said.
Mr. Bushkin performed and recorded with such jazz and big-band greats as Fats Waller, Eddie Condon and Billie Holiday. As a member of the Tommy Dorsey band, he co-wrote the hit "Oh! Look at Me Now" with John DeVries. The song launched the career of a young Frank Sinatra, the band's vocalist.
During one concert, Judy Garland introduced Mr. Bushkin as "a musician's musician, but he plays awfully pretty for the people," according to daughter Christina Bushkin Merrill.
Born Nov. 7, 1916, to Russian immigrants in New York City, Mr. Bushkin learned to play the piano at 10 and started playing professionally in 1932 with Frank LaMarr at the Roseland Ballroom in Brooklyn.
Three years later, Mr. Bushkin became intermission pianist at the Famous Door, where the Bunny Berigan Boys, a group that included guitarist Eddie Condon and pianist George Zack, performed.
Mr. Bushkin ended up replacing Zack and went on to play with Condon, Joe Marsala and Dorsey. He played on Billie Holiday's first recording under her own name in 1936.
Mr. Bushkin's career was interrupted when he joined the Army in 1942 and rose to the rank of master sergeant.
Mr. Bushkin retired in the 1960s but returned to play on Bing Crosby's last tour in 1976 and 1977. He also performed in a concert series at New York's St. Regis hotel in 1984 that celebrated his 50 years in show business.