Big Round Records presents the first of three albums by “Mr. Music of Memphis,” Berl Olswanger, featuring tunes by Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, and more. From pop standards and jazz ditties to good old-fashioned polka, pianist Berl Olswanger wrested command of just about every style.


In 1930 twelve-year-old Berl hitched up his knee trousers and sat down at the piano at the WMC Studio in Memphis where he had his own radio program. Like many musicians before him, he later honed his chops playing in nightclubs across the city. In 1939 he garnered the attention of the George Olsen Orchestra and toured with the group from New York to Hollywood, and played for such legends as Bing Crosby and Jack Benny.


During World War II, Admiral “Bull” Halsey placed Berl in charge of all music and entertainment for the South Pacific. When he returned to Memphis after the war, Berl could have chosen to go on the road and become as big a star as Roger Williams or Liberace, but he preferred having a family life and loved the people of Memphis, so he chose to stay at home. Fifty years later, when Berl Olswanger, "Mr. Music of Memphis," died, he left behind a legacy as a composer, arranger, and band leader.


Berl Olswanger's piano arrangements were a feature of his daily radio programs over WMC in Memphis during the 1950s. He recorded Berl Olswanger at the Piano in 1953, which included his arrangements of such popular numbers as "I've Got it Bad and That Ain't Good" and "Begin the Beguine," in response to requests by his radio listeners for an album of Berl Olswanger piano stylings.


BERL OLSWANGER AT THE PIANO is a collection of eight tunes and was the first released recording of Olswanger’s work. Now digitized and rereleased on Big Round Records, the seminal album will be followed up by two others to immortalize the piano great’s legacy.

Release Date: January 8, 2021

Catalog #: BR8965

Format: Digital




Big Round Records is dedicated to presenting world-class musicians doing what they do best: smash the walls of genre and create groundbreaking new sounds while keeping one foot firmly rooted in tradition. Overdriven bassoons, orchestra-backed swing groups, blues-inflected Zydeco, outlandish arrangements of Disney songs, and modern-protest tunes is just a small slice of what you'll hear on our releases, which feature some of today's most forward-thinking and respected artists such as John Hall (Orleans), Steve Gadd, Andy Jaffe, Eddie Gomez, Tony Oxley, Charlie Barnett, Richard Stoltzman, Tony Clef, Mika Yoshida, and many more. Out of the box? With Big Round, there is no box.

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