Front and back covers of the 1953 album Berl Olswanger at the Piano

The following is a newspaper article on Berl Olswanger at the Piano as printed in the December 21, 1953, edition of the Memphis Press-Scimitar.


Release of Olswanger's First Album to Climax Exciting Days


These are exciting days for Berl Olswanger. First, there was the new little girl born last Thursday, and now today Berl Olswanger at the Piano, his first record album, is released.


The album, in both long play and 45 speed extended play, has eight tunes. "I tried to put in something to please everybody," Berl said. "There wasn't any particular method in my choice of numbers other than that."


The tunes are "Beer Barrel Polka," "Tenderly," "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," "Stardust," "Old Black Magic" in a modified rhumba boogie, "Begin the Beguine," "Donkey Serenade," and "Berl's Yancey," his own variation on the famous old "Yancey Special."


The record is released under the Music Shop label and is a WMCT production. RCA did the recording from tapes made in WMCT studios. Charlie VunKannon on bass and Thomas Bennett on guitar are the accompaniment, and WMCT announcer Bill Gilliand was the man with the maracas for the hoof beats in "Donkey Serenade." That one took more time than any. They had to do it six times before they were satisfied.


"We were trying for an echo effect," Berl said, "and that donkey just went hog wild."


Eddie Frase, WMCT publicist, designed the cover.


The album is dedicated to Vice Admiral John Dale Price, Berl's old commanding officer in the Pacific, now chief of Naval Air Training at Pensacola. And Berl is kind enough to say "Berl's Yancey" was included because I've liked his version of it ever since he used to bring the house down with it when he beat it out on the Malco stage back in 1940 as one of the Cats on the Keys. — Robert Johnson



Berl Olswanger, the Mid-South's favorite pianist, grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Except for a four-year tour in the Navy during World War II when he was entertainment officer for the South Pacific under Admiral Halsey, he has refused to leave Memphis—despite the many offers that have come his way.


Berl has had a radio program since he was twelve years old, and transferred his talents to television when WMCT, the Mid-South's pioneer station, came on the air five years ago. He was the only Mid-South entertainer listed in "Who's Who in Radio and Television" for 1953.


Berl is also famous for his commercial jingle writing; his vocal arrangements for nationally known vocal groups; his smart suburban music store, featuring phonograph records, pianos, television sets, and sheet music; his music school where hundreds of students from 3 to 83 are learning to play the "Berl Olswanger Way"; and his talent agency.


Berl's unique piano arrangements are a feature of his daily television programs over WMCT, and this album is in response to the hundreds of requests by listeners for an album of Berl Olswanger piano stylings.

Dedicated to my best listener, Vice Admiral John Dale Price.




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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