Front and back covers of the 1964 album Berl Olswanger Orchestra and the Olswanger Beat. Photography by Ken Ross. Album design by Neil Lewis.



Berl Olswanger has been a recognized leader in music circles since he was 12 years old and had his own radio show. Except for a four-year tour of duty in the United States Navy during World War II, his name has been synonymous with "Mr. Music of Memphis."


The outstanding orchestra grew from solo playing engagements with Berl at the piano. Clients would request that an instrument or two be added for cocktail music and after a few years, the orchestra was born. It was in so much demand that at one point, Berl could no longer accept solo playing engagements.


The musicians are Art Sutton on trombone, who once had a band of his own and plays the South's most wicked tailgate trombone; Pee Wee Wamble, hot trumpet man, one of the old Swift Jewel Cowboys and a genius at almost any instrument; Tommy Bennett on electric bass, a terrific ear man who attended junior high school with Berl and has been playing with him since they were kids; Byron Hudson, staff clarinetist at WREC-TV and assistant to Berl on arrangements; talented, young Bobby Ryan, alternate on the drums; and lovely, young Jeanie Page, the vocalist who grew up in show business, with a repertoire of hundreds of songs.


Many reasons have been given for the popularity of the orchestra. Some folks say it’s their personalities, while others say it’s their interesting arrangements, the showmanship and variety of their costumes, because the band has a knack for being able to please any age group, or because Berl can feel the pulse of the crowd and recognize the mood during the first set. But the reason heard most is that this is the band with an intoxicating beat. Out-of-town bands, when performing or passing through Memphis, come to listen.


All the musicians played with name bands before joining Berl. The Berl Olswanger Orchestra has a combined total of 234 years of playing experience! Not only is this something few bands can say, it could account for the sound of this band with a "beat." Teenagers are always amazed that their rock-and-roll music can be played with the authentic beat by an adult group that uses no guitars, except the electric bass.


Country clubs, debutante parties, receptions, and conventions keep the band booked solid six months in advance. Many dates are held for a year or more. Large corporations have flown the band to sales meetings all over the country because the "Olswanger Beat" gives their salesmen the rousing sendoff needed to get them excited over new sales promotions.


Berl is famous for his personalized floor shows for large companies and conventions. He writes material exclusively for the client, such as parodies and puns about the product or service and the people. This material is memorized by Jeanie Page and alternate vocalist Linda Lewis, and it never fails to produce a show that leaves a captivated audience enthusiastically asking for more.


Aside from his popular orchestra, the name Berl Olswanger is recognized on the marquee of two fun-filled busy music stores that together house one of the South's largest and most complete music centers, with franchised lines of leading musical instruments and accessories, two music schools where thousands have flocked to learn to play "the easy, Berl Olswanger way" using the popular simplified method Berl himself wrote and published, and the Berl Olswanger Entertainment Bureau, a booking agency that can supply a variety of talent from rock & roll groups to dance bands, organists, pianists, accordionists, violinists, clowns, comedians, magicians, opera stars, dancers, folk singers, and sing-alongs.


In addition to being involved in all the above activities, Berl finds time to appear on a daily television show.


This long-playing record is an answer to hundreds of requests from fans who can't get enough of the "Olswanger Beat."




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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