Bucky Pizzarelli, Jazz Guitarist and Former Tonight Show Band Member, Dies at 94 After COVID-19 Diagnosis

Bucky Pizzarelli, famed jazz guitarist and former member of the Tonight Show orchestra, died Wednesday after testing positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). He was 94.

His son, John Pizzarelli — also a jazz artist who toured and performed alongside his father — confirmed the news on Instagram Thursday, highlighting Bucky’s career highlights. John called Bucky a “wonderful dad.”

“My father was a mentor to so many guitarists both professional and amateur,” wrote John. “Always doling out advice, always encouraging, always in tune and always ready for a record date.”

He continued: “He was a wonderful dad. He was a decent bocce player, a New York football Giants fan and for some reason liked the Yankees. But, he was music first and foremost and it showed in his artistry.”

Bucky is also survived by his wife Ruth, daughters Anne Hymes and Mary Pizzarelli, another son, bassist Martin Pizzarelli, and four grandchildren, according to The New York Times.

The New Jersey native was a part of the Tonight Show‘s live orchestra during Johnny Carson‘s tenure until the late night host moved the show to California in 1972, according to the Times.

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John opened up to the Morristown Daily Record about his dad, remarking on his storied career in the music business and saying that he “had so much to give to people.”

“He was the ultimate sideman,” said John. “He wasn’t looking to be the guy out in front of the band. He was happy to be inside the band, supporting the whole organization.”

Added John: “The length and breadth of the work with all the different people was a testament to how hard he worked at it. Everybody from Benny Goodman and Les Paul to Carly Simon, Janis Ian and Paul McCartney — all kinds of people requested his services because he was the best at what he did.”

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In an interview with the website thelastmiles.com, Bucky reflected on his expansive career — and marveled at how music had evolved in front of his eyes.

“When I listen to the television and hear a studio band, I couldn’t play one note with any of those bands,” he said. “They’ve changed the whole style around! They don’t compete with us, they just changed the whole thing around. … Guitars in the hands of these kids today are weapons!”

Bucky also said that his motto was to get up every day and “try to correct what I screwed up the night before. That’s my theory. I prepare for the next time.”

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Source: People.com (https://people.com/music/bucky-pizzarelli-dead-coronavirus-jazz-guitarist/)

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