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Buddy Arnold: 1926-2003
Buddy Arnold
tenor sax

Born: 1926 in The Bronx, NY
Died: November 9, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA

Saxophonist with Rich, Dorsey, Kenton bands

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2003 Todd S. Jenkins

Tenor saxophonist Buddy Arnold died on Sunday, November 9, 2003, at the age of 77 of complications following open-heart surgery. Arnold's career was compromised at times by prison terms and drug abuse, sins for which he atoned in 1992 by establishing a drug treatment program for musicians.

Born Arnold Buddy Grishaver in The Bronx, he took up the sax at age nine and turned pro while still in his teens. Arnold performed at the Apollo Theater with Georgie Auld's band, joined the Army during World War II, and afterwards toured the West Coast with Buddy Rich. His first records were cut in 1949 with Gene Williams and Junior Thornhill.

While working with Buddy DeFranco, Neal Hefti, Tex Beneke and others in the early 1950s, Arnold entered a long period of drug abuse. He was hospitalized for a year and a half, after which he landed a recording deal with ABC/Paramount (Wailing, 1956). By 1958, however, he had been arrested for attempted burglary and was bound off to prison. Arnold was pardoned in 1960 and returned to his career with the Tommy Dorsey ghost band and Stan Kenton's orchestra (Adventures in Jazz and Adventures in Blues, both 1961, Capitol).

Arnold eventually moved to Los Angeles and began recording for Capitol, a good period that brought four albums (now out of print). In the 1970s his old habits returned; Arnold was convicted of forging prescriptions and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Fortunately he was released early, leading to work in a drug treatment program. The experience inspired Arnold to help out his fellow musicians with monkeys on their backs. In 1992 he and his second wife, Carole Fields, established the Musician's Assistance Program, dedicated to helping performers seeking drug and alcohol treatment. The program has been quite successful, assisting more than 1,500 musicians thus far.

Buddy Arnold is survived by his wife Carole; son Robert; and sister Elaine Weiner.


Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.

E-mail: Epistrophy@aol.com

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With 1 reader comment, posted September 23, 2006