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Cedric White: 1927-2004
Cedric White

Born: 1927 in Keene, NH
Died: February 12, 2004 in Oakland, CA

Enthusiast and Berigan biographer

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

The better portion of Cedric "Bozy" White's days were devoted to researching a biography of trumpeter Bunny Berigan. White's work, which sometimes bordered on obsession, consumed five decades of his life. White had projected that the book would finally be published in May and had begun taking orders. Sadly, he never lived to see the book in print. In February 2004, Cedric White was allegedly murdered by a tenant at his home in Oakland. He was 76 years old.

Born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1927, White was not a musician himself but was an avid member of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC), overseeing the group's lending library. He also ran the archival Shoestring label from his home. In 1950 he began researching the life of Bunny Berigan (1908-1942), the Bix-influenced trumpeter and big-band alumnus whose version of "I Can't Get Started" was a major jazz hit in 1936. For the next fifty-plus years White latched onto whatever information he could glean about the tragic trumpet star.

After retiring from the Air Force after twenty years of service, White settled in the Bay Area. Following his wife's death, White occasionally rented out rooms in his home to young ladies. On February 19, 2004, tenant Elnora Myles told the Oakland police that White had been missing for about a week. In April the writer's decomposed body was found in the basement of his house, and Myles was implicated in his death. She had begun living in White's house with her boyfriend and children after White's disappearance, claiming that she had leased the property. Testimony from White's brother, neighbors, and a private detective assisted police in their investigation of the murder, which apparently stemmed from an argument over money.

The future of White's lifelong labor, the Berigan biography, remains up in the air.

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.


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