JOE "FINGERS" CARR aka Lou Busch

Born Louis Ferdinand Busch, 18 July 1910, Louisville, Kentucky
Died 19 September 1979, Camarillo, California Pianist / arranger / orchestra leader / composer. Lou Busch is best known for his honky-tonk piano recordings under his stage name, Joe "Fingers" Carr. He got his start early, leading his own band by the age of 12 and leaving home at 16 to work as a professional musician. He played with a number of sweet big bands--Clyde McCoy, Henry Busse, and George Olson--then took a short break to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory. After that, he went back to the sweet bands, this time joining one of the most successful of them, Hal Kemp's. Busch stayed with Kemp for most of the 1930s and married the first of his several wives, the band's girl singer, Janet Blair. After the band's lead arranger, John Scott Trotter, departed in early 1936, Busch and fellow band member Hal Mooney split most of the arranging duties. When Kemp died in from a car crash 1940, they moved to Los Angeles and started working as studio musicians, but World War Two came along and pulled Busch into the Army for a three-year stint.

When he returned to L.A. in 1945, he hooked up with Johnny Mercer's fledgling Capitol Records label and ended up working as an A&R executive. He continued to do occasional session work as a pianist, though, playing behind Kay Starr, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dean Martin and others. In 1950, he sold the label on the idea of recording his ragtime playing, and he made up the name Joe "Fingers" Carr during his initial studio session. "Sam's Song", his second single, became a # 7 hit. He also "covered" Del Wood's piano version of "Down Yonder", which was a big country hit, and took it to # 14 on the pop charts in late 1951. Although Capitol played up the nostalgic caricature of Carr the honky tonk pianist, wearing derby hat, bowtie, vest, and suspenders, Busch tried not to let his recordings slip into mere novelty. He was a serious student of ragtime, writing many pieces of his own and inspiring younger players long before the '70s rediscovery of the genre. There were also several Capitol singles by "Lou Busch and his Orchestra". One of these, "Zambesi", an adaptation of a South African song, was a # 2 hit in the UK in early 1956, though it peaked only at # 75 in the USA. His only other British hit was "Portuguese Washerwoman" (# 20 UK, # 19 US), this time credited to Joe "Fingers" Carr. In the late 1950s, Busch left Capitol for Warner Brothers, where again he worked as both performer and executive, although he grew less and less interested in the former. His most noteworthy accomplishment as an A&R man for Warner Bros were the series of highly successful musical comedy albums he produced with comedian Allan Sherman, including the # 2 hit single, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (1963). Busch died in an automobile accident in 1979.

Though Busch / Carr made dozens of LP's, there are currently no CD's available of his work. Some tracks appear on compilations. "Zambesi" is on the 2 CD-set "Hits of the 50's" (EMI Gold, 2002, 54 tracks).

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