On Bunchy

This weekend, the funeral was held for Bunchy Johnson, and the comments on our site are a reminder of what a beloved figure he was. Here’s an email sent to us by Will Porter about Bunchy:

Bunchy and I were both signed up at gyms, and talked about it.  One day, when I was in town to record, we realized that we had eaten at “Two Sisters” five times in seven days. Bunch said that we had mistakenly signed up at ” 24 Hour Fatness”!!  Damn, I laughed all the time with him. We would keep making each other laugh til  he said, “That’s it, I’m through!”

He handed me my recording career.  Billy Preston and I came  through Louisiana and Mississippi for some pickup dates; Bunch was the contractor for the band.When I heard the quality of the players, then realized that the Wardell leading the dance sets was “the” Wardell Quezergue, I was amazed. When Bunch and Wardell heard me, Bunch said “Why don’t Wardell and I record you”

He pulled together the perfect rhythm section. Wardell worked feverishly on the charts, horn and string arrangements as he was fast losing his eyesight, and, of course, Bunchy played his ass off (and saw that everyone else did, too).

After the CD came out and won a lot of awards and great reviews (in 2005), it didn’t get shopped, and mostly just laid there, but continued to get played and reviewed. Every month since, Bunch would call me and talk about going back into the studio  for the next one, saying “Your first CD got better reviews and more awards than anything I’ve ever done; don’t let it slip away””

So, this year we went back into the studio with exactly the same rhythm section and Wardell  overseeing it all. Bunch finished tracks for 12 songs, and Wardell continues tweaking the string and horn charts. When it’s ready for release it will be dedicated to Bunch.

I know that he loved me, ’cause, after the first year of friendship, he told me at the close of every conversation, “Okay, Lil Dude; a hug to ya, wardie. You know I love you.”

  • Bunchy was one that we did not need to lose! From the first session we I did with Bunchy, and I think the first ever for him, we went to Bogalusa to record two songs for a gospel record with Bunchy's good friend, Al Bemiss. No idea what year that was. Bunchy made any gig special, just by being there! So many stories, too many to relate. The last story occurred at Wardell's birthday party, Bunchy gave me a pitch on booking Danon Smith with the band at Umbria Jazz. We haggled back and forth, laughing all the time. He tried to confuse the issue by talking about Sushi! What a character! I reminded both Wardell and Bunchy about a session I did for Tommy Ridgely, “Lay it on me NOLA!” at Ultrasonic. Bunchy playing and Wardell's horn arrangement. I had recently gotten a copy of the 45 from Billy Dell (WWOZ) and Parker Dinkins “digitized” it for me. Both guys wanted copies. I had one in my bag for Bunchy the next week!
    I assume that we can all learn to enjoy the good folks while they are still with us. We will miss that smile!