Buddy Bregman, Arranger/Producer for Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald & More, Dies at 86

Buddy Bregman
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American musical arranger and composer Buddy Bregman conducts a piece of music for Era Records, circa 1960.

Buddy Bregman, a conductor, arranger and composer who worked with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby and on films including The Pajama Game, has died. He was 86.

Bregman died on Sunday evening in Los Angeles after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, his family announced. Survivors include his daughter Tracey Bregman, who plays Lauren Fenmore on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless.

His uncle was the legendary Broadway songwriter Jule Styne.

For a long stretch starting in the mid-1950s, Bregman was one of the busiest music men in Hollywood, with his work covering records, television and the movies.

For The Pajama Game (1957), an adaptation of the Broadway smash hit, Bregman did the arrangements for all the famous Bob Fosse numbers in the Stanley Donen-George Abbott classic, including "Steam Heat," "Once-a-Year-Day" and "Hernando's Hideaway."

The Chicago native also scored and orchestrated other films including Five Guns West (1955), The Wild Party (1956), The Delicate Delinquent (1957) and Born Reckless (1958).

Following a tenure as one of the first employees at Verve Records, Buddy became the musical director of NBC’s The Eddie Fisher Show in the late 1950s.

He also served as Merman’s personal arranger; produced TV specials/documentaries that featured Crosby, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and Mel Torme; worked as a producer on Jonathan Winters' CBS variety show; and directed several TV movies.

Bregman had become fascinated with music as a youngster and said he could orchestrate by the age of 11.

"At 14, I heard my first chart being played by a rehearsal band in Chicago led by the about-to-be famous [Stan Kenton trombonist] Bill Russo. Bad was the understatement of my work, but I did hear what was wrong — it was every single thing," he once said in a interview with Bruce Kimmel.

Bregman attended UCLA and did the orchestration and conducted for a few Lieber & Stoller songs, including "Bazoom I Need Your Lovin," recorded by The Cheers. It made the charts in 1954, and that prompted him to leave school.

At age 25, Bregman was hired by the legendary jazz impresario Norman Granz as the A&R head of a new label called Verve. There, he worked as an arranger for such artists as Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Fred Astaire.

Bregman arranged two of the albums in Fitzgerald’s song-book project as well as several of her early Verve singles. He also produced the 1956 album Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings at Verve and did four albums with Sammy Davis Jr. (He also acted alongside Davis in the play The Desperate Hours.)

Bregman was the first American director hired for the BBC, where he produced and directed 1965's An Evening With Ethel Merman and ran its specials department. In 1966, he was appointed head of light entertainment for the weekday ITV company Redifussion London.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his son Barry; his former wife, actress Suzanne Lloyd; his grandsons Austin, Landon, Bernie and Adam; his great-grandson Ace; and his brother Bobby and sister-in-law Ellisa.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.