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This webpage last updated July 13, 2009.

Lawrence ‘Larry’ Borenstein

Born October 8 1919, son of Nathan and Celia.
Died July 13, 1998

Larry was perhaps the most famous musician who was born and raised in Madison, WI

If you have information about Larry Borenstein, the Borenstein family, any of the bands that Larry was in, corrections or additions to the information presented here....or other pertinent information, please contact me.
E-Mail doctorsax@charter.net

In addition to trying to put together information for this history, I have been entrusted with Larry's 1938 Selmer Balanced Action alto sax. Rather than selling it to some anonymous eBay bidder, I would love to find a way to keep the horn here in Madison...perhaps on display.

-Per the Obituary:

Graduated from Madison West High School -1937
Picture of the 1937 Graduating Class at West High.
and graduated University of Wisconsin School of Music -1941.

Larry was the lead sax man for the Eddy Howard orchestra.

After playing with the Eddy Howard orchestra he returned to Madison and formed an orchestra with Eddy Webb. The put their names together and called their group Eddy Lawrence and His Orchestra.
They played in the Wisconsin and Illinois area for many years.

A number of well known musicians performed with Larry at that time, including Doc DeHaven [Trumpet. Born 1931], Boris Joseph, and Herb Morhoff to name a few.

In his last years he had his own smaller group and played often with Robert Johnson, Harry Edwards and the American Jazz Express.

- New Horizons Band

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??If he was born in 1919 he'd be in his early 20's during WWII, did he serve in the Armed Services??
“I seem to remember something about flat feet keeping out of WWII.”

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It looks like Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Borenstein of 1305 Chandler St., Madison, had at least three sons in the armed forces. Harold Borenstein entered the Army on December 2, 1941. There’s a report on his arrival in Northern Ireland in the WSJ July 5, 1942, p. 7, and a story about his activities in North Africa in the WSJ, September 26, 1943, p. 16.
Lawrence Borenstein, 1305 Chandler Street, is one of 71 Madison area draftees “to enter Armed Forces this week” in the WSJ, May 10, 1943, p. 1.
Albert Borenstein, 1305 Chandler St., was one of 39 area draftees mentioned in the WSJ, March 3, 1946, p. 16.
I couldn’t find any more articles about Lawrence Borenstein’s military service in the Madison papers.
The armed forces will release service records from any time after the Spanish-American war only to immediate family members.

The UW-Madison Music Department may have published a war-time alumni newletter that could have information about Lawrence Borenstein and the Beth Israel Synagogue may have war-time newsletters.
Record collector magazines are another possible source. The best source would probably be family scrapbooks from the period.

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He recorded on all the big labels (Mercury? Columbia? and … ) in the day. No other saxophone player in Madison ever did that.

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I've heard that the type of Jazz played by Larry described as "Sweet Jazz" and compared to Lawrence Welk. But one person from the era says:
"I wouldn't put Lawrence Welk in your comparison -- to me, his music can't come close to Eddy Howard. "

Put a streaming clip of the Eddy Howard Orchestra here.

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Everyone from that generation [especially the ladies] knew him for playing “Harlem Nocturne"

[Earle Hagen wrote "Harlem Nocturne" for a radio series as a conscious imitation of the Duke Ellington sound. Randy Brooks, a white big band leader, picked it up as his theme song in 1941. About ten years later, saxophonist Herbie Fields, released it as a single, soon after, virtually every sax player in the R & B business had his own version of it out. Sax-heavy honky-tonk R & B was beginning to fade at the time, but the smooth, sultry sound of "Harlem Nocturne" made it a good transition into the more sophisticated jump bands. Johnny Otis, a white vibe player who considered himself "black in soul" covered it for one of his early hits on Savoy. (Otis was later to keep the spirit of R & B going for many years with his various bands and LA radio shows).

Finally, in 1959, a New Jersey band, the Viscounts, had a minor hit with it, introducing an eerie guitar effect that's been retained in most of the subsequent covers. ]

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There's a great story about how they made the old 78's back then. There was no tape so the band had to play live and it was cut right to the master disc. The band was a few stories underground, to eliminate unwanted street sounds, and the disc cutter was ground level.

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When he was on the road he would send money home to his parents. It was quite a bit for those days.

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It was the end of a glorious era.

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It was Larry's uncle and aunt, David & Tillie Borenstein, who had a dry goods store called Borenstein's in the large two-story building at Schenk’s Corners, at the corner of Atwood & Second St. (now a hair salon, again) from 1925-1974.

The small building next door (which today is Alchemy, a bar, 1980 Atwood) was the shoe store that they also ran.

Borenstein's Department Store, 1980-1988 Atwood Ave, 1951. Photo courtesy of Jann Foss.

Lawrence worked there too, but also played music with the Eddie Lawrence Band (Eddie Webb & Lawrence Borenstein) and American Jazz Express.

The 1956 Madison City Directory says he was a salesman with Manchester’s Dept Store.
He is not in the 1967 City Directory.
The 1973 City Directory says he works for his brother.

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In the WSJ August 11, 1963, p. 23, Lawrence Borenstein is mentioned in connection with Manchester’s shoe department.
The Capital Times, March 24, 1971, p. 25, mentions Larry Borenstein of the shoe department at the Borenstein store on Atwood Avenue. This article provides a good summary of the store.
And the Capital Times, November 24, 1975, p. 3, has a photo of Larry Borenstein describing him as a new member of the sales staff of the East Towne branch of the Hub, a men’s fashion store.

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Feb. 2, 2014 -
I have been informed by a kind reader of this webpage that "Harold Borenstein (most likely, Larry's brother) died yesterday [Feb. 1, 2014]. The funeral will be on Tuesday." ------------------------------------------------- An ad in the WSJ March 3, 1946, p. 16, in which Larry Borenstein is presented as an instructor of clarinet and saxophone for the Forbes-Meagher Music Co. indicates that he was no longer on active duty with any of the armed forces.
Another ad in the WSJ, Sept. 24, 1950, p. 15, for Forbes-Meagher lists Larry Borenstein (with a photo) as an instructor of clarinet and saxophone. -------------------------------------------------------

The daughter of an older gentleman related to me:

"Here's the info my dad recalls about Larry Borenstein.: He had lessons from Larry in the early 50's ('51-'52).
He believes that Larry just returned from traveling/playing with 'Eddie Lawrence' band.
Sax lessons/studio was on 2nd floor of a bldg that was where Anchor Bank is now on the square (WI Felton was in the basement; across from Park Hotel)."

I think it was the same gentleman who said that the one bad thing about lessons was that the practice rooms reeked of cigarette smoke.
Larry was evidently a smoker.
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The picture above of Eddie Howard and his Orchestra was taken December 6th, 1941 at the Aragon Ballroom (The day before the attack at Pearl Harbor.
If Larry did indeed graduate from UW in 1941, this would have been the same year he graduated.

The names of ALL the guys in the photo are available.

Larry is in the front row, third from the left, next to Eddie Howard fourth from the left. Check the socks.
The story goes that Eddie Howard told all the guys they had to wear solid colored socks. Only Eddie could wear patterned sacks. But you can see that Larry is wearing striped socks.

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The picture above shows Larry playing his Selmer Balanced Action Alto Sax with the Dick Jurgens Orchestra.

Dick Jurgens - b. 9 November 1911, Sacramento, California, USA, d. 5 October 1995, Sacramento, California, USA. Jurgens, was an accomplished trumpeter by the age of 14. He and his brother Will formed their first band for summer camps at Lake Tahoe, working as rubbish collectors when not playing. Within three years the unit had been booked for a residency at a local hotel staying until offered a spot at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in 1934. They developed into a polished band with a rich ensemble sound that was ideal for hotel and ballroom work, and vocals by guitarist Eddy Howard, an old friend from Sacramento. Jurgens was resident at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, the Elitch Gardens in Denver, and the Avalon Ballroom on Catalina Island, according to the season. He recorded for Decca, ARC, Vocalion, OKeh and Columbia Records and did many radio transcriptions, issued on Hindsight in the 70s. Jurgens also composed evergreens like "Careless", "If I Knew Then", "Elmer's Tune", "A Million Dreams Ago" and "One Dozen Roses", which, as well as being covered by other artists, gave his band hit records without reaching the million-sellers.

During World War II service in the US Marine Corps, Dick and Will formed an entertainment unit to tour the South Pacific war areas. Back in civilian life Jurgens returned to the Aragon and Trianon Ballrooms in Chicago until 1956, when he went into business outside the profession. After a break of 13 years he was asked to form a band for the Willowbrook Club outside Chicago, and continued playing there till his retirement in 1976. Singer Don Ring bought the rights to the band's name and library in 1986, and the New Dick Jurgens Orchestra has a permanant residency at Ring's Park Ponderosa Ballroom in McFarland, Wisconsin.

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Above is Larry’s obit from 1998.

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Larry was a HUGE Selmer guy.  Everything else was junk he'd say. Both Larry and Frank Morgan wouldn't touch anything else.

Larry’s clarinet was/is a Selmer, Centered Tone, Serial number N94xx

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Further items to be expanded:

- Larry talking about when he met Louis Armstrong

- When Desi Arnez’s band came to town, it was Larry who checked his union card.

- How did he come to own/run the shoe store? Someone was ill and his mom called him in to run it.

- Larry at Ward-Brodt - teaching, time period, peers

- New Horizons Band.

- Videotape of Larry’s seminar at UW

- 2008 info about the Eddy Howard Orchestra