“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” is a popular jump blues song from World War II. Written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince, it gained fame when performed by The Andrews Sisters in the comedy film “Buck Privates” (1941). This article explores the origins, storyline, and inspirations behind this iconic song.
Origins and Success
The Andrews Sisters’ rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” quickly climbed the charts, reaching number six on the U.S. pop singles chart in 1941. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, although it ultimately lost to “The Last Time I Saw Paris.” Today, the song is recognized as one of the top hits of the 20th century, ranking at number six on the “Songs of the Century” list.
The lyrics of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” tell the story of a renowned trumpet player from Chicago who gets drafted into the U.S. Army. Initially restricted from playing boogie-woogie, he becomes despondent. However, when the captain empathizes with him and recruits other musicians, the bugler starts playing reveille in his unique style, lifting the spirits of the entire company.
Creation and Inspiration
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was composed for the movie “Buck Privates,” starring Abbott and Costello. The Andrews Sisters were added to the cast for their musical talents, and songwriters Don Raye and Hughie Prince were tasked with creating songs for the film. Raye and Prince had previously worked with the trio, composing hits such as “Rhumboogie” and “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar.” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” followed the same musical style as their earlier hit but was reworked specifically for The Andrews Sisters.
While there are claims about the inspiration behind the song, one notable figure is Clarence Zylman of Muskegon, Michigan. Several articles during World War II suggested that Zylman was the original Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, as the song’s lyrics align with his life. However, it’s worth noting that Zylman enlisted in the Army after the song was written and recorded. Nevertheless, Muskegon has honored him with a sculpture at the LST-393 Veterans Museum.
Another possible claimant to the title is Harry L. Gish, Jr., who recorded with Don Raye and Hughie Prince. Gish had a successful music career and played with renowned bands and orchestras during the 1930s and 1940s.
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” remains an enduring symbol of the World War II era. Its catchy tune and spirited lyrics captured the hearts of listeners, propelling it to become one of the Andrews Sisters’ most beloved songs. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of music in uplifting the spirits of those serving in challenging times.