b. Dominick Buono, 17 June 1917, San Diego, California, USA, d. 14 October 1993, San Diego, California, USA. Buono began playing trumpet at the age of 11 in a band at Nazareth House, close to the San Diego California Mission. Later, he played in the massive 110-piece Bonham Brothers Greater San Diego Boys Band, which performed concerts at Balboa Park. In his early professional career Buono played trumpet in various west coast-based dance and swing bands, including those led by Ken Baker, Cally Holden, Bobby Rice and Vido Musso. In December 1939 Buono encountered fellow trumpeter Harry James. At the time, Musso’s band, which was being fronted by popular entertainer Johnny ‘Scat’ Davis, was playing an engagement at Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant. James, who was working at the Hotel Sherman’s Panther Room with his recently formed first band, was looking for a lead trumpeter. He liked Buono’s clear sound and stage presence and offered him the job. Buono joined James and remained with the band until the leader’s death more than 40 years later.
Over the decades, Buono recorded and toured extensively with James, playing all across America, with lengthy residencies in Las Vegas, where he and James had both made their homes, and also toured internationally. Among many overseas tours were those to Europe in the late 50s, South America in 1960 and again in 1980, and to the UK and Europe on several occasions. Although content with his relatively anonymous role, Buono did occasionally play solos. Sometimes on radio broadcasts, while James was involved with announcements and scripted features, Buono would solo with the band, even on numbers such as ‘Ciribiribin’, a real favourite of James’ fans. He also soloed on ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ during a 1957 European tour, perhaps because James had long ago wearied of his role on that particular number. The role of lead trumpeter in a big band is vital, indeed, he might well be regarded as the key man. Although the success and popularity of James’ band owed most to the leader’s charisma and solo skills, it is Buono who should be credited with the high quality of the ensemble playing.