Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

“He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way
He had a boogie style that no one else could play
He was the top man at his craft
But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft
He’s in the army now, a blowin’ reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B”

On January 2, 1941, the Andrew Sisters recorded the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. A song with distinct lyrics that almost every American, even today, can recognize. The song tells the story of a famous trumpeter from Chicago that found himself drafted into the army. Although he once played concerts, he now only uses his trumpet to play the reveille, also known as the wake-up song. As the story goes, the man is so upset about his new position that his captain drafts other musicians so he can play in a band.

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was written and recorded for Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates. This was a musical military comedy that would serve its purpose of putting Abbott and Costello on the map. The song was originally written for Lou Costello, but it was decided that the Andrew Sisters would be able to provide some relief. Both parties were under contract with Universal Studios at the time.

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince. It is rumored that Harry L. Gish, who was known to record with the pair, served as the inspiration for the bugle boy. However, popular culture generally gives the inspiration for the song to Clarence Zylam, whose life closely reflected the song. However, Zylam was not drafted until after the song was written and recorded.

No matter what the intention of the song was, the Andrew Sisters’ recording would reach number six on the U.S. pop singles chart in the spring of 1941. It would also chart at number six on the Songs of the Century chart. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy may be one of the most recognizable songs ever; it certainly was one of the biggest songs during the Second World War.

“He puts the boys asleep with boogie every night
And wakes ’em up the same way in the early bright
They clap their hands and stamp their feet
Because they know how he plays when someone gives him a beat
He really breaks it up when he plays reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B”

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