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Some musicians seem destined to dedicating their lives to the care and nurturing of the music they love, bringing opportunities for professionals and young musicians to develop mentoring relationships and a sharing of passions for style and language.

Such is the case with jazz musicians Bunny Price.

Elwood "Bunny" Price was born February 10, 1932 in Worcester,MA and was the eldest of 9 children of Elwood "Barney" Price, a well known professional trumpeter and seminal figure in the Central Massachusetts jazz scene. Bunny and his brother Thomas (Tommy Price, drummer) went on to professional careers in jazz.

The Price family lived in the predominantly African American neighborhood on Clayton Street, Worcester, MA, an area which produced a great number of professional jazz musicians who went on to regional and international acclaim.

In 1946 at age 14, Bunny Price began formal trumpet lessons throughout his four years of high school. His teacher, Al Youngman (Al Yudzonis) taught in the Day Building, 340 Main Street in Worcester, a location at which many professionals rented teaching studios.

After only one year of study, Price began performing with a group of area players called "The 7 Brothers". He stayed with them for 3 years until his graduation from Commerce High School in 1950. The 7 Brothers rehearsed at the YWCA on Chatham Street in Worcester. Members were Bunny Price-trumpet, Eddie Brank-trumpet, Sonny Benson-alto sax (Bunny’s cousin), Don Penucci-alto sax, Franny Concordia-tenor sax, Dick Alfago-drums and various pianists. This group gave Price his first professional performance experience in venues where they provided music for various functions in the Central MA area.

Upon graduating high school in 1950, Bunny Price embarked on a two year course of study as a part time student at Boston's Schillinger House (later to become Berklee College of Music). Here he studied trumpet performance, composition and jazz theory.

On December 4, 1952 Price began a two year stay in the US Army. He began his military service at Camp Picket in Blackstone, VA playing trumpet in the post band for 6 months before being reassigned to combat duty in Korea in 1953. Unfortunately, he was unable to do any playing at that time.

When discharged from the Army in December of 1954, he attended Berklee School of Music under the G.I. Bill.

During the next two years he started playing again with The 7 Brothers and also began a two year stay with the Tony Zanno big band (16 pieces) which rehearsed Zanno's experimental big band arrangements in an advanced compositional style. Regulars in the band were Vinnie Mischitelli-alto sax, Ray Star-tenor sax and Tony D’Angelo-trumpet.

Since returning from the Korean War, Price began to take a great deal of interest in creating opportunities for aspiring young Black musicians in Central MA. From 1956-64 he, along with his wife Betty Price and aunt Agnus Price created the George Washington Carver Bugle and Drum Corp. The group had as many as 50 young players and met several times a week at the neighborhood's Quinsigamond Elks. They were asked to perform often and traveled to Washington D.C., Canada and much of the Northeast. This highly regarded drum corps later established itself in residence at the Prospect House in Worcester. For more than eight years the Price family spent enormous amounts of time in fundraising and locating sponsors willing to fund the group's instrument purchases and travel.

With a professional quartet and quintet in 1956-57, Bunny began playing regularly on Sunday afternoons at the Quinsigamond Elks Lodge #173 (IBPOE) located on Clayton Street in Worcester. This venue became a source of steady employment for musicians playing jazz, blues and dance music both in this location, and later on Chandler Street in Worcester. The Clayton Street Elks ensemble included Al Pitts-tenor sax, Sonny Benson (Bunny’s cousin)-alto sax, Tommy Price (Bunny’s brother)-drums, and Bunny Price-trumpet among others.

Beginning in the early 1950's, Fred Holovnia started a tradition of Monday night big band rehearsals under his direction (which continues even today). The band is populated by some of the best area musicians and rehearses Holovnia's arrangements as well as charts from other band members. From 1957-64 Bunny Price played trumpet with this band each week at the Northeast Recording Studio on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, owned by Fred Holovnia. Because they were performing regularly, Price joined the Worcester Musicians' Union, Local 143.

Often, ensembles in which Price performed were in need of a bass player, and Bunny began to take formal lessons on acoustic and electric bass in 1959 while continuing to play trumpet professionally.

A theme common to Prices' performance career involves the creation of performance outlets for jazz musicians, beginning with the Clayton Street Elks ensemble. From 1962-1970, Price was involved in weekly jam sessions at the Fox Lounge (Fox Underground, Route 9, Westborough, MA) with a house band which included Bunny Price-bass, Barney Price-trumpet (Bunny's father), Howie Jefferson-tenor sax, Al Mueller-piano, and various drummers.

Continuing his involvement with large ensembles on trumpet, Price played in the Boots Mussulli rehearsal band from 1964-66, which was a big band in Milford, MA. This group was populated by some of the best musicians in the area. It was here that Bunny was introduced to Ziggy Elman and began his study trumpet with him in 1962.

During this same period, from 1963-1969, Price led an ensemble playing at the Peacock Club in Auburn, MA. This group featured Guido Granpietro-sax, Barney Price-trumpet, Reggie Walley-drums, Johnny Catalozzi-piano and Bunny Price on bass.

Finally, in 1969, Bunny Price was able to purchase his own establishment with two co-owners, Reggie Walley (drummer) and Dr. Goldbury. They called their new club the Kitty Kat, which was located on Main Street in Worcester, MA and featured music several nights a week with the highlight being the Sunday afternoon jazz jam sessions. Bunny moved his Peacock Club ensemble to the Kitty Kat as the house band and performed there each Friday and Saturday night with Al Arseneault-organ, Reggie Walley-drums, and Larry Monroe-alto sax.

The 1969-74 Sunday jam sessions had a house band consisting of Bill Myers-trumpet, Al Meuller-piano, Bobby Gould-drums and Bunny Price-bass. This was an extremely popular venue for jazz musicians of all ages to interact and hone their craft. It was a great loss to the Central MA jazz community when the Kitty Kat closed its doors in 1974.

It took Price almost two years to find a suitable location for a new club, but in 1976 he purchased the Hottentott on Austin Street in Worcester. Sunday jazz jam sessions there were from 3:00-7:00 p.m. and lasted until 1984 when the club closed. The house band included one of three pianists, Al Mueller, Mike Loconsolo or Dick Odgren, Barny Price-trumpet, Bunny Price-bass, co-owner Reggie Walley-drums, and different reed players, including Nat Simpkins, Tommy Herbert, Jim Odgren, and Larry Monroe.

After the closing of the Hottentotte in 1984, Price moved the weekly Sunday jam sessions to the re-located Quinsigamond Elks Lodge #173 (IBPOE) now at 200 Chandler Street, Worcester. These sessions lasted almost 5 years.

For about a 10 year period in the 1980's Bunny Price led a group called "Soul Jazz", an ensemble which included Reggie Walley or Bob Gould-drums, Barney Price-trumpet, Howie Jefferson-tenor sax, Al Meuller-piano and Bunny Price-bass.

In the 1990's, Price once again found himself performing with Walley in a newly formed group called "Reggie Walley's Blusicians" featuring Chet Williamson-harmonica, Reggie Walley-drums and vocals, Jim Heffernan-piano and Bunny Price-bass. This extremely popular ensemble played until Walley's death in 2004.

Today, Bunny Price is actively performing on bass and plays with several ensembles such as the Lou Borelli Big Band, the Wachusett Community Band, the Classic Swing Orchestra and the Haddad Davis Group.

Bunny Price has given much to the jazz community of Central MA through his performance, dedication to youth and continued support of the music he adopted in his youth.

Primary Sources:
Taken from two interviews conducted by Richard Falco with Elwood "Bunny" Price: Feb. 18,2003 December 12, 2005

Price, Elwood “Bunny”. Personal Interviews. 10 Oct. 2003; 20 Oct. 2003; 24 Oct. 2003.

LaFleche,Heidi J. “The Beat Goes On”. Worcester Magazine 11 Feb.1987

Tubert,Jack. “Night Street” .The Worcester Evening Gazette 28 Mar.1971

Williamson,Chet. Personal resource library.

Worcester Magazine 18 Feb.1998

Worcester Historical Museum. Library Archives

Talkin’ History: Jazz In Worcester Then and Now (Symposium.Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Worcester, MA. From WCCA TV video archives).

Gourgouras, James. “Main Street”. Worcester Evening Gazette. 30 Nov. 1970.

Photos provided Chet Williamson, and Elwood “Bunny” Price. Personal libraries. Used by permission.

Recordings provided by Elwood “Bunny” Price and used with his permission. Re-mastered by Joseph Cholorio, Mechanics Hall Productions.

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