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Remembering Bumblebee, a Seattle jazz legend

Jazz bassist Buddy Catlett.
Screenshot from YouTube
Jazz bassist Buddy Catlett.

Born May 13, 1933, jazz bassist Buddy Catlett was raised in Seattle where he came up through the Jackson Street scene.

Nicknamed Bumblebee, he played behind singers Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday, as well as with the bands of Horace Henderson, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong, among others.

Seattle filmmaker Jessica Davis remembers:

“Aside from being a musician, he had a gifted vocabulary and always laughed when people used made-up words like ‘conversating.’

“I met him while working on an article about the Seattle jazz scene. In the process of arranging an interview to speak with him, we became close friends.

“Even though he performed with greats like Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, he never bragged about it and you'd never even know that he'd done that unless you really got to know him or someone else mentioned it.

“One time, we went to a jazz concert together and everyone in the band wanted their picture with him. When we got to the car, I mentioned that to him and he just responded, ‘Yeah, isn't that something. Who would've thought.’

“I always loved hearing him tell stories, like when he was invited to dinner with the King of England while he was performing on Louis Armstrong's band. Armstrong put herbal laxatives on everyone's plate with a photo from the view of a keyhole of Louis sitting on the toilet. On the back, he wrote: ‘Leave it all behind you.’

“He was a great storyteller and I couldn't tell his stories nearly as well as he did. That's why I ultimately decided to interview him on video and have him tell the stories himself. It's so nice to be able to go back and listen to him tell those stories.”

When Buddy passed in 2014, Jessica Davis and Joe Andolin took some of the footage of Buddy Catlett and made this short, sweet memorial film:

Year started with KUOW: 2003