Joe "Fingers" Carr
Joe "Fingers" Carr
* Died 19 September 1979, Camarillo, California
Although Lou Busch (not Bush, he changed the spelling) is best known for his honky-tonk piano recordings under his stage name, Joe "Fingers" Carr, his contributions to space age pop go well beyond that. He got his start early, leading his own band by the age of 12 and leaving home at 16 to work as a professional musician. He played with a number of sweet big bands--Clyde McCoy, Henry Busse, and George Olson--then took a short break to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory.
Joe 'Fingers' CarrAfter that, he went back to the sweet bands, this time joining one of the most successful of them, Hal Kemp's. Bush stayed with Kemp for most of the 1930s and married the first of his several wives, the band's girl singer, Janet Blair. After the band's lead arranger, John Scott Trotter, departed in early 1936, Bush and fellow band member Hal Mooney split most of the arranging duties. When Kemp died in from a car crash 1940, they moved to Los Angeles and started working as studio musicians, but World War Two came along and pulled Bush into the Army for a three-year stint.
When he returned to L.A. in 1945, he hooked up with Johnny Mercer's fledgling Capitol Records label and ended up working as an A&R executive. He continued to do occasional session work as a pianist, though, and provided the key ingredient in the 1949 Jo Stafford-Paul Weston hit, "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." In 1950, he sold the label on the idea of recording his ragtime playing, and he made up the name, Joe "Fingers" Carr, during his initial studio session. His first single, featuring his original tune, "Ivory Rag," became an international hit.
Although Capitol played up the nostalgic cariacature of Carr the honky tonk pianist, wearing derby hat, bowtie, vest, and suspenders, Bush tried not to let his recordings slip into mere novelty.
Carr's success spurred a revival of ragtime in the form of camped-up honky tonk.