Joseph "Sharkey" Bonano (he sometimes billed himself as Sharkey Banana or Sharkey Bananas) (April 9, 1904 – March 27, 1972) was a jazz trumpeter, band leader, and vocalist.
Sharkey was known for playing searing hot and technically virtuoso trumpet with a beautiful tone. His great musical abilities were sometimes overlooked in part because of his love of being an entertainer; he would often sing silly lyrics in a high raspy voice and break into dance routines on stage.
Learn more about Sharkey Bonano.
Sharkey was born with the name Joseph Gustaf Bonano in the Milneburg neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, by the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. He was a well regarded professional player by his mid teens, in his youth mostly playing in New Orleans other than a period with Eddie Edwards' band in New York City in 1920. Sharkey then started traveling widely, seldom staying in one place or with one band for more than a few months. He briefly replaced Bix Beiderbecke in the Wolverines Orchestra, and Nick LaRocca in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Sharkey first recorded in New Orleans with Norman Brownlee's band in 1925, and soon after had a band under his own name.
He returned to New York for work in Jimmie Durante's band, then with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra in 1927, returned to his home town to play with Leon Prima, to Los Angeles, California to work with Larry Shields. After time back in New Orleans played with the Ben Pollack Orchestra in 1936. After leaving Pollack's band he led his own band on 52nd Street in New York for three years. After World War II he toured Europe, Asia, and South America, played residencies in Chicago and New York, and then was a regular on Bourbon Street in the New Orleans French Quarter.
According to one story, Arturo Toscanini heard Sharkey in New York, then hired him to come to a rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic to play a couple of numbers unaccompanied for the orchestra to listen to. After Sharkey did this, Toscanini berated his trumpet section at length about their inabilities to get tones out of their instruments like this jazz musician could.
Sharkey Bonano died in New Orleans