The word child prodigy doesn't even begin to describe Vic Berton who was playing drums in a Milwaukee pit orchestra at the age of seven. By age sixteen he was playing with the Milwaukee and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. During the First World War Berton enlisted and played drums with John Philip Sousa's Navy Band. After the war he returned to Chicago and played with several of the top dance bands in the area. In 1922 he wrote the song, "Sobbin' Blues" with Art Kassell with became the standard of hot bands of the 1920s. In 1924 he formed a friendship with Bix Beiderbecke and started managing and occasionally playing drums with the band that Bix was in at the time, the Wolverines. Berton moved to New York and played with Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, the Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra, and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. By the end of the decade Berton was considered the greatest of all Jazz drummers by many. He often played in commercial bands that paid him a top notch salary but didn't showcase his talents as well as they might have. He moved to California in the late 1920s and formed his own band. The group had several successful recordings in the mid-1930s, like, "Taboo", "I've Been Waiting All Winter"and "Dardanella". In 1930 Berton was busted for smoking a marijuana cigarette with Louis Armstrong and Frank Driggs in Culver City. Vic Berton worked at Paramount studios in the 1930's and even returned to symphonic work in the 1940's. During World War II he worked as a musician with the Air Force and returned to being a studio musician for the movies after the war. He died in Hollywood in 1951 of lung cancer.

Vic Berton and his Orchestra

Remembering Bix, by Ralph Berton, Harper & Row, 1974