East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

Larry Borenstein, Legendary Schenks-Atwood Saxman

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 4, 2010

In the building that houses the Alchemy Pub, a connection to a jazz legend creates its own alchemy.

Our story begins with David and Tillie Borenstein operating Borenstein’s Department Store at Schenk’s Corners, beginning in 1925. In 1942 their nephew Larry joined them in the store.  He had graduated from West High in 1937 and from the University of Wisconsin School of Music in 1941.

Borenstein's Department Store, 1980-1988 Atwood Ave, 1951. Photo courtesy of Jann Foss.

Borenstein's Department Store, 1980-1988 Atwood Ave, 1951. Photo courtesy of Jann Foss.

Larry playing his Selmer Balanced Action Alto Sax with the Dick Jurgens Orchestra.

Larry playing his Selmer Balanced Action Alto Sax with the Dick Jurgens Orchestra.

Larry began his music career right out of college in 1941.  He joined the Eddy Howard Orchestra. Eddy Howard was a good friend of Guy Lombardo and a graduate of the Ben Bernie, George Olsen and Dick Jurgens orchestras.

After playing with the Eddy Howard orchestra for a couple of years Larry Borenstein returned to Madison and formed an orchestra with Eddy Webb. They put their names together and called their group Eddy Lawrence and His Orchestra. They played in the Wisconsin and Illinois area for many years.  Larry recorded on all the big labels.

In the 1940s and 1950s his name appears occasionally in advertisements for the Forbes-Meagher Music Company as an instructor of clarinet and saxophone.

Larry performed with a number of well-known musicians during that time, including Doc DeHaven, Boris Joseph, and Herb Morhoff. His sound has been described as “Sweet Jazz” and compared to Lawrence Welk. Larry became perhaps the most famous musician who was born and raised in Madison.

In his last years he had his own smaller group and played often with Robert Johnson, Harry Edwards and the American Jazz Express.

Larry rejoined the family store in 1961. In 1971 the Borenstein Department Store closed and reopened as Borenstein’s Shoes. In 1975 Larry Borenstein went to work for The Hub-East Towne Store selling clothing.  Larry died July 13, 1998.

Larry Borenstein’s Selmer Balanced Action Alto Saxophone…used by him for over 50 years.

Larry Borenstein’s Selmer Balanced Action Alto Saxophone…used by him for over 50 years.

Cut to 2009: Kim Slava of Doctor Sax Woodwinds, 2009- R  Atwood Ave., was looking for a buyer who will appreciate the history behind Larry Borenstein’s 1938 Selmer Balanced Action alto sax. The instrument was brought to him by Larry’s son, who has created a web site for info on Larry Borenstein — http://doctorsax.biz/Lawrence_Borenstein_bio_C.htm

The sax was sold on eBay in August 2009.

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