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July 9, 2003

Obituary from the Pine Bluff Commercial.

William Albert "Bitsy" Mullins

March 13, 1926

July 5, 2003

The jazzy wail of his trumpet may not be heard again but it will live on in the memories of those who followed William Albert "Bitsy" Mullins' success around the world.

Mullins, 77, of Pine Bluff, died July 5, 2003, at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.

"He became one of the greatest trumpet players in the world," a friend, Pinky Curry of Pine Bluff, said Tuesday. "I played in the Pine Bluff High School band with his older brother, Joe Barry, a great drummer. Bitsy always looked up to me and would ask how I played like that and so forth."

Curry described Mullins as a "little man who was very talented and had a photogenic memory."

Mullins graduated from Pine Bluff High School in 1942 and enrolled in the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to work towards a chemistry degree. He was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

Mullins was quoted in the Jefferson County Historical Quarterly in September 2002 discussing his college days. "I was majoring in chemistry, but really the only thing I ever wanted to do was play," he said.

Mullins was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995.

In the summer of 1944, Mullins got his musical start with Ray Herbeck. Mullins began playing for the Herbeck band on Sept. 6, 1944, according to the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation Web site.

Mullins was getting his name out there and traveling to places like Las Vegas or New York to play in the Edison Hotel at Houston and Washington, D.C. to play at the Howard Theatre.

He played "one-nighters" in Hagerstown, Md., and many other places around the world advancing to famous bands like the Charlie and Tommy Dorsey band, according to the Web site.

He also performed with other well-known bands. Playing in Vegas, he was featured with such groups as Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Lena Horne and Frankie Avalon.

Most of his recordings are with the Dorseys and Buddy Rich. After leaving Buddy Rich's band, Mullins returned to the University of Arkansas. He completed degree in June 1948. He worked briefly as a chemist for Arkansas Fuel Oil Company at Magnolia but left in October 1949 to return to the band scene.

"While at the university he played in the band and they were known as the finest trumpet section in the United States," Curry said.

He joined the Dorsey Brothers band and in 1954, appeared with the band on the Jackie Gleason Show on NBC. In 1955, a year before playing on the Ed Sullivan show, he played with a young Elvis Presley.

Curry said during Mullins' later years he "found it difficult to continue the same every night music scene but never lost his passion."

Born March 13, 1926, at Pine Bluff, he was a son of the late Joseph Franklin Mullins and Alice Barry Mullins.

He was preceded in death by one daughter, Joanne Ban; and one brother, Joe B. Mullins.

Survivors include two sons, Joseph F. Mullins of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Marty Mullins of Bozeman, Mont.; two daughters, Patty Jenab of Danville, Calif., and Sue Mullins of Santa Monica, Calif.; two brothers, Robert W. Mullins of Pine Bluff and James W. Mullins of Alma; and four grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Thursday at Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors with the Rev. Gordon Topping officiating.

Visitation will be at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mullins, 3 Jefferson Place, after funeral services.

Memorials may be made to The Band Museum, 423 S. Main St., Pine Bluff, AR 71601.

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