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Find all Bernhardts in:
 • Temple Israel Cemetery
 • Memphis
 • Shelby County
 • Tennessee
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Ernest W. "Ernie" Bernhardt
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Birth: Mar. 15, 1928
Death: Feb. 14, 1998

He called himself "the giant of the jingle jungle." But to his grandchildren, the big man who loved to listen to Sinatra and float in the backyard pool was "Bear." Ernie Bernhardt, trumpeter, baritone, conductor, composer and arranger, died of heart failure Saturday at Baptist Memorial Hospital East. He was 69. Services will be at 2 p.m. today at Canale Funeral Directors, with burial in Temple Israel Cemetery. Canale Funeral Directors has charge. "The kids said he died on Valentine's Day because his favorite song was My Funny Valentine," said Emily J. Bernhardt, his wife for 27 years. "He sang that song all the time. The grandkids remembered that and that's what they said." Ernest W. Bernhardt was born in Cincinnati where his German-born father sang in the Cincinnati Opera. The family was related to the famed performer Sarah Bernhardt, and young Ernie was a union musician at age 13. During high school he polished his trumpet and voice in the senior band, orchestra and choir. He served all three groups as student conductor his sophomore, junior and senior years, while also performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and for stage shows at burlesque and vaudeville theaters. He studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and traveled from 1947 to 1962 with big band leaders of the era, including Jimmy James, Hal McIntyre, Ray McKinley and Stan Kenton. In 1962, he came to Memphis at the suggestion of a longtime friend to work with what was then called the Pepper-Tanner Co. as a staff vocalist, vocal group producer and composer of broadcast commercials - and to raise a family. "We met in college in Ohio in 1945, so he's a very close friend of mine," said Joe D'Gerolamo, who, like his friend, played trumpet and sang with bands and symphonies while also working in advertising. ``We followed each other around." They played for the Tanner company, collaborating on campaigns for STP, Lipton Tea and other name brands. Together they wrote a piece called Jazz Collaboration, which was performed by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, for which both played trumpet. "He was a great arranger, orchestrator, and a very good composer," said Vincent de Frank, former conductor of the Memphis Symphony. "One thing he did was just about an entire program when we had the Duke Ellington Band here with Duke (in 1970). He arranged all that music, and Duke was very highly impressed and told me, `That's my kind of man - he's loose.'" Bernhardt worked frequently for singer Marguerite Piazza as an arranger and as conductor of performances in the Overton Park Shell and several shows in Mississippi. "He orchestrated something for my gala last year, one of the songs," Piazza said. "He was just a great guy and I enjoyed working with him very much. He left quite a legacy of music and performing and writing." Through the early 1970s, Bernhardt won awards for his advertising work, performed with his own band, the symphony, and played trumpet and arranged music for Isaac Hayes. "In fact, we just got some money from that Shaft movie," said Emily Bernhardt. "It was like a gift - they finally paid people." From 1972-1979, he took semi-retirement and operated Ernie Bernhardt Enterprises from his home, with brochures calling himself "the giant of the jingle jungle." He worked with performers such as Charlie Rich and Diahann Carroll, and in 1979 arranged a big bands program for the Memphis Symphony. For 10 years, he arranged and conducted, for free, a big show at the Mid-South Coliseum to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that featured entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. "He said, `If it wasn't a pretty melody, it wasn't worth playing,'" said Mrs. Bernhardt, remembering "his gorgeous voice . . . He would float in the pool and listen to Sinatra. He'd say, 'This is music.'" In addition to his wife, Bernhardt leaves two daughters, Ros B. Zalowitz of Memphis and Phyllis B. Gibson of Mt. Juliet, Tenn.; a son, Kurt Bernhardt of Medford, Ore., and seven grandchildren. The family requests that any memorials be sent to Temple Israel Music fund or to a charity of the donor's choice. (By Deborah M. Clubb, published in The Commercial Appeal 2/16/1998) 
 
Burial:
Temple Israel Cemetery
Memphis
Shelby County
Tennessee, USA
 
Created by: Carole McCaig
Record added: May 30, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 53038070
Ernest W. Ernie Bernhardt
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Added by: Anonymous
 
 
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