Larry Fotine, specializing in a Dixieland whip-up, came from a Greek family. His family’s surname was really Fotinakis, the brood coming through with much practical musical talent including a mother who played piano for silent films and a multi-instrumentalist grandfather who led a local brass band. Fotine himself played piano and clarinet and as a composer developed a likable catalog of hundreds of songs in which the narrator is inevitably in a bad way: “I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues” and “You Were Only Fooling (When I Was Falling in Love)” are his most covered numbers.
Fotine taught himself the required musical skills and by the early ’30s was in charge of his own orchestra. During the ’40s he worked as an arranger for Sammy Kaye among other bandleaders but once again had his own unit active from 1948 through 1954. A few years later he had steady arranging assignments going for Lawrence Welk but had also started up his own Beale Street Buskers, the latter unit doing most of its playing on recordings for labels such as Bel Canto. Fotine began developing a dream project, a full-length musical theater presentation based on Dixieland tunes — or at least expressed as much to ’70s biographer Leonard Feather. Although he didn’t seem to actually create such a masterwork, his later years were indeed full of accomplishments including background music for the Rusty and Buttons cartoon show and a book of short stories as well as several volumes dealing with music theory.