Ben Bernie was born Benjamin Anzelwitz in New York City on May 30, 1891. He studied at the New York College of Music, CCNY and Columbia School of Mines. In his early career, Bernie performed in vaudeville sketches as a monologist and violinist before starting a dance band in 1922.
Bernie’s band featured pianist/arranger Al Goering, trumpeter Bill ‘Jazz’ Moore and saxophonist Jack Pettis. Later lineups included the alto saxophonist Dick Stabile in the early '30s, and the more swinging arrangements of Gray Rains in the late '30s.
Bernie got his own radio series, and became known for his sense of humor and trademark expression, "Yowsah, Yowsah!" He named himself "the Old Maestro" and called his band Ben Bernie & All the Lads. During the 1930s, Bernie also had a long-running "feud" with columnist Walter Winchell, leading to the duo co-starring in the films Wake Up and Live (1937) and Love and Hisses (1938). Bernie had acted in a Broadway production before this, 1928's Here's Howe. His band played at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933; appeared in the movies Shoot the Works (1934) and Stolen Harmony (1935); and recorded for the Brunswick, Columbia, and Vocalion labels, among others.
As a songwriter, Bernie’s greatest success came with "Sweet Georgia Brown," a number one hit in 1926 (vocals by Arthur Fields). Among his 44 top ten hits from 1923 through 1936 were the #1 hits ‘Sleepy Time Gal’ (1926, vocal by Arthur Fields) and ‘Ain’t She Sweet?’ (1927, vocal by Scrappy Lambert).
Ben Bernie died in Beverly Hills, California on October 20, 1943.