"Those were the days", said music man Bert Buhrman. For 20 years in New York City, he was the organist whose mood-setting instrumentals you heard behind the Guiding Light soap opera on daytime network radio.
"Everything was live in those days," said Bert, a native Springfieldian who began his career playing the organ at St. John's Episcopal Church on the corner of Division Street and Benton Avenue. "You were also allowed to freelance on other networks, going back and forth from CBS to NBC. It was so hectic that one time I played the Procter & Gamble theme song on a Colgate Palmolive-sponsored show. I didn't get caught, but I learned to leave nothing to chance as I had the control room in one ear and the program in another on the headphones I had to wear."
The seven-days-a-week, 18-hour-days finally got to him, so he retired in 1965 and came home. That's when he became well known in the area for playing "The Mighty Wurlitzer" at College of the Ozarks concerts that benefited the school's scholarship fund. "Crowds were so large," said Bert, "that we had to limit attendance due to hazards in the balcony, but we made lots of money for the College of the Ozarks Scholarship Fund."
At these concerts, Buhrman introduced "the nostalgic theatre organ sound" to Point Lookout audiences who loved the Broadway show tunes and popular songs of the 1930s and 40s.
Before his death on January 29, 1999, he made more than 5,000 pieces of this sheet music available to the public by donating his collection to the Springfield-Greene County Library District. The sheet music database, which is housed in the Reference Department of the Library Center, is searchable online by composer and title.
For more information, call the Library Center Reference Department at (417) 883-5341.