Lawrence Bud Freeman was known mainly for playing the tenor saxophone, but also able at the clarinet. His smooth and full tenor sax style with a heavy robust swing was the only strong alternative to Coleman Hawkins' harder toned approach, until the arrival of Lester Young whom Freeman had allegedly influenced  (although Young himself denied this, citing Frank Trumbauer as his main influence).
One of the original members of the Austin High School Gang which began in 1922, Freeman played the C-melody saxophone alongside his other band members such as Jimmy McPartland and Frank Teschemacher before switching to tenor saxophone two years later. Influenced by artists like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and Louis Armstrong from the South, they would begin to formulate their own style, becoming part of the emerging Chicago Style of jazz.
In 1927, he moved to New York, where he worked as a session musician and band member with Red Nichols, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Ben Pollack, Joe Venuti, among others. One of his most notable performances was a solo on Eddie Condon's 1933 recording, The Eel, which then became Freeman's nickname (for his long snake-like improvisations). Freeman played with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra (1936-1938) as well as for a short time Benny Goodman's band in 1938 before forming his own band, the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra (1939-1940). Freeman joined the US Army during World War II, and headed a US Army band in the Aleutian Islands.