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.
Following the war, Freeman returned to New York and led his own groups, yet still kept a close tie to the freewheeling bands of Eddie Condon as well as working in 'mainstream' groups with the likes of Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson and Jo Jones. He wrote (along with Leon Pober) the ballad "Zen Is When", recorded by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964). He was a member of the World's Greatest Jazz Band between 1969 and 1970, and on occasionally there after. In 1974, he would move to England where he made numerous recordings and performances there and in Europe. Returning to Chicago in 1980, he continued to work into his eighties.
He also released two memoirs You Don't Look Like a Musician (1974) and If You Know of a Better Life, Please Tell Me (1976), and wrote an autobiography with Robert Wolf, Crazeology (1989).