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Sunday, 24 September 2017

Tarheel Slim born 24 September 1923


Allen Rathel Bunn (September 24, 1923 – August 21, 1977),who was sometimes credited as Alden Bunn and who performed as Tarheel Slim, was an American singer, guitarist and songwriter whose work spanned gospel, blues, doowop, R&B, pop, and rockabilly. After singing in various gospel groups he became a member of The Larks before recording with his wife Anna Lee "Little Ann" Sandford, and then as a solo performer.
Bunn was born in Bailey, North Carolina. He seems to have used both "Alden" and "Allen" as his forename at different times; researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc state that his birth records read "Allen". Initially he worked in local tobacco fields, but by the early 1940s he had started singing with various gospel groups, including the Gospel Four and the Selah Jubilee Singers, where he joined the latter group's founder, Thermon Ruth. Bunn was the group's baritone and second lead singer, and provided guitar accompaniment.
In 1949, Ruth and Bunn decided to form a secular singing group as a spin-off from the Selah Jubilee Singers. Initially called the Jubilators, the group recorded for four different record labels in New York under four different names on one day in 1950. Eventually settling on the name The Larks, the group's recording of "Eyesight to the Blind" on the Apollo label, with lead vocals and guitar by Bunn, reached number 5 on the Billboard R&B chart in July 1951; and the follow-up, "Little Side Car", also sung by Bunn, reached number 10 on the R&B chart later the same year. The Larks then toured with Percy Mayfield and Mahalia Jackson. Bunn lived in New York from 1950 for the rest of his life.
Early in 1952, Allen Bunn (so credited) left for a solo career, first recording blues for Apollo, accompanied by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and then moving to Bobby Robinson's Red Robin label in 1953, when he was credited as "Alden Bunn" or "Allen Baum". Around 1955, he married Anna Lee Sandford (1935–2004), and they began singing together, recording as The Lovers for the Lamp label, a subsidiary of Aladdin Records. Their first record together, "Darling It's Wonderful", written by Bunn and arranged by Ray Ellis, reached number 15 on the R&B chart and number 48 on the Billboard pop chart, in 1957.Bunn also managed, and recorded with, a group known variously as the Wheels (on the Premium label) and the Federals (on the De Luxe label).
 
                             
 
Bunn returned to solo recording, using the name Tarheel Slim, in New York in 1958, for producer Bobby Robinson's Fury label. His
first recordings for Fury, "Wildcat Tamer" / "Number 9 Train", have been described by AllMusic critic Bill Dahl as "a pair of rockabilly rave-ups", and by another reviewer as "pinnacles of New York rock'n'roll". Both sides of the record featured guitarist Jimmy Spruill as well as Bunn. However, the record was not a success at the time, and Bunn's later recordings for Robinson's Fire and Fury labels, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, were all co-credited to the duo of Tarheel Slim and Little Ann.
Their first record for Fire, "It's Too Late" – described as "a doom laden dirge with Slim's tremolo laden guitar work and Ann breaking down into a sobbing fit at the end" – reached number 20 on the R&B chart in 1959; the record was also issued on the Checker label. Later records by Tarheel Slim and Little Ann covered a variety of styles, including rockabilly, but none were commercial successes. The duo recorded briefly for Atco Records in 1963, but then disappeared from view.
In the early 1970s, Tarheel Slim was "rediscovered" by researcher Peter Lowry, and emerged to play solo, with acoustic guitar in the style of Brownie McGhee, at festivals and for college audiences. He recorded an album, No Time At All, released on Trix Records in 1975, with pianist Big Chief Ellis on some tracks. He also played with John Cephas on Ellis' own 1977 album.
Tarheel Slim was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1977, and died from pneumonia brought on by chemotherapy, at the age of 53. (Compiled from Wikipedia)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Ray Charles born 23 September 1930


Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known professionally as Ray Charles, was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called "Brother Ray." He was often referred to as "The Genius." Charles was blind from the age of seven.
Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. His father, a mechanic, and his mother, a sharecropper, moved the family to Greenville, Florida when he was an infant. One of the most traumatic events of his childhood was witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother.
Soon after his brother's death, Charles gradually began to lose his sight. He was blind by the age of 7, and his mother sent him to a state-sponsored school, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida—where he learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille. He also learned to play piano, organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet. The breadth of his musical interests ranged widely, from gospel to country, to blues.
Charles's mother died when he was 15, and for a year he toured on the "Chitlin' Circuit" in the South. While on the road, he picked up a love for heroin.
At the of age 16, Charles moved to Seattle. There, he met a young Quincy Jones, a friend and collaborator he would keep for the rest of his life. Charles performed with the McSon Trio in 1940s. His early playing style closely resembled the work of his two major influences—Charles Brown and Nat King Cole. Charles later developed his distinctive sound.
In 1949, he released his first single, "Confession Blues," with the Maxin Trio. The song did well on the R&B charts. More success on the R&B charts followed with "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" and "Kissa Me Baby." By 1953, Charles landed a deal with Atlantic Records. He celebrated his first R&B hit single with the label, "Mess Around."
A year later, Charles's now classic song, "I Got a Woman," reached No. 1 on the R&B charts. The song reflected an advance in his musical style. He was no longer a Nat King Cole imitator. His fusion of gospel and R&B helped to create a new musical genre known as soul. By the late 1950s, Charles began entertaining the world of jazz, cutting records with members of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Fellow musicians began to call Charles "The Genius," an appropriate title for the ramblin' musician, who never worked in just one style, but blended and beautified all that he touched (he also earned the nickname "Father of Soul"). Charles's biggest success was perhaps his ability to cross over into pop music too, reaching No. 6 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart with his hit "What'd I Say."
 
                     

The year 1960 brought Charles his first Grammy Award for "Georgia on My Mind," followed by another Grammy for the single "Hit the Road, Jack." For his day, he maintained a rare level of creative control over his own music. Charles broke down the boundaries of music genres in 1962 with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. On this album, he gave his own soulful interpretations of many country classics. While thriving creatively, Charles struggled in his personal life. He continued to battle with heroin addiction. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession.
Charles avoided jail after his arrest for possession by finally kicking the habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. His releases in the 1960s and '70s were hit-or-miss, but he remained one of music's most respected stars. Charles won a Grammy Award for his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." Three years later, he released his autobiography Brother Ray.
In 1980, Charles appeared in the comedy The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. The music icon received a special honour a few years later as one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Charles returned to the spotlight in the early 1990s with several high-profile appearances. He also recorded commercials for Pepsi-Cola, singing "You Got the Right One, Baby!" as his catchphrase, and performed "We Are the World" for the organization USA for Africa alongside the likes of Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson.

 
In 2003, Charles had to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years. He underwent hip replacement surgery. While that operation was successful, Charles soon learned he was suffering from liver disease. He died on June 10, 2004, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. During his lifetime, Charles recorded more than 60 albums and performed more than 10,000 concerts.
(Compiled mainly from biography.com)
 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Chico Hamilton born 20 September 1921


Foreststorn "Chico" Hamilton, (September 20, 1921 – November 25, 2013) was an American jazz drummer and bandleader.
He came to prominence as sideman with the likes of Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan, Count Basie and Lena Horne. Hamilton then struck out as a bandleader, first with a quintet featuring the cello as a lead instrument, an unusual choice for a jazz band in the 1950s, and subsequently leading a number of groups over the years that performed cool jazz, post bop and jazz fusion.
Chico Hamilton is almost as well known for his band leadership and ability to discover talented newcomers as for his subtle, creative drumming. As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, Hamilton started playing regularly for the first time with a band that included classmates Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, and Illinois Jacquet. He made his recording debut with Slim Gaillard, and studied drumming with jazz great Jo Jones during his military service from 1942-46.
After working briefly with Jimmy Mundy, Count Basie, and Lester Young, Hamilton joined Lena Horne's band in 1948, staying with her on and off for six years, including a tour of Europe. During this time, he also became an original member of the legendary Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which included Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Bob Whitlock. Successfully recording with them for three years (1952-55) on the Pacific Jazz label, Hamilton got his first shot as bandleader.
Hamilton's impact on jazz includes the introduction of two unique and distinct sounds: first in 1955 with his Original Quintet which combined the sounds of his drums, the bass of Carson Smith, the guitar of Jim Hall, the cello of Fred Katz, and the flute of Buddy Collette; and the second in 1962 with his own drums, the bass of Albert Stinson, the guitar of Gabor Szabo, the tenor sax of Charles Lloyd, and the trombone of George Bohanon.

Here’s “Beyond The Blue Horizon” from above EP

 
 One of the important West Coast bands, the Hamilton group made their film debut in the movie The Sweet Smell of Success, as well as highlighting Jazz on a Summer's Day, the film about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. His second great band started in 1962 with Albert Stinson on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar, Charles Lloyd on tenor sax and flute, and George Bohanon on trombone, bringing a fresh, new sound to jazz once again. Over the years, Hamilton's bands have had various personnel, but the quality of the musicianship has remained high. Some of the players who Hamilton nurtured in his bands include Jim Hall, Eric Dolphy, Ron Carter, Arthur Blythe, Larry Coryell, and John Abercrombie.
During the 1960s, Hamilton formed a company to score feature films and commercials for television and radio. In 1987, Hamilton was on the originating faculty at Parsons New School of Jazz in New York. During the same year, he formed a new quartet called Euphoria, and began touring in Europe. The quartet met with great popularity, and in 1992, their album Arroyo placed in the Jazz Album of the Year category in the Down Beat Reader's Poll. In 1995, a documentary of Hamilton's extraordinary life and career, Dancing to a Different Drummer, directed by Julian Benedikt, was presented twice on the French-German Arts Network, ARTE.
In June 1999, Hamilton received a Beacons of Jazz award from the Mannes College of Music at the New School University in New York City, Never one to rest on his laurels, Hamilton released four new albums in 2006 in celebration of his 85th birthday. In 2007, he was a member of the NEA's National Council on the Arts. He released "Twelve Tones of Love" on Joyous Shout! in 2009. In March 2011, he had a long recording session, resulting in 28 new tracks with his Euphoria group. Following a health setback in 2010, he and the group began weekly rehearsals at Hamilton's Penthouse A; which brought together the material which would comprise Revelation, an 11-track CD, released in 2011.
Hamilton died aged 92 of natural causes at his home in New York.on November 25, 2013 in Manhattan.
(Compiled mainly from the National Endowment for the Arts & Wikipedia).


Monday, 18 September 2017

Pia Beck born 18 September 1925

 
Pia Beck ( September 18, 1925 - November 26, 2009 ) was a Dutch jazz pianist and singer.
Pia was born Pieternella Beck in The Hague, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands. As a young child she was a natural talent on the piano. While members of her family all dabbled on various instruments, Beck had no formal training and has been said to possess a remarkable ear.
She began her career shortly after the end of WWII when she left home at the age of 18 to play the piano and sing in the Miller Sextet, performing in Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Dutch-India.
In 1949 she started her own combo. Her first composition, Pia's Boogie, became a hit. She regularly toured Europe and had her own stage in the seaside resort of Scheveningen near The Hague. Unable to read music she could still play boogie woogie, jazz, rock'n roll or blues.
 
                                 
In 1952 she made her first visit to the United States, where she performed annually until 1964. Due to so much flying she was nicknamed “The Flying Duchess.” New Orleans and Atlanta conferred honorary citizenships on her. Pia reached the height of her popularity in Europe in the 1950's and 1960's, particularly through her interpretations and unique phrasing of standards like 'Dancing on the Ceiling' and George Shearing's 'Lullaby of Birdland'. On several of her recordings from that period, she was accompanied by noted American jazz musicians, such as Milt Hinton and Barry Galbraith. Her friend Oscar Peterson, named her the best jazz pianist in the world .
In April 1965, she emigrated with her partner to the Costa del Sol , where she first started a piano bar.  After this bankruptcy took place, she explained the writing of travel guides and the brokerage .  In 1975 she made her comeback as an artist in the Circustheater in Scheveningen.  On September 18, 2003 (her 78th birthday), she performed a concert in the Castellum
Novum restaurant in Hilversum after which she retired. In her later years began concentrating on composing music and writing articles about jazz.
Pia Beck was one of the first artists open to her homosexuality. With her life partner Marga Samsonowski and three sons of Samsonowski from her marriage to disk jockey Pete Feldman , she lived in the Malaga district of Churriana in Torremolinos in southern Spain from 1965. Pia Beck died from a heart attack November 26, 2009 in Churriana, Spain. She was 84 years old.
In 2017 a previously unnamed bridge in Amsterdam was renamed Pia Beckbrug .
(Information vary scarce but managed to compile small bio from various sources mainly Wikipedia)
 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

William McKinney born 17 September 1895


William McKinney (17 September 1895 – 14 October 1969) was an American jazz drummer who led a series of musical groups, most notably McKinney's Cotton Pickers.
McKinney was born in Kentucky near the end of the 19th century and served in the Army during the first World War. His earliest playing activities were as a circus drummer. Once he quit moving around to the extent that job called for, McKinney became associated with the music scene in Ohio, leading Springfield's snazzy-sounding Synco Septet. In 1926 McKinney expanded his Synco Septet to ten pieces. This was the group that eventually evolved into McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Cuba Austin took over for McKinney early on drums. Between 1927 and 1931, they were one of the most popular African-American bands. Many of their records for Victor were bestsellers.
In 1927, Fletcher Henderson's arranger and saxophone player Don Redman was invited to become the Cotton Pickers' musical director, and he assembled a band which rivalled Henderson's and Duke Ellington's. Aiding Redman with arrangements and rehearsals with the band was the talented trumpeter-arranger John Nesbitt.


McKinney's Cotton Pickers in 1928. left to right: Cuba Austin, Prince Robinson, George Thomas, Don Redman, Dave Wilborn, Todd Rhoades, Bob Escudero, seated: John Nesbitt, Claude Jones, Milton Senoir, Langston Curl.
The Cotton Pickers were based originally in the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit, opposite Jean Goldkette's excellent White orchestra, but by the early part of 1929 we find them in Harlem at various nightspots.
Their personnel varied as any personnel in a band this size, but in it's ranks were at one time such brilliant stars of the Harlem Jazz firmament as Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Lonnie Johnson, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, Ed Cuffee, Claude Jones  and Fats Waller. The original policy of the band was to play hot numbers, many of which were composed by Redman and/or other musicians in the band, but once in New York, with a recording contract from Victor that was demanding of all its artists a more commercial approach to work, the Cotton Pickers included a repertoire of the better popular hits of the day, giving them a rich and rare treatment, with warm section work and beautifully executed soli . Although the brass bass is supposed to be heavier than a string bass, in Billy Taylor's hands it is a living thing, giving adequate support to Wilborn's lively banjo and Austin's crisp drumming.
 
 
                                

Recorded in New York on November 30 & December 17, 1930.
Don Redman cl, as, bar, v, a, dir / Joe Smith c / Rex Stewart, Langston Curl, *Buddy Lee t / Ed Cuffee, *Quentin Jackson tb / Benny Carter cl, ts / Edward Inge cl, as, ts, v / Prince Robinson cl, ts / Todd Rhodes p / Dave Wilborn bj, v / Billy Taylor bb / Cuba Austin d.

The band undertook tours that went way beyond the perimeters of typical territory bands. This band's territory was the entire United States; thus, there were periods when the group was based out of California, Kansas City, Minneapolis and so on.
In the autumn of 1931 Redman, who did most of the arrangements, took a band of his own, including in it several of the Cotton Pickers and was replaced by Benny Carter. The Cotton Pickers disbanded in 1934, unable to make money during the Depression. Manager of the band was Jean Goldkette (who arranged for the group to record "Birmingham Bertha" for him in July 1929, released on Victor under his own name).
In the early '30s there were several different bands touring as McKinney's Cotton Pickers--far from approving of such chaos regarding his franchise, McKinney was actually apparently chilling out during this period. In early 1935 he presented his own, supposedly legitimate version of the group at a Boston venue.
Until he retired from music in the '40s he fluctuated between business managing and full-out management leadership of bands operating under his name. McKinney also ran the Cosy Cafe venue in Detroit in the late '30s. Bill McKinney retired in the 1950s, His final decade as a working man was spent in a Detroit auto factory , spending his last years in his childhood hometown of Cynthiana.
(Compiled from All Music & Wikipedia)


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Glen Mason born 16 September 1930


Glen Mason (16 September 1930 – 25 August 2014) was a Scottish-born singer of popular music.
Glen Mason was born Tom Lennon in Stirling, Scotland, UK, on 16 September 1930.
After three years in the mines, Mason spent eleven months at the Forth Vale Rubber Works, six months in the Army and fifteen months with a dry-cleaning firm. He appeared on the stage for the first time in a local amateur revue, "The Shipmates", singing "You Made Me Love You".
In the spring of 1951, he was offered his first professional engagement, with a three-month summer show at St. Andrews. After that, Glen had several appearances at Scottish theatres and in 1952 sang in another summer show at Montrose, also doing Sunday-night concerts in Arbroath. He headed next to London where, after some months, got a job in cabaret and sang for two weeks at the Churchill Club.
Norman Newell, manager for the Philips recording company noticed Mason and after an audition recorded Mason's first two tracks, "The Whistling Kettle and the Dancing Cat" and "Dixieland Tango". Mason introduced him to producer George Martin, and Martin made the Scottish singer "sound American" in his versions of U.S. hits "Glendora" and "Green Door".
 
                              
They were amply advertised ("Glendora" was described as a record that "really rocks) but, competing with the Perry Como and Jim Lowe originals, they failed to chart, with "Green Door" peaking at #24. Mason also enjoyed success in the UK with his single "Shadrack" in 1961.
About this time Glen shared a flat with fellow entertainer Ronnie Carroll, and they pretended they had a long-running feud. Glen  came third in a national competition to represent the United Kingdom in Eurovision in 1959. Mason later appeared many times on radio and TV, in shows such as Mid-day Music Hall and Variety Parade. In 1960, he appeared, along with Jack Jackson and Jackson's son Malcolm, in the Michael Winner-directed musical-variety film Climb Up The Wall and worked with Winner again in his 1962 films Behave Yourself and The Cool Mikado.
The last time Glen was seen on TV was interviewing the many faces of Dick Emery on "Christmas Night With The Stars" in 1964. He later recorded 4 sides for Polydor records during 67/68 and one record for EMI  as part of  The Caddies with Henry Cooper, Tony Dalli, Bruce Forsyth, Kenny Lynch, Ed Stewart, and Jimmy Tarbuck in 1976. After which his trail goes cold until 2010 when a double CD was released of all of Glen’s recorded material. Many of Glen’s celebrity friends and family attended the CD launch party, including Kenny Lynch.

 
Mason in old age stayed in the Southborough Nursing Home, Surrey, where he was often entertained by young musicians whose repertoire included Mason songs. He died from natural causes on 25 August 2014.   (Compiled mainly from Wikipedia)
 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Don Walser born 14 September 1934


Donald Ray Walser (September 14, 1934 - September 20, 2006) was an American country music singer. He was known as a unique, award-winning yodeling "Texas country music legend." Nicknamed "the Pavarotti of the Plains", Don Walser was an institution in the Lone Star State. An important interpreter of traditional country music and a peerless yodeller, his musical integrity had made him an icon of the thriving Austin music scene, a favourite not only with country fans, but also with those drawn to alternative rock.
Walser was born in Brownfield, on the Texas Panhandle, in 1934. His mother's early death and his father's hectic work schedule forced him to combat loneliness by immersing himself in the music he heard on the radio. He was particularly attracted to hillbilly/country yodellers such as Jimmie Rodgers, Elton Britt and Slim Whitman and later recalled that the first yodelling number he learned was Britt's "Chime Bells" (1948).
At 15 he lied about his age and joined the Texas National Guard, remaining with them as a mechanic, superintendent and auditor for 45 years. All the while he performed locally at weekends, even, on a few occasions, finding himself on stage alongside a young Buddy Holly.
As rock'n'roll began to skyrocket in popularity, Walser opted to stay in the Texas Panhandle, raise a family and work as a mechanic and later as an auditor for the National Guard, rather than move to Nashville and pursue a recording career. As a result, he had little following outside Texas for the first part of his career. However, he never stopped playing and became widely known in Texas.



 
In 1959 he formed a group named the Texas Plainsmen and, based in Midland, Texas, found himself starring on a weekly radio show. In 1964 he and the band recorded a single, "Rolling Stone from Texas", but, despite gaining a four-star review in Billboard magazine, it flopped. For the next 30 years he performed at Saturday-night dances across the state, eventually, in 1984, relocating to Austin where, fronting his Pure Texas Band, he became a popular fixture.

As time went on, Walser also became known for maintaining a catalogue of older, obscure country music and cowboy songs. He kept alive old 1940s and 1950s tunes by country music pioneers such as Bob Wills and Eddy Arnold, and made them his own in a style that blended elements of honky tonk and Western swing. He also was known for his extraordinary yodeling style in the tradition of Slim Whitman and Jimmie Rodgers.
In 1984, the Guard transferred Walser to Austin, a centre of the burgeoning alt-country music scene. He put together his Pure Texas Band and developed a strong local following. Walser opened for Johnny Cash in 1996. In 1990, Walser was "discovered" by musician and talent scout TJ McFarland.
 
                              
 
In 1994, aged 60, Walser retired from the Guard. Able to devote himself fully to music for the first time in his life, he was immediately signed by Watermelon Records and released the album Rolling Stone From Texas, produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. His extraordinary vocal abilities earned him the nickname "the Pavarotti of the Plains" by a reviewer for Playboy magazine. Because of his Austin base, he attracted fans from country music traditionalists, and alternative music and punk fans. His band later became the opening act for the Butthole Surfers.
Don Walser was voted "Best Performing Country Band" at the Austin Music Awards, was voted top country band of the year by the Austin Chronicle in 1996, and received an Association for Independent Music "Indie" Award in 1997. He also received recognition in mainstream country, and played the Grand Ole Opry on October 30, 1999, and again in 2001. In 2000 he received a lifetime "Heritage" award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he and the Pure Texas Band played at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. He also received cameo roles in feature movies with Western swing settings, especially an acclaimed and memorable role as the lead singer in a rodeo dance band, singing "I'll Hold You in My Heart," in the 1998 Stephen Frears film The Hi-Lo Country — a performance often regarded as one of the highlights of the picture.
In September, 2003, Don Walser retired from live performances due to health issues. Three years later, Walser died due to complications from diabetes on September 20, 2006, six days after his 72nd birthday.
(Compiled from The Independent and mainly Wikipedia)
Don Walser's Shotgun Boogie music video filmed at Babe's in Austin 1995.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mel Torme born 13 September 1925


Melvin Howard Tormé (September 13, 1925 – June 5, 1999), nicknamed The Velvet Fog, was an American musician, best known as a singer of jazz standards. He was also a jazz composer and arranger, drummer, an actor in radio, film, and television, and the author of five books. He composed the music for "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") and co-wrote the lyrics with Bob Wells.
He was born Melvin Howard Torma to a musical family, his father, a Russian immigrant owned a dry goods store He began singing publicly at the age of four at a restaurant, then make his professional debut with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. At age nine, he was doing parts for Chicago radio plays "Romance of Helen Trent" and "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy" while a snare drummer in the Shakespeare Elementary School drum and bugle corps in Chicago.  

In high school, he formed his own band and sold his first written song, "Lament of Love," to Harry James who made a recording. In early 1940, he quit high school to become a singer, drummer and arranger with Chico Marx's band. 

In 1944, Mel formed his own vocal group, the Mel-Tones which produced the hit, "What is This Thing Called Love?" which has become a jazz standard. He was drafted for a time during World War II but was quickly discharged with flat feet. Mel became a successful solo artist in 1947 and soon had a number one hit in "Careless Love."
His appearances at New York's Copacabana led local disc jockey Fred Robbins to give him the nickname "The Velvet Fog" in honour of his high tenor and smooth vocal style. Tormé detested the nickname. He self-deprecatingly referred to it as "this Velvet Frog voice".

As a solo singer, he recorded several romantic hits for Decca Records and with the Artie Shaw Orchestra on the Musicraft label (1946–48). In 1949, he moved to Capitol Records, where his first record, "Careless Hands," became his only number-one hit. His versions of "Again" and "Blue Moon" became signature songs. His composition California Suite, prompted by Gordon Jenkins's "Manhattan Tower," became Capitol's first 12-inch LP album. Around this time, he helped pioneer cool jazz.
 
 
                               
 
He made over 50 Albums during his career but recorded his best while collaborating with George Shearing on several excellent albums, "An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Torme" and "Top Drawer" which earned him a Granny for Best Male Jazz Vocalist in 1982 and 1983. 
 
He made a career with television guest appearances. Most notable for many...Spike Jones Show, The Judy Garland Show, Lucy Show, The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson and Night Court. Some of his many onetime appearances...Playhouse 90 (nominated best supporting actor Emmy for his role in "The Comedian") The Virginian, The Mike Douglas Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Chase and Seinfelt. 

Torme performed constantly in Las Vegas and jazz clubs around the country. He wrote over 300 songs and worked as an actor and some of his many movies..."Higher and Higher" "Lets go Steady" "The Fearmakers" "Walk Like a Dragon" and the "Private Lives of Adam and Eve." He wrote his own biography "It Wasn't All Velvet" in 1988 and also biographies of his life-long friend, drummer Buddy Rich and a scathing tell-tale book "The Other Side of the Rainbow: Behind the Scenes on the Judy Garland Television series" a remembrance of her disastrous television series where he worked as the music writer and then a nice tribute to singers who influenced him, "My Singing Teachers" with a chapter devoted to his favourite Bing Crosby. 


 
He suffered a stroke in 1996 and was hospitalized preventing him from making his annual performance at the Hollywood Bowl. His health steadily declined while enduring intermittent hospital stays. He died from another stroke at UCLA Medical Centre  on June 5, 1999 at the age of 73. 

His public service was held at the Pierce Brothers Chapel and Westwood Memorial Park where he was interred. Mel Torme was eulogized during his service by Donald O'Connor, Carleton Heston and Cliff Robertson.  

Torme was inducted into the Big Band Jazz Hall of Fame in 1990. In February 1999, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.. His plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honours his excellence in recording. Among his children are notables Tracy Torme and Steve March.

(Compiled from Wikipedia and mainly bio by Donald Greyfield)