who didn’t start playing until he was a junior in high school, but
nevertheless was performing professionally by the age of nineteen, with Ben
Bernie’s orchestra. He stayed
with Bernie a year and then joined the army, where he bounced around from
band to band until he wound up with Wayne King’s outfit, which was
stationed in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
In 1946, after fulfilling his military duties, Tommy headed south to
Chicago and did stints with all three of the major networks.
years hence, Stan Kenton offered him the first trombone chair with his
concert band. One of his first
gigs with them was at the Blue Note in Chicago, from late March until early
April 1953. They also wended
their way east and performed at Birdland, where
they recorded “Swinghouse”, which
later made the cut on the album, 23
Degrees North, 82 Degrees West.
Other recordings he made with Stan Kenton include Intermission Riff, A Merry Christmas!, and All About Ronnie, with vocalist Chris Connor. In 1957, he moonlighted a bit with
his own orchestra for a recording entitled Shepard’s Flock.
Hollywood, Tommy became invaluable as a session man: He recorded with most of the
biggies, including Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King
Cole, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Doris Day, Ella
Fitzgerald, Terry Gibbs, Neil Hefti, Peggy Lee,
Barry Manilow, Dean Martin, Harry Nilsson, Anita O’Day, Billy May, Van Dyke Parks, Tommy Pederson,
Sue Raney, Nelson Riddle, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Don Specht, Phil Spector, Barbra
Streisand, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Barry White,
and Andy Williams.
also busy in television, as a member of the Hollywood Place brass section and
on The Joey Bishop Show, which
ran from 1967 to 1969. Other
television programs on which he worked included The Arthur Godfrey Show, Bonanza,
The Carol Burnett Show, The Danny Thomas Show, I Love Lucy, The Love Boat, The Merv Griffin Show, The Naked City, Route 66,
and The Tonight Show. He even performed on the soundtracks
of some Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
1970s saw the reformation of his orchestra as he continued to contract for
and sometimes lead the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, all the while keeping one
foot in the recording studio:
He was a member of Ralph Carmichael’s Brass Choir, went Back to
Oakland with Tower of Power, set sail for the Blue Virgin Isle with Ted Gardestad,
got down with Walter Murphy on Discosymphony, and reunited with Frank Sinatra on his
1979 boxed set, Trilogy. In 1980, he appeared on Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack to the Robert Redford
prison drama, Brubaker.
years later, when Nelson Riddle died, he was asked to be part of a trombone
choir at his memorial service.
Tommy himself passed away on 23rd February 1993 of a
musical legacy is considerable:
Not only is his trombone playing captured on such CD treasures as Blues in the Night: The Johnny Mercer Songbook, Come On-A My House: The Very Best of Rosemary Clooney,
The Complete Roulette Sarah Vaughan
Sessions, and Frank Sinatra’s The
Complete Capitol Singles Collection, but he also leaves behind an
invaluable photograph collection, which is housed at the University of
Arizona School of Music.