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Covington, Warren (7 August 1921 – 24 August 1999)

Trombonist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who attended Darby High School and New York University and began his career with bandleader Isham Jones in 1939.  In 1940, he worked with Mitchell Ayres and then band-hopped to Horace Heidt’s outfit.

He served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1943 to 1945.  After completing his service, he joined Les Brown and His Band of Renown.  He was only with them for about a half a year, but did quite a bit of recording with them during that time on the Columbia label.  Some of their recordings include “The Frim Fram Sauce”, “Lover’s Leap”, and “You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)”, sung by a young Doris Day.  He then joined Gene Krupa and His Orchestra.  In 1946, they recorded “How High the Moon”.

Meantime, Warren was being wooed by Decca Records to front a group called The Commanders.  He led them from 1946 through 1947.  It was not be his last stint as a bandleader.  In 1950, he joined Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra.  When Tommy died in 1958, Warren was hired to replace him.  This was no mean feat, as Tommy was one of the most beloved trombonists of his day.  Warren had a gift for mimicking Tommy’s trombone stylings, however, so the transition was as seamless as it could be, and even yielded a hit in 1958 on the Decca label, “Tea for Two Cha Cha”, which prefigured the cha-cha craze of the 1960s.  Other recordings they released during this time include “Miss July”, “Oh, To Be Loved Again”, and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”.

By 1961, however, Warren had had it.  Not content to merely imitate Tommy, he was still trying to find his own voice.  Starting up his own band and working the New York club circuit in the late ’60s certainly helped.  In 1969, a grand opportunity presented itself when Reader’s Digest hired him to play trombone on a series of recordings with The Pied Pipers, Jo Stafford, and Paul Weston.  Highlights include Stafford’s covers of “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” and “What the World Needs Now is Love”.

In the 1970s, Warren re-joined The Pied Pipers for a while and also had his own club, which entertained summer jazz lovers in Ocean City, Maryland.  Meantime, he continued to record on soundtracks such as The Godfather and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).  In 1974, he collaborated with George Benson on Bad Benson, and went on a U.K. tour with a handful of ex-Dorsey players.  He was also a part of the Big Band Bash, a program intended to raise money for the Public Broadcasting System, in 1978.

In 1979, he was one of myriad musicians on Frank Sinatra’s boxed set, Trilogy.  He even had an audience with the President when he played on of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration galas in 1985.  In 1986, he appeared in an exclusive engagement in Canton, Ohio, at The Palace Theater.  At the end of the decade, he moved to Tampa, Florida.

His last live performance took place at Tybee Island, Georgia, at the Steel Pier, ironically, the site of his first live performance.  He passed away in 1999 in New York, New York.  His musical legacy, however, lives on in the form of CDs such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song, and his compositions, which include “Sentimental Trombone”, “Toy Trombone”, “Tipsy Trombone”, “Trombone Boogie”, and “Trombonitis”.

Frank Sinatra recordings
That’s What God Looks Like To Me
(Stan Irvin/Lan O’Kun)
Reprise RPS 49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from “New York, New York” (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)

Here he is conducting the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and performing with the Pied Pipers….