Doc Severinsen: Wikis


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Doc Severinsen

Doc Severinsen in Seattle, 2009
Background information
Birth name Carl Hilding Severinsen
Born July 7, 1927 (1927-07-07) (age 82)
Origin Arlington, Oregon, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupations Bandleader
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1952–present
Associated acts Tommy Dorsey
Benny Goodman

Carl Hilding "Doc" Severinsen (born July 7, 1927) is an American pop and jazz trumpeter. He is best known for leading the NBC Orchestra on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.


Early life

Severinsen was born in Arlington, Oregon, the son of Minnie Mae and Carl Severinsen, who was a dentist.[1] He was nicknamed "Little Doc" after his father, and had originally wanted to play the trombone. But the senior Severinsen, a gifted amateur violinist, urged him to study the violin. The younger Severinsen insisted on the trombone, but had to settle for the only horn available in Arlington's small music store — a trumpet. A week later, with the help of his father and a manual of instructions, the seven-year-old was so good that he was invited to join the high school band.

At the age of twelve, Little Doc won the Music Educator's National Contest and, while still in high school, was hired to go on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra. However, his stay with the group was cut short by the draft. He served in the Army during World War II. He made his broadcasting debut playing live popular music on radio station KODL in The Dalles, Oregon.[2]

The Tonight Show

Doc Severinsen during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson's 18th Anniversary Special in 1980

Starting in 1952, during Steve Allen's tenure as host of NBC-TV's Tonight, Doc Severinsen played first trumpet in the band, which was directed by Skitch Henderson. Severinsen took over as bandleader in 1967 and soon became noted for his flashy fashions.

Under the direction of Severinsen, the Tonight Show's NBC Orchestra was the most visible big band in America. Severinsen took the opportunity to update many well known swing and jazz standards for the show's audiences, often introducing new listeners to classics by Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

Severinsen would sometimes substitute for Ed McMahon as announcer and sidekick. Although adept at comic interplay, Severinsen took his role as band leader on The Tonight Show seriously. The band played incidental music for sketch comedy, guest introductions, and intermission music during station breaks.

Severinsen campaigned for the band to get featured slots during the show, but for the most part the band was seen on camera during the frequent "Stump the Band" segments: audience members would challenge the band with obscure song titles and Severinsen and his crew would attempt to play something appropriate to the titles.

Severinsen often cried "key of E" his signal for the band to strike up a western theme, and then he would enthusiastically sing a country flavoured nonsense song.

Tommy Newsom was frequently the band's substitute director, whenever Doc Severinsen was away from the show or filling in for announcer Ed McMahon.

Severinsen continued as bandleader until Carson's retirement in 1992.

Recording career

During the 1950s and 1960s, Severinsen put out a number of albums of jazz standards, over which he performed very melodic solos. Severinsen certainly had a well-developed high-note range with an incredible amount of control and melodic sense. In the 1960s, Severinsen also recorded with the Clarke/Boland Big Band and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band. Severinsen was also the second trumpeter whose recording of the fanfare "Abblasen," composed by Gottfried Reiche, has been used as the theme for the CBS News program Sunday Morning.

During the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, Severinsen released several albums under the band name The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen, and later receiving first billing, Doc Severinsen & The Tonight Show Band. He has also recorded with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

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Severinsen also released albums that have a pop rock basis, some of which include electronic instrumentation components, such as Brass Roots, Good Medicine and Facets. These albums received varying degrees of success by the public. He recorded two albums of standards with Henry Mancini and his orchestra in the 1970s, Brass On Ivory and Brass, Ivory And Strings.

Severinsen arranged the score for the nudist-themed cult film Nude on the Moon (1961). In addition, Severinsen co-wrote the Top 10 hit single "Stop and Smell the Roses" with singer-songwriter Mac Davis (2000).

Although Doc Severinsen can be considered one of the most prolific musicians in America, none of his singles where he plays the trumpet has ever appeared in Billboard's Hot 100.

Conducting and academic career

Severinsen was the principal pops conductor for several American orchestras during and after his tenure on the Tonight Show. His first was with the Phoenix Symphony in 1983.[3] He held similar positions with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra,the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.

He retired from active conducting in 2007, and was named Pops Conductor Emeritus in Milwaukee[4] and Pops Conductor Laureate in Minnesota.[5] Severinsen was also Distinguished Visiting Professor of Music and Katherine K. Herberger Heritage Chair for Visiting Artists at Arizona State University School of Music in 2001-2002.[6] He has also conducted the New York Pops at the world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Personal life

He currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with his wife, Emily. As of 2009 he is still performing on a regular basis in a local restaurant there. He also performs with the group El Ritmo De La Vida[7] which presents an eclectic variety of styles.

His adult children are Nancy, Cindy, Allen, Robin and Judy.His daughter Nancy was recently seen in a video with the YouTube personality "GloZell." He also has three grandchildren living in New Jersey: Blaire, Gray, and Richard Reinhard (all of them musicians). Blaire and Gray perform together in the rock group "The Blaire Reinhard Band."

Doc owns Severinsen Custom Trumpets, manufacturer of custom-made horns, including his Destino line of trumpets (and he play-tests each one).[8] Severinsen also enjoys cooking and collecting American art.


External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Skitch Henderson
Tonight Show bandleader
1967 – 1992
Succeeded by
Branford Marsalis

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