“Heeeeere’s Johnny!” That lead-in, followed by a big band trumpet blast, was the landmark of late night television for three decades. The ‘Johnny’ was Johnny Carson, the announcer was Ed McMahon and the bandleader was Doc Severinsen. Beginning in October 1962, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson ruled the night air for thirty years. On May 22, 1992, it came to an end…
…And the Beginning of a New Career for Doc Severinsen.
Within a week of the final telecast, Doc Severinsen and His Big Band was on the road. Doc’s group has been composed of The Tonight Show’s best musicians — Ed Shaughnessy on drums, Ernie Watts on tenor sax and Snooky Young on trumpet. Their repertoire includes Ellington and Basie standards, pop, jazz, ballads, big band classics and, of course, The Tonight Show theme. Audiences are finally able to hear the depth of talent belonging to a band that rarely played a whole tune on the air. Severinsen can blow the roof off with a trumpet solo, but he is not the only accomplished soloist. Many of his band members get their well-deserved turns in the spotlight. Doc’s tour dates are consistently sold out.
Touring with Doc
Ask Doc about retirement and the answer you will get leaves you with a very clear impression: he is not ready to hang up his horn or his traveling shoes.
Since moving to Mexico at the end of 2006, Doc has kept a busy performance schedule and made new discoveries in very talented musicians from Mexico. Together with Gil Gutierrez he has crafted an innovative and exciting program. It is classical Spanish with a jazz flair, gorgeous ballads, both Latino and American, plus some great movie music and among their best received — gypsy jazz, a la Django Reinhardt. The musicians are virtuosos and combined are electric. Add to this the soaring trumpet of Doc (not to mention his wardrobe!) and the experience is indescribably brilliant.
Recordings from Doc
A Grammy award winner, Doc has made more than 30 albums–from big band to jazz-fusion to classical. Two critically acclaimed Telarc CDs with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra showcase his multifaceted talents from Bach to ballads. The Very Best of Doc Severinsen reprises fifteen of Doc’s signature pieces. His other recordings include Unforgettably Doc with the Cincinnati Pops on Telarc, and the Grammy nominated Once More With Feeling on Amherst. He received a Grammy Award for “Best Jazz instrumental Performance – Big Band” for his recording of Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show Band- Volume I. Doc Severinsen and His Big Band/Swingin’ the Blues is his latest release with Ed Shaughnessy and Ernie Watts. In 2007 he released his first recording with Gil and Cartas, Gil + Cartas, En Mi Corazon with Special Guest Doc Severinsen and in 2007 he released Doc Severinsen/Gil&Cartas, El Ritmo de la Vida.
Severinsen’s accomplishments began in his hometown of Arlington, Oregon, population: 600. Carl H Severinsen was born on July 7th, 1927, and was nicknamed “Little Doc” after his father, Dr. Carl Severinsen a dentist. Little Doc 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 famous 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 and following his discharge, landed a spot with the Charlie Barnett Band. When this band broke up, Severinsen toured with the Tommy Dorsey, then, the Benny Goodman bands in the late 40′s.
After his days with Barnett and Dorsey, Doc arrived in New York City in 1949 to become a staff musician for NBC. After years of playing with the peacock network’s studio bands, Severinsen was invited to do a gig with the highly respected Tonight Show Band. An impressed conductor, Skitch Henderson, asked him to join that band in 1962 as first trumpet. Five years later, Doc took over as Music Director for The Tonight Show and stayed with the show until Johnny Carson retired from late night television in 1992.
Today, Doc has not lost his flair for outrageous fashions and witty banter. Yet, he is highly regarded as one of the most technically proficient trumpeters. Doc has the best stage presence of anyone out there. He can blow a horn like few others…he is a high note virtuoso, a genuinely funny man, and always a fashion fiend.
Somewhere along Doc’s journey from Oregon, to New York, to this evening’s concert, the “Little” was lost, but he remains ageless. Doc Severinsen continues to be a favorite of audiences across America.