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Bandleader
    (February 25, 1929-April 28, 2007)
    Born in Portsmouth, Virginia
    Saxophone player and assistant music director/bandleader for the NBC Orchestra on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' (1962-92)
    Dubbed Mr. Excitement by 'Tonight Show' host Johnny Carson (due to the drab colored suits he wore)
    Won two Emmys as musical director for 'Night of 100 Stars' (1982) and the 40th Annual Tony Awards (1986)
    Portrayed himself on TV episodes of 'Newhart,' 'ALF,' ' Blossom' and 'The Larry Sanders Show'
    Died of liver and bladder cancer in his hometown at age 78
    While studying music at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore he made a few extra bucks playing strip joints.
    His low-key personality afforded him a few other Carson nicknames, such as 'The Man from Bland' and 'The Comatose Commander.'
    He occasionally topped Carson's one-liners, getting scolded by the executive producer that the host was supposed to get the bigger laughs.
    He led the NBC Orchestra only when regular bandleader Doc Severinsen was out of town or subbing for Ed McMahon.
    After an earthquake shook his house, he moved from California back to his hometown.
    He started playing sax at age eight.
    He played in a U.S. Air Force band during the Korean War.
    He graduated with a Masters degree in music at Columbia University.
    In the early '60s he toured the Soviet Union and South America with Benny Goodman's band.
    As a composer and musical arranger, he wrote several pieces featured on 'The Tonight Show.'
    One of his tide turning quips - when Carson asked why he had his hands clasped together behind his back, his answer was 'Vapor lock,' bringing down the house.
    He, along with McMahon, lasted the entire 30 year tenure with Carson, and released several albums after the 1992 retirement.
    He arranged music for the likes of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and such musicians as Kenny Rogers, John Denver and Beverly Sills.
    His only son died in 2003, four years before him.
    He was married to the same woman for 49 years until his death.

Credit: Scar Tactics


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