Full Name: Carl Hilding Severinsen

Description: Trumpeter, Band Leader, USA

Known For: Known as the band leader of “The Tonight Show”

Instruments: Trumpet

Music Styles: Jazz

Location: United States of America

Date Born: 7th July 1927
Location Born: Arlington, Oregon, United States of America

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Web Site: Official website

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Doc Severinson

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.

Severinsen was born in Arlington, Oregon, the son of Minnie Mae (1897–1998) and Carl Severinsen (1898–1972), a dentist. Nicknamed “Little Doc” after his father, he originally wanted to play the trombone, which he discovered at neighbor Art Fletcher’s home, but the senior Severinsen, a gifted amateur violinist, urged him to study that instrument instead. 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 good enough to be invited to join the high school band.

At the age of twelve, Severinsen won the Music Educator’s National Contest. While still in high school, he was hired to go on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra. However, his stay with the group was cut short by the World War II draft. After serving in the U.S. Army, Severinsen made his broadcasting debut playing live popular music on KODL radio in The Dalles, Oregon.

The Tonight Show

Starting in 1952 during Steve Allen’s tenure as host of NBC-TV’s Tonight, Doc Severinsen played first trumpet in the band directed by Skitch Henderson. He actually joined “The Tonight Show Band” several months before Johnny Carson became host in October 1962. Severinsen took over as bandleader in 1967 and soon became noted for his flashy fashions.

Under Severinsen’s direction, The Tonight Show NBC Orchestra became the most visible big band in America. The band played incidental music for sketch comedy, guest introductions, and intermission music during station breaks. Severinsen took the opportunity to update many well known swing music and jazz standards, including classics by Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

Adept at comic interplay, Severinsen occasionally substituted for Ed McMahon as Johnny Carson’s announcer and sidekick. Severinsen campaigned for the band to get featured slots during the show. The show introduced a “Stump the Band” segment in which audience members challenged the band to play obscure song titles, with the band responding with a comic piece.

Severinsen often cried “key of E,” his signal for the band to strike up a western theme, whereupon he would enthusiastically sing a country music-flavoured nonsense song.

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

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

Severinsen appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show in February 2015 when the show traveled to Los Angeles for a week. He played for the evening with the Roots. The appearance helped to promote the 87-year-old’s 2015 nationwide tour with his band.


Recording career

During the 1950s and 1960s, Severinsen put out a number of albums of jazz standards, over which he performed very melodic solos. He served as lead trumpet on many of Enoch Light’s Command Records

LP’s of that era, and his soloing was featured in Tito Puente’s “Night Ritual (Afro Cuban Jazz Mini Suite)” from Puente’s classic 1957 album Top Percussion.

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.

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 were received with 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 performed with high school bands and in particular in the 1970s with Don Caneva’s John Hersey High School Bands, where they recorded four separate albums.

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 (1974).

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. 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.


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

As of 2012, Severinsen is still performing on a regular basis with the group Doc Severinsen & the San Miguel 5 (formerly known as El Ritmo De La Vida[). The group plays an eclectic variety of styles, including classical Spanish, gypsy jazz, and Latin and American ballads. In February 2012, the group was called on short notice to replace an ailing Marvin Hamlisch at a concert with the Nashville Symphony.

In 2014, Doc Severinsen was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame along with Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch’s Sig Hansen and famed singer, Bobby Vee.

Personal life

Severinsen’s children are Nancy, Cindy, Allen, Robin and Judy. He also has eight grandchildren, including Blaire and Gray Reinhard, who write and perform roots rock music together as the Blaire Reinhard Band. Severinsen has been married three times. Television writer and producer Emily Marshall is his third wife. They met when she was working as a secretary to The Tonight Show producer Fred de Cordova.

Severinsen owned Severinsen Custom Trumpets, manufacturer of custom-made horns, including the Destino line of trumpets he personally tests.[15] Severinsen now helps design new Destino trumpets for the S.E. Shires Company.Severinsen also enjoys cooking and collecting American art.


1957: Stormy Weather (with Lena Horne)
1961: Tempestuous Trumpet
1962: The Big Band’s Back in Town
1963: Torch Songs for Trumpet[17]
1965: High, Wide & Wonderful
1966: Fever (pop #147)
1966: Command Performances (pop #133)
1967: New Sound of Today’s Big Band
1967: Live!: The Doc Severinsen Sextet
1968: The Great Arrival
1970: Doc Severinsen’s Closet
1971: Brass Roots (pop #185)
1972: Brass on Ivory (pop #74)
1972: Doc
1973: Rhapsody for Now!
1973: Doc [Command Double Pack]
1973: Trumpets & Crumpets & Things
1973: Brass, Ivory & Strings (pop #185)
1976: Night Journey (pop #189)
1977: Brand New Thing
1978: Tempestuous Trumpet
1980: Seductive Strings Featuring Doc Severinsen
1982: The Best of Doc Severinsen
1985: Doc Severinsen & Xebron
1986: The Tonight Show Band, Vol. 1 (pop #65)
1986: Episodes
1988: Facets
1988: The Tonight Show Band, Vol. 2
1989: The Big Band Hit Parade
1991: Once More…With Feeling!
1991: Merry Christmas from Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Orchestra (pop #171)
1992: Unforgettably Doc
1992: Good Medicine
1992: Doc Severinsen and Friends
1992: Lullabies and Goodnight
1992: Ja-Da
1993: Two Sides of Doc Severinsen
1997: The Very Best of Doc Severinsen [Amherst]
1999: Swingin’ the Blues
2009: El Ritmo De La Vida
2010: En Mi Corazon (with Gil Gutierrez and Pedro Cartas)
2010: Stardust