Snooky Young, an ageless jazz trumpeter who kept performing almost until his final breath, has died in California at the age of 92. Mr. Young began performing in the 1930s and was one of the last survivors from the Age of Swing still performing.
He may be best known today for his long tenure in Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band led by Doc Severinsen. Mr. Young held down a trumpet chair in the band for 30 years before Carson retired in 1992. In the 1980s, he stepped out front for a memorable vocal and trumpet solo, and he often performed with Severinsen in concerts.
Beginning in 1939, Mr. Young had played with the legendary Jimmie Lunceford band and, in 1941, played the trumpet part for Jack Carson’s character in the movie “Blues in the Night.” He also appears in the trumpet section of the band – he’s in the center – in the attached clip from the film.
Mr. Young made very few solo records, but he was a longtime member of bands led by Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter and Gerald Lewis. He had worked until very recently with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, one of today’s finest big bands. He was the consummate sideman, appearing on well-known recordings by B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and other musicians, and in 2009 was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.