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Mel Tormé

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Melvin Howard Tormé (1925–1999) was born to immigrant Russian Jewish parents whose name had been Torma. A child prodigy, he first sang professionally at 4 with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra, singing “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” at Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant. 1933-41, he acted in the network radio serials “The Romance of Helen Trent” and “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. ” He wrote his first song at 13 and three years later, his first published song, “Lament to Love,” became a hit recording for Harry James. He played drums in Chicago’s Shakespeare Elementary School drum and bugle corps in his early teens. While a teen-ager, he sang, arranged, and played drums in a band led by Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers. His formal education ended in 1944, with his graduation from Chicago’s Hyde Park High School.

In 1943, Torme made his movie debut in Frank Sinatra’s first film, the musical “Higher and Higher.” He went on to sing and act in a number of films and television episodes throughout his career, even hosting his own television show in 1951-52. His appearance in the 1947 film musical “Good News” made him a teen idol for a few years. In the last years of his career he toured and sang with the wonderful George Shearing Quartet, often sitting in at drums, for a number or two in a set. To hear two such accomplished jazz artists was an evening not to be forgotten.

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