Doc Severinsen was born in Arlington, Oregon, in 1927, and was nicknamed “Little Doc” after his father, Dr. Carl Severinsen, a dentist and gifted amateur violinist. He was asked to join the high school band at age seven, won the Music Educator’s National Contest at twelve, and was hired to go on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra in high school. After serving in the Army during World War II he landed a spot with the Charlie Barnet Band, and in the late 1940s toured with the Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman bands.
Mr. Severinsen arrived in New York City in 1949 to become a staff musician for NBC, and in 1962 he was invited to join The Tonight Show Band as first trumpet. Five years later he 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 Severinsen tours regularly with his own big band and continues to perform with symphony orchestras and big bands all over the country. Over the years he has been principal pops conductor with the Phoenix, Milwaukee, Colorado, and Pacific symphony orchestras; Minnesota Orchestra; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
With more than 30 albums to his credit, Mr. Severinsen has recorded everything from big band and jazz-fusion to classical works. He received a 1987 Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance — Big Band for his recording Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band — Volume I.
Doc Severinsen currently works with the S.E. Shires Company in Massachusetts, whose line of trumpets includes the S.E. Shires Severinsen Destino III, a model developed under Doc Severinsen’s supervision.