Monday, April 30, 2007

Tommy Newson, R.I.P.

One more link to an earlier era has been broken.

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia (AP) -- Tommy Newsom, the former backup bandleader on "The Tonight Show" whose "Mr. Excitement" nickname was a running joke for Johnny Carson, has died. He was 78.

Newsom died of cancer Saturday at his home in Portsmouth, the city of his birth, according to his nephew, Jim Newsom.

Newsom, who played saxophone, joined "The Tonight Show" in 1962 and rose from band member to assistant music director. He retired along with Carson in 1992.

Newsom won music direction Emmys for "Night of 100 Stars" in 1982 and "The 40th Annual Tony Awards Show" in 1986. "The Tonight Show" received five Emmy awards during Newsom's years on it.

"I hope he will be remembered as a gifted musician," Jim Newsom said Monday in a telephone interview. "I'm sure he will be remembered for his wit and deadpan humor on 'The Tonight Show.' And to some of us a certain age, he will always be remembered as Mr. Excitement."

That was the name Carson gave Newsom to make light of his low-key personality and drab brown and blue suits -- a sharp contrast to the flashy style of bandleader Doc Severinsen.
Newsom joined The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson did back in 1962, but he had a long and varied career.
He also released several albums as a bandleader, including "Live From Beautiful Downtown Burbank" in 1978 and "I Remember You, Johnny" [a tribute to Johnny Mercer] in 1996.

...

Before landing his "Tonight" gig, he toured the Soviet Union and South America with Benny Goodman and played in "The Merv Griffin Show" orchestra.
His Wiki entry also mentions the following:
He earned degrees from the College of William & Mary, the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and Columbia University. He served in the Air Force where he played in the band, and later toured with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and performed with Vincent Lopez in New York. In addition to Carson's orchestra, Newsom performed with the orchestra for the Merv Griffin Show.

Newsom was as well known within the music industry as an arranger as he was a performer. He arranged for groups as varied as the Tonight Show ensemble and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and musicians Skitch Henderson, Woody Herman, Kenny Rogers, Charlie Byrd, John Denver, and opera star Beverly Sills.
Tommy's deadpan delivery wasn't used that often - more often he was the target of Johnny's good-natured ribbing. But on occasion he could bring down the house.
One night during Johnny's monolog, Johnny turned to Tommy and asked him why he always had his hands, clasped together behind his back, Tommy replied with one word, Tommy said "Vaporlock!" and he brought the whole house down laughing.
Finally, here's Tommy in musical action.

2 comments:

sclick said...

Tommy Newsom was a great "flat" foil for Carson. Doc was a little too flashy and quick. Tommy knew how to make the boss look good. Great new bio of Carson just posted at http://grubstreet.ca/jc1.htm

christophej said...

Hello, My name is Christophe and I'm a french music collector for a long time. I have a personal database to manage my collection. I always try to improve it. Searching for informations about "Live from beautiful downtown Burbank" from Tommy Newson, I've just learned about his death... Do you think I can find details about a special cutting of this aalbum by Direct-Disc Labs in 1978 ?
Thank you for your help.
Cheers.
Christophe