Mel Torme (September 13, 1925 - June 5, 1999) was a celebrated jazz and traditional pop singer, composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and author who became famous beginning in the mid 1940s. Born Melvin Howard Torme in Chicago, Illinois to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the precocious and multi-talented entertainer began his seven-decade career at age 4 singing with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. While still in elementary school, he acted on such then-popular radio programs as "Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy." At 13, he began writing songs and had his first major success with "Lament To Love," which became a Top 10 hit for Harry James in 1941. After serving as a drummer, singer, and arranger in Chico Marx's backing band, he formed The Mel-Tones in 1944 and became popular as a teen idol during the late 1940s. He was dubbed "The Velvet Fog" by New York City DJ Fred Robbins for his distinctive smooth, warm high tenor which, like fine wine, only got better with age. As a jazz singer, he was widely admired for his virtuosic vocal dexterity and impeccable sense of timing. Over his multi-faceted career, Torme made many movie and TV appearances, authored several biographies, novels, and TV scripts, wrote the arrangements to all his recordings, and penned over 300 songs that included the holiday standard, "The Christmas Song," co-written in 1946 with Robert Wells.
With The Mel-Tones, Torme made his debut on the Pop charts in 1945 with "I Fall In Love Too Easily" (with Eugene Baird). Several other hits with The Mel-Tones followed that also included "Day By Day" (1946, with Bing Crosby), "I Got The Sun In The Morning" (1946, with Artie Shaw), and "It's Dreamtime" (1947, with Sonny Burke), before he topped the charts in 1949 as a solo artist with the hand-clapping "Careless Hands." Several more hits followed through the early 1950s that included two of his signature songs, "Again" (1949) and "Blue Moon" (1949), and a duet with Peggy Lee, "The Old Master Painter" (1950). By the late 1940s, Torme had become critically acclaimed as a jazz vocalist and recorded a long string of mostly jazz albums through the 1950s. In 1956, he had a Top 5 hit in the U.K. with "Mountain Greenery," and he re-emerged on the U.S. Pop/Rock charts in 1962 with the bluesy and upbeat "Comin' Home Baby." His final chart entry came in 1967 with "Lover's Roulette," which made the Adult Contemporary Top 10.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Torme had a career resurgence as one of the world's top jazz artists, releasing numerous albums, and he continued to perform and record actively through the 1990s. In his later years, he revealed his comedic side playing himself on such TV sitcoms as "Night Court" and "Seinfeld." His numerous honors and accolades included two Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male (1982, 1983) and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1999).
- The Independent remembers jazz great Mel Torme.
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- Comin' Home Baby 1962
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