Notable Oregonians: Doc Severinsen - Musician, Band Leader
Carl H. Severinsen was born in 1927 and grew up in Arlington, Oregon along the Columbia River. He was nicknamed "Little Doc" after his father, Dr. Carl Severinsen, a dentist. As a youth, Severinsen wanted to play trombone but his father, an accomplished violinist, urged him to study violin. In the end, the young Severinsen had to settle for the only horn in the small town, a trumpet. Within a week, the seven year old was good enough to be invited to join the high school band and by the age of 12 he had won the Music Educators National Contest. While still in high school, he was hired to go on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra.
After completing his education and serving in the Army, Severinsen toured with the Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet bands. He settled in New York as an NBC staff musician in 1949 and joined The Tonight Show Orchestra in 1962. He later became music director of the orchestra in 1967.
Although Severinsen's signature has been his trumpet playing, quick witted banter, and unusual taste in clothing on The Tonight Show, he has also built a reputation as a leading instrumentalist. After leaving The Tonight Show, he continued to tour the country performing concerts in an array of musical styles as a guest conductor/performer with symphony orchestras. In addition to guest assignments, Severinsen has been principal pops conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony. He also has played jazz with his group, Facets, and big band tunes with the famous former Tonight Show Band, later known as Doc Severinsen and His Big Band.
Severinsen has recorded more than 30 albums including big band, jazz fusion, and classical. Among other honors, he received a Grammy Award in 1987 for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance-Big Band. He retired from active conducting in 2007 and was named Pops Conductor Laureate in Minnesota and Pops Conductor Emeritus in Milwaukee.
As of 2012, Severinsen was still performing on a regular basis with the group "Doc Severinsen & the San Miguel 5."