Snooky Young Jazz trumpeter in 'Tonight Show' band dies

Snooky Young
Snooky Young, 92, a jazz trumpeter whose long career included working with big bands led by Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie as well as a lengthy stint with NBC's “Tonight Show" band, died Wednesday at a residence in Newport Beach, said family friend William Selditz. The cause was complications from a lung disorder.

Young came to prominence from 1939 to 1942 as lead trumpeter and soloist for Lunceford before working with such noted musicians as Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter and Gerald Wilson. He played several times with Basie, beginning in the early 1940s.

“Snooky is one of the world's all-time great trumpet players," saxophonist Bob Cooper told The Times in 1992. “I can always feel it in the sax section when he's playing—his time, his interpretation of the material, his sound."

Young's association with the “Tonight Show" started in the 1960s after he joined NBC as a studio musician. He moved to Los Angeles when the “Tonight Show" went to the West Coast and stayed on the show until 1992. “Some of the happiest days of my life were spent with that organization," Young told The Times in 1992.

Eugene Edward Young was born Feb. 3, 1919 in Dayton, Ohio, and got the nickname Snooky as a child. His parents were musicians and he started playing the trumpet at 5 and performed in his family's band.

Young played the trumpet for actor Jack Carson's character in the 1941 film “Blues in the Night" and performed on such soundtracks as 1974's “Blazing Saddles" and 1985's “The Color Purple." Young also was a highly regarded session player.

He was named a jazz master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009 and most recently played with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

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