Joe Massimino, longtime band leader for “The Mike Douglas Show,” died May 24 in Tustin of complications of stomach cancer. He was 64.
Massimino, who garnered an Emmy during his 15 years leading the band for talkshow host Douglas, once told the Los Angeles Times, “An act might drop out an hour before air time and I’d have to write an arrangement of a medley of songs for Mike to sing.”
Massimino was a regular in Southern California jazz spots after “The Mike Douglas Show” went off the air in 1982 and later became known for his culinary talents.
Born in an Italian neighborhood in Providence, R.I., he was attracted to music early, listening to his parents’ big band records.
At 17, he was hired to play in Tommy Dorsey’s band after an audition where he impressed the big band leader by ripping through Dorsey’s “T.D. Boogie,” a tune he had committed to memory.
He toured with Dorsey for three years, and went on to musical associations with “Tonight Show” bandleader Doc Severinsen, singer Joe Williams and the big bands of Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson.
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Massimino was known as a be-bop-based improviser who usually worked at an acoustic piano.
He developed a second skill later in life: cooking. When he wasn’t playing music, he spent much of his post-Douglas career running an Italian deli, the San Remo Italian Market in Tustin.
His is survived by his wife, Paula, and three daughters.