Jazz trumpeter Snooky Young, who played for more than two decades in “The Tonight Show” band in addition to stints with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and the Band, died last Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 92.
Born Eugene Young in Dayton, Ohio, Young first came to prominence as lead trumpeter for the Jimmie Lunceford band, with whom he played for four years until 1942. Afterward, he entered into a long association with Basie, playing three stints with his band over the next 20 years. He also played for Hampton, Gerald Wilson, Coleman Hawkins, Pee Wee Russell and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra during this period.
Known for his mastery of the plunger-mute, Young joined the “Tonight Show” band in 1967 and stayed until Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1992. While there, he played alongside Ed Shaughnessy, Tony Mottola and Conte Candoli, Young’s trumpet partner for nearly all of his “Tonight Show” tenure.
Young also played in horn sections for B.B. King and for the Band, as well as contributing session work to such film scores as “Blazing Saddles” and “The Color Purple.” Rarely one to step outside the big band format, Young recorded three albums under his own name, most notably “Horn of Plenty” in 1979.
He received a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009.