Snooky Young Day

February 3, 1919 – May 11, 2011

A tribute to the swing trumpeter

Trumpeter Eugene “Snooky” Young was born on February 3, 1919 in Dayton, Ohio.

Young began his career playing with Eddie Heywood Sr., pianist Graham Jackson, the Wilberforce Collegians, and Clarence “Chic” Carter (1937-39). 

When he was 20 in 1939, Young joined Jimmie Lunceford’s Orchestra and made a strong impression, taking swinging solos (including a classic one on “Uptown Blues”) and uplifting the ensembles with his high notes

In 1942 Young left Lunceford’s band, had short stints with the orchestras of Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, and moved to California.

He worked in the Los Angeles area with Les Hite, Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson’s early bebop orchestra and Hampton again before spending a second period with Basie’s big band (1945-47).

After a decade spent back in Dayton, Ohio where he played locally, Young was back with Basie for five years, playing lead trumpet with his big band.

In 1962 Young became a fulltime studio musician (at first in New York before settling permanently in Los Angeles), appearing on a countless number of sessions and working with the Tonight Show Band (1972-92), Jaco Pastorius’ Word Of Mouth Orchestra, and the big bands of Benny Goodman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, and Gerald Wilson plus the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

Snooky Young was not only renowned as a lead trumpeter but as a solid swing soloist who often utilized the plunger mute for colorful choruses.

Here is Snooky Young with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band in the 1980s being showcased on the Jimmy Lunceford hit “Tain’t What You Do.”

-Scott Yanow


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