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Mel Torme Biography

Home > Music > T > Torme, Mel > Biography

Birth Name: Melvin Howard Torme
Born: 1925/09/13
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died: 1999/06/05
Years Active: 1933–1999
Genres: Jazz

Melvin Howard Tormé was born on September 13, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois and was a prominent jazz musician. Tormé sang, wrote, composed and arranged music, in addition to acting and writing five books. Tormé is well-known for composing “The Christmas Song,” which he co-wrote the lyrics to. By the time Tormé was eight years old he was acting on the network radio show, “The Romance of Helen Trent and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.” At age thirteen he wrote his first song, played drums in school and published his first song, “Lament to Love,” at age 16. After graduating high school, Tormé set out to embark on a career in show business.

1943 marked Tormé's acting debut at age 18, starring alongside Frank Sinatra in “Higher and Higher.” This was the beginning of a long a successful career for Tormé acting in numerous films, television shows, radio shows, and hosting his own television show in 1951. Tormé developed a teen idol status, which produced a frenzied fan base of teenage girls. But singing and performing was always his first passion in life and in 1944 he formed the vocal quintet “Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tones,” which he modeled on Frank Sinatra's style of music and singing. The quintet was very successful and produced a number of hit singles, of note was the hit, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Three years later in 1947, Tormé decided to pursue a solo career and began singing at New York's Copacabana club. Tormé was signed to Decca and recorded a number of romantic albums before switching to Capitol Records in 1949. His biggest hit with Capitol was “Careless Hands.”

The 1950s saw Tormé recorded seven jazz albums for Bethlehem Records, however, as the musical climate began to shift and make way for rock and roll, Tormé's commercial success began to decline somewhat. During the next two decades, Tormé moved from band to band and collaborated with a number of artists to make a living. He picked up his acting career throughout the 1960s and in 1963 he wrote and arranged music for the “The Judy Garland Show,” in addition to making guest appearances on the show. The resurgence of vocal jazz in the 1970s gave Tormé the boost his wilting career needed. He was one again in demand to perform live shows and record new music – of which he did both. Tormé's touring schedule was extensive through the 1970s and he performed all over the world as an established jazz musician that audiences flocked to see.

Dubbed “The Velvet Fog,” Tormé continued to perform throughout the 1980s and 1990s, although he slowed down somewhat. Tragedy struck in 1996 when a stroke abruptly ended Tormé's singing career of 65 years. A year later in 1999, Tormé was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and later that year another stroke hit and ended his life.