A son of affluent Oak Park, Illinois parents, Tough's interest for drumming was not fully supported by his family or community. Fortunately his suburban Chicago home allowed Tough to find his way to southside Chicago exposing him to an exciting and evolving jazz scene. Here Tough broke cultural and musical boundaries taking the scene's fresh sense back to a seemingly different suburban upper- middle class world.
He worked with such musicians as Bud Freeman, Woody Herman, Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Red Norvo, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and Benny Goodman. Berendt describes him as one of the most subtle and inspired of drummers with a rhythmic palette on which he held in readiness the right colour for each soloist.