Mel Torme was among the most enduring singers from the big-band era, maligned by some as the epitome of lounge singer, acclaimed by many more as one of a talented and serious vocalist.
Legend has it that Torme began singing for his supper a Chicago restaurant when he was four and was working the vaudeville circuit soon after. He worked as a child actor on radio, and began writing songs in his early teens. In the early 1940s, he quit high school to became a boy singer (and drummer and part-time arranger) with Chico Marx's band.
His first fame coincided with Frank Sinatra's, and the two appeared together in their first film, Higher and Higher. He wanted to be a jazz singer, but I got sidetracked, he said. His manager felt the way to the gold was for me to become a crooner. For a long period I was singing mushy, sentimental songs. His publicist coined the name, The Velvet Fog, to describe his smooth style but he hated it (hecklers called him The Velvet Frog).