Tommy Newsom a jazz saxophonist and arranger who gained national visibility as a key member of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show band for three decades, and whom Carson nicknamed Mr. Excitement for his stone-faced demeanor and somber outfits. One night Carson turned to Newsom during his monologue and asked why he always had his hands clasped together behind his back. Newsom replied Vapor lock!, bringing down the house with laughter. Carson quipped, I'm out here busting my buns to get a laugh, with one joke after another, and you just say 'vapor lock' and crack us all up!
Newsom, normally known for wearing bland suits, in contrast to Severinsen's colorful attire, once appeared in a loud sport coat. Carson, impressed by Newsom's bold change of appearance, asked him where he got the coat. Newsom responded simply, I found it in my closet, Johnny, breaking up Carson and the audience.
As a personality, Mr. Newsom pretended to have none. Carson gently taunted him for his deadpan expression and bland tastes -- his suits ran the gamut from brown to navy.
Despite the gags, Mr. Newsom was a graceful musician and veteran of bands led by guitarist Charlie Byrd, clarinetist Benny Goodman and society bandleader Vincent Lopez. Mr. Newsom became an NBC studio musician, worked for Merv Griffin and soon after was assigned to the Tonight program in early 1962, several months before Carson took over.