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Tonight Show Band

The Tonight Show Band is the band which plays on the American television variety show, “The Tonight Show.” From 1962 to the 1990s, during the years the show was known as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, the band was a 17-piece Big Band, and was an important outlet for jazz on American television. During the Carson era, the band was always billed as “The NBC Orchestra” (not to be confused with the NBC Symphony Orchestra) and sometimes “Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra.”


The band was founded in 1954, coincidental to the NBC Symphony Orchestra being disbanded. Its first long-term director was Skitch Henderson (1954 - 57). Henderson was replaced by Jose Melis in 1957, when Jack Paar took over as host from Steve Allen. Henderson returned in 1962 when Johnny Carson took over from Paar. Carson increased the band budget, and Henderson created a major jazz big band by hiring some of the best jazz musicians from the touring big bands which were going out of business at the time, and by commissioning charts from top jazz arrangers. The new band included Clark Terry, Bobby Rosengarden, Doc Severinsen, Urbie Green, Ed Shaughnessy, and Ernie Royal, among others.

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The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen
The Tonight Show Band...
Amherst Records


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