Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Louise Tobin, the big band singer and ex-wife of Harry James, who helped to discover a young Frank Sinatra died on November 26th at her grand-daughter's home. She was 104. Tobin began singing professionally in her teens in the 1930s, working with notable bandleaders including Bobby Hackett (1915–1976) and Jack Jenney (1910–1945).

In 1939, she joined Benny Goodman’s (1909–1986) band, singing on hits including “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” and “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” She married bandleader Harry James (1916–1983) in 1935; the marriage didn’t last long, but it did result in one important musical partnership. Tobin was listening to the radio in 1939 and heard a broadcast from the New Jersey club the Rustic Cabin. Their young emcee, Frank Sinatra, was singing, and she told James he should tune in another night to hear Sinatra’s skill. James was impressed and hired Sinatra as part of his band. The gig with James was the steppingstone to Sinatra’s meteoric rise to fame.

After their divorce, Ms. Tobin spent several years working in Los Angeles with bands led by pianist Emil Coleman and trumpeter Ziggy Elman before returning to Texas. Tobin took time off from her singing career to raise her children with James, but she returned to performing in the 1960s, including at the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1960 Tobin ran into Peanuts Hucko, a clarinetist who had played on her first recording in 1939 with Jack Jenney’s band. When Hucko opened his jazz club in Denver in 1967, he hired Tobin as his vocalist and she became his wife. They sold the restaurant in 1969 and Hucko led the Glenn Miller band in the early ‘70s and was also a favorite performer on the Lawrence Welk show. In the ‘80s the pair performed together in Hucko’s own band.

Although Tobin did not become the star that other singers did with Goodman’s band, she can be heard on several of the early recordings.Survivors include two sons, Harry James Jr. and Jerin Timothyray “Tim” James; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren...

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