Back to : Westwood Memorial Park - Celebrity Graves
The Final Resting Place of Mel Torme.
13th.September 1925 - 5th.June 1999.
Singer with the velvet voice. Many hits throughout his career.
Located approx 25 paces to your left on entering, near the kerb.
Melvin Howard Tormé was an American jazz singer with a light, high-tenor voice. He is considered by many to be one of the great male singers in the history of jazz. Tormé also wrote a number of jazz standards and wrote many of the arrangements for the songs he sang.
Tormé was born in Chicago to immigrant Russian Jewish parents. A child prodigy, he began singing publicly at the age of four, acting by age nine, and playing drums in Chicago's Shakespeare Elementary School drum and bugle corps by the time he was a teenager. His first published song, "Lament to Love," was recorded by Harry James when Tormé was only 15.
Tormé went on to publish some 250 songs, mostly in collaboration with Bob Wells. Their best known effort is "The Christmas Song", recorded by Nat King Cole in 1945, which has become a holiday favorite -- "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" -- ever since. Tormé frequently commented that the song took less than an hour to write and was not one of his personal favorites.
In 1943, Tormé and Frank Sinatra appeared in their first film together, "Higher and Higher." His high tenor, smooth vocal style led to his publicist coining the name, "The Velvet Fog," to describe his smooth style, a name Tormé hated. 1944 saw Tormé form his own vocal group, the Mel-Tones, which included Les Baxter and Ginny O'Connor. The Mel-Tones had several hits, both on their own as well as paired with Artie Shaw's band. Cole Porter's song, "What is This Thing Called Love?" was their biggest hit. The Mel-Tones were among the first of the jazz-influenced vocal groups, setting the direction later followed by The Hi-Los, The Four Freshmen and The Manhattan Transfer. In 1947, Tormé went solo, recording a number of romantic hits, including the 1949 number one "Careless Hands". He also came to pioneer cool jazz. During the 1950s, as rock & roll music increased in popularity, which he termed 'three chord manure' Tormé was forced to abandon the commercial path and turned more and more to jazz. "Mountain Greenery" became a minor hit for Tormé in 1956. Critics say his art reached its first creative peak on a series of albums arranged by Marty Paich, one of the leading figures in West coast jazz of that period. 1962 saw Tormé score a surprise hit with "Comin' Home, Baby," arranged by Claus Ogerman, an R&B-influenced number. Quincy Jones and Kai Winding both had hits with instrumental covers of the same tune. Tormé's performance led Ethel Waters, a great jazz and gospel singer, to say that Torme "is the only white man who sings with the soul of a black man." In 1963–1964 he was an occasional guest on The Judy Garland Show (appearing twice as a featured guest) and frequently worked as both a writer and musical arranger for it. He later wrote a book chronicling his experiences while on the show, "The Other Side of the Rainbow." Tormé was still playing the drums as an adult, and was friends with drummer Buddy Rich (September 30, 1917 – April 2, 1987), whom he later wrote a book about called "Traps-The Drum Wonder-The Life of Buddy Rich". Tormé also owned and played a drumset that renowned drummer Gene Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) had used for many years. With the resurgence of vocal jazz in the 1970s, Tormé entered another artistically fertile period. In fact, some believe that his voice improved with age.
During the last twenty years of his career he recorded frequently in a variety of settings, for Concord Records, the best known of which were a series of concerts with pianist George Shearing; his big band work with Rob McConnell and his Boss Brass orchestra and a reunion with Marty Paich, which resulted in a live recording in Tokyo (In Concert Tokyo) and a studio album (Reunion). In the 1980s John Colianni served as Tormé's featured pianist. In addition to producing a steady stream of albums, Torme performed globally up to two hundred live dates annually, and appeared regularly on television, including nine guest appearances (as himself) on the Night Court sitcom where he was the idol of the main character played by Harry Anderson. In the mid-90s he gained new popularity among Generation Xers for his appearances in a series of Mountain Dew commercials and on an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld, in which he dedicates a song to Michael Richards' character, Kramer; as well as a recording of Straighten up and Fly Right with his son, alternative/adult contemporary/jazz singer Steve March Torme.
In August 8, 1996, a debilitating stroke abruptly ended his 65-year singing career. In February 1999, Tormé was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Another stroke ended his life on June 5, 1999 at age 73, in Los Angeles, California.