Biographical / Historical
Mary Louise Tobin was born November 11, 1918, in Aubrey, Texas. One of eleven children, Louise grew up in a musical family although she was the only child to pursue a career in music. In 1932, Louise won a CBS Radio Talent Contest and began touring Texas as part of the Interstate Theater Circuit performing under the direction of Hyman Charninsky and Al Kvale. She met trumpeter Harry James (1916-1983) after joining the Art Hicks Orchestra in 1934. The band toured Texas, Oklahoma, and Ohio, but disbanded after arriving in Albany, New York. Louise, age 16, and Harry, age 18, married in secret in May 1935 in New York. Returning to Texas, Louise found work singing in orchestras led by Ligon Smith, Charlie Davis, and Carlos Shaw, while Harry worked in Shreveport with the Herman Waldman Orchestra.
The couple traveled to Chicago at the height of the depression after Harry was invited to join Ben Pollack’s Orchestra. Louise worked for a variety of bandleaders and entertainers during this difficult period, including Leonard Keller, Mike Todd, and Harry Savoy. In 1936, Harry joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra where he performed in the renowned 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert before leaving to form his own band. Late one night, Louise heard a young Frank Sinatra singing on WNEW New York radio. Knowing her husband was struggling to put his band together, she recommended Harry track the singer down. Harry met Sinatra and hired him on the spot. Harry went on to have an extremely successful career as a bandleader, musician, and actor.
Louise worked in New York for Bobby Hackett and a variety of other musicians before she herself joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1939 after being discovered singing in Greenwich Village by jazz critic and producer John Hammond. She recorded "There’ll Be Some Changes Made," "Comes Love," "What’s New?," "Scatterbrain," "Love Never Went to College," "Blue Orchids," and "Louise Tobin Blues" with Goodman.
Louise, yielding to her husband’s wishes, left the Goodman Orchestra in 1939 to start a family. She briefly recorded with Will Bradley singing "Deed I Do" and "Don’t Let It Get You Down" before giving birth to sons Harry, Jr. and Tim in 1941 and 1942, respectively. By 1943, Harry was a Hollywood star due to roles in popular movies such as "Private Buckaroo" and "Springtime in the Rockies". Harry left Louise to marry actress Betty Grable that year.
Louise dedicated the next several years to raising her sons, accepting only the occasional invitation to perform. During this period she recorded and performed with Tommy Jones, Emil Coleman, Skippy Anderson, Ziggy Elman, and Jackie Gleason. Louise accepted an invitation from George Simon to record for his label and sing at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. It was at Newport that she would meet her future husband, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko.
Michael Andrew "Peanuts" Hucko was born April 7, 1918, in Syracuse, New York. Originally a tenor saxophonist, Peanuts’ early career included performances with Will Bradley, Charley Spivak, and Joe Marsala. During World War II, Peanuts joined the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band and switched from the tenor saxophone to the clarinet, which would become his primary instrument in his post-war career. Prior to meeting Louise, Peanuts performed with Benny Goodman, Ray McKinley, Eddie Condon, and Jack Teagarden. He worked as a studio musician for CBS and ABC in the early 1950s before joining the Louis Armstrong All-Stars from 1958 to 1962. With Japanese clarinetist Shoji Suzuki, Peanuts’ recording of "Suzukake No Michi" broke the record for jazz record sales in Japan. Peanuts is best known for his rendition of the jazz tune "Stealin’ Apples."
After Newport, Peanuts and Louise performed together frequently. In 1964, they attended the first of Dick Gibson’s Jazz Parties in Colorado. Peanuts would go on to become a regular performer at subsequent Gibson Jazz Parties. He and Louise performed at the Gibson-inspired Odessa Jazz Parties in Texas through the 1970s. The couple married in 1967 in Denver and became co-owners of the restaurant and club Navarre, where they also performed in the house band. Peanuts accepted an offer to perform on the Lawrence Welk Show starting in 1970, prompting the couple to relocate to California. In 1974, Peanuts led the Glenn Miller Orchestra, touring worldwide with Louise and other musicians.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Louise and Peanuts continued touring the world performing jazz concerts. They recorded the albums Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Tribute to Benny Goodman, with Louise singing several numbers on both. In 1992, Peanuts and Louise’s vocal duet "When You’re Smiling" was issued on Peanuts Hucko and his All Star’s album Swing That Music