Thomas Penn "Tommy" Newsom (February 25, 1929 – April 28, 2007) was a saxophone player in the NBC Orchestra on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, for which he later became assistant director.
Newsom attended the Norfolk Division of the College of a William & Mary, a junior college that became Old Dominion University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in musical education from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he paid some of his tuition by playing in strip joints. He then played with Airmen of Note, an Air Force jazz ensemble during a four-year enlistment. He next earned a master’s degree at Columbia University.
His professional break came when Goodman hired him to tour with his band. A member of Goodman’s band recommended him to Merv Griffin, and he won a spot on Mr. Griffin’s afternoon show. That led to “Tonight,” where he began on April 2, 1962. Mr. Carson took over as host six months later.The two retired together on May 22, 1992. Mr. Carson died in 2005.
Mr. Carson famously delighted in tossing barbs at his regular bandleader, Doc Severinsen, often concerning his flamboyant personality and garish attire. Mr. Newsom, who favored conservative brown suits, got lambasted for his tameness. Mr. Carson called him “the man from bland,” “Mr. Excitement” and the “comatose commander.” Newsom was frequently the band's substitute director, whenever Doc Severinsen was away from the show or filling in for announcer Ed McMahon.
He toured South America and the Soviet Union with Benny Goodman, and performed on records with artists like Buck Clayton, a trumpeter for Count Basie. His arrangements were cited in Emmy Awards for musical direction given to “Night of 100 Stars” in 1982 and “The 40th Annual Tony Awards Show” in 1986. He wrote and arranged symphonic pieces. He also recorded several albums as a bandleader.
Here's "Skylark" from above 1999 album "The feeling of jazz"
Newsom was as well known within the music industry as an arranger as he was a performer. He arranged for groups as varied as the Tonight Show ensemble and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and musicians Skitch Henderson, Woody Herman, Kenny Rogers, Charlie Byrd, John Denver, and opera star Beverly Sills. Beginning in 1992, Mr. Newsom did arrangements and compositions for the Diva Jazz Orchestra, a respected all-female band.
On April 28, 2007, Newsom died of bladder and liver cancer at his home in Portsmouth. He was 78 years old. Newsom had been married to his wife Patricia for 50 years; they had one daughter, Candy, as well as a son, Mark, who died in 2003. (Info edited from Wikipedia & NY Times obit.)
Tonight Show band stalwarts Doc Severinsen, Tommy Newsome and Ed Shaughnessy play Johnny Carson's favourite song 'Here's That Rainy Day' to close David Letterman's tribute to Carson.