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Classical Notes

Tommy Newsom, Dominick Argento, Liverwurst Sandwiches

Posted at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2007 by Rex Levang

News comes of the death of Tommy Newsom, who for a while was the backup bandleader on the Tonight Show. If he's not quite as memorable as Skitch Henderson or Doc Severinsen, it might be because of his purposely bland persona, which led Johnny Carson to dub him "Mr. Excitement."

Like so many musicians in the pop world, he had a solid classical training, from Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory, among other places, and even makes a brief appearance in Dominick Argento's memoir, "Catalog Raisonne":

But mostly, I think my fond memories of Baltimore have to do with the camaraderie of fellow students--Peter DeLone, Jack Hutton, Al Rosenthal, Tommy Newsome [sic], Wally Kramer--all of us crowded into a booth at the neighborhood grill from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. every evening, bottles of Budweiser, liverwurst sandwiches, and endless discussions about music, old and new, good and bad. I was much happier and more fulfilled professionally at Rochester, but it was in Baltimore that I felt wonderfully carefree and enjoyed sociability, joyfulness, and fun. Or am I merely confusing that with youth?