Eugene Edward ‘Snooky’ Young (3 February 1919 – 11 May 2011) was an American jazz trumpeter. He was a master of the plunger mute and could make his horn speak, shout, growl and sigh, while always swinging. Yet, he made his reputation almost entirely from within other people’s bands.
Young took up the trumpet at the age of five. He was lead trumpeter of the Jimmie Lunceford band from 1939 to 1942, when he briefly joined Count Basie. He moved on to the bands of Lionel Hampton and Gerald Wilson before rejoining Basie from 1945 to 1947, and again from 1957 to 1962.
When he left Basie, Young became a studio trumpeter at NBC, was a founding member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966, and was constantly in demand for all kinds of sessions, including a live, recorded New Year’s Eve gig with the rock group The Band in 1971.
While at NBC in New York, Young became a member of The Tonight Show Band. He moved to Los Angeles with the show in 1972 and stayed with them until 1992, when the band was replaced by a new, smaller group.
Young kept busy in the Los Angeles area, appearing regularly as a lead trumpeter in several big bands including appearances with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and appearing on some of B.B. King’s recordings.
Young issued only three albums under his own name, and of these, only his last, Horn of Plenty in 1979, featured him as the sole headliner. His other two albums were Boys from Dayton in 1971 and Snooky and Marshall’s Album in 1978.
Throughout his career, Snooky recorded and performed with Gerald Wilson (a friend since the Lunceford days) and his Orchestra. Until 2010, he was still playing and recording with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He passed away the following year at the age of 92.
Young received the Jazz Masters Award for 2009 from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This video shows Snooky Young playing ‘Lil Darlin” in 1989.