In 1949, Severinsen landed a job as a studio musician for NBC, where he accompanied Steve Allen, Eddie Fisher, Dinah Shore, and Kate Smith. The leader of The Tonight Show Band, Skitch Henderson, asked him to be first-chair trumpeter in 1962, and five years later Severinsen was leading the band. Under Severinsen's direction, The Tonight Show Band became a well-known big band in America. Severinsen became one of the most popular bandleaders, appearing almost every night on television. He led the band during commercials and while guests were introduced.
During the early 1960s, Severinsen began recording big band albums, then moved toward instrumental pop music by the end of the decade. In the 1970s he recorded jazz funk, then disco, finding hits with "Night Journey" and "I Wanna Be With You". He released an album with the jazz fusion group Xebron in 1985. During the next year, he recorded The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen which won the Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. After Carson retired in 1992, he toured with some of the band's members, including Conte Candoli, Snooky Young, Bill Perkins, Ernie Watts, Ross Tompkins, and Ed Shaughnessy.
- 2 Vocals
- 325 Instruments & Performance
- 65 Writing & Arrangement
- 7 Featuring & Presenting
- 7 Conducting & Leading
- 4 Production
- 7 Acting, Literary & Spoken