‘Texas Jazz Singer’ tells the story of one of the last Big Band vocalists

Featured Faculty

Julie Cooper | April 7, 2022

Kevin Mooney, a senior lecturer in musicology for Texas State University, has written a new book — Texas Jazz Singer: Louise Tobin in the Golden Age of Swing and Beyond, (Texas A&M Press, 2021).

The book documents the life and musical career of Louise Tobin, who Mooney calls “the last survivor of the swing era.” Texas Jazz Singer is based on many hours of interviews by Mooney that spanned nearly ten years.

Tobin began singing at 7 and went on to work as a vocalist with the Benny Goodman and Harry James orchestras. She married trumpet player James in 1935 at the age of 17 and would later introduce him to the sound of a young crooner named Frank Sinatra.

“It is easy to be seduced just by being in the presence of someone who has known firsthand so many of the history makers of jazz,” said Mooney. “What could be missed, however, is her story, her life in music, her career.”

The book recounts Tobin’s memories of “her first date with trumpeter Harry James, how she and the other orchestra wives snuck backstage at Carnegie Hall for the infamous Benny Goodman concert in 1938, personal stories about John Hammond, George Simon, Frank Sinatra, Ben Pollack, Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian, Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong,...the list seems endless.”

Tobin was born in Denton County in 1918. She won a CBS Radio Talent Contest at age 14. After divorcing James in 1943, Tobin stepped away from touring to raise their children. She continued to do some recording and performing.

In 1962 Tobin performed at the Newport Jazz Festival where she met her second husband, clarinetist Michael Andrew “Peanuts” Hucko. She would go on to record and tour the world with the Glenn Miller Orchestra — led by Hucko, who had played with orchestra before Miller’s death in 1944.

The Tobin-Hucko Jazz Collection was created in 2008 at Texas A&M University-Commerce to house Tobin’s collection of original musical arrangements, press clippings, programs, recordings, playbills, and photographs.

In addition to his course offerings for the School of Music,  Mooney teaches regularly in the Honors College. He is a classical and jazz guitarist and has performed in concert with Dizzy Gillespie and David Amram. Mooney holds a master’s degree in music education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a doctorate in musicology/ethnomusicology from The University of Texas at Austin.

texas jazz singer book cover
kevin mooney headshot
Dr. Kevin Mooney

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922