HomeAmerican EntertainmentMusicLouise Tobin, Singer Who Helped Discover Frank Sinatra, Dead at 104

Louise Tobin, Singer Who Helped Discover Frank Sinatra, Dead at 104

by Taylor Cunningham
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(Denver Post via Getty Images)

Louise Tobin, the big-band singer who helped Frank Sinatra rise to fame, has passed away. She was 104.

Tobin’s biographer, Kevin Mooney, confirmed that she died at her granddaughter’s house in Carrollton, Texas, on Nov. 26. Mooey did not immediately know the cause of death.

The raspy-voiced songstress began singing when she was a teenager and enjoyed a successful career during the 1930s and 1940s. During her time in the industry, she took the stage with singers such as Will Bradley Benny Goodman, and Bobby Hackett.

Tobin also recorded several standards with Goodman. Some of her most famous projects include There’ll Be Some Changes Made and I Didn’t Know What Time it Was.

While she was seemingly solidifying her place in music by performing with Goodman, she ultimately decided to leave his group to raise her two sons that she had with her then-husband, Harry James.

James was a well-known trumpet player and orchestra leader. And the couple decided that someone needed to stay home with the kids, but it couldn’t be Harry.

“We were more trying to establish Harry than we were trying to establish me,” she once told the Dallas Morning News.

Louise Tobin Convinced Her Husband to Hire the Then-Unknown Frank Sinatra

In 1939, Louise Tobin was still taking a hiatus from singing, and he husband, who also worked with Goodman, had just decided to branch out on his own. When he did, he was in desperate need of a male singer. And Tobin was determined to help him find that singer. Eventually, she did find someone to help helm James’ group, and it was the legendary Frank Sinatra.

According to jass historian Will Friedwald, Tobin was with James in a Manhattan hotel room one day when she first heard Sinatra’s voice. James was sleeping at the time, but she was so awe-struck by Sinatra’s sound, that she rushed to the bedside to wake him.

“I heard this boy singing, and I thought, ‘There’s a fair singer!’ ” she told Friedwald in a vintage interview. “So I woke Harry and said, ‘Honey, you might want to hear this kid on the radio. The boy singer on this show sounds pretty good.’ That was the end of it, as far as I was concerned.”

James was also impressed. And the next night, he headed to the broadcast that featured Sinatra.

“We don’t have a singer,” the broadcast manager told James when he asked to meet the man who sang the night prior. “But we have an emcee who sings a little bit.”

It was at that moment that Frank Sinatra was officially discovered. James offered him a year-long $ 75-a-week contract that night. And shortly after, the two were busy recording. Old Blue Eyes ended up leaving James for Tommy Dorsey’s band, and the rest is history.

“Harry deserves the credit,” Ms. Tobin later said. “I just woke him up.”

Tobin and James’ marriage eventually came to an end due to his “wandering eye” and “swelling ego.” James went on to marry Betty Grable, and Tobin later wed jazz clarinetist Michael “Peanuts” Hucko.

Tobin returned to music in the 1960s and went on to perform with her second husband for three decades.

Louise Tobin is survived by her sons, Harry James Jr. and Jerin Timothyray “Tim” James; and her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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