Tonight Bandleader Skitch Henderson Dies

11/02/2005 at 08:35 AM EST

Tonight Bandleader Skitch Henderson Dies
GEtty
Grammy-winning conductor Skitch Henderson, the bearded first bandleader on NBC's Tonight Show, died of natural causes on Tuesday at his home in New Milford, Conn., said Barbara Burnside, spokeswoman for New Milford Hospital. He was 87.

Born in England, Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson moved to the United States in the 1930s, getting his big break in 1937, when he filled in for a sick pianist touring with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

After the tour wrapped, Henderson used the original pianist's ticket and went to Hollywood, where he joined the MGM music department and played piano for Bob Hope's radio show – which, in turn, led to his meeting Bing Crosby, who became Henderson's mentor.

When Tonight started in 1954, with host Steve Allen, Henderson led the band – a gig he continued for a time with the next host, Jack Paar. In 1983, Henderson founded the New York Pops.

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Chelsea Clinton is Pregnant!
  • Exclusive Royal Tour Diary

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters