About 55 of Louise Tobin’s close friends gathered Sunday at the Women’s Club Building to mark her 100th birthday. A Denton woman, Tobin was a national singing and recording star in the 1930s and ’40s singing with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.
Many of Tobin’s family were present, including one of her sons, Harry James, who lives in Fairview. Another son, Tim, a Nacogdoches attorney, had a court case and couldn’t come.
Gary Hammett, former mayor of Aubrey, the city where Louise was born, presented her a certificate of appreciation from the city of Aubrey.
Jackie Fuller, president of the Aubrey Historical Society, presented Louise with a historic photograph of her mother.
Tobin was born Nov. 18, 1918, in Aubrey. After her father died, the family moved to Denton so the children could get a good education. She began singing at 14 at Denton High School and later entered a contest sponsored by CBS Radio and won.
Band leader Art Hicks got permission from the Tobin family to hire Louise to sing with his band while she was still in high school. The band toured a national movie theater circuit, performing in movie theaters across the country. The lead trumpet player in Hicks’ band was Harry James.
Once, she and other members of the band took a day off and went to hear the Benny Goodman Band in Chicago. Four years later, she was the featured singer for Goodman. By then, his featured trumpet player was James.
She sang with Goodman and married James, who formed his own band, and with whom she had two sons, Harry and Tim. Both graduated from Denton High School.
The Harry James Band was playing in New York. The band needed a boy singer when they heard a young singer on the radio. Harry was busy, so he sent Louise to New Jersey to check him out. Louise went to the club where the singer worked and asked about their boy singer.
“We don’t have a boy singer,” the club owner said, “but we do have a waiter who sings pretty well.”
Louise listened to the waiter and signed him up. It was Frank Sinatra.
After 9 1/2 years, Louise and Harry divorced and Louise returned to Denton to raise her sons “to lead very normal lives.”
In 1962, she got a call from George Simon asking her to sing at the Newport Jazz Festival.
“You sang at Newport the way the young Billie Holiday, the young Ella Fitzgerald and Mildred Bailey used to sing — with warmth and a total lack of calculation,” wrote Whitney Ballett of the New Yorker in a letter to Louise.
It was at the Newport festival she met clarinet player Peanuts Hucko. They met again in 1964. In 1967, he called and asked if she would like to sing at a club he was opening in Denver.
She went “and stayed to marry the boss,” she said. They performed together for the next 20 or so years.
Hucko, like Louise, was a musical prodigy. In 1942, at age 17, he joined the Army and was assigned to the Glenn Miller Army Air Corps Band. The rest is history. As lead clarinet, Hucko contributed to the Glenn Miller sound.
For two years, he was featured on The Lawrence Welk Show as the “King of the Clarinet.”
Hucko died in 2003.
Louise’s hit records included Deed I Do, Scatterbrain, Blue Orchids and All Through the Day. Her biggest hit, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” was No. 2 on the Hit Parade in 1941 for 15 weeks.