Skitch Henderson

Music Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Lyle “Skitch” Henderson (1918-2005) talks about his early years, and working as musical director with such luminaries as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, and Bing Crosby. He recalls being hired by NBC, first for radio, and working with Arturo Toscanini. He recounts his years as musical director on Tonight with Steve Allen, and staying on when the show was taken over by Johnny Carson in 1962. Henderson describes appearing on other shows like Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, The Kate Smith Hour, Captain Kangaroo, and The Mike Douglas Show. He concludes with a discussion of then-recent activities including a stint with the New York Pops, and of his advice to aspiring television musicians. Karen Herman conducted the interview in New York City, New York on July 25, 2002.

"Bing Crosby used to say to me, 'never say no, always say, yes, and do what the hell you want.' I think that’s a very good philosophy."

Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his first job at a radio station; on working with Judy Garland early in his career; on taking various jobs in Hollywood
On working with Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey at the NBC radio studios on Sunset and Vine; on working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in nightclubs and on radio, and on getting his nickname from Bing Crosby; on the first time he saw television, and on the state of the NBC television network when he joined

Chapter 2

On being a "morning man" for NBC radio, on working with Arturo Toscanini as a musician for NBC, and on Toscanini's vision of television; on David Sarnoff dismantling the NBC Symphony, and on becoming music director for NBC
On becoming the musical director of Tonight, and on working with Steve Allen on Tonight; on a typical day putting together Tonight in the '50s when Steve Allen was host
On the end of Steve Allen's stint as the host of Tonight; on deciding the music that was to be performed on Tonight, and on Tonight announcer Gene Rayburn; on rehearsing with musical guests of Tonight

Chapter 3

On the popularity of Steve Allen's Tonight, and on network interference or censorship with the show; on the style of music on Tonight, and on changing the music up for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson; on the sponsors influence over the music of Tonight, and on working with Dave Garroway on Garroway at Large
On returning to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on working with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on how the music on Steve Allen's Tonight differed from the music on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on being involved with the sketches on the show

Chapter 4

On the "Stump the Band" segment from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on other recurring segments featuring the band on the show; on dealing with sound on television as opposed to a live performance; on doing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 11:15pm to 11:30pm with Ed McMahon in the early years, and on the wardrobe of the band
On leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1966; on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on the legacy of Steve Allen and his version of Tonight
On working with Victor Borge; on working on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar; on working on Wonderful Town, U.S.A.
On working on Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle and The Kate Smith Hour; on working on Captain Kangaroo starring Bob Keeshan, and To Tell the Truth; on working on The Jonathan Winters Show

Chapter 5

On Steve Allen's man on the street segments on Tonight; on appearing on various talk shows; on ending his association with NBC
On the Hollywood Blacklist; on heading up the New York Pops; on his then-recent projects
On his proudest career achievement, and on his playing for three hour live on NBC the evening of the Kennedy assassination; on career regrets; on advice to aspiring television musicians
Shows

Captain Kangaroo

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on Captain Kangaroo starring Bob Keeshan
02:14

Garroway at Large

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the sponsors influence over the music of Tonight, and on working with Dave Garroway on Garroway at Large
03:28

Jonathan Winters Show, The (1956-57)

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on The Jonathan Winters Show
02:33

Kate Smith Hour

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on the Kate Smith Hour
01:40

Lawrence Welk Show, The

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Lawrence Welk Show
00:53

Merv Griffin Show, The

View Show Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Merv Griffin Show
01:11

Mike Douglas Show, The

View Show Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Mike Douglas Show
00:57

Texaco Star Theater

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle
01:16

To Tell the Truth

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on To Tell the Truth
01:30

Tonight

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on becoming the musical director of Tonight, and on working with Steve Allen
06:36
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on a typical day putting together Tonight in the '50s when Steve Allen was host
04:41
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the end of Steve Allen's stint as the host of Tonight
02:39
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on deciding the music that was to be performed on Tonight, and on Tonight announcer Gene Rayburn
02:50
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on rehearsing with musical guests of Tonight
01:59
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the popularity of Steve Allen's Tonight, and on network interference or censorship with the show
05:30
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the style of music on Tonight, and on changing the music up for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson
03:22
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the sponsors influence over the music of Tonight, and on working with Dave Garroway on Garroway at Large
03:28
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on how the music on Steve Allen's Tonight differed from the music on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:12
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the legacy of Steve Allen and his version of Tonight
02:04
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on Steve Allen's man on the street segments on Tonight
03:38

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

View Show Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on returning to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:32
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:30
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on how the music on Steve Allen's Tonight differed from the music on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:12
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on being involved in sketches on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:12
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the "Stump the Band" segment from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on other recurring segments featuring the band on the show
03:53
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on dealing with sound on television as opposed to a live performance
01:11
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on doing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 11:15pm to 11:30pm with Ed McMahon in the early years, and on the wardrobe of the band
03:29
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1966
01:56
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00

Wonderful Town, U.S.A.

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on Wonderful Town, U.S.A.
01:35

Your Show of Shows

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar
01:35
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on advice to aspiring musicians to desire to work in television
01:21

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the popularity of Steve Allen's Tonight, and on network interference or censorship with the show
05:28

Historic Events and Social Change

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on his proudest career achievement, and on his playing for three hour live on NBC the evening of the Kennedy assassination
03:25

Hollywood Blacklist

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the Hollywood Blacklist
03:55

Industry Crossroads

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the Hollywood Blacklist
03:55

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on his proudest career achievement, and on his playing for three hour live on NBC the evening of the Kennedy assassination
03:25

Television Industry

View Topic
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the popularity of Steve Allen's Tonight, and on network interference or censorship with the show
05:28
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the Hollywood Blacklist
03:55
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on advice to aspiring musicians to desire to work in television
01:21
Professions

Music Director

View Profession
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on hiring musicians for NBC, and on hiring Doc Severinsen
02:44
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on dealing with sound on television as opposed to a live performance
01:11
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on his musical style
01:50

Music Professionals

View Profession
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on hiring musicians for NBC, and on hiring Doc Severinsen
02:44
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on dealing with sound on television as opposed to a live performance
01:11
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on his musical style
01:50
Genres

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Lawrence Welk Show
00:53

Talk Shows

View Genre
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on being musical director for Steve Allen's Tonight
18:45
Lyle "Skich" Henderson on acting as music director on Steve Allen's Tonight and on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
25:35
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on Steve Allen's man on the street segments on Tonight
03:38
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Mike Douglas Show
00:57
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Merv Griffin Show
01:11
People

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on becoming the musical director of Tonight, and on working with Steve Allen on Tonight
06:35
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on a typical day putting together Tonight in the '50s when Steve Allen was host
04:40
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the popularity of Steve Allen's Tonight, and on network interference or censorship with the show
05:28
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on Steve Allen's man on the street segments on Tonight
03:38

Victor Borge

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Victor Borge
01:41

Sid Caesar

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar
01:35

Johnny Carson

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on returning to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:33
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:30

Bing Crosby

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in nightclubs and on radio, and on getting his nickname from Bing Crosby
03:52

Mike Douglas

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Mike Douglas Show
00:57

Judy Garland

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Judy Garland early in his career
02:31

Dave Garroway

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on the sponsors influence over the music of Tonight, and on working with Dave Garroway on Garroway at Large
03:27

Merv Griffin

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Merv Griffin Show
01:11

Bob Hope

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in nightclubs and on radio, and on getting his nickname from Bing Crosby
03:52

Ed McMahon

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Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:30

Gene Rayburn

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on deciding the music that was to be performed on Tonight, and on Tonight announcer Gene Rayburn
02:51

David Sarnoff

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on David Sarnoff dismantling the NBC Symphony, and on becoming music director for NBC
02:15

Doc Severinsen

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on hiring musicians for NBC, and on hiring Doc Severinsen
02:44

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on working with Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey at the NBC radio studios on Sunset and Vine
05:57

Arturo Toscanini

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on being a "morning man" for NBC radio, on working with Arturo Toscanini as a musician for NBC, and on Toscanini's vision of television
05:32

Lawrence Welk

View Person Page
Lyle "Skitch" Henderson on The Lawrence Welk Show
00:53

All Interviews

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