Jimmy Cook

Baritone Jimmy Cook was slated to replace Margaret Whiting in Freddie Slack’s newly reorganized band in August 1943. Whiting had signed on for the group’s one-week opening engagement at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. Whether Cook actually ended up joining Slack’s band is unknown. By October, he was with Tommy Dorsey’s band, with reports at the time claiming he’d never sang “in public” before his debut with Dorsey at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Dorsey heard Cook on a local West Coast radio program, Hollywood Showcase, a talent show, which he won, and signed him the same night, liking the way he performed “All or Nothing at All.”

Cook was released from Dorsey’s outfit in November and placed on reserve to make way for Teddy Walters, who caused a sensation but who never could agree on a contract with the bandleader and left at year’s end. Dorsey rehired Cook in January to take Walters’ place. He was let go later that month, however, when Dorsey brought in Bob Allen. Cook filed a complaint against Dorsey for breach of contract, eventually settling for $1,000.[1]

In January 1945, Cook joined Bob Mohr’s band. That same month he subbed for Buddy Di Vito with Harry James at the Los Angeles Palladium when Di Vito was called back to New York by his draft board for a physical. Cook was in Hal McIntyre’s orchestra by at least May of that year, but had to leave the group when he was found physically unable to go overseas for the band’s USO tour starting in June. He was replaced by another ex-Tommy Dorsey vocalist, Frankie Lester. He recorded solo on the Modern label in 1948. In an interview, Cook also claimed to have made several recordings with Spike Jones in addition to touring with the USO in Korea, though no sources could be found to verify either.[2]

Cook had enlisted in the Army prior to Pearl Harbor but had been honorably discharged due to a “defect in vision,” making him draft-exempt, which was perhaps his biggest draw for bandleaders at a time when male vocalists were being scooped up right and left by the armed services.

By the early 1950s, Cook was making the nightclub circuit, singing and accompanying himself on guitar and a miniature harmonica he called “Little Lady.” He’d begun the harmonica gimmick during a bout of laryngitis in Honolulu when he needed something to help him through his act. By the mid-1950s, he’d teamed up with Don Sutton and Dick Rock in an act called Don, Dick and Jimmy. The trio made several recordings on the Crown label in 1954 and 1955. Modern re-released Cook’s solo recordings in 1956.[3]


  1. Cook himself later claimed to have spent eight months touring with Dorsey. He also claimed to have replaced Dick Haymes in Dorsey’s band, which was entirely untrue. Haymes left in May 1943 and Skip Nelson had taken his place. Cook had replaced Nelson. ↩︎

  2. These claims come from the same interview as those in the note above. During his nightclub days, Cook billed himself as a former singer with Dorsey, James, and Jones. ↩︎

  3. There were other better-known Jimmy Cooks during the 1940s and 1950s. Saxophonist Jimmy Cook played with several name bands before forming his own popular orchestra in 1960. Another Jimmy Cook led a Hawaiian music act. ↩︎


  1. “Slack Opens at Golden Gate with New Band.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1943: 12.
  2. “TD Will Hold Men With New 40-Week Pact.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1943: 3.
  3. Holly, Hal. “Los Angeles Band Briefs.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1943: 6.
  4. “On the Stand: Tommy Dorsey.” Billboard 16 Oct. 1943: 16.
  5. “Bands Dug by the Beat: Tommy Dorsey.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1943: 16.
  6. Stevenson, L.L. “Tommy Dorsey Reduces Fast Training Band.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph [Bluefield, West Virginia] 11 Nov. 1943: 4.
  7. “Never a Dull Moment for TD, It Seems.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1944: 3.
  8. “Bob Mohr Signs New Vocalist.” Arcadia Tribune [Arcadia, California] 18 Jan. 1945: 2-1.
  9. “Jimmy Cook Set As TD Vocalist.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1944: 1.
  10. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1944: 5.
  11. “James to Take Over Pabst Summer Airer.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1945: 14.
  12. “McIntyre in E.T.O. via George Moffett.” Billboard 14 Jul. 1945: 16.
  13. “Platter Chatter.” Richmond Collegian 21 Sep. 1945: 2.
  14. Advertising. Tuscon Daily Citizen 12 Oct. 1951: 20.
  15. Castillo, Ed. “Laryngitis Behind It All.” San Antonio Light 25 Jan. 1953: 10.
  16. “Trio Appears at 'Saddle.'” Bakersfield Californian 23 Aug. 1955: 21.