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, and signed him the same night, liking the way he performed “All or Nothing at All.” He was gone from Dorsey’s outfit by the end of November.
In January 1945, Cook joined Bob Mohr’s band. He was in Hal McIntyre’s orchestra by at least May of that year, though, but had to leave the band 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. In an interview, Cook claimed to have also sang for Harry James at Hollywood’s Palladium and made several recordings with Spike Jones in addition to touring with the USO in Korea.
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.
- 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.
- 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.