Tommy Tucker

Photo of Tommy Tucker
  • Birth Name

    Gerald Duppler
  • Born

    May 18, 1908
    Souris, North Dakota
  • Died

    July 13, 1989 (age 81)
    Sarasota, Florida
  • Featured Vocalists

    Amy Arnell

Bandleader Tommy Tucker led a successful hotel and ballroom orchestra in the 1930s and 1940s. His particular brand of slow dance music was squarely, pun intended, in the category known as “mickey mouse” music. Known for his tag line “It’s Tommy Tucker Time,” Tucker managed a long and successful career within his niche and briefly managed to gain national fame in late 1941 with the hit recording “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” sung by vocalist Amy Arnell.

Tucker graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1929.[1] Unlike many university educated bandleaders, Tucker did not play with his college band. Instead, he paid his way through school playing piano with professional orchestras. Ironically, six months after graduation, Tucker ended up joining that same college band, now out on its own, and was eventually chosen leader. Tucker’s orchestra remained rather tight-knit over the years. Though some of the original members of the band dropped out from time to time, they always returned. Of the orchestra’s grouping in November 1940, all but one musician was part of the original band.

In May 1936, Tucker had six vocal soloists. Arnell joined the orchestra at some point prior to March 1936 after Tucker heard her on Phil Baker’s Detroit radio show and offered her a job. She quickly became the band’s featured performer and remained with Tucker until late 1943, though she took several leaves of absence in the 1940s. In May 1942, Arnell had an emergency appendectomy, and Tucker brought in Babs Stewart to fill in. In May 1943, Arnell underwent a spinal operation. Tucker initially announced he wouldn’t replace her during her absence, and she returned in June. She ended up back in the hospital again that same month, however, awaiting another surgery. Tucker then hired Carol Page to substitute.[2]

Novelty singer Kerwin Sommerville had joined the band by 1937, becoming a long-term member. Ray Hoskins was male balladeer in 1937, staying through at least August 1938. Ernest McLean sang in October 1939, and Al Knapp sang novelty tunes in 1940 and 1941. Kelly Rand was male vocalist in March 1940, with Don Brown having taken that role by August 1940. Brown, Sommerville, and Arnell became the core of Tucker’s vocal department in the early 1940s. Tucker’s vocalists often combined to form a group known variously as the The Voices Three, The Voices Four, or even the Voices Five.

Tucker’s band worked on various radio programs, including Fibber McGee and Molly in 1936-37, George Jessel’s program in 1938, and NBC’s Pot O’Gold in 1940 and 1941. The orchestra made its first recordings on Vocalion in 1937, switching to Okeh in 1940. Okeh began to promote Tucker heavily, and the band finally started to gain traction.

During a 1941 recording session, Arnell sang with a sore throat. Neither she nor Tucker were completely happy with the results of the session, but Tucker decided to okay the B record, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” which became their most successful recording, selling over 500,000 copies and moving the band from being a $500 a night orchestra into the top earning bracket. The song also made Arnell into a major star in her own right. Tucker and Arnell had first heard the song sung by Bon Bon at Lou’s Moravian Inn in Philadelphia in 1940. The band moved to Columbia Records in 1942.

Post-Arnell Years

By mid-1943, Arnell had begun to look towards a career on the screen or stage, and in December she left the band. Without Arnell, the orchestra’s popularity dipped, though not dramatically. To replace Arnell, Tucker used a girl trio, the Three Two Timers. Tucker did not record with a solo female singer again until mid-1947, when Madelyn Russell sang on four sides. Brown and Sommerville vocalized on most of the orchestra’s recordings during this period.[3]

In fall 1947, Tucker disbanded, taking a much needed break. He returned to active status in mid-1949, signing with MGM records, with Brown and Sommerville as vocalists. Sommerville was gone by 1950. Brown stayed into 1951.

Tucker retired from the music business in 1959. He spent a year teaching high school English in New Jersey before accepting a position as Assistant Professor of Music at Monmouth College. He later became Dean of the Music Department. He retired in 1978 and spent his remaining years in Florida.

Tommy Tucker passed away in 1989 at age 81.


  1. Reports in the 1930s gave Tucker’s college major as music, while Down Beat magazine gave it as economics in a 1946 article. In one 1938 article, Tucker was described as a popular student who was engaged in campus government, which might indicate economics. However, in 1946 Tucker began to teach a course in harmony and counterpoint at Bergen college in New Jersey and later went on to teach music at other institutions. ↩︎

  2. Emily Lane was also a vocalist for Tucker in the 1930s, though no details of her career could be found. ↩︎

  3. Yolo O’Brien was said to be a Tucker vocalist at some point during this period. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Music, Song And Lecture At Auto Show.” Syracuse Herald 30 Mar. 1936, 6.
  3. “Gen. Motors Show Closes.” Syracuse Herald 5 Apr. 1936, 2-C.
  4. “Amy Arnell With Tommy Tucker's Band Tonight.” Cumberland Evening Times [Cumberland, Maryland] 29 Apr. 1936, 13.
  5. “Amusements.” The Mansfield News-Journal [Mansfield, Ohio] 7 May 1936, 7.
  6. “Orchestra at Park Has Six Soloists.” The Pittsburgh Press 23 May 1936, 6.
  7. “Tommy Tucker Band and Amy Arnell Back at Enna Jettick.” Syracuse Herald 9 Aug. 1936, 8-D.
  8. Advertisement. “Tommy Tucker.” El Paso Herald Post 21 Oct. 1936, 8.
  9. Canfield, Homer. “Radiologic.” Santa Ana Daily Register 11 Dec. 1937: 8.
  10. “Tommy Tucker Coming.” Monessen Daily Independent [Monessen, Pennsylvania] 22 Nov. 1938: 5.
  11. “Radio.” Indiana Evening Gazette [Indiana, Pennsylvania] 24 Aug. 1939: 18.
  12. “On the Air: Tommy Tucker.” Billboard 10 Aug. 1940: 12.
  13. “Tommy Tucker Opens Sophomore Hop.” Auburn Plainsman [Auburn, Alabama] 8 Nov. 1940: 3.
  14. “Tums Radio Show For Tommy Tucker.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 14.
  15. “Favorites.” Down Beat 1 May 1941: 7.
  16. “Johnson, Tucker Orks Draw in A.P.” Billboard 30 Aug. 1941: 26.
  17. “Lucky Breaks Bring Success to Orchestras.” The Ogden Standard-Examiner [Ogden, Utah] 26 Apr. 1942: 13-B.
  18. Tucker, George. “Man About Manhattan.” Prescott Evening Courier [Prescott, Arizona] 22 May 1942: 4.
  19. Tucker, George. “In New York.” The Frederick Post [Frederick, Maryland] 27 May 1942: 4.
  20. “Diggin' the Bands Where They Play: Tommy Tucker.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1942: 23.
  21. “Tommy Tucker Sells Out at Palmer House.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1942: 2.
  22. “T. Tucker Going Big in Chi.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1942: 11.
  23. “Tucker Crew For Chicago Theater.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1942: 5.
  24. “Profiling the Players: Tommy Tucker Orchestra.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1942: 19.
  25. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 17 Oct. 1942: 24.
  26. “On the Air: Tommy Tucker.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1943: 20.
  27. “Vaudeville Reviews: Roxy, New York.” Billboard 1 May 1943: 15.
  28. “Amy Arnell with Famed Orchestra.” Hagerstown Morning Herald [Hagerstown, Maryland] 6 May 1943: 6.
  29. “In Short.” Billboard 22 May 1943: 17.
  30. “Amy Arnell to Take a Leave.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1943: 2.
  31. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 12 Jun. 1943: 16.
  32. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 26 Jun. 1943: 26.
  33. “Carol Page Now Sings for Tucker.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1943: 2.
  34. “Vaudeville Reviews: Roxy, New York.” Billboard 30 Oct. 1943: 20.
  35. “Amy Doesn't Want to--Oh, No?” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1943: 3.
  36. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 1 Apr. 1944: 25.
  37. “Vaudeville Reviews: Strand, New York.” Billboard 12 Aug. 1944: 25.
  38. Cover. “Tommy Tucker.” Billboard 9 Dec. 1944: cover.
  39. “Where Is?” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1944: 10.
  40. “Tommy Tucker Teaches Jazz.” Down Beat 23 Sep. 1946: 15.
  41. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 29 Jul. 1949: 17.
  42. “Tucker Signs MGM Wax Pact.” Billboard 24 Sep. 1949: 20.