Tommy Shepard began playing trombone in his junior year in high school. The next year he won a national solo contest and by the time he was 19 he was on the road with the Ben Bernie Orchestra. After twelve months with Ben Bernie, he enlisted in the United States Army and played in a variety of Army big bands, finally winding up with Wayne King’s Orchestra at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where he played for two years, making V-Discs, working bond rallies and generally supporting the nation’s spirits.
Released from service in 1946, he settled down in Chicago working first at the Chez Paree, then on the staff of the orchestras at NBC, ABC, and finally CBS.
While he was at ABC, Shepard was granted six months leave of absence in 1953 to join Stan Kenton on first trombone (his section mates were Frank Rosolino and Bill Russo). The invitation to join Kenton came as a direct result of a rehearsal...