Nicknamed The Velvet Fog, Mel Tormé was a classic crooner with a rich, smooth voice and unshakeably cool delivery, who was once described by Bing Crosby as "the best musical performer I have ever seen". Born in Chicago, Illinois, Tormé was raised in a music-loving Russian-Jewish family. By the age of four he was performing at a local restaurant as a novelty act with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra and by the end of the roaring 1920s he had established himself as a child star by performing in vaudeville troupes and radio plays. Precociously talented, he was just 15 when he wrote the song 'Lament to Love' which was recorded by Harry James and went on to reach number seven on the US Hit Parade in 1941, while the young Tormé soon moved on to play in comedian Chico Marx's band and sing lead for clarinetist Artie Shaw. With his own vocal group the Mel-Tones he released a string of singles in the mid-1940s, and was turned into a genuine teen idol with roles in MGM movies 'Good News' and 'Words and Music'. He scored his first number one single 'Careless Hands' in 1949, and had other big hits with 'Again', 'Blue Moon' and 'The Four Winds and Seven Seas', but it was albums 'California Suite' and 'It's a Blue World' that helped him to slowly grow from a flashy, youthful heartthrob into a respected, cool jazz pioneer. As the 1950s went on, his partnership with arranger Marty Paich put him on a par with the likes of Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr. and his time with Verve Records also produced a series of classy swing albums such as 'I Dig the Duke! I Dig the Count!' and 'My Kind of Music'. He also had a great R&B hit in the UK with 'Comin' Home Baby' in the 1960s, but it wasn't until he teamed up with pianist George Shearing in 1982 that he really won over the critics and was awarded the Grammy for Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance two years in a row. He will always be best recalled though for writing the classic seasonal number 'The Christmas Song'. Away from music he also acted in a handful of US TV shows, wrote and arranged for 'The Judy Garland Show' and wrote his autobiography 'It Wasn't All Velvet'. But after 65 years as a popular performer he was forced to retire in 1996 after suffering a stroke. He was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, but died later that year aged 73.