Tommy Newsom, the accomplished but non-descript former backup bandleader for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on NBC, died of cancer April 28 in Portsmouth, Va., his hometown. He was 78.
Carson often made Newsom the butt of his jokes, and nicknamed him "Mr. Excitement" but Newsom's deadpan humor made him a popular character on the show, which he joined as a saxsophonist in 1962. He retired from the show in 1992, when Carson did.
As a musician he was no joke. He recorded with several top performers and wrote and arranged symphonic pieces.