Last Updated: October 12, 2023
Richest CelebritiesSingers
Net Worth:
$50 Million
Date of Birth:
Sep 13, 1925 - Jun 5, 1999 (73 years old)
Place of Birth:
Singer, Actor, Musician, Music Arranger, Film Score Composer, Drummer, Pianist, Author, Composer
United States of America
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What was Mel Tormé's net worth?

Mel Tormé was an American musician, singer, composer, arranger, actor, and author who had a net worth equal to $50 million at the time of his death (inflation adjusted). Mel Torme was born in Chicago, Illinois in September 1925 and passed away in June 1999. He was a jazz musician and played the drums, piano, and ukulele. Torme composed the music for "The Christmas Song" and co-wrote the lyrics along with Bob Wells.

Torme's single "Careless Hands" reached #1 on the US Pop chart. As an actor he starred in several films including Higher and Higher, Let's Go Steady, Junior Miss, Janie Gets Married, Word and Music, Girls Town, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, The Patsy, and more. Torme was married four times including to Candy Toxton and Janette Scott. In 1981 he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1541 Vine Street. Mel Torme passed away on June 5, 1999 at 73 years old.

"Chestnuts Roasting" Royalties

More formally known as "The Christmas Song", Mel's 1944 Christmas classic would eventually go on to become one of the 10 highest royalty-producing songs of all time. Mel, who ironically was Jewish, would later describe the song as his "annuity". The song has since been covered by countless massive artists including Michael Buble, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, NSYNC and many more. Despite having written more than 250 songs during his career, "The Christmas Song" was by far Mel's biggest financial success. To date the song has generated tens of millions in royalties for Mel's heirs.

Early Life

Mel Tormé was born on September 13, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois to parents William and Betty Tormé, His mother was a New York City Native while his father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. Tormé's proclivity for music was evident from an early age. He first performed professionally at the age of four with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. He also played drums in the drum-and-bugle corps at Shakespeare Elementary and voice acted in "The Romance of Helen Tent" and "Jack Armstrong, the All-Around American Boy" on the radio from 1933 to 1941. At the age of 13, he wrote his first song and published his first song, "Lament to Love," three years later. He attended Hyde Park High School and graduated in the early 1940s.


In 1942, Tormé became a member of a band led by Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers. He was the singer, drummer, and also created some of the musical arrangements. He remained in the band until 1943, the same year he made his movie debut in Frank Sinatra's first film, "Higher and Higher." In 1944, he formed the vocal quintet, Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tones, which was modeled after the group Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers. The Mel-Tones included Les Baxter and Ginny O'Connor. The band enjoyed several hits and were among the first jazz-influenced vocal groups.

Tormé was called to serve in the United States Army during World War II but was discharged in 1946. That year, he wrote "The Christmas Song," which would go on to become his most popular composition. It was first recorded by Nat King Cole. In 1947, he started a solo singing career. He often sang at New York's Copacabana and recorded several romantic hits for Decca and with the Artie Shaw Orchestra for Musicraft. In 1949, he signed a contract with Capitol records where his first record, "Careless Hands," became a number one hit. He also recorded covers of the songs "Again" and "Blue Moon." His composition, "California Suite," became Capitol's first 12-inch LP album.

In the 1950s, he hosted a radio program called "Mel Tormé Time," which was broadcast on the short-lived Progressive Broadcasting System. From 1955 to 1957, he recorded several vocal jazz albums for Red Clyde's Bethlehem Records including "Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette." Other musicians grew to respect his impressive skills in arranging compositions. Tormé continued singing jazz over the next decades but also began covering pop tunes in the 1960s and 1970s. He had a couple of minor hits with "Mountain Greenery" and "Comin' Home Baby."


In addition to his successful music career, Tormé also had a successful acting career. In 1960, he appeared in the television crime drama "Dan Raven." He also had a role in the western "Walk Like a Dragon." From 1963 to 1963, he made a number of guest appearances on "The Judy Garland Show" and also wrote songs for the show. In 1967, he appeared with Lucille Ball in a two-part episode of "The Lucy Show." In the 1980s, he made nine guest appearances as himself on the situation comedy "Night Court." He also appeared on an episode of "Seinfeld" in 1995 and in a 1996 episode of "Sliders."

In the 1970s, jazz experienced a resurgence around the world, which prompted a revitalization of Tormé's career. He began performing frequently, sometimes as often as 200 times per year. In 1976, he won an Edison Award, the Dutch equivalent of a Grammy Award. He also made frequent appearances in the New York cabaret scene.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Tormé performed often with George Shearing. They recorded six albums together for Concord Records. He also toured with some other musicians like Marty Paich, Ken Peplowski, and Rob McConnel. During his later career, he performed frequently as a trio with John Colianni, John Leitham, and Donny Osborne. With this group, he recorded six albums and toured around the world.

Tormé also published a number of books throughout his life. His memoir, "The Other Side of the Rainbow," details his time as musical advisor for Judy Garland's television show. He published the novel "Wynner" in 1978. In 1988, he wrote his autobiography, "It Wasn't All Velvet." He also wrote a 1991 biography of Buddy Rich called "Traps, the Drum Wonder." In 1994, he published "My Singing Teachers: Reflections on Singing Popular Music.

Personal Life and Death

Tormé was married four times throughout his life. From 1949 to 1955, he was married to Candy Toxton. From 1956 to 1965, he was married to Arlene Miles. A year later, in 1966, he married Janette Scott. Their marriage ended in 1977. In 1984, he married his fourth wife, Ali Severson. They remained married until his death in 1999. He had five children – Steve, Melissa, Tracy, Daisy, and James – and two stepchildren – Carrie and Kurt. Several of his children later pursued careers in music and entertainment.

On August 8, 1996, Tormé suffered a stroke that brought an end to his 65-year singing career. In February of 1999, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Several months later, on June 5, 1999, he suffered a second stroke that ended his life. He was buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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