After playing jazz in Los Angeles for severl years, he joined Lionel Hampton's orchestra in 1940. From 1944 on he mostly worked as a leader. Perhaps his most impressive performance as a sideman in those years was at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1944. From 1966 till his retirement in the 1980s he led a group which played traditional jazz at Disneyland.
His best known record is of "Open the Door, Richard" (which he co-wrote), which was a hit in 1947 and was recorded by many other artists. He is also known for his playing on T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday."