American Masters – Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story

Air date: 04/02/2021

American Masters Turns up the Volume on the Life  and Legacy of a Jazz Music Legend with  Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story, Premiering April 2 on PBS   

Features new conversations with Doc Severinsen as well as original interviews with Questlove, Chris Botti, Arturo Sandoval, Bob Saget and Martin Mull

After more than 30 years as the colorful bandleader of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, master trumpeter Doc Severinsen continues to defy nature well into his 90s with a grueling schedule of touring, performing and teaching. An engaging new documentary, American Masters – Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story, traces the life and groundbreaking career of the unstoppable musical icon, revealing his personal trials and underscoring a remarkable journey of inspiration and obsession. American Masters – Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story premieres nationwide Friday, April 2 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app.

The film features original interviews with friends, colleagues and famous fans inspired by the music icon, including Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon bandleader Questlove, master trumpeters Chris Botti and Arturo Sandoval and comedians Bob Saget and Martin Mull, as well as intimate conversations with the irreverent, irrepressible Severinsen and his family members. Archival and vibrant new concert footage along with hilarious clips from The Tonight Show showcase Severinsen’s unparalleled musical virtuosity and comedic flair.

The son of a dentist, Carl H “Little Doc” Severinsen was born in 1927 in rural Oregon and quickly became obsessed with the trumpet, wining the Music Educator’s National Contest at the age of 12. The film traces the musician’s childhood, early marriages and fledgling career in big band, leading to his incredible, decades-long tenure on The Tonight Show where he became beloved by millions of American viewers for his unforgettably flashy wardrobe, fearless leadership of the band and camaraderie with host Johnny Carson.

In 1992, when Carson retired from The Tonight Show, Severinsen moved to Mexico with his third wife. However, the band leader couldn’t give up performing; he even formed a new band, The San Miguel Five. The nonstop touring ultimately ended his marriage. Severinsen shares a glimpse into his new life with trumpet player Cathy Leach, someone who loves the trumpet as much as he does and understands his passion to play.

Now in its 34th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants — those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim and 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.

American Masters – Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story is a production of Just Bright Productions in association with American Masters Pictures. Kevin S. Bright and Jeff Consiglio are directors. Kevin S. Bright is executive producer. Ariana Garfinkel and Jeff Consiglio are producers, Nancy Severinsen is co-producer, and Brad Allgood is editor. Michael Kantor is executive producer of American Masters.

Major funding for American Masters – Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story is provided by National Endowment for the Arts.

Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, The Cheryl & Philip Milstein family, Judith & Burton Resnick,  Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation,  The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and public television viewers.  

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEENWLIW21WLIW-FM and operator of NJ PBS, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

Photos
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Young Carl "Doc" Severinsen and his beloved trumpet (Color). Credit: Severinsen family

Young Carl "Doc" Severinsen growing up in Arlington, Oregon (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Five-year-old Carl "Doc" Severinsen growing up in Arlington, Oregon (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Twelve-year-old Carl "Doc" Severinsen, a champion trumpet player (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Doc Severinsen performing at a concert in the early 1980s (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Baby Carl "Doc" Severinsen in his high chair in Arlington, Oregon (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Young Carl "Doc" Severinsen and his beloved trumpet (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Doc Severinsen with his children Nancy, Allen and Cynthia in an early family photo. Credit: Severinsen family

Young Carl "Doc" Severinsen and a cat friend growing up in Arlington, Oregon (B&W). Credit: Severinsen family

Doc Severinsen performing in concert at the age of 90. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen rides a horse near his home in Tennessee. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen performing in concert at the age of 90. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen practices the trumpet in a stairwell while on tour performing. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen, Gil Gutierrez and the San Miguel Five in concert at Muckenthaler Cultural Center. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen and a horse friend near his home in Tennessee. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen conducts the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in Simsbury, Connecticut. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen performs with the One O'Clock Lab Band in Sherman, Texas. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen working out at Gold's Gym with his trainer Karen Hickey in Tennessee. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen and trumpeter Chris Botti at a recording session in New York City. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen doing planks at Gold's Gym with his trainer Karen Hickey in Tennessee. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen performing for audiences in his nineties. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen rehearses with the One O'Clock Lab Band at University of North Texas. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen performs in his nineties at New York City's The Cutting Room in 2018. Credit: Just Bright Productions

Doc Severinsen relives a childhood memory at home in Tennessee.. Credit: Just Bright Productions