Sonny Burke (born Joseph Francis Burke; March 22, 1914, Scranton, Pennsylvania – May 31, 1980) was an accomplished musical arranger, composer, big band leader and producer. In 1937, he graduated from Duke University, where he had formed and led the jazz big band known as the Duke Ambassadors.
During the 1930s and 1940s he was a big band arranger in New York, worked with Sam Donahue's band, and during the 1940s and 1950s worked as an arranger for the Charlie Spivak and Jimmy Dorsey bands, among others. In 1955 he wrote, along with Peggy Lee, the songs to Disney's Lady and the Tramp. He also wrote songs with John Elliot for Disney's Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom which won the 1953 Oscar for Best Short Animated Feature.
He wrote the music for number of popular songs that continue to be regarded as 'standards'. These include, "Black Coffee", with lyric by Paul Francis Webster, and "Midnight Sun" co-written with jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. The songs famous lyric was added later by Johnny Mercer. Burke was an active arranger, conductor and 'A and R man' [Artists and repertoire] in major Hollywood recording studios, including and especially Decca Records. He also wrote and arranged the theme for the early 1960s television show Hennesey, a jazzy update of "Sailor's Hornpipe".
Later Burke became musical director of Reprise Records and was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums. He was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers such as Diana Shore, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.
He died on May 31, 1980, aged 66. He was survived by his wife Dorothy Gillis Burke and four children, including the eldest, Jerry Burke. His interment was at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.
- Sonny Burke plays Mambos (1951)
- Sonny Burke and his Orchestra I & II (1951)
- The Sonny Burke-Don Elliott Six (ca. 1960)
With Brass Fever
With Dizzy Gillespie
With Blue Mitchell
- African Violet (Impulse!, 1977)
- Cotter, Bill, The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History, p. 549, Hyperion, 1997. ISBN 0-7868-6359-5
- Guide to the Sonny Burke Papers Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University
- Jazz Archive at Duke University