Truman "Pinky" Tomlin (September 9, 1907 – December 12, 1987) was a singer, songwriter, and bandleader of the 1930s and 1940s. He also acted in occasional motion pictures. He wrote and published 22 songs, several of which were in the top ten on the "Hit Parade." In 1938, a song he had written, titled "In Ole Oklahoma," was named as Oklahoma’s state song by the Oklahoma State Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Born in Eros, Arkansas, Tomlin grew up in Durant, Oklahoma. He was nicknamed Pinky because his red hair and fair complexion sunburned easily. A boyhood fascination with music soon gave him a widespread reputation as a banjoist and, at age 16 he was hired to play on a riverboat in St. Louis, with the Louis Armstrong band. During that time, Pinky learned to play the guitar, which later became an important part of his live shows, both at the Roxy Theatre in New York and at the Biltmore Bowl in Hollywood.
"The Object of My Affection"
He came to national attention while attending the University of Oklahoma. He submitted his original composition, co written in 1934 by Coy Poe to Jimmy Grier. "The Object of My Affection" became a No. 1 hit late that year for Jimmie Grier's Coconut Grove Orchestra, featuring Pinky Tomlin's vocal (Brunswick 7308)., and Jimmie Grier, asked Tomlin himself to introduce it to the public. Tomlin had written the song for O.U. coed Joanne Alcorn of Ponca City, Oklahoma, whom he would later marry.
"Object" became a huge hit. It was recorded widely by orchestras and vocalists, but Tomlin's own vocal rendition became the best known. Ella Fitzgerald chose to sing it at her first "tryout" at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Pinky and Ella became lifelong friends.
Tomlin followed the song with a string of successful songs, including "What's the Reason (I'm Not Pleasin' You?)" and "The Love Bug Will Bite You." Hollywood beckoned, and Tomlin was featured in several films for various studios. In 1935 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offered to groom the young singer and build him up as an actor, but Tomlin preferred to concentrate on his musical career. Tomlin did star in four musical features for Melody Pictures in 1937-38; he also wrote the scores. These films were ambitious, despite their low budgets, and one of them even premiered at the prestigious Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
A guest appearance on Eddie Cantor's Texaco Town radio show led to a regular spot on the program, which Cantor rescinded when his sponsor's publicity man tried to recruit Tomlin as Cantor's replacement. Tomlin met this professional setback by organizing his own swing band in 1938. For more than two years "Pinky Tomlin and His Orchestra" played in theaters, nightclubs, and school proms across most of America, on a whirlwind schedule prepared by the agency. The band was successful, but the constant travel became difficult for Tomlin, as he was devoted to his family. After the tour, apart from a wartime stint with the USO, he confined his appearances to occasional motion pictures and television shows.
He returned to his interest in geology and founded a company in Beverly Hills called "Pinky Tomlin Oil Properties," where he enjoyed working until he retired in 1984. During this time, he had a television show in Los Angeles called Music Is My Beat. He also continued to perform for many charity events in Los Angeles, being especially active in the Beverly Hills Rotary Club. He died in North Hollywood, California on December 12, 1987.
Pinky Tomlin’s autobiography, appropriately titled The Object of My Affection, was published in 1981. Joanne and Pinky Tomlin remained happily married until their respective deaths in 1986 and 1987. They had two children: Sylvia Tomlin Burns of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Truman Virgil Tomlin, Jr., (Tom), of Valley Village, California.
- "Yi-Yi's Have It; Tomlin's Song Wins," The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), August 2, 1938, section 1, pp. 1, 2.
- The Object of My Affection, Pinky Tomlin, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981, p.18
- The Object of My Affection, Pinky Tomlin, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981, p. 43
- The Object of My Affection, Pinky Tomlin, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981, p. 191
- The Object of My Affection, Pinky Tomlin, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981, p. 150