Tommy Whittle was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, and started playing clarinet at the age of 12 before taking up the tenor saxophone at 13, guided by artist Alan Davie. He moved to Chatham, Kent, at 16 and in 1943 started playing in the dance-hall band of Claude Giddins in nearby Gillingham.
During the 1940s, Whittle played with Johnny Claes, Lew Stone, Carl Barriteau and Harry Hayes. In 1946 he joined Ted Heath's band, playing with him until 1952 when he moved on to play in Tony Kinsey's small group at the 51 Club in London. Later in the 1950s he joined Cyril Stapleton's BBC Show Band where he became featured as a soloist in nationwide broadcasts. In April 1954 he formed his own quintet with Harry Klein and Dill Jones, later touring with a ten-piece band for 14 months. He then led various small groups as well as doing jazz club work. In 1955 he was voted Britain's top tenor-sax player in the New Musical Express poll and topped the Melody Maker poll the following year.
During the 1950s he took his sextet to France and the United States and in 1956 took a quartet (with Eddie Thompson, Brian Brocklehurst and Jackie Dougan) to the USA in exchange for a visit by Gerry Mulligan. He also briefly deputized in the Stan Kenton Band which was touring the UK. In 1958 he took up the post of band leader at the Dorchester Hotel in London, where he stayed until early 1961.
Then followed a period of 12 years with the Jack Parnell ATV Orchestra, which accompanied most of the major stars of the time (including Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand and a host of other personalities ). Over this period he ran a weekly club at the Hopbine pub in Wembley, which became a showcase for British jazz, an appearance there being a mark of distinction. Later he worked with Laurie Johnson's London Big Band and also recorded with Benny Goodman. During the 1980s and 1990s, as well as an enduring commitment to jazz, he was also in demand as a session musician and often appeared in the Ted Heath Band, then led by Don Lusher who was a trombonist in the Heath band for many years. Through the 1990s and 2000s he continued to lead his own quartet and accompanied the successful Ella Fitzgerald Songbook, a show devised by singer Barbara Jay (his wife). Also during this period he became a member and then leader of the Pizza Express Allstars Jazz Band.
In July 2005, Whittle was awarded the prestigious medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for lifetime achievement in British jazz. His last few gigs included the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (October 2012) and with Ray McVay's tribute Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (January 2013). Tommy Whittle died on his 87th birthday after contracting pneumonia while on holiday in Spain.
- Tommy Whittle and the Tenor connection (2009; Spotlight SPJ579-CD) - with Mark Nightingale, Richard Busiakiewicz, Jim Richardson, Bobby Worth.
- Tommy Whittle Grace Notes (2003; Spotlight SPJ 548-CD) with Jim Richardson, Jeff Green, Keith Ingham, Bobby Worth
- Encore! Tommy Whittle and the Bob Hudson Trio (June 6, 1997; Sine Records SND0077), with Bob Hudson, Geoff Pearson, Derek Bush.
- Warm Glow - Tommy Whittle Quartet (February 20, 1992; TeeJay Records 103 (CD)) with Brian Dee, Len Skeat, Bobby Orr.
- The Pizza Express All Star Band (July 16 and 30; 1990 : The Poll Winners - Pizza PECD9) ; Tommy Whittle (tenor saxophone), Colin Smith (tp), Roy Williams (tb), Dave shepherd (cl), Brian Dee (p), Len Skeat (b), Allan Ganley (d).
- Straight Eight - Tommy Whittle / Alan Barnes Quintet ( November 20, 1985; Miles Music MM001); Tommy Whittle, Alan Barnes, Mick Pyne, Alec Dankworth, Alan Jackson.
- The Nearness Of You - Tommy Whittle Quartet (January, 1982; Tee-Jay 101); with John Horler, Sean Whittle, Lennie Bush, Bobby Orr, Barbara Jay (vocal).
- Jigsaw - Tommy Whittle Quartet/Quintet (spring, 1977; Alamo AJ4501) with John Horler, Sean Whittle, Lennie Bush, Bobby Orr.
- Why Not? - Tommy Whittle Quartet (1977; Jam 648) with Tony Lee, Tony Archer, Martin Drew.
- Tommy Whittle Quartet - (July 11, 1957; HMV ) with Eddie Thompson, Brian Brocklehurst, Jackie Dougan.
- Sax for Dreamers - Tommy Whittle Quartet (February, 1967; Masquerade MQ2000) with Kenny Powell, Lennie Bush, Peter Ind, Jackie Dougan.
- Tommy Whittle Quintet - ( May, 1959; Tempo TAP27 and Ember EMB3305) with, Harry Klein, Eddie Thompson, Ken Sprang, Jackie Dougan.
- A Touch of Latin - Tommy Whittle Quintet - ( July 17, 1958; Saga EP, ESAG7008) with Harry Klein, Eddie Thompson, Ken Sprang, Jackie Dougan.
- Tommy Whittle Quartet - (September 26, 1957; HMV 7EG8325, JM0658) Eddie Thompson (p), Maurice Salvat (b), Jackie Dougan (d).
- Tommy Whittle Orchestra (March 22, 1956; Esquire 20-061, JMC23/24) Tommy Whittle, Kenny Wheeler, Keith Christie, Ronnie Baker, Joe Temperley, Don Riddell, Freddie Logan, Eddie Taylor.
- Tommy Whittle Quintet (August 4, 1955; Esquire 20-048, JMC26/30) with Harry Klein, Dill Jones, Dave Willis, Eddie Taylor.
- Tommy Whittle Quintet (March 22, 1955; Esquire EP67, JMC25) with Harry Klein, Dill Jones, Joe Muddel, Eddie Taylor.
- Tommy Whittle Quintet (August 17, 1954; Esquire EP37 ) with Harry Klein, Dill Jones, Joe Muddel, Eddie Taylor.
- Tommy Whittle with the Tony Kinsey Trio (April 11, 1953; Esquire 20-028) with Dill Jones, Stan Wasser, Tony Kinsey.
- Tommy Whittle Septet (October 23, 1951; Melodisc) with Bobby Pratt, Roy Willox, George Hunter, Frank Horrox, Johnny Hawksworth, Ronnie Verrell.
- Tommy Whittle Quartet (September 13, 1951; Melodisc) with Ronnie Ball, Frank Donnison, Tony Kinsey.
- The Tommy Whittle Quintet complete recordings 1958-9 (Acrobat CD ACMCD4355)
- Tubby Hayes Quartet (Live at the Hopbine) featuring Tommy Whittle - (Recorded March 13, 1965; Harkit CD, 2005). Tommy Whittle, Tubby Hayes, Kenny Powell, Ron Mathewson, Dick Brennan.
- The Musical Worlds of Laurie Johnson (2003, Avid CD AVHN 102). Soloist on Concerto For Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra.
- Ted Heath - the Farewell Concert (December 4, 2000; Avid CD)
- Ella Fitzgerald Songbook Revisited (June 26 and 27, 2000 Spotlite SPJ-CD565) with Barbara Jay, Lee Gibson, Tina May (vocalists) and Steve Waterman, Tommy Whittle, John Pearce, Jimmy Richardson, Bobby Worth.
- Laurie Johnson's London Big Band Vol. 3 (2000; Avid CD SIV 6170). Conductor Jack Parnell
- The Don Lusher Big Band Vol. 3 (Horatio Nelson Records, CD SIV 1125). Conductor Don Lusher
- Bean: Bob Wilber's tribute to Coleman Hawkins (October 10, 1994; Arbors Jazz ARCD19144) - Bob Wilber, Harry Allen, Antti Sarpila, Tommy Whittle, with Mick Pyne, Dave Cliff, Dave Green, Clark Tracey.
- Ella Fitzgerald Songbook (April 18 and 19, 1994; Spotlite SPJ-CD556) with Rosemary Squires, Maxine Daniels, Barbara Jay (vocalists) and Tommy Whittle, Brian Dee, Jimmy Richardson, Bobby Worth.
- Memories of You ( January 12, 1988/9, Tee-Jay 102); Barbara Jay (vocals) and Tommy Whittle, Roy Williams, Martin Taylor, Bill Le Sage, Dave Green, Bobby Orr
- "The Guardian : Obituary". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
- "The Telegraph : Obituary". Retrieved 2013-10-23.
- "The Times : Obituary". Retrieved 2016-01-06.
- "Jazzwise Magazine". Jazzwisemagazine.com. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
- Chilton, John (1997). Who's Who of British Jazz. London: Cassell.
- Jazz Journal, 1978, "Jazz Refugee from the Mickey Mouse Bands".
- Crescendo & Jazz Music, August/September 2005.
- "The Glen Miller Orchestra Appreciation Society Christmas Edition" (PDF). Glennmillerorchestra.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
- "The Glen Miller Orchestra directed by Ray McVay". Glennmillerorchestra.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-17.