He served in the military during World War II, after which he developed a reputation as a top-notch arranger and singer, working with, among others, Artie Shaw. Tormé's nickname, "The Velvet Fog," stems from his early period, when he sang with a high, husky voice. Eventually his singing voice would take on the better-known qualities of a baritone. Touring widely and much recorded, Tormé has performed all over the world on concert stages, in nightclubs, at festivals, on radio and television. During the 1960s, he produced his own television shows and became an actor and writer.
Motion pictures have never really been Tormé's priority: he's been too busy writing songs, recording albums, and penning biographies of such contemporaries as Judy Garland and Buddy Rich. In the 1980s, Mel Tormé was a frequent guest star on the TV sitcom Night Court, an offshoot of the well-publicized fact that Tormé was the idol of that series star, Harry Anderson.