Born Clinton O. McMahan in Dallas, Texas, he moved with his family to Phoenix, Arizona. He learned to play the trumpet from his mother, who grew up in an orphanage. After high school, following a stint in the US Army, he played with Les Brown's band on The Steve Allen Show and later toured with Brown's band on overseas USO tours, usually accompanying Bob Hope. He married longtime Brown vocalist Jo Ann Greer. He also played with the Freddy Martin, Tex Beneke and Stan Kenton bands.
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