Big Band Leader Les Brown Dead at 88

Les Brown, whose Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with "Sentimental Journey" during America's big band era of the 1930s and '40s, has died of lung cancer. He was 88.

Brown died Thursday night at his home, according to his daughter, Denise Marsh.

As recently as five months ago, Brown was still touring and performing swing music. The Guinness Book of Records recognized him as the leader of the longest lasting musical organization in pop music history.

Brown formed his Band of Renown in 1936. He co-wrote "Sentimental Journey," which was sung by Doris Day. It became a theme song for men and women returning home from World War II.

"The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les and his band," Day said. "I loved Les very much, I am going to miss his phone calls."

Brown's career included a close association with Bob Hope. In 1950, he joined Hope for the first of 18 Christmas tours to entertain American troops at military bases around the world. Day also participated.

"The world has lost a great musician," Hope said. "I have lost my music man, my sideman, my straight man and a special friend."

As the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Brown helped make the Grammy Awards a televised event. He convinced Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to participate in the first telecast.

In addition to his daughter, Brown is survived by his wife, Evelyn; and son, Les Brown Jr. No services were scheduled.