Composer of Sleigh Ride, Blue Tango, The Syncopated Clock, and other pieces of light concert music.
He studied at the New England Conservatory of Music early on. He later studied harmony with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, and composition with Walter Piston at Harvard University.
He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He married Eleanor Firke in 1942. The couple had four children together.
His piece Plink, Plank, Plunk! was the theme for the CBS panel show I've Got a Secret for many years, which was hosted by Garry Moore.