He played with the bands of Les Brown, Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey before moving to Hollywood film studios where he was first trombone at MGM for eight years. In 1958, when most of the bands had fallen by the wayside, he started his own line-up and took it on the road.
His first album, Introducing Si Zentner And His Dance Band, was the first stereo recording by a big band. His third album of hit songs, arranged by Bob Florence, produced the Grammy-winning Up A Lazy River which his band is still asked to play. "If they don't ask for it, I insist on playing it!" In May 1994 he was given an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Nevada.
I am a melodic trombone player. In fact I practise the art of lyrical trombone playing. The upper register is easy to get to, but once you get up there, how do you get down? That has to be done with fluidity and control.
I make use of things I learned very early on in my career such as, you don't play positions you play notes. Playing G flat, A flat and B flat above the staff in third position makes a lot more sense than going into the closed positions. So I was able to perfect a way of playing that everybody says was very recognisable.
I always say that Bob Florence made a trombone player out of me. He didn't know that the best keys for trombone are the sharp keys, and he wrote in some atrocious keys.
I think the reason I worked more than anybody else and did better than anybody else in the amount of work I did was because I always honoured my first commitment. If it was a $17 transcription date as opposed to a $1,000 picture call, and the transcription date came in first, that was the date I honoured. Sure I'd call the contractor and ask if I could get out of that small segment of time it took to do the transcription, but if he said no, then it was the transcription date. I always honoured my first commitment.