Songwriter ("Don't Worry 'Bout Me", "Fools Rush In", "Day In - Day Out", "Give Me the Simple Life"), pianist, author, composer and arranger, educated in public schools, he accompanied vaudeville singers and made recordings of both his piano solos and of his own orchestra. He worked with Bix Beiderbecke, Miff Mole, Frankie Trumbauer and the Dorsey brothers. He formed and conducted his own jazz recording orchestras, and wrote books on piano method. He also arranged for music publishers, and toured with a US-government-sponsored ASCAP (which he had joined in 1929) group in 1955, entertaining overseas.

His chief musical collaborators included Johnny Mercer, Harry Ruby, Ted Koehler, Sammy Gallop, Harry Woods and Mitchell Parish. His other song compositions include "Out In the Cold Again", "Truckin'", "Big Man From the South", "Take Me", "Maybe You'll Be There", "Stay On the Right Side, Sister", "Here's To My Lady", "I Can't Face the Music", "Good for Nothin' Joe", "Song of the Bayou" (Victor Phone Company award), "Suite of Moods", "Soliloquy", "Spring Fever", "Sapphire", "Serenata", "Silhouette", "On the Green", "Floogie Walk", "Got No Time", "The Ghost of Smokey Joe", "Fifth Avenue Bus", "Jumping Jack", "Lady On a Late Evening", "Love Is a Merry-Go-Round", "What Goes Up Must Come Down", "Savage In My Soul" and "I Wish I Could Tell You".