The first chair trumpet player with Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Gerald Wilson, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, the Tonight Show Orchestra and currently the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, began playing at age five, having been born into a musical family. By seven he was winning amateur contests playing and singing Louis Armstrong hits of the day including "When You're Smiling" and "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You". He even had a chance meeting with his idol. "My mother and I were walking down 5th Street in Dayton, Ohio and Louis Armstrong was in town," he recalled. "I think he may have been staying at the Y, because we're right in front of the YMCA. My mom saw him and stopped him and said, 'Louis Armstrong, this is my son, Snooky. He wants to play trumpet like you and he admires you very much.' I can still remember, Louis hugged me and said many really nice things to me. Later, when I was with the Jimmie Lunceford band, I met Louis and I told him about meeting him in Dayton, but he didn't really remember."
Harry "Sweets" Edison considered Ed Lewis and Snooky Young "the two greatest first trumpet players" he ever played with.