Sonny Burke was a big band leader. In 1937, he graduated from Duke University where he had formed and led the jazz big band known as the Duke Ambassadors.
During the 1930s and 1940s he was a big band leader in New York, including Sam Donahue's band, and during the 1940s and 1950s he worked as a band arranger for the Charlie Spivak and Jimmy Dorsey bands, among others. In 1955 he wrote, along with Peggy Lee, the songs to Disney's Lady and the Tramp. He also wrote songs with John Elliot for Disney's Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom which won the 1953 Oscar for Best Short Animated Feature.
He is credited as co-composer of "Midnight Sun", the Lionel Hampton tune with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. He was an active arranger and bandleader in major recording studios, including Decca Records.
Burke was musical director of Reprise Records and was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums. He was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.