An easy listening arranger and composer, Winterhalter was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Mount St. Mary’s near Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1931, where he played saxophone for the orchestra and sang in two of the choirs. He later studied violin and reed instruments at the New England Conservatory of Music. After graduating, he taught school for several years before turning professional during the mid 1930s, serving as a sideman and arranger for Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Raymond Scott, Claude Thornhill and others.
Hugo Winterhalter also arranged and conducted sessions for singers including Dinah Shore and Billy Eckstine, and in 1948 he was named musical director at MGM Records. After a two-year stint with the record label, he moved to Columbia Records, where he scored a hit with his orchestral reading of “Blue Christmas.”
He remained with RCA Victor until 1963, at which time he moved to Kapp; that same year, he also penned the main title theme for the film, Diamond Head. At Kapp he recorded a handful of albums including The Best of ’64 and its follow-up, The Big Hits of 1965, before leaving the label to work on Broadway. He later worked in television as well, and continued recording the occasional LP for various budget labels.
Hugo Winterhalter died from cancer, in Greenwich, Connecticut on September 17, 1973. He is buried alongside his wife at Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill, New York.