He was well known for his performance of television themes and various movie soundtracks. He began playing the accordion at age three, and appeared on the radio program Hobby Lobby at the age of seven.
His composition "Little Bird" (a minor hit on Fred Astaire's Ava label) was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1963, and he formed the Pete Jolly Trio in 1964. With the Trio and as a solo artist, he recorded several albums, the last of which was a 2000 collaboration with Jan Lundgren. He also worked with other notable jazz artists, including Buddy DeFranco, Art Pepper and Red Norvo, and for many years with EZ music arranger and director Ray Conniff.
Jolly continued to perform with his trio in Los Angeles jazz clubs until shortly before being hopitalized in August 2004.
- Jolly Jumps In, RCA Victor LPM 1105
- Duo, Trio, Quartet, RCA Victor LPM 1125
- When Lights are Low, RCA Victor LPM 1367
- Impossible, MetroJazz Records SE-1014
- Continental Jazz, Stereo Fidelity SFS-11000
- The Sensational Pete Jolly Gasses Everybody, Charlie Parker PLP-825S
- Little Bird, Ava AS-22
- Sweet September, Ava AS-39
- 5 O'Clock Shadows, MGM SE-4127
- Too Much, Baby, Columbia CS-9197
- Herb Alpert Presents Pete Jolly, A&M SP-4145
- Give a Damn, A&M SP-4184
- Seasons, A&M SP-3033
- Strike Up the Band, Atlas Records
- Pete Jolly Trio & Friends, VSOP 78
- Live in L.A.: Red Chimney and Sherry's Bar, VSOP 91
- Yours Truly, Bainbridge Records QCD-1007
- Gems, Holt Recordings HRCD-3303
- Yeah!, VSOP VSP 98
- Timeless, VSOP VSP 105
- Collaboration (with Jan Lundgren), Fresh Sounds FSRCD5038