Historical records matching Tommy Dorsey
About Tommy Dorsey
Known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing", due to his smooth-toned trombone playing, Tommy Dorsey and his brother Jimmy led several of the most popular big bands of the swing era. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular band from the late '30s into the 1950s.
Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. was born on November 19, 1905 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvani, the second of four children born to Thomas Francis Dorsey, Sr. and Theresa (née Langton) Dorsey.The Dorsey brothers' two younger siblings were Mary and Edward (who died young).After receiving music instruction from his father, Tommy played both trumpet and trombone in his early years. While still in his teens he played in local bands along with his brother Jimmy. The Dorsey Brothers played in a series of bands in the 1920s. They were heard on records for the first time while working in the band of Jean Goldkette when a March 27, 1924 session that produced four sides was recorded for the RCA Victor label. The brothers later settled in New York as session musicians for the radio studios. Tommy and Jimmy waxed their first records as The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra using a pick-up band for the Okeh label in 1927. In 1934 they organized a full time band and signed with Decca Records.
Big success had been following both brothers since 1928 when they broke into the charts with a recording of Coquette. In 1929 a recording with Bing Crosby of Let’s Do It (let’s fall in love) broke into the top ten. By 1935 they had one of the hottest bands in the country and may well have been the band that ushered in the Swing era instead of Benny Goodman. However, the fighting Dorsey’s had a volatile relationship. There was reportedly constant bickering between the two. After a bitter disagreement on the bandstand in May of 1935 (some say a fist fight) Tommy left the band for good.
While Jimmy continued to lead the band, Tommy took over the remnants of an orchestra led by Joe Haymes leading it under his own name by the fall of 1935. By the end of 1935 TD had four hits peak in the top ten of the charts. In January of 1936 he had his first #1 hit on a song called The Music Goes Round And Round that featured a vocal by Edythe Wright. In 1937 Tommy Dorsey had 18 top ten hits including several number one chart toppers like the instrumental Satan Takes A Holiday, Jack Leonard’s vocal on Marie with the famous Bunny Berigan trumpet passage, and Edythe Wright’s vocal of The Dipsy Doodle.
In 1939 Tommy Dorsey reinvented himself making a number of personnel changes. See the article below for details on Tommy Dorsey during this phenomenal period.
In 1945 the band began to change again with the addition of trumpeter Charlie Shavers. Soon more modern and still swinging recordings spotlighting musicians like clarinetist Buddy De Franco, drummer Louie Bellson and arranger Bill Finnegan were being laid down.
Inevitably, in the mid 1940s the Dorsey Brothers began to patch up their differences occasionally performing and recording together. In 1953 Jimmy joined up with Tommy permanently, billing the band once again as The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Television specials followed and their program called Stage Show ran regularly once a week during the 1955-1956 season. Elvis Presley appeared on the show for six consecutive weeks starting in January 1956, his first nationally broadcast appearances.
Sedated by sleeping pills and following a heavy meal, Tommy Dorsey accidentally choked to death in his sleep on November 26th, 1956 at the age of 51. His brother led his band briefly afterward, but Jimmy Dorsey died in 1957.
Tommy Dorsey's Timeline
June 19, 1905
Shenandoah, PA, United States
April 11, 1925
November 26, 1956
Greenwich, CT, United States
Valhalla, NY, USA
Musician, Big-Band leader. He was by far the most popular band leader of the swing era. His music career unfolded in three stages: The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, co-led by both brothers; The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with Tommy as leader and then once again The Fabulous Dorsey Brothers Orchestra co-led by both brothers. He was born Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr, the second son.of Theresa and Francis Dorsey Sr. outside Shenandoah, Pennsylvania twenty one months after the birth of his famous to be, brother Jimmy. Both boys were tutored by their father a coal miner. Tommy became proficient on the trumpet and the trombone. Dorsey Sr. would later become leader of a local band dubbed the 'Elmore Band' leaving coal mining to become a music teacher at the local high school. The family briefly moved to Baltimore and the brothers then age 12 and 13 formed a group called 'Dorsey's Novelty Six' and enamored adults were quick to put the youngsters to work. They even played on a Baltimore radio station, becoming one of the first jazz groups to broadcast live. Leaving Baltimore, the band disbanded. Both brothers worked for Paul Whitman also moving around performing frequently with many other bands and Orchestras. In the spring of 1934, the Dorsey brothers were reunited with the formation of a band dubbed 'The Dorsey Brothers Band' making their debut at the Sands Point Beach Club on Long Island. The duo soon parted company. Their estrangement lasted some eighteen years. Tommy soon took over the defunct Joe Haymes band and then simply renamed it 'The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra' They made their debut in the blue room at the Hotel Lincoln in New York City becoming the top dance band in the land. Some of his most successful recording were 'Boogie Woogie (four million in sales), Marie and Song of India.' A number of famous singers sang with his band: Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Jack Leonard, Edythe Wright, Connie Haines, Anita Boyer and the vocal group the Pied Pipers. The Dorseys were reunited for a bio-movie, 'The Fabulous Dorseys,' in 1947. The picture was a clinker, but the music extraordinary. The hatchet was buried and with both their bands struggling due to the end of the Big Band era they formed a new band known as 'The Fabulous Dorseys.' They enjoyed some success mainly from a television show entitled 'Stage Show' on CBS. One episode featured a then unknown Elvis Presley. However, death for both brothers was just around the corner. The partnership lasted for only two years. Tommy died suddenly in his sleep at his Greenwich Connecticut residence at age 51. Jimmy diagnosed with cancer underwent a major operation and less then six months after his brothers death, he too was gone at the age of 53. Again they were separated, Tommy was buried in Valhalla, New York and Jimmy was interred next to his parents in his hometown. Postscript: A few days after his death, a national television special was hosted by Jackie Gleason called, "A tribute to Tommy Dorsey." Many musicians and singers associated with him during his career took part...Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford, Bob Crosby, Tommy Mercer were but a few. On a sad note, Jackie Gleason in closing mimicked the way announcers closed his shows, "Join us again tomorrow night for more music by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra." However, I can't because there are no tomorrows left for us with Tommy...Good night everybody. A state historical marker is located at Main and Center Street in Shenandoah noting this little coal mining town of some 5,000 residents as the birthplace of the Dorsey brothers. The U.S. Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in 1996 honoring the Dorseys for their many contributions to American music. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)