Jazz Musician, Bandleader. 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
The Sentimental Gentleman