Tommy Dorsey Day

November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956


The famous trombonist and bandleader is remembered

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Trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey was born on November 19, 1905 in Mahanoy Plane, Pennsylvania.

The younger brother of altoist-clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy studied trumpet with his father (a bandleader) and was soon doubling on trombone which became his main instrument.

A professional musician at 15, Dorsey worked with his brother in many bands including the Scranton Sirens, Vincent Lopez, Nat Shilkret, Jean Goldkette and the California Ramblers.

He was a member of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, a year before he made his first recordings with Jimmy as the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra which at the time was purely a recording group.

Dorsey developed a beautiful tone on the trombone and became best known for his ballad playing although he could play hot jazz too; his occasional trumpet playing was more primitive and bluesy.

After a period as a busy studio musician, in 1934 Tommy joined Jimmy to form the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.

While the band was becoming successful, a fight between the brothers resulted in them forming different orchestras in 1935.

The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra soon became one of the most popular bands of the swing era  – whether playing warm ballads, romping through swing pieces, or featuring an array of vocalists (including Frank Sinatra).

Dorsey had many hits during the swing era and kept his big band together during the postwar years.

When Jimmy Dorsey broke up his orchestra in 1953, he joined Tommy in a new Dorsey Brothers Orchestra which was featured on the television series Stage Show during 1954-56 (helping to introduce Elvis Presley).

Tommy Dorsey unexpectedly passed away in 1956 at the age of 51, a few months before his brother.

Dorsey’s band with trumpeter Charlie Shavers is featured in the mid-1950s playing his hit “Opus #1.”

-Scott Yanow


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