Tommy Dorsey

Picture of Tommy Dorsey

Tommy Dorsey was known as the "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing." He was also among the most influential bandleaders of The Big Band Era.  The smooth-toned trombone player was also the younger brother of Jimmy Dorsey.  The Dorsey Brothers led a band together in the 1930's but never really got along with each other.  In fact, it was quite well known that they were constantly fighting and having issues.  After Tommy broke away from his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular and highly successful band from the late 1930s into the 1950s. He is best remembered for the songs "Opus One", "Song of India", "Marie", "On Treasure Island", and his biggest hit single, "I'll Never Smile Again".

I've always wondered how much of the success that both Dorsey Brothers experienced was a direct result of their constant drive to "show up" the other brother.

Listen to "I'll Never Smile Again" by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra

Tommy Dorsey had a quite impressive run of 286 charted hits.  His bands were a revolving door of incredible talent.  Just some of the names associated with Tommy's band were Bunny Berigan, Ziggy Elman, Buddy DeFranco and Buddy Rich.  He also featured some high profile singers including Jack Leonard, Edythe Wright, Jo Stafford, Dick Haymes, Connie Haines, Connee Boswell and some guy named Frank Sinatra.  I'm leaving a lot of musicians and singers off this list simply because the list would be so long. It should be noted that Tommy had a bit of a reputation for raiding other bands for talent.

Tommy also had the reputation of being a perfectionist and that sometimes led to some tense recording sessions.  He was also known to hold a grudge.  In 1938, Tommy loaned Glenn Miller money to launch his own band. Dorsey saw the loan more as an investment and later felt entitled to a percentage of Miller's income after Glenn's band became a success. Well, Miller balked at this, so Tommy got even by sponsoring a new band led by Bob Chester, and hiring arrangers who deliberately copied Miller's style and sound. Now that's holding onto a grudge.
As time went on, Glenn and Tommy reconciled their differences.  He also managed to patch things up a with his brother as well.  Tommy sadly passed away in November of 1956 at the young age of 51.  Big Band music had lost a true icon.

You can hear the music of the "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing" right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Listener Supported, Commercial Free and Streaming Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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