Sam Donahue

Picture of Sam Donahue

Sam Donahue was an excellent saxophonist and a darn good bandleader as well.  Before leading his own band, Donahue was a sideman in the bands of Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman during the 1930's.  He started his own band in 1940 and recorded some sides but then was called into military service in 1942 where he served as a sideman again in Artie Shaw's Navy Band.  When Shaw was discharged in early 1944, Donahue took over that band and made it his own.  You can hear many recordings by Donahue's Navy band right here on Swing City Radio. He recorded many V-Discs and some great live performances for the Armed Forces. Great stuff!

Listen to: "LST Party" by Sam Donahue's Navy Band from a 1946 V-Disc

After the war, Sam formed his new, civilian band and it enjoyed some moderate success.  His orchestra featured names like trumpeter Doc Severinsen, vocalists Frances Wayne and Jo Stafford, and even had Leo Reisman aboard as an arranger.  It was a good band, but in 1951 it dissolved due to Donahue re-enlisting in the Navy to serve in the Korean War.

After serving his second tour of duty, Donahue returned to the States and again worked as a sideman in Tommy Dorsey's band in 1952, in Billy May's Orchestra from 1954 to 1956, and with Stan Kenton in 1960.

Listen to: "Sunny Side Of The Street" by Sam Donahue's Navy Band 
from an episode of Yank Bandstand (AFRS)

In late 1961, Donahue was named the leader of the late, Tommy Dorsey's band. Donahue and the Dorsey Orchestra recorded and toured throughout the early part of the 1960's and the band would later feature the vocals of a young Frank Sinatra Jr.

You can hear the music of Sam Donahue right here on Swing City Radio.

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