Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nov. 27: Big Band leader, Tommy Dorsey - who launched Sinatra and Elvis - died on this date...

... he was 51 when he died by choking in his sleep after a heavy meal and sleeping pills.
(NOTE: You can find Elvis 'first TV appearance at end of post.)
Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. was born on Nov 19, 1905 in Shenandoah, PA. He was known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing," due to his smooth-toned trombone playing. Still, Dorsey had a reputation for being a perfectionist. He was volatile and also known to hire and fire - and sometimes rehire - musicians based on his mood.

A contemporary of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, or Harry James, Tommy Dorsey was overall the most popular bandleader of the swing era that lasted from 1935 to 1945. His remarkably melodic trombone playing was the signature sound of his orchestra, but he successfully straddled the hot and sweet styles of swing with a mix of ballads and novelty songs.

He provided showcases to vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, and Jo Stafford, and he employed inventive arrangers such as Sy Oliver and Bill Finegan. He was the biggest-selling artist in the history of RCA Victor Records. He received national exposure on the 1950s television show he hosted with his brother Jimmy.

Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey's father was a music teacher and band director, and both brothers received musical instruction from their father. Tommy focused on the trombone, though he also played trumpet, especially early in his career.

The brothers played in local groups, then formed their own band, Dorsey's Novelty Six, in 1920. By 1922, when they played an engagement at a Baltimore amusement park and made their radio debut, they were calling the group Dorsey's Wild Canaries. During the early and mid-'20s, they played in a series of bands including the Scranton Sirens, the California Ramblers, and orchestras led by Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman, sometimes apart, but usually together.

Eventually, they settled in New York and worked as session musicians. In 1927, they began recording as the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, using pickup bands. The Dorseys finally organized a full-time band and signed to Decca Records in 1934. Hiring Bing Crosby's younger brother Bob Crosby as their vocalist, they scored a Top Ten hit with "I Believe in Miracles" in the late winter of 1935.

The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra was poised to become the biggest band in the country in the spring of 1935 and might have been remembered for launching the swing era, but at the end of May the brothers, whose relationship was always volatile, clashed and Tommy quit the band.

After Tommy broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular band from the late '30s into the 1950s. Frank Sinatra achieved his first great success as a vocalist in the Dorsey band and claimed he learned breath control from watching Dorsey play trombone.

In May 1953, Jimmy Dorsey broke up his band and joined his brother's orchestra as a featured attraction. Before long, the band was again being billed as the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.

While playing a residency at the Statler Hilton Hotel in New York, the brothers launched a television series, Stage Show, as a summer replacement program in the summer of 1954. It returned on an occasional basis during the 1954-1955 season and 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.

HIGHLY Recommended (Links to Amazon):

This Is Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra 1Complete Recordings 1935-1939 [ORIGINAL RECORDINGS REMASTERED]The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (2CD)Best Of Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra, The

Tommy Dorsey had a run of 286 Billboard chart hits. The Dorsey band had seventeen number one hits with his orchestra in the 1930s and 1940s including: "On Treasure Island," "The Music Goes 'Round and Around," "You," "Marie" (by Irving Berlin), "Satan Takes a Holiday," "The Big Apple," "Once in a While," "The Dipsy Doodle," "Our Love," "All the Things You Are," "Indian Summer," and "Dolores."

He had two more number one hits in 1935 when he was a member of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra: "Lullaby of Broadway," number one for two weeks, and "Chasing Shadows," number one for three weeks. His biggest hit was "I'll Never Smile Again," featuring Frank Sinatra on vocals, which was number one for twelve weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1940. "In the Blue of Evening" was number 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1943.

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