||Tommy Dorsey Jr. is buried in Kensico Cemetery which has been surveyed by the New York Cemeteries sub-project.|
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Known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing", due to his smooth-toned trombone playing, Tommy Dorsey and his brother Jimmy led several of the most popular big bands of the swing era. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular band from the late '30s into the 1950s.
Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. was born on November 19, 1905 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvani, the second of four children born to Thomas Francis Dorsey, Sr. and Theresa (née Langton) Dorsey.The Dorsey brothers' two younger siblings were Mary and Edward (who died young).After receiving music instruction from his father, Tommy played both trumpet and trombone in his early years. While still in his teens he played in local bands along with his brother Jimmy. The Dorsey Brothers played in a series of bands in the 1920s. They were heard on records for the first time while working in the band of Jean Goldkette when a March 27, 1924 session that produced four sides was recorded for the RCA Victor label. The brothers later settled in New York as session musicians for the radio studios. Tommy and Jimmy waxed their first records as The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra using a pick-up band for the Okeh label in 1927. In 1934 they organized a full time band and signed with Decca Records.
From 1922-43, Tommy was married to Mildred. Their daughter Pat Marie Hooker was born April 11, 1925. Tom and Mildred divorced in 1943. In 1943, Tommy married Pat. On March 27, 1948, Tommy married Jane Carl New (1923 - 2003).
Big success followed the brothers after 1928 when they broke into the charts with a recording of Coquette. In 1929 a recording with Bing Crosby of Let’s Do It (let’s fall in love) broke into the top ten. By 1935 they had one of the hottest bands in the country and may well have been the band that ushered in the Swing era instead of Benny Goodman. However, the fighting Dorsey’s had a volatile relationship. There was reportedly constant bickering between the two. After a bitter disagreement on the bandstand in May of 1935 (some say a fist fight) Tommy left the band for good.
While Jimmy continued to lead the band, Tommy took over the remnants of an orchestra led by Joe Haymes leading it under his own name by the fall of 1935. By the end of 1935 TD had four hits peak in the top ten of the charts. In January of 1936 he had his first #1 hit on a song called The Music Goes Round And Round that featured a vocal by Edythe Wright. In 1937 Tommy Dorsey had 18 top ten hits including several number one chart toppers like the instrumental Satan Takes A Holiday, Jack Leonard’s vocal on Marie with the famous Bunny Berigan trumpet passage, and Edythe Wright’s vocal of The Dipsy Doodle.
In 1939 Tommy Dorsey reinvented himself making a number of personnel changes. See the article below for details on Tommy Dorsey during this phenomenal period.
In 1945 the band began to change again with the addition of trumpeter Charlie Shavers. Soon more modern and still swinging recordings spotlighting musicians like clarinetist Buddy De Franco, drummer Louie Bellson and arranger Bill Finnegan were being laid down.
Inevitably, in the mid 1940s the Dorsey Brothers began to patch up their differences occasionally performing and recording together. In 1953 Jimmy joined up with Tommy permanently, billing the band once again as The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Television specials followed and their program called Stage Show 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.
Sedated by sleeping pills and following a heavy meal, Tommy Dorsey accidentally choked to death in his sleep on November 26th, 1956 at the age of 51. His brother led his band briefly afterward, but Jimmy Dorsey died in 1957.
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