Dorsey, Jimmy (James Francis Dorsey), 1904–57, and his brother Tommy Dorsey (Thomas Francis Dorsey, Jr.), 1905–1956, both b. Shenandoah, Pa., American jazz musicians and bandleaders during the Big Band era. Jimmy Dorsey played the clarinet and alto saxophone, his brother the trombone. Toward the beginning of their careers in the late 1920s both were part of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and by the early 1930s both were successful pick-up and studio musicians. The two briefly had two bands together, the swing group of 1933–35 and another from 1953–56. Most of the time, however, each had his own band—Jimmy's a dance-oriented group and Tommy's more of a hot and sweet jazz ensemble that for awhile (1939–42) featured Frank Sinatra as a soloist. The Dorsey bands were popular Big Band era (late 1930s to early 50s). Dorsey bands were featured in several Hollywood movies, and the brothers starred in a fictionalized film biography, The Fabulous Dorseys (1947).
See H. Sanford, Tommy and Jimmy: The Dorsey Years (1972, repr. 1980).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Dorsey, (Thomas) Tommy(1905–56) musician; born in Shenandoah, Pa. He was a Swing Era bandleader who began with local dance bands in Scranton, Pa. He moved to New York City in 1925 and engaged in free-lance radio and recording work as a trombonist and trumpeter. In 1927–28, he was a sideman with Paul Whiteman. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he and his brother Jimmy Dorsey (1904–57), a saxophonist, coled a succession of recording bands. In 1934, they launched a full-time orchestra which played a long residency at the Glen Island Casino (New Rochelle, N.Y.). After a dispute with Jimmy in 1935, Tommy split and took over Joe Haymes' orchestra, building it into one of the most popular and versatile Swing bands. He led this orchestra, which featured Frank Sinatra in 1940–42, until the early 1950s. He appeared with Jimmy in the 1947 Hollywood feature film The Fabulous Dorseys, and in 1953 they formed a new band together. In 1955–56, they cohosted their own television program, Stage Show, on CBS. His premature death was caused by strangulation on food particles.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.