Trombonist and Big Band Leader
of the Swing Era
Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr. was born November 19, 1905 in the small town just northwest of Philadelphia called Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. He was born into a musical family with his father Thomas Dorsey Sr. and older brother Jimmy Dorsey also being bandleaders. Tommy Dorsey Jr. began playing the trumpet as a child, but later found a love for the trombone.
In the early 1920s Tommy was 15 years old and his brother Jimmy felt that he was a good fit as a trombonist to start joining the bands that Jimmy was part of. The brothers played many years together in bands such as The Scranton Sirens, Jean Goldkette’s Band, and the California Ramblers they eventually created the The Dorsey Brothers. In 1934 they signed a record deal with Decca Records and great performers like Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra joined with The Dorsey Brothers to create great many American classics during the swing era.
In 1935 Tommy Dorsey decided to go it on his own and split away from his brother and their band. He evolved his own band yearly by acquiring any musician on his path that he felt worthy of greatness which fueled his success. Tommy was also a savvy businessman in the music industry and he lent Glenn Miller the money he needed to start the Glenn Miller Band. Tommy Dorsey’s musical career was triumphant with over 286 billboard chart hits and of those 36 were on the top of the charts. His musical career spanned over four decades. Unfortunately the great Tommy Dorsey passed away in his sleep November 26, 1956 at the young age of 51.