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Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957)

Jimmy Dorsey in 1943
Jimmy Dorsey in 1943

The older of the two Dorsey brothers Jimmy Dorsey (February 29, 1904 – June 12, 1957) was a child prodigy who began his musical career at the age seven playing the slide trumpet and cornet with his father’s brass band at local parties. His father was a working class man who wanted a better life for his children and made them study music, diligently. By the time he was 17, Jimmy was playing with the Jean Goldkette band with Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer.

During the 1920’s the Goldkette Orchestra had broken up, and Jimmy, along with Bix and Trumbauer joined Paul Whiteman’s group. Jimmy left Whiteman’s group and freelanced around playing with Red Nichols. In 1933 Jimmy and younger brother Tommy formed their famous Dorsey Brothers Orchestra which included drummer Ray McKinley, trombonist Glenn Miller and singer Bob Crosby.

Jimmy Dorsey 1955
Jimmy Dorsey in 1955

By 1935, continued feuding between the two brothers led to a break-up of the band. In 1938 Jimmy participated in some of the infamous Friday afternoon jam sessions at the Park Lane Hotel organized by Eddie Condon which included Pee Wee RussellSidney Bechet, Bobby HackettWillie “The Lion” SmithBud Freeman, Hot Lips Page, Bunny Berigan and Red Allen.

Jimmy began a new band which was a commercial success featuring popular singers Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly. In 1953, a few years after the release of the motion picture The Fabulous Dorseys, Jimmy and Tommy reunited and continued playing together until Tommy’s death in 1956. Jimmy continued leading the band until ill-health forced him to retire from music permanently. He died in mid-1957. —by Ted Gottsegen

band or session leader

The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
The Dorsey Brothers Concert Orchestra The Travelers
Jimmy Dorsey accompanied by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
Jimmy Dorsey accompanied by Spike Hughes and his Three Blind Mice


Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
(Jimmy Dorsey)
6-13-1929 New York, New York Okeh
Praying The Blues
(Jimmy Dorsey)
6-13-1929 New York, New York Okeh

accompanied by

Artist Instrument
Tommy Dorsey Trombone
Alfie Evans Alto Saxophone
Stan King Drums
Manny Klein Trumpet
Eddie Lang Guitar
Paul Mason Tenor Saxophone
Leo McConville Trumpet
Arthur Schutt Piano
Joe Tarto Bass


Title Director Year
Segar Ellis and His Embassy Club Orchestra 1929
Alice Boulden and her Orchestra 1929
Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra Lloyd French 1938
Ship Ahoy Edward Buzzell 1942
You Leave Me Breathless Dave Fleischer 1938
I Dood It Vincente Minnelli 1943
Lost in a Harem Charles Reisner 1944
Four Jills in a Jeep William A. Seiter 1944
Hollywood Canteen Delmer Daves 1944
The Fabulous Dorseys Alfred E. Green 1947


Tommy & Jimmy; The Dorsey Years by Herb Sanford, Arlington House 1972


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