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

TitleRecording DateRecording LocationCompany
(Jimmy Dorsey)
6-13-1929New York, New YorkOkeh
Praying The Blues
(Jimmy Dorsey)
6-13-1929New York, New YorkOkeh

accompanied by

Tommy DorseyTrombone
Alfie EvansAlto Saxophone
Stan KingDrums
Manny KleinTrumpet
Eddie LangGuitar
Paul MasonTenor Saxophone
Leo McConvilleTrumpet
Arthur SchuttPiano
Joe TartoBass

Segar Ellis and His Embassy Club Orchestra1929
Alice Boulden and her Orchestra1929
Jimmy Dorsey and His OrchestraLloyd French1938
Ship AhoyEdward Buzzell1942
You Leave Me BreathlessDave Fleischer1938
I Dood ItVincente Minnelli1943
Lost in a HaremCharles Reisner1944
Four Jills in a JeepWilliam A. Seiter1944
Hollywood CanteenDelmer Daves1944
The Fabulous DorseysAlfred E. Green1947

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


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