Before Elvis, before the Beatles – even before Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis – the music America was besotted with was jazz and swing by big bandleaders : they were the rock stars of the late 1930’s, 40’s and ’50’s. Tommy Dorsey was probably the most famous bandleader of his time: born on November 19, 1905, he played trombone, trumpet and cornet.
He was known as the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,” because of his smooth-toned trombone sound, which gave Tommy Dorsey renown among other musicians. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, and after Tommy broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he began to lead an extremely popular and highly successful band on his own, from the late 1930s into the 1950s. He’s best remembered for standards such as “Opus One,””Song of India” “Marie,” “On Treasure Island,” and his biggest hit, the classic “I’ll Never Smile Again.” Dorsey constantly collaborated with singers and musicians on stage and on records: Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa are just a few of the big names he made music with.
Dorsey was a heavy user of sleeping pills, and died while choking when sedated – at only 51 years old.