DORSEY, Tommy: Music Maestro, Please

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\Music, Maestro, Please" Original Recordings 1935-1939

The leader of one of the greatest big-bands of the Swing Era and among the most successful of 20th century recording artists, Thomas Francis Dorsey, younger brother of Jimmy (1904-1957), was born in Shenandoah, Philadelphia, on November 19, 1905. The boys played both trumpet and cornet in a family quartet comprising their coal miner-turned-bandmaster father, Tommy Snr. and sister Mary and formed their first orchestra ‘Dorsey’s Novelty Six – The Jazz Band Of Them All’ which later evolved into ‘Dorsey’s Wild Canaries’. They then disbanded and joined the Scranton Sirens, (one of the first American jazz groups to broadcast) and in 1925 worked with the Eddie Elkins Band and played and recorded with the California Ramblers.

During 1924 both Tommy and Jimmy toured with – and arranged for – the French-American pianist-bandleader Jean Goldkette (1899-1962), the new owner of the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit whose noted society band recorded for Victor. From 1925 onwards, Tommy worked regularly as a freelance sideman both in live venues and small-group recording sessions with, among others, Beiderbecke, Ted Lewis, Red Nichols, Dave Rubinoff, Nat Shilkret, Frankie Trumbauer, Rudy Vallee, Joe Venuti and (during 1927-1928) Paul Whiteman. From 1932, with Jimmy, he made musical arrangements and organised studio ensembles and by 1934, on the Eve of the Swing Era, their own orchestra, which from 1928 had recorded for the Columbia label and its subsidiaries and had often played for Bing Crosby, had become a full-time affair with drummer Ray McKinley, Glenn Miller and Tommy and Jimmy among its players.

During a Glen Island Casino gig in 1935 the two had their famous quarrel, split and went their separate ways to lead highly successful outfits each in his own right. Tommy took over the resident band of his old friend Joe Haymes at New York’s McAlpin Hotel, and enlisting a team of arrangers headed by Paul Weston (aka Wetstein, b.1912) carved out a highly individual, smooth-sounding jazz style which highlighted his own subtle but prominent trombone-playing – in respect of which he earned the appellation ‘The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’. Among the many first-rate sidemen who passed through his ranks were trumpeters Bunny Berigan, Ziggy Elman, Pee Wee Erwin, Charlie Shavers, Charlie Spivak and Yank Lawson, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, clarinettist Buddy De Franco and drummers Buddy Rich and Dave Tough.

Among Tommy’s first big hits were the US No.1s "The Music Goes ’Round and ’Round" (1935) and "Alone" (1936) and by 1937 he had clocked up his first million-selling No.1 with Irving Berlin’s "Marie". As America’s most popular up-and-coming swing-band leader he looked set fair to eclipse Goodman in disc sales, although the feud between the two organisations, ostensibly as genuine as it was ongoing, was a largely stage-managed and newspaper-generated affair amounting to a massive marketing ploy to increase sales for both orchestras. As they shared the same booking agents and recorded for the same company their healthy rivalry was an invitation to grand-scale commercial exploitation. Indeed, in terms of statistics Dorsey appears to have had the edge over his rival, for between 1935 and late 1939, whereas out of Goodman’s fifty Top 10 hits entered in the US popular charts, nine were No.1s, five were No.2s, Tommy clocked up sixty in the Top 10, including thirteen No.1s and four No.2s. While neither the hottest nor even the sweetest of the larger swing-bands, Tommy Dorsey’s had some of the best arrangements and, prior to Glenn Miller, an ensemble second to none. And while, apart from a few notable exceptions, none of the items in this programme were charted hits in their day, nonetheless all remain timeless swing classics. "Black Eyes" (Tommy’s up-tempo arrangement of the old Russian folk-tune) was a US No.11, "Boogie Woogie" (an arrangement by Dean Kincaide (1911-1992) of Clarence ‘Pinetop’ Smith’s 1928 original which became Tommy’s most popular swing instrumental and, by 1941, his second millionseller) was a No.3 and his version of the Allie Wrubel- Herb Magidson standard "Music, Maestro, Please", with its fine swingy solo from his Bayonne, New Jersey-born vocalist Edythe Wright (1907-1965) became another resounding No.1.

Tommy was officially "reunited" with Jimmy for the 1947 United Artists biopic The Fabulous Dorseys and from this another jointly-run band was forged which lasted until Tommy’s death in Greenwich, Connecticut, on November 26, 1956.

Peter Dempsey, 2001

1. STOMP IT OFF (Oliver)

(RCA Victor BS 038109) Recorded 20th July, 1939, in New York 0:00

2. WEARY BLUES (Mathews)

(RCA Victor BS 95142) Recorded 26th September, 1935, in New York 0:00

3. JAMBOREE (McHugh–Adamson)

With Edythe Wright and The Three Esquires, vocal

(RCA Victor BS 03086) Recorded 24th November, 1936, in New York 0:00

4. MAPLE LEAF RAG (Joplin)

(RCA Victor BS 02172) Recorded 18th October, 1936, in New York 0:00


Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven

(RCA Victor PBS 019428) Recorded 11th July, 1938, in Hollywood 0:00

6. FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS (Heyman–Silver–Sherman)

With Jack Leonard, vocal

(RCA Victor BS 02164) Recorded 18th October, 1936, in New York 0:00

7. LITTLE WHITE LIES (Donaldson)

(RCA Victor BS 017469) Recorded 6th December, 1937, in New York 0:00

8. TEARS IN MY HEART (Samuels–Whitcup–Powell)

Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven; Edythe Wright, vocal

(RCA Victor BS 013523) Recorded 11th September, 1937, in New York 0:00

9. THE MILKMAN’S MATINEE (Denniker–Davis–Razaf)

Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven; Edythe Wright, vocal

(RCA Victor BS 07803) Recorded 15th April, 1937, in New York 0:00

10. ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (Clarence & Spencer Williams)

(RCA Victor BS 99950) Recorded 3rd April, 1936, in New York 0:00

11. NIGHT GLOW (Dallin, arr. Kincaide)

(RCA Victor BS 042600) Recorded 24th August, 1939, in New York 0:00

12. MUSIC, MAESTRO, PLEASE (Wrubel, Magidson)

(RCA Victor BS 023211) Recorded 12th May, 1938, in New York 0:00


Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven

(RCA Victor PBS 019418-2) Recorded 15th July, 1938, in Hollywood 0:00

14. BLACK EYES (Trad. arr. Dorsey–Mastren)

(RCA Victor BS 06622) Recorded 10th March, 1937, in New York 0:00


Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven; Edythe Wright, vocal

(RCA Victor BS 021145) Recorded 10th March, 1938, in New York 0:00

16. NIGHT AND DAY (Porter)

(RCA Victor BS 011356) Recorded 20th July, 1937, in New York 0:00

17. WASHBOARD BLUES (Carmichael–Callaghan)

(RCA Victor PBS 019426) Recorded 11th July, 1938, in Hollywood 0:00

18. NOLA (Arndt)

(RCA Victor BS 07808) Rec
Disc: 1
Night In Sudan
1 Stomp It Off
2 Weary Blues
3 Jamboree
4 Maple Leaf Rag
5 Chinatown, My Chinatown
6 For Sentimental Reasons
7 Little White Lies
8 Tears In My Heart
9 Tears In My Heart
10 Tears In My Heart
11 Night Glow
12 Music, Maestro, Please
13 The Sheik Of Araby
14 Black Eyes
15 Everybody's Doin' It
16 Night And Day
17 Washboard Blues
18 Nola
19 Boogie Woogie
20 Night In Sudan
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