The Dorsey Brothers

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The Dorsey Brothers
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, 1934. Bottom (L-R): George Thow, Roc Hillman, Don Matteson, Skeets Herfurt, Ray McKinley; Standing (L-R): Bobby Van Epps, Delmar Kaplan, Tommy Dorsey, Kay Weber, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Jack Stacey
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, 1934. Bottom (L-R): George Thow, Roc Hillman, Don Matteson, Skeets Herfurt, Ray McKinley; Standing (L-R): Bobby Van Epps, Delmar Kaplan, Tommy Dorsey, Kay Weber, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Jack Stacey
Background information
OriginNew York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1928 (1928)–1935 (1935)

The Dorsey Brothers were an American studio dance band, led by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. They started recording in 1928 for OKeh Records.


The Dorsey Brothers recorded songs for the dime store labels (Banner, Cameo, Domino, Jewel, Oriole, Perfect). A handful of sides during their Brunswick period were issued by Vocalion.

They signed to Decca in 1934, formed a touring band, with Tommy as front man, and a rather unusual line up of one trumpet, three trombones, three saxes and four rhythm. The band performed live mainly in the New England area, with acrimony between the brothers steadily building up, until a definitive falling out between Tommy and Jimmy over the tempo of "I'll Never Say Never Again Again" in May 1935, after which Tommy walked off the stage. Glenn Miller composed four songs for the Dorsey Brothers when he was a member in 1934 and 1935, "Annie's Cousin Fannie", on which both Tommy and Glenn share the rather racy vocal, "Dese Dem Dose", "Harlem Chapel Chimes", and "Tomorrow's Another Day".[1] Miller left in late 1934 to take up the job as Ray Noble's musical director and arranger.

In 1935, the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra had two No. 1 recordings on Decca, including "Lullaby of Broadway" with Bob Crosby on vocals, topping the charts for two weeks and No. 1 for three weeks.[2]

Tommy Dorsey permanently left the orchestra in 1935 to take over the Joe Haymes band, turning it into Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, with the nucleus of the Dorsey Brothers' Orchestra carrying on under Jimmy's leadership. Tommy's chair was filled by the 16-year-old Bobby Byrne. The Dorseys reunited on March 15, 1945, to record a V-Disc at Liederkranz Hall in New York City. Released in June 1945, the disc contained "More Than You Know" and "Brotherly Jump". The songs were performed by the combined orchestras of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. They reunited again in 1947 for the film The Fabulous Dorseys. In 1950, Jimmy disbanded his orchestra and joined Tommy's band on a permanent basis. On May 23, 1953, the combined orchestra made its television debut on the Jackie Gleason Show. Starting in 1954, they had a network TV series, Stage Show produced by Jackie Gleason. Elvis Presley made his national television debut on their show in 1956. Charlie Parker, who as a fledgling alto sax player expressed an admiration for Jimmy, died in front of the TV while watching a Dorsey Brothers' show. When in November 1956 Tommy died in his sleep from choking on his own vomit, Jimmy, already desperately ill, carried on for some months with Tommy's silent trombone displayed on stage, until in June 1957 he succumbed to lung cancer.

Jimmy and Tommy appeared as the Mystery Guests on the October 16, 1955 airing of What's My Line?. They were guessed by Dorothy Kilgallen.

In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in honor of Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey.

Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the studio, 1934: Pictured are (Back row, l-r): Don Mattison, trombone; Ray McKinley, drums; George Thow, trumpet; Glenn Miller, trombone; Bobby Van Epps, piano. (Middle row, l-r): Skeets Herfurt, tenor sax; Jack Stacey, tenor sax; Jimmy Dorsey, alto sax; Delmar Kaplan, bass; Roc Hillman, guitar; Tommy Dorsey, trombone. Seated in front are band vocalists Bob Crosby and Kay Weber.

Notable releases[edit]



  1. ^ "Dorsey Brothers Orchestra". Red Hot Jazz Archive. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  2. ^ Studwell, William Emmett; Baldin, Mark (2000). The Big Band Reader: Songs Favored by Swing Era Orchestras and Other Popular Ensembles. Psychology Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-0-7890-0914-2. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  3. ^ Simon, George Thomas. Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. NY: Crowell, 1974.
  4. ^ "The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra Songs ••• Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved 27 August 2018.

External links[edit]