Tommy Dorsey – Armed Forces Radio Show – June 23, 1943 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Tommy Dorsey this week. Jazz aficionados may blanche and wince and swear up and down this is Pop music and has nothing to do with Jazz. But, au contraire – the Big Band era was a springboard for a lot of important voices in Jazz of the PostWar era – that it was Jazz you could dance to and which occasionally had strings and syrupy lyrics went with the territory at the time. It was Jazz with commercial appeal and was dubbed Swing during that period of the mid-1930s through to the early 1950s before the era came to a close and smaller groups came into prominence.
One of the main practitioners of the Swing Era was Tommy Dorsey who, along with his brother Jimmy were alumnus of Paul Whiteman’s band in the 1920s and were major proponents of the “Hot Jazz” genre which pre-dated Big Band in the 1930s.
The band was popular almost from the moment it signed with RCA Victor for “On Treasure Island”, the first of four hits in 1935. After his 1935 recording, however, Dorsey’s manager dropped the “hot jazz” that Dorsey had mixed with his own lyrical style, and instead had Dorsey play pop and vocal tunes. Dorsey kept his Clambake Seven as a Dixieland group that played during performances. Dorsey became the co-host of The Raleigh-Kool Program on the radio with comedian Jack Pearl, then become the host.
By 1939, Dorsey was aware of criticism that his band lacked a jazz feeling. He hired arranger Sy Oliver away from the Jimmie Lunceford band.Sy Oliver’s arrangements include “On The Sunny Side of the Street” and “T.D.’s Boogie Woogie”; Oliver also composed two of the new band’s signature instrumentals, “Well, Git It” and “Opus One”. In 1940, Dorsey hired singer Frank Sinatra from bandleader Harry James. Sinatra made eighty recordings from 1940 to 1942 with the Dorsey band. Two of those eighty songs are “In the Blue of Evening” and “This Love of Mine”. Sinatra achieved his first great success as a vocalist in the Dorsey band and claimed he learned breath control from watching Dorsey play trombone. Sy Oliver and Sinatra did a posthumous tribute album to Dorsey on Sinatra’s Reprise records. “I Remember Tommy” appeared in 1961. In turn, Dorsey said his trombone style was heavily influenced by that of Jack Teagarden.
Here is a taste of what it was all about in the middle of World War 2 with Tommy Dorsey and a program broadcast by Armed Forces Radio in June of 1943.
And since it is Memorial Day weekend after all . . .