Thomas Francis “Tommy” Dorsey, Jr. (November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956) was an American jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader of the Big Band era. He was known as “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing”, due to his smooth-toned trombone playing. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular and highly successful band from the late 1930s into the 1950s. Thomas Francis Dorsey, Jr. was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the second of four children born to Thomas Francis Dorsey, Sr. and Theresa (née Langton) Dorsey. He and Jimmy, his older brother by slightly less than two years, would become famous as the “Dorsey Brothers”. The two younger siblings were Mary and Edward (who died young). At age 15, Jimmy recommended Tommy as the replacement for Russ Morgan in the 1920s territory band “The Scranton Sirens.” Tommy and Jimmy worked in several bands, including those of Tal Henry, Rudy Vallee, Vincent Lopez, Nathaniel Shilkret, and especially Paul Whiteman. In 1929, the Dorsey Brothers had their first hit with “Coquette” for OKeh records. On November 26, 1956, Tommy Dorsey died at age 51 in his Greenwich, Connecticut home. Dorsey had eaten a heavy meal and began choking in his sleep. Dorsey began taking sleeping pills regularly at this time; therefore, he was so sedated that he was unable to awaken and died from choking. Jimmy Dorsey led his brother’s band until his own death from lung cancer the following year. At that point, trombonist Warren Covington assumed leadership of the band with Jane Dorsey’s blessing as she owned the rights to her late husband’s band and name. Billed as the “Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Starring Warren Covington”, they topped the charts in 1958 with Tea For Two Cha-Cha. After Covington led the band for a short period, Sam Donahue led it starting in 1961, continuing until the late 1960s. Buddy Morrow conducted the Tommy Dorsey orchestra until his death on September 27, 2010. Jane Dorsey died of natural causes at the age of 79, in Miami, Florida in 2003. Tommy and Jane Dorsey are interred together in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
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