Tommy Dorsey had an amazing 286 songs make the Billboard charts, and 17 went all the way to number one. Three of his recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.
America has produced some great American pop and rock performers. I’ve paid tribute to some of them here: Tom Petty, The Rascals, Credence Clearwater Revival, Jack White (see more in the Singer category). But I believe the finest popular music America has ever produced came during the big band era, most notably from Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
Uploaded by mysticgames.com.
Tommy’s first success came with his brother Jimmy in the late 1920s, but they had different musical directions in mind, and split to form their own orchestras in 1935. One of Tommy Dorsey’s hallmarks was his ability to surround himself with great musicians. Among those who sang or played in his band were Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Doc Severinsen, Buddy DeFranco, Buddy Rich, and Gene Krupa.
Tommy Dorsey and his smooth trombone placed a phenomenal 286 songs on the Billboard charts, with 17 making it to number one. Among his most memorable songs:
- “Little White Lies”
- “I’ll Never Smile Again”
- “I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You”
- “Opus One”
- “Music, Maestro Please”
- “Hawaiian War Chant”
- “The Lady is a Tramp”
Dorsey’s recordings of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Marie,” and his theme song, “I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You,” have been inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame. One side note…Tommy and Jimmy made up in the 1950s, and had a TV show called Stage Show. Its claim to fame is that it marked the first television appearance of a young Southerner named Elvis – before his famous Ed Sullivan Show gig.
This hauntingly beautiful song had French origins, but was adapted to English by American Johnny Mercer. Uploaded by mukurahat.us.
We would share this wonderful classic with Great French Things, were there such a thing, because its melody was written by a French songwriter, Joseph Kosma. American Johnny Mercer gave it English lyrics in 1947.
Johnny Mercer. Uploaded by broadwayworld.com.
Johnny Mercer founded and co-owned Capitol Records. Jo Stafford was under contract to Capitol Records. Therefore, Jo Stafford was the first to record Kosma and Mercer’s beautiful song.
Even though such popular artists as Bing Crosby and Artie Shaw did their own versions, “Autumn Leaves” didn’t really catch on for almost a decade. Then pianist Roger Williams took it to number one – the only piano instrumental ever to reach the top of the charts. From then on it became a jazz standard, brought to life by Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Cannonball Adderley.
Most of the jazz versions are, understandably, instrumentals. Until recently, the essential vocal version was performed by Nat King Cole for a movie called – surprise! – Autumn Leaves. But once you’ve heard Eva Cassidy’s unbelievable version, you’ll realize that she now owns this song. OWNS it.
“Les feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”)