Remembering past bandleaders, musicians, arrangers and ballroom operators.
Frank Dailey's Death Ends Era
An obituary piece came over the wires the other night announcing the passing of a man who probably had more to do with helping bands get their break, than any other one person in the business. He was Frank Dailey, who with his late brother Vince, operated a spot in New Jersey known as The Meadowbrook.
Back in the mid-'30's and early '40's, when the bands rules the business, radio audiences from coast-to-coast kept their dials tuned to the music which was piped across the land from the supper club on the Newark-Pompton Turnpike.
I was a frequent customer at Dailey's, having been reared in Jersey and having attended college only eight miles from the place. We held our annual proms at The Meadowbrook and the Dailey's always gave the college kids a break on prices.
Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Charlie Spivak, Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa were just a few of the topnotchers whose careers got an early boost at The Meadowbrook.
I can recall one night I went to Dailey's to hear TD. He had one of his greatest bands at the time, around 1939. There was a skinny kid singing with Tommy who was having a tough time hitting the high notes. In addition, they played a green spotlight on him and he looked like a corpse.
"Dorsey won't keep that guy very long," I predicted.
Time proved me right. In two years, the kid was out on his own making a fortune. His name was Frank Sinatra.
Dailey's death seems to mark the end of a wonderful era. The orchestras which once packed The Meadowbrook and other big halls around the nation, are struggling for survival. It's hard to say what will happen to the spot with Dailey gone, but heaven help the band business if the doors close permanently.
[Source: Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), dated March 4, 1956]
‘Society’ bandleader Davis dead at 80
New York (AP) – Meyer Davis, who dominated the “society” music field for half a century and built up an empire of 80 bands and 1,000 musicians catering to the affluent, is dead at 81.
The bandleader died Monday at his New York City home. Davis and his musicians played for debutante balls, White House functions, fashionable hotels, cruise ships and exclusive resorts. He often led his familiar “society beat” at weddings and debuts of the Astors, Rockefellers, Du Ponts, Drexels, Fords and Firestones.
Davis also conducted orchestras at seven inaugural balls for presidents ranging from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy. And Davis bands provided music for more than 200 Broadway shows.
[Source: Tri-City Herald (Pasco, Washington), dated April 6, 1976]
(Special to the Picayune)
Chicago, Ill., Jan. 23 – W.C. Debaugh, leader of Debaugh’s Band, died last night in a hospital at New Orleans, after an illness of only a few days. He was operated upon for stomach trouble. News of the death of the well-known bandmaster was received in a dispatch today from Morgan City, La., where a theatrical company with which he was traveling is filling an engagement. The body probably will be brought back to Chicago.
Mr. Debaugh was 34 years old. Most of his life was spent in Chicago. He accompanied the Cook County Democrats on most of its pilgrimages as bandleader. The band of which he was leader is known to thousands of Chicago people. It gives concerts in the city and suburbs during the summer months.
Mr. Debaugh was the first to introduce the megaphone quartette as a feature of band concerts, and it became popular.
He leaves a wife, who is at her home, 5233 Calumet Avenut. He was a Mason, a Knight of Pythias, a member of the Elks, the Royal Arcanum, Cook County Democracy, and the Chicago Federation of Musicians.
[Source: Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), dated January 24, 1905]
Bandleader Jimmy Dorsey Dies of Cancer at Age 53
New York (AP) - Cancer killed bandleader Jimmy Dorsey Wednesday, less than seven months after the death of his brother, Tommy. Thus vanished from the American scene one of the great combinations of the jazz age.
Jimmy was 53. Tommy was 51 when he accidentally choked to death in his sleep last Nov. 26 at his Connecticut home.
The brothers came out of the Pennsylvania coal fields in the 1920's to set American feet tapping to the sentimental beat of their music. Jimmy played the clarinet, Tommy the trombone.
They broke up their band and went their separate ways in 1935 after a heated dispute over artistic style. It was not until 18 years later that they were reunited on the same band stand.
"Jimmy was never the same after Tommy died," said Lee Castle, a life-time associate who now leads the Dorsey band. "He really was broken-hearted. He didn't talk about anything else."
Jimmy was operated on last January for a lung growth. He rejoined the band and took it on tour but was forced to leave it in March and enter Doctors Hospital. Recently, he had failed rapidly.
The Dorseys reached a peak of their career in the year preceding Tommy's death. For the 1955-56 television season, they shared Jackie Gleason's Saturday night TV show. Millions watched them.
Tommy, who billed himself as "The sentimental Gentleman of Swing," was tall, rather spare, hot tempered and with ready fists. Jimmy was shorter, dapperly rotund, a quiet stylist who long was king of America's juke boxes.
The brothers started out together in small bands in 1922. They worked their way up to the Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez bands, among the most celebrated of the early jazz era.
Eventually, the Dorsey's struck out for themselves with their own band. It featured such stars as Glenn Miller, Charlie Spivak and Bob Crosby, all of whom later formed bands of their own.
Jimmy was divorced in 1949 by his wife of 21 years, Jane.
Since he never remarried, Jimmy will be buried in the Catholic faith to which he belonged. A Requiem Mass will be celebrated Saturday morning in St. Patrick's Cathedral here, with burial in Shenandoah, Pa.
[Source: Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), dated June 13, 1957]
2nd Dorsey Brother Dies – Jimmy, 53
New York (AP) – Bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, 53, died today in Doctors Hospital which he entered about a month ago. Cause of death was not disclosed immediately. He was a brother of Tommy Dorsey, also a bandleader, who died last November.
He had been under treatment for cancer. In January he was operated on for a lung growth. Two months later he left the band on the road to enter Doctors Hospital.
Jimmy Dorsey, like his more famous brother, Tommy, came out of the poverty-stricken hard coal regions of Pennsylvania to head one of the most famous bands in America. The two brothers were noted for the music they made separately and together – and won almost as much prominence for the celebrated feuds that kept them apart.
[Source: Times (Hammond, Indiana), dated June 12, 1957]
Jimmy Dorsey’s Ex-Wife Dies of Fall Injuries
Glendale, Calif. (AP) – Jane Porter Dorsey, divorced wife of the late bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, died from injuries received in a fall, according to police.
Mrs. Dorsey, 50, died Sunday in Glendale Sanitarium from an intracranial hemorrhage. Police investigated when it appeared she might have been struck on the head. Officers said Monday there was no foul play.
Mrs. Dorsey lived alone and apparently fell at her home Saturday. She married Dorsey in 1928 and divorced him in 1949, complaining he listened to his own recordings as many as a hundred times in a row.
The bandleader died of cancer in 1957. The couple had one child, now Mrs. Julia Hilton. Mrs. Dorsey also leaves a sister, Mrs. Louise Nelson, and a grandson.
[Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, Texas), dated February 20, 1962]
Famed Bandleader, Tommy Dorsey, Dies
Greenwich, Conn. (AP) - Bandleader Tommy Dorsey died Monday in his sprawling $130,000 mansion, apparently the victim of a bizarre accident while he slept.
An air of mystery surrounded the death of the bespectacled "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing." Dorsey, 51, and his brother, Jimmy, were familiar to millions of music lovers the world over.
The mystery was perhaps brought about by one of Dorsey's own erractic habits - one of writing notes. When police entered the home Monday, they found a note to his third wife, Janie, who was divorcing him. Added to that, too was the difficulty of telling exactly what happened to the famous trombonist in the night.
Dr. C. Stanley Knapp, medical examiner, said Dorsey choked to death on food particles which he apparently threw up in his sleep.
Dorsey dined Sunday night with his wife, and her mother, Mrs. Ruth New of Atlanta, at the Dorsey home. About 8:30 he told Mrs. Dorsey he felt tired and was going to bed. She called him twice between 9 and 9:30 for telephone calls, and told police she saw him groggily staggering about the room.
The last person who apparently talked to Tommy was his personal manager Tino Barzie, who telephoned him from Pittsfield, Mass., at 10 p.m.
Barzie said that Dorsey mumbled as he spoke to him but that this was not at all unusual.
No one thought it odd when Dorsey did not come out of his bedroom all Monday morning. His booking agent, Vincent Carbone, finally tried to rouse him about 2 p.m. and finding the door locked, climbed in through a window and found Dorsey dead.
Police found a scribbled not to Mrs. Dorsey. In it Dorsey thanked his wife the dinner the previous evening and said: "I am leaving early in the morning. Kiss Susie (his 6-year-old daughter) for me before she leaves for school."
Dorsey, who was born in Mahonoy Plain, Pa., will be buried beside his father in the hills of Shenandoah, Pa., following services Thursday in New York City.
Janie Dorsey filed for divorce in Bridgeport Oct. 24. She charged intolerable cruelty.
The Dorseys were married at Atlanta, Ga., in 1948 and have two children, Susan, 6 and Steve, 4.
Dorsey grew up in a coal mining family in Shenandoah, Pa. He was 2 years older than his brother, James Francis - "Jimmy Dorsey" - and also a prominent bandleader.
A self-taught musician, their father instructed the boys in the cornet when they were five and seven, and the home music lessons mushroomed into fabulous careers for both on the bandstand.
They played with the Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez bands. But Tommy wanted a band of their own. Jimmy finally agreed. And there was born the Dorsey Brothers' orchestra. It put them in the lights.
Their band had such stars as Glenn Miller, Charlie Spivak, Ray McKinley, Bunny Berigan and Bob Crosby. But the brothers often got into fraternal spats, and in 1935, they broke up - forming separate orchestras.
[Source: Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), dated November 27, 1956]
Eddie Duchin, Bandleader and Pianist, Dies of Leukemia
New York, Feb. 9 (AP) – Bandleader Eddie Duchin, 41, whose nimble-fingered piano playing delighted millions of dancers, radio listeners and movie fans, died tonight of leukemia.
Only a few hours earlier, the Navy cited him for his World War II service. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 33 and served in some of the toughest engagements both in the Atlantic and Pacific.
Duchin studied to be a druggist and worked at a soda fountain as a youth before his great piano playing got him started on a musical career.
His first wife was a wealthy socialite, who died two years after their marriage and six days after the birth of his only son. He later married again.
He died in Memorial Hospital at 7:10 p.m. (EST). The hospital gave the cause of death as leukemia – a form of cancer of the blood.
Duchin had been in and out of the hospital several times in recent months.
His full name was Edwin Frank Duchin. He was born in Cambridge, Mass.
[Source: Cumberland News (Cumberland, Maryland), dated February 10, 1951]
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