Tommy Dorsey swung America's 'Greatest Generation'

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By Greg Summers

When he reformed his own dance band in the late 1940s, Tommy Dorsey said that it was about time that somebody got "things" going again.

"You ca't expect to have any real interest in dance bands if the bands don't go round the country and play for the kids," said Dorsey, who was known as the "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing."

Now, almost 60 years later, the band that bears his name will bring the music that influenced "America's Greatest Generation" to Lancaster. Its goal has changed little as it reaches out to attract a new generation of listeners.

Led by conductor and trombonist Buddy Morrow, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. on the Charles Bundy Auditorium stage inside the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster.

Peggy Little, manager of the USCL Performing Arts Series, said a limited number of $55 tickets are still available for Saturday's show.

"You can join us on a sentimental journey," said Frankie Faile, chairman of the USCL Education Foundation's 2007-08 Performing Arts Series.

Tommy Dorsey, whose sound was at its peak in the 1940s, is recognized as one of the best all-around dance bands of the Big Band era, registering a run of 137 Billboard chart hits.

Dorsey was a master of creating warm, sentimental moods with his ballads, but he could swing with the best of them with his superb dance arrangements that caught America by storm when the nation was caught up in the middle of World War II.

When a young singer named Frank Sinatra joined Dorsey's band in 1940, it became more popular than ever.

By the summer of 1941, Dorsey's band had become the nation's favorite musical group, with hits like "Treasure Island," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "Marie," "The Big Apple," "I'll Never Smile Again" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," among others.

When swing started to wane in 1946, Dorsey and fellow band leaders Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Les Brown, Jack Teagarden, Benny Carter and Ina Ray Hutton called it quits, officially ending the Big Band Era.

But within two years, Dorsey was back at it again.

An accomplished musician, Dorsey stayed active in music until his death in 1956. Only 51, he choked to death while sleeping after a heavy meal.

His brother, Jimmy Dorsey, led the band until his death from throat cancer. Trombonist Warren Covington assumed leadership of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, ironically producing its biggest-selling hit in 1958, the "Tea For Two Cha-Cha." Covington led the band until 1970, which is led today by Buddy Morrow.

Morrow, who performed with the Dorsey Brothers, Paul Whiteman and Artie Shaw to name a few, conducted for the Jimmy Rogers Television Show and was on the staff at NBC for years as a featured trombonist on the "Tonight Show."

While the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra retains the classic sound of its former leader, it also incorporates Dixeland swing, rhythm and blues, intricate ballads and jazz and contemporary tunes into its stage performances.

Want to go?

WHO: The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Bundy Auditorium at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster

HOW MUCH: A limited amount of $55 tickets are available

INFORMATION: The Bradley Building box office, or Call (803) 313-7143 or e-mail plittle@gwm.sc.edu