Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.
Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, born in 1904 and 1905, respectively, grew up in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, under the instruction of a bandleader father who was so intent on getting his sons to practice their instruments that he would hide their shoes to keep them from leaving the house. Both brothers started out on cornet but, by the time they were teenagers, had moved on to the instruments that would bring them fame: Jimmy to alto saxophone and clarinet, and Tommy to trombone. They were traveling with various bands by the age of 17, and by 1925 they had begun to find work in New York City, where the radio boom had created a big demand for musicians who could handle the pressure of playing live over the airwaves. The Dorsey brothers were reliable workers and expert sight readers, so they did well as freelancers.
By 1928, they had gained enough experience and respect to form The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Eddie Lang and Glenn Miller were early members, as was Smith Ballew, who takes the vocal turn on “Was It a Dream?”
“Was It A Dream?” must have been a gig hit for the songwriting team of Sam Coslow, Larry Spier and Addy Britt, because it was recorded by at least six different acts in 1928 alone. Continue reading