The Dorseys in Winnipeg

by James Kidd

In an earlier post about the Dorsey brothers in Winnipeg in the mid 50s, I mentioned having cut classes from the University of Manitoba to be their 'gopher' for their week at the Rancho Don Carlos. I'm posting it this time as a new item because if I attach it to the earlier post it won't get read and I think the story is so good I want to ensure that most followers here get to enjoy it. As I mentioned, Tommy was a sour, gruff individual who rehearsed the band EVERY afternoon and this in a time when there were hardly any big bands left! Jimmy was a real gentleman and always took the time to answer my naive and dumb questions with patience. Here he was spending his time with some star struck punk who couldn't afford to buy one of his 50 cent Deccas! I tried to avoid Tommy as he always seemed to be in a bad move altho at the end of the week he made a gesture that showed he had a soft side and gave me one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. Mentioning this prompted David Sager to ask me to tell the story so here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do telling it and reliving the moment!

One of my favourite Dorsey recordings was Song Of India which showed off that incredible tone, technique and breath control that was Tommy's. Every night, set after set, I waited and hoped for the drum introduction that would signal Song Of India. It never came. On the last night just before the last set.....12:15 am I finally got up enough to nerve to ask 'Mr. Dorsey will you be playing Song Of India tonight?' I feared his answer. He looked at me in a quizzical way and asked 'Haven't we played that yet?' to which I replied, 'no you haven't and I've been here every night this week' 'Well, we'll see' he muttered and that was it. I was so afraid of upsetting him even further. I didn't say another word.

It's now 12:55 am and the last tune of the night and the week. The tom-tom introduces Song Of India! My heart stopped as I stood in the doorway to offstage. Tommy put the trombone to his lips, turned away from the dancers, looked for me and blew the entire first chorus right at me! It was so unreal I still have trouble believing it ever happened. But it did and some nights when I have trouble falling asleep I pull it from the memory bank and use it, along with some of my favourite 7 irons to the green golf shots, liasons with ladies of questionable pedigree, etc, etc. get to sleep.

So of you enjoyed the story, thank David Sager for making it happen!

Posted on Jun 18, 2017, 5:47 PM

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