Jim Miller had a ringside seat for one of the most famous fighting brother acts in history.
Rockers may have the Everly Brothers and Ray and Dave Davies of the Kink’s - but neither feud holds a candle to the 18-year estrangement that separated Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, two of the most popular musicians of the big band era.
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, led now by Jim Miller, will play The Festival at Sandpoint Saturday.
Miller was hired to play trombone in Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1953, the year the brothers decided to make up. Before he could play a note with the Tommy Dorsey outfit, he was working for the reunited Dorseys under the banner of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
The brothers continued to spar, Miller said, “but as Mama Dorsey used to say, it wasn’t bad for Irish boys.”
In 1947, they even made a movie together, “The Fabulous Dorseys.”
Sadly, the Dorseys made music together for just four years - one year before the split and three years after.
Tommy died in 1956 and Jimmy went 16 months later, some say of a broken heart.
“He was very upset when Tommy died,” said Miller, dispelling the myth, “but he died of cancer.”
What the Dorsey’s did best, of course, was make music. With Glenn Miller, they probably headed the most successful of all the big bands. With songs like “So Rare,” “Green Eyes,” “Amapola,” “Tangerine,” “I Understand,” “I’m Glad There is You” and “Maria Elena,” they helped define the smooth, swinging ballroom style that was more pop than jazz, and that still is synonymous with romance.
“How many times can you go to a rock concert and come out singing one of their songs?” Miller said. “… (the Dorsey’s music) has wonderful melodies and beautiful harmonies that stick with you. And a lot of it is very soothing.”
Miller stayed with the orchestra when trumpeter Lee Castle took over in 1957 and became leader when Castle died in 1990.
“People say the big band era is dead; in that case, I’m in a lot of trouble because I’ve been associated with this band since 1953, and we’re still going strong.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Jim Miller & the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Location and time: Memorial Field in Sandpoint, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $29.50 reserved, $19.50 general admission