Widely regarded as the dad of gospel music, thomas A. Dorsey’s composing talent came to be a merging suggest in the early ‘20s, for countless musical styles. In really fact, his very first musical influence was as a blues stylist as both writer and performer.
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Years later he would compose such compelling gospel classics as “Take my Hand priceless Lord,” “Peace in the Valley,” “The Old delivery of Zion,” “On the Battlefield,” “Walk anywhere God’s Heaven” and also “Search Me Lord,” i m sorry taken intotal to be responsible because that untold numerous dollars in recording sales.
Dorsey was born July 1, 1899 in Villa Rica, GA., come the Reverend and Mrs. T. M. Dorsey, one of 10 children. When he to be eight years old, the family members moved to Atlanta where he soon was working component time selling ginger ale in ~ a local theater, halfway between a pool hall and a barber shop. In ~ the theater, the learned come play the piano and also by age 12, Dorsey was a expert musician, relocating on come the barrelhouses and also brothels of Atlanta’s notorious Decatur Street wherein he played the blues and also came come be recognized as ‘Barrelhouse Tommy.’
His come in Chicago at 17 brought about an immersion in the nourishing public City blues scene, whereby he attended music classes and also worked work jobs and also as a blues singer and player in ban era speakeasies at night. Still in Chicago, the attended a Baptist Convention in ~ the Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1922 and also was so moved by the music preacher that heard the night that he had actually a switch experience, coining the term, ‘Gospel Music,’ and also writing his very an initial gospel track all within a week. Still travel the blues circuit, he started having his gospel songs printed in sheet music form and offering them for 10c apiece to musicians and pastors.
During lot of the decade of the ‘20s, Dorsey continued to straddle the fence in between blues and jazz top top the one hand and also gospel music on the other. V the introduction of blues documents in the ‘20s, Dorsey came to be a much in-demand arranger and also accompanist. Working in a band called The Whispering Syncopators, with Lionel Hampton, the arranged because that Ma Rainey and her Wildcats top top tour where he to be a featured performer and also for luigi Armstrong. He additionally found time come marry Nettie Harper, a church girl.
Having currently written several major gospel struggle songs, that teamed up v guitarist Hudson Whittaker in 1928 and as “Georgia Tom” and also “Tampa Red,” the pair co-wrote and also recorded “It’s Tight like That,” which eventually sold seven million recordings, a document for the blues era, and inspiring a whole new style which happened known together “Hokum Blues.” and from 1928 come 1932, working as ‘Georgia Tom,’ he added to over 300 blues records, working v such immortals as huge Bill Broonzy, Scrapper Blackwell, Kansas City Kitty, Bertha ‘Chippie’ Hill, Frankie ‘Half Pint’ Jackson and also Jane Lucas, amongmany others.
In the winter of 1932, if on the road performing, he received word the the death of his wife, Nettie, in childbirth, with the newborn dice the next day. The experience so changed Dorsey creatively and spiritually, the legend has it that he created his most well known gospel song, “Take mine Hand priceless Lord,” during a mourning company that an extremely week.
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In the next years, Dorsey spent much of his time ~ above tour and also became a effective Black music publisher. Later, in 1940, that married Kathryn Mosely, a union the was blessed v two children. A high point for Dorsey’s music came when the legend Red Foley and also the Foggy hill Boys, stars of the cool Ole’ Opry, recorded “Peace in the Valley,” i beg your pardon topped The happy Strike struggle Parade in 1948. His songs have actually been taped by Elvis Presley, pat Boone, Aretha Franklin, small Richard, Jimmy Durante, beam Price, Jim Reeves, Boots Randolph, Lawrence Welk, Wayne Newton, mockery White and also B.B. King, amongst many others. Throughout the 1980s, he to be honored so often with honorary doctorates the he became known as Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey. He passed away in 1993 at the ripe old age of 94, however the storage of his exorbitant songs, both gospel and blues, will live on and also on.