Dorsey, Thomas A(ndrew) 1899-1993

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DORSEY, Thomas A(ndrew) 1899-1993

(Georgia Tom)


Born July 1, 1899, in Villa Rica, GA; died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, January 23, 1993, in Chicago, IL; son of Thomas Madison (a Baptist evangelist and farmer) and Etta (an organist and pianist; maiden name, Plant) Spencer Dorsey; married Nettie Harper (a wardrobe mistress), August 1, 1925 (died, August 26, 1932); married Kathryn Moseley, c. 1940; children: (first marriage) Thomas Andrew, Jr. (died young); (second marriage) Mickey (son; some sources cite name as Thomas), Doris. Education: Attended Chicago School of Composition and Arrangement (some sources cite Chicago Music College).


Professional blues musician under the name Georgia Tom and popularizer of the musical style "gospel music." Music director at Baptist churches in Chicago, IL, beginning 1921; toured with the Whispering Syncopators, 1920s; Chicago Music Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, music arranger, composer, and studio pianist, 1920s; Wild Cats Jazz Band, band leader and backup musician for blues singer Ma Rainey, c. 1924-26; Vocalion Record Co., recording artist with Hudson Whitaker (as Georgia Tom and Tampa Red), between 1928 and 1932; leader of the gospel music choir at a Baptist church in Chicago, IL, 1931; Pilgrim Baptist Church, Chicago, IL, music director, 1932-83, ordained Baptist minister, 1964, assistant minister, 1964-83. National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, cofounder and president, 1933-1970s; Gospel Choral Union of Chicago, dean of evangelistic musical research and ministry of church music, beginning 1940; Thomas Dorsey Gospel Songs Music Co., founder. Paramount Records, worked as singing coach, also recording artist with Whitaker, as the Hokum Boys, 1929; University Radio Singers, performer on WLFL-Radio, between 1932 and 1937; toured with singer Sallie Martin in the 1930s; toured with the show Evenings with Dorsey, between 1932 and 1944; toured as pianist with singer Mahalia Jackson, c. 1940-42. Recordings of his music include Do That Guitar Rag: 1928-1935, Yazoo; (with Tampa Red Whitaker) It's Tight Like That, 1928-1942, Story of the Blues; Kansas City Kitty/Georgia Tom, Document; Georgia Tom (1929-1930), Best of Blues; Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey, Columbia, 1973; Professor Thomas Andrew Dorsey—The Maestro Sings, Sound of Gospel, 1980; One More Time Together: Live in Washington, D.C., Gospel World, 1982; Complete Works, five volumes, Document (Vienna, Austria), 1991; Georgia Tom Dorsey: Come On Mama Do That Dance, 1931-1940, Yazoo, 1992; (with others) Tampa Red: The Guitar Wizard, Columbia/Legacy Roots, 1994; and (with Victoria Spivey) Recorded Legacy of the Blues, Spivey Records.


Three honorary degrees, including D. Gospel Music, Simmons Institute of South Carolina, 1946; National Music Award, American Music Conference, 1976; inducted into International Hall of Fame, Nashville Song Writers Association, 1979, and into Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 1981, and Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, 1982; the T. A. Dorsey Gospel Chorus was named in his honor at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 1983; National Trustees Award, Grammy Awards, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1992.


Inspirational Thoughts, privately printed, 1934.

Songs with a Message: My Ups and Downs, privately printed, 1938.

Dorsey's Book of Poems, 1941.

Dorsey's Songs of the Kingdom, edited by Kathryn Dorsey and Julia Mae Smith, Thomas A. Dorsey (Chicago, IL), 1951.

(Editor) Songs with a Message: New and Familiar Gospel Songs for All Religious Occasions, [Chicago, IL], 1951.

Great Gospel Songs, Hill and Range Songs (New York, NY), 1965.

Great Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey, Hal Leonard Publishing, 1988.

Other writings include Piano Duet Book of Gospel Hymns, arranged by Rose Sattler Grimes. Author of several hundred songs, including "If I Don't Get There," 1922; "I Want a Daddy I Call My Own," 1923; "Riverside Blues," 1923; "Black Cat Hoot Owl," 1928; "Blame It on the Blues," 1928; "It's Tight Like That," 1928; "Gonna Catch You with Your Breeches Down," 1928; "My Beedle um Bum," 1928; (composer) "Hustlin' Blues," words by Malissa Nix, 1928; "If You See My Savior, Tell Him That You Saw Me," 1929; "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," 1932, reprinted, Chappell/Intersong (Milwaukee, WI), 2000; "We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace," 1939; "Wings over Jordan," 1939; "Jesus Rose Again: SATB," arranged and orchestrated by Don Hart, PraiseSong (Milwaukee, WI), 1999; other songs include "Angels Watching over Me," "How about You," "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray," "Jesus Is the Light of the World," "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow," "Muddy Water Blues," and "Search Me, Lord."



Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Harris, Michael W., The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Notable Black American Men, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Religious Leaders of America, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Village Voice, October 5, 1982.


Say Amen Somebody (documentary film), Pacific Arts Video Records, 1984.



Newsmakers 1993, Issue 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.


Billboard, February 6, 1993, obituary by Lisa Collins, p. 10.

Chicago Tribune, January 25, 1993.

Down Beat, April, 1993.

Entertainment Weekly, February 5, 1993.

Jet, February 8, 1993, p. 64.

Newsweek, February 8, 1993.

New York Times, January 25, 1993.

Time, February 8, 1993.

Washington Post, January 25, 1993; January 31, 1993.*