Edythe Wright

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Edythe Wright
Edythe Wright.jpg
Background information
Born(1916-08-16)August 16, 1916
Bayonne, New Jersey
DiedOctober 27, 1965(1965-10-27) (aged 49)
Point Pleasant, New Jersey
GenresJazz, swing
Years active1935–1943

Edythe Wright (August 16, 1916[1] – October 27, 1965) was an American singer who performed from 1935 to 1939 with the band led by Tommy Dorsey.[2]

Early life[edit]

Edythe Wright was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, the youngest child of Harrison Burr Wright and Hanna(h) Heffernan. Her siblings were Ethel, James, Estelle, Kathryn, Thomas, and Helen. Harrison was a second cousin to the Barrymore acting family of Philadelphia. It is not clear whether he was related to the Maurice Barrymore (born Blythe) side of the family or the Georgiana Drew side. He was also an actor with the troupe of Harrigan and Hart which was a popular act in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wright grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey.[3] In Bandstand, Wright states that she went to St. Peter's Parochial School and St. Peter the Apostle High School in New Brunswick before transferring to New Brunswick High School where she graduated in 1933. From there she spent time running a coffee shop with her sister, studied drama at the New Jersey College for Women at New Brunswick (now a part of Rutgers University) and spent her summers at Sea Girt, New Jersey.

Early career[edit]

Wright debuted on radio in March 1935, singing with Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Trio. That performance led to her becoming the singer in the Sunset Room of the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, New Jersey. By the end of that month, she was also singing "7 to 10 presentations a week" on WOR radio.[3] She sang with Frank Crum's orchestra in the Sunset Room and later performed with Lennie Hayton's orchestra.[4] In May 1935, while singing with Crum's orchestra, she made six recordings for Brunswick Records.[5]

Wright's early exposure on network radio came via appearances with the orchestras of Frank Dailey and Joe Haymes.[6] She won the job with Dailey out of 500 women who auditioned, enabling her to be heard six nights a week on CBS.[7] Her network debut came on August 31, 1935, when she sang with Dailey's orchestra from the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.[8]

During the summer of 1935 she was asked by Dailey to fill in for his vocalist Nancy Flake during an engagement at the Asbury Park Casino. She was heard by Tommy Dorsey's agent and despite her supposed dislike of being a band vocalist and lack of formal musical training, accepted a permanent job with Dorsey.[citation needed]

Big Band era[edit]

Wright became the first female singer with Dorsey's band after he left the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra to start his own group.[9] Her career spanned from September 1935 through August 1939.[10]: 107  She made 121 studio recordings (of which 120 were issued on 87 discs) with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra, Clambake Seven, and the California Ramblers, several recordings under a pseudonym for transcription purposes.

Wright's acquaintance with an executive at Brown & Williamson tobacco company helped to secure a radio program for the Dorsey band.[10] She was a fixture on radio (Jack Pearl Show,[11] Raleigh-Kool), and contributed arrangements to the Dorsey band. However, in September 1939 she left the Dorsey band and was replaced by Anita Boyer and then Connie Haines.

Post-Dorsey era[edit]

After Wright left Dorsey's group, she had a solo singing act. In September 1940, she was joined by Ruth Lowe, forming a new act that debuted in Boston, Massachusetts.[12] In 1943, she starred on Victory Caravan, a variety show on radio station WIP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[13]

Wright did at least one episode of the Ellery Queen radio series (#148 "The Frightened Star") broadcast on July 14, 1940 with a rebroadcast in October 1943. She spent the war years in California and returned to New York in 1950 to manage Sy Oliver (advertised in Variety). Oliver at that time was affiliated with Decca Records.

Personal life[edit]

She married John T. Smith.[14] According to his U.S. Army file, he enlisted in the Army on October 6, 1941 and was assigned to Fort Dix with the rank of private. He served as a combat engineer in Alaska during World War II. Smith died in June 1981.[citation needed] They had a son, Patrick.[14]

During the 1950s she was a Democratic committeewoman from Wall Township, New Jersey, and according to Rose Shiffman directed amateur theatricals at the Chadwick Beach Club in the early 1960s.


Wright died from pancreatic cancer[citation needed] at the Point Pleasant Hospital on October 27, 1965.[4] According to her obituary she was laid out at the Meehan Funeral Home in Spring Lake Heights, a Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church in Manasquan with burial taking place at St. Catherine's Cemetery in Spring Lake Heights.


  1. ^ "What Do You Want to Know?". Radio Mirror. 10 (1): 58. May 1938. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Solid! Edythe Wright". Parabrisas. 1996–2005. Archived from the original on 2009-05-03.
  3. ^ a b Baltin, Will (March 24, 1935). "Edythe Wright, Local Girl, Radio's Newest Sensation". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. p. 27. Retrieved October 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ a b "Edythe Wright Dead; Singer With Dorsey". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. October 27, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved October 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ "New Laurels: Edythe Wright Makes 6 Brunswick Records in One Week". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. May 12, 1935. p. 26. Retrieved October 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  6. ^ Baltin, Will (May 10, 1936). "Edythe Wright Soon to Be America's Leading Feminine Singer, Says Tommy Dorsey". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. p. 12. Retrieved October 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ "Edythe Wright With CBS Radio Orchestra". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. August 12, 1935. p. 3. Retrieved October 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  8. ^ "Park Girl Will Make Air Debut Saturday". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. August 29, 1935. p. 13. Retrieved October 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 634. ISBN 9780307379894. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b Levinson, Peter J. (2009). Tommy Dorsey: Livin' in a Great Big Way, A Biography. Da Capo Press. p. 85. ISBN 9780786734948. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Edythe Wright". Des Moines Tribune. Iowa, Des Moines. May 7, 1937. p. 30. Retrieved October 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  12. ^ "Ruth Lowe, Edythe Wright Form Act" (PDF). Billboard. September 28, 1940. p. 9. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  13. ^ Orodenker, Maurie (March 20, 1943). "Program Reviews: 'Victory Caravan'" (PDF). Billboard. p. 8. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Edythe Wright Says Dorsey Was 'Sentimental Gentleman'". Asbury Park Press. New Jersey, Asbury Park. June 24, 1962. p. 36. Retrieved October 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  • U.S. Census 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Rose Shiffman, "The Edythe Wright Story" AfterBeat Summer 1972
  • Peter Levinson, Tommy Dorsey: Livin' in a Great Big Way

External links[edit]