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August 16, 1914|
Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||October 27, 1965
Point Pleasant, New Jersey
|Associated acts||Tommy Dorsey|
Edythe Wright was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, the youngest child of Harrison Burr Wright and Hanna(h) Heffernan. Her siblings were Ethel (b. 1900), James (b. 1902), Estelle (b. 1904), Kathryn (b. 1908), Thomas (b. 1910) and Helen (b. 1912). 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.
In Bandstand, Wright states that she went to St. Peter's Parochial School and St. Peter's 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) and spent her summers at Sea Girt, New Jersey. During the summer of 1935 she was asked by bandleader Frank 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. She was twenty-one years old.
Big Band era
Edythe Wright's career spanned from September 1935 through September 1939. 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. She was a fixture on radio (Jack Pearl Show, 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.
She 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.
She married John T. Smith. 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.
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. She died from pancreatic cancer at the Point Pleasant Hospital on October 27, 1965 at the age of 51.
- 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