|Tommy Dorsey Band|
As you can see from the picture, this type of music usually used 12-25 instrumentalists. It covered several types of instruments: brass -- trumpets and trombones; woodwinds -- saxophones and clarinets; stringed instruments -- violin, guitar, bass, and piano. I guess that's why they called it big band music. It was very common to have different sections of the orchestra break out into solos during a song. Often the bands also included vocalists.
|Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee|
Before 1935, the bands mostly played in local venues trying to hit the big time. They would play one-night stands, touring the country, going from town to town for concerts that didn't pay much. It was a hard life and often led to drinking and addictions.
The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra started out this way. In 1935 the stress of touring across the country led to a disagreement between the brothers causing them to split into two bands. The Tommy Dorsey Band went on the road separately and made it to the big time in the early 40s by recording some top 10 hits.
During World War II, several big bands toured with the USO lifting the morale of the troops fighting on foreign soil. When the soldiers returned home, the swinging rhythm of big band music stayed popular until into the late 50s.
Click here if you want to listen to a sample of music: You Tube - Best of Big Band
Information taken from Wikipedia - Big Band and Tommy Dorsey - Biography