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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Charles Dornberger born 5 June 1893

Charles F Dornberger (b. Jun. 5, 1898, New York, NY; d. Feb. 8, 1944, Reno, NV), was a saxophonist and band leader and director in the 1920's and 30's.

The Dornberger family was originally from Germany, and made a good living at the Dornberger Linen Factory before World War 1. Charles' mother, Pauline, was from Alsace Lorraine. Charles was the youngest of three children,

The career of Charles Dornberger included early and important participation in the reed section of the Paul Whiteman band. But he also had a fair amount of success in the '20s and '30s leading the
Charles Dornberger Orchestra, particularly in Canada. Descending from hard-working German stock, Dornberger was
said to have been a skilled musician who could get around fairly well on many of the instruments in the orchestra. Family members have been unable to recall any formal training, meaning he picked up these abilities on his own and did it well enough to pass muster with Whiteman, his first and historically most important employer as a professional musician. The two had met during service in the U.S. Navy in 1918; Dornberger was a pilot and Whiteman was training musicians for various service bands. In December of 1919, Dornberger joined Paul Whiteman's Orchestra and played saxophone with the orchestra during Whiteman's engagement at The The Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles.

By 1923 Dornberger had stepped out of both the cockpit and the
reed section to start up his own band, leading to a contract with Victor as well as the creation of a series of musical shorts for Warner Brothers. Discographer Tom Lord lists Dornberger's final recording sessions as having taken place in 1929, but he continued leading bands for at least another decade, sometimes fronting as many as 35 musicians. Dornberger's band was popular at theatres, hotels, restaurants, and ballrooms such as those in the Congress Hotel in Chicago and Signal Mountain Inn in Chattanooga, Tennessee; at Roseland Ballroom in New York; and the Hollywood Restaurant.

A series of skilled players and arrangers emerged from his organization -- such as Frank Ventre, who went on to create hit material for Fats Waller. Dornberger orchestra recordings have continued to be of great interest to collectors of nostalgia, but by the early '40s the bandleader himself could have hardly understood the long-range appeal of his projects.                


He made 54 recordings (most of them for Victor) 1922-32 but quite a lot of them were never issued. Some of his recordings are hot (For example "Oh, Sister! Ain't That Hot" and "Tiger Rag"), but several are rather straight or even waltzes. The original 78s turn up quite often on auctions which is good since almost nothing by Dornberger has been reissued on CD or LP.

After retiring from the music business, Charlie opened a bar in Santa Ana, CA. called "The Circus Tent". He was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed. He was reported to have been with his girlfriend who also died. Other sources cite that he was instructing a woman who survived the crash. It is generally believed she was his girlfriend though the newspaper lists her as a flying student. There are no obituaries available to prove either story. Dornberger was married, but his wife had left him and they had no children. (info from various sources mainly AMG)

                        Reno Evening Gazette - 7 Feb 1944


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