Edythe Wright is remembered today primarily as a vocalist with Tommy Dorsey during the late 1930s. Wright had youthful aspirations of becoming a dancer, studying for eleven years in tap, toe and acrobatic dancing. She stumbled into singing in 1935, while in college. Frank Dailey, bandleader and owner of the Meadowbrook Ballroom, whom she knew from being a patron of his facility, asked her to fill in for his usual vocalist, Nancy Flake, who was ill that night. Her classmates had informed Dailey that she could sing, and she agreed to help. Little did Wright know that Dorsey’s manager, Arthur Michaud, was in the audience.
Michaud approached Wright and made her an offer to join Dorsey’s orchestra. At first, she wasn’t sure who Dorsey was, but after her brother filled her in on Dorsey’s status as one of the country’s top bandleaders, she took the job. Wright became very popular with audiences and critics, singing on some of Dorsey’s most notable early hits, such as as “You,” “Music, Maestro, Please,” “On Treasure Island,” “The Dipsy Doodle,” “The Music Goes ’Round and Around” and “The Big Apple.” She also worked with his Clambake Seven Dixieland combo.
Wright remained with Dorsey for four years, with two brief interludes, the first in June 1938 when she had an appendectomy. Then in December of that year she abruptly left the band while they were at the Hotel New Yorker, supposedly to wed tennis star Don Budge, in what some suspect may have been a publicity stunt on her part. Mary Ann McCall was hired to replace her. McCall’s debut came on opening night in a Hartford, Connecticut, theater in January 1939. Some reports at the time say McCall was booed off the stage with audience members demanding Wright’s return. The real story, however, involved a contract dispute. Dorsey’s contract with the theater specified that Wright would appear, and when she didn’t the theater manager pressed the term. McCall was out, and Wright returned the next night, saying she was only on vacation and hadn’t really left the band. She indicated that she would stay with the orchestra until their present tour was completed.
Wright left the band permanently in October 1939, being replaced by Anita Boyer. Most sources say she planned to go solo, though at the time noted radio columnist Edgar A. Thompson reported she had a “Little Bundle” on the way. Whether that was true or not is unknown. Wright wasn’t married as of April 1939. It was six months, though, before she made her solo debut on April 14, 1940, in Rochester, New York.
Rumors circulated in January 1940 and again in late 1941 that Dorsey, who was having domestic problems and in the midst of divorcing his then current wife, would marry Wright. The rumors proved untrue. The rumor again resurfaced in 1943, when Wright traveled to Los Angeles, where Dorsey was staying. Wright was referred to as Dorsey’s “longtime gal-friend.” Whether there’s any truth to it or not, public perception seemed to think that she and Dorsey had been carrying on an affair for many years. Wright married a Vermont doctor in November 1940.
After opening in Rochester, Wright went on the road with a new Billy Rose show in early May. In August, she toured with Charlie Barnet on a double bill, and in September she formed an act with Ruth Lowe, songwriter of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” who was under contract to Dorsey. The act continued through at least December. Her solo career never took off, though, and by the mid-1940s she had been mostly forgotten. She continued singing until at least the late 1940s.
Edythe Wright passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1965 at the age of 51.