Tommy Reynolds

Photo of Tommy Reynolds

Clarinetist Tommy Reynolds is remember today mostly for his Artie Shaw-inspired band of the early 1940s. Reynolds worked with Ben Pollack and Isham Jones before forming a Boston-based orchestra in the late 1930s that played mostly in the Northeast until breaking out on to the national stage in late 1939 under promoter Cy Shribman, who also handled Shaw, Woody Herman, and Charlie Barnet. Styled the “Band of Tomorrow,” the orchestra recorded on Vocalion and then Okeh from December 1939 to September 1940. Though inspired by Shaw, Reynolds’ music was unashamedly commercial, something Down Beat magazine pointed out in their June 1, 1940, issue. The review caused Reynolds to write an article in rebuttal title “So My Clarinet Is Commercial!” Reynolds paraphrased Will Rogers, stating: “There are a lot of guys who ain’t playing commercial who ain’t eatin’.”

Reynolds’ orchestra never caught on with the public, though not for a lack of trying. He managed to hire several top musicians and vocalists. In November 1939, he lured away Barnet’s star singers, Judy Ellington and Larry Taylor. Ellington replaced Penny Porter in the band but stayed for only a month, leaving in December due to health issues. Marion Page replaced her, singing on the group’s first recordings. Patsy Parker was female vocalist by late January, with Sally Richards settling into the spot by late February. Taylor remained until May, when he returned to Barnet. Gene Sanders replaced him in June. Sanders left in August, with trombonist Tom Bell doubling on vocals until Ralph Young came aboard in September. Richards left in September, and Mary Ann McCall took her place. McCall left in April 1941, and Young left in summer that same year. Freddie Lane was vocalist in October 1942, and Nadine Westerfield, a new find from Kansas, had joined by December 1942.

Reynolds continued leading a band into the 1950s, but by 1941 he had drifted out of the limelight. After losing his Okeh contract, he did not record again until 1953 when he made a few sides for Derby with his “Shuffle Rhythm Orchestra.”

Vocalist Timeline

Marion Page
Patsy Parker
Sally Richards
Gene Sanders

Note: Dates may be approximate. Some vocalists may not be listed due to lack of information on their dates of employment.


  1. “Bost'n Penthouse Uses Two Bands.” Down Beat Feb. 1939: 6.
  2. “Conn. Dansant Winds Season Ahead of '38'.” Billboard 30 Sep. 1939: 9.
  3. Richman, Daniel. “Music in the Air.” Billboard 11 Nov. 1939: 12.
  4. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 2 Dec. 1939: 20.
  5. “Carnival Ball Will Again Be Formal.” Middlebury Campus [Middlebury, Connecticut] 13 Dec. 1939: 1.
  6. “Leeman With Barnet.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1939: 4.
  7. “Orchestra Personnels.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1939: 16.
  8. Hendrickson, Verna. “Dorothy Maynor Recording Made.” Berkeley Daily Gazette 20 Dec. 1939: 8.
  9. Flynn, Ed. “New York News.” Down Beat 15 May 1940: 20.
  10. “Record Reviews: Tommy Reynolds.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1940: 12.
  11. Reynolds, Tommy. “So My Clarinet Is Commercial!” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1940: 2.
  12. “Tommy Reynolds Hires a Singer.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1940: 21.
  13. “Upheaval Hits the Tom Reynolds Band.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1940: 5.
  14. “Our Sincerest Apologies.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1942: 11.
  15. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1942: 20.