Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993)
The Father of the Chicago Gospel Movement
He was born Villa Rica, Georgia, 38 miles from Atlanta, in 1899. He grew up listening to the great blues musicians who sang and played there, learning to play the piano. He moved to Gary, Indiana in 1916, then to Chicago in 1918. In Chicago, he enrolled in the Chicago College of Composition and Arranging and began playing with local jazz groups and formed his own group, the Wildcats Jazz Band that functioned as the backup band for the great blues singer, Ma Rainey. Thomas used the name Georgia Tom.
In 1925, he joined up with Tampa Red and they produced a song called "Tight Like That" in 1928. This song was very successful. Later that year, he suffered a nervous breakdown that took him two years to recuperate from. In 1930, he stopped playing blues music and became a gospel musician instead.
In 1932, he put together a choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, with Roberta Martin playing the piano. He also established a publishing house to publish the gospel music of black composers. In 1933, he, along with Sallie Martin, Theodore Frye and several others, organized the Nation Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.
Thomas Andrew Dorsey is an important figure in black gospel music. (From Dovesong)