Bobby Byrne, 88, a noted trombonist of the 1930s and ‘40s who played with the Dorsey brothers before fronting his own big bands, died Nov. 25 at a care facility in Irvine. He had Alzheimer’s disease and had recently suffered a stroke, his wife, Marilyn, said in a statement.
He was a trombone prodigy with a “romantic but forceful” style, according to the online music encyclopedia “Solid!” At 16, he joined the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, but when Tommy Dorsey formed his own band, Byrne stayed with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. In 1939, Byrne started an orchestra that became known for its simple yet strong sound. The group disbanded when Byrne joined the Army Air Forces and became a pilot, also serving as a bandleader during World War II.
After the war, Byrne led another band and freelanced as a musician in New York. He often worked in television, including as musical director for Steve Allen’s “Tonight!” show. By the late 1960s, Byrne was an executive for Command Records.
Born in 1918 near Columbus, Ohio, Byrne grew up in Detroit, where his father taught music.