By Don Mazen

Big Band-era trumpet player Joe Dolny, a former La Cañadan who lived here in the 1980s, died on July 13 of colon cancer.

He had turned 81 in March.

Dolny went into Wadsworth Veterans' Hospital in March to undergo surgery. He was transferred to the Chandler Convalescent Hospital and St. Ann's Hospice in North Hollywood where he died in his sleep last week.

A native of Cleveland, he had performed for 40 years with some of the famous name bands of the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s, a period known for the popular music of the Big Bands nationally.

Influenced by the musical background of his parents, Dolny began playing the trumpet at age 13 in his father's polka band in Cleveland. His dad played the violin, his mother the concertina, a small accordion-type instrument.

Seven years later at age 20 in 1942, the former La Cañadan experienced his first train ride as a new member of the Russ Carlisle Orchestra as the musicians headed for Memphis and the Claridge Hotel for an extended stand.

For Dolny, his career blossomed when landing jobs with Claude Thornhill, Dick Stabile, Skinnay Ennis, Russ Carlisle, George Hernandez, Bobby Sherwood, Del Simmons and Buddy Rich.

Later in semi-retirement, he played at the Glendale Moose Lodge with the quartet of Bill Page, formerly with Lawrence Welk.

Besides tooting his horn-several times sitting in the first chair, Dolny also turned to composing. His works were with such groups as Ray Anthony, Les Elgart, Harry James, Rafael Mendez, Dick Stabile and Claude Thornhill.

In 1956, he made his one and only record album, "Joe Dolny Plays Italiano."

He held close musical associations with jazz clarinetist Terry Harrington of La Cañada, recording studio violinist Don Palmer of La Crescenta, trumpet player Art Depew, clarinetist-saxophonist Del Simmons and trumpetman Clyde Reisinger.

Following a three-year U.S. Army stint where he played in a division band, Dolny went home to Cleveland and formed his own combo, called the "Quintones," in 1946. It played in the midwestern states, traveling by auto. His vocalist was Marcie Miller who later made a name for herself with the Ray Anthony Band. Dolny also arranged and composed for his group.

Leaving Cleveland, Dolny hooked up with the Bobby Sherwood Band, one of his favorites, in New York City, then joined drummer Buddy Rich, whose group played up and down the East Coast, including New York City. That was in the late 1940s.

There was a whole new entertainment field opening in California about then, and Dolny wanted to be a part of it so at age 26, he drove cross-country to Los Angeles and started on the nightclub circuit. His hope was to make another Big Band connection.

It came and he was welcomed into the trumpet section of the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Playing engagements were highlighted by performances at the Hollywood Palladium and the Cocoanut Grove, L.A.'s two prime entertainment venues.

In 1957-58, Dolny's association with the Dick Stabile Orchestra placed him on a major radio show, NBC's weekly Chesterfield Hour, which featured Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis when they performed as a team.

The orchestra also recorded and played for the televised Colgate Show, giving Dolny his first TV exposure.

Another "first" for the local trumpet man was being seen in one of the first Martin-Lewis motion pictures, "The Caddy," as a member of Dick Stabile's group.

In the 1960s, the Skinnay Ellis Band was the next stop for Dolny, a three-year stint, with a long-standing engagement being at the Los Angeles Statler-Hilton Hotel.

For four years, Dolny later became the first trumpet and orchestra manager of the George Hernandez ensemble, which played at the Harrah's Club in Reno.

This was one of the high spots in his career, according to Dolny, as he helped with the musical accompaniments behind such entertainment stars as Dinah Shore, Sammy Davis Jr., the Smothers Brothers, Don Ho, Mitzi Gaynor, Jimmy Dean and Jim Neighbors.

In his retirement, Dolny frequented Leon's Steak House in North Hollywood to visit and hear the music of many of his retired colleagues who played twice a week as a volunteer group.

Dolny leaves one survivor, his sister, Mary Cragg of Altadena, herself a well-known harpist in Southern California.

Cragg is making arrangements for a Celebration of Life program and reception for her brother in late August (no date set yet). It will be held at the Musicians' Union facility in Hollywood with Dolny's own music being played by his professional colleagues in his memory.

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