Allan DeWitt

Photo of Allan DeWitt
  • Birth Name

    Allan Joseph Witt
  • Born

    January 13, 1917
    Chicago, Illinois
  • Died

    April 24, 1997 (age 80)
    Oak Park, Illinois
  • Orchestras

    Tommy Dorsey
    Tiny Hill
    Jimmy Jackson
    Wayne King
    Frankie Masters
    Jan Savitt
    Vic Schoen

History best remembers singer Allan DeWitt as the vocalist Tommy Dorsey let go so that he could hire Frank Sinatra. DeWitt, a Chicago native and protege of Andrews Sisters manager Lou Levy, sang and recorded with Tiny Hill’s orchestra in mid-1939 before replacing Jack Leonard in Dorsey’s outfit. Dorsey wasn’t happy with DeWitt, however, and when he learned that he could tempt Sinatra away from Harry James in January 1940, DeWitt was quickly gone. Though he spent less than two months with Dorsey, DeWitt recorded with the band.[1]

After leaving Dorsey, rumors had DeWitt joining Bob Chester. He instead went to Jan Savitt, where he subbed for ailing singer Bon Bon. He left Savitt in April for Vic Schoen’s orchestra but had returned to Savitt by June, remaining until at least October 1941.[2] After departing Savitt the second time, DeWitt disappeared, prompting Down Beat magazine to post his name in their “Where Is?” column, twice, in November 1942 and March 1944. DeWitt resurfaces in December 1943, having returned to Chicago, where he was singing with Jimmy Jackson’s local orchestra. By June 1944 he was with Wayne King only to be drafted shortly thereafter. Serving in the Army, DeWitt was stationed at Camp Lee, Virginia, in September. He was back in civilian clothes by December 1944, singing with Jackson’s band again. In mid-1947, he was with Joe Curley’s twelve-piece band.

In March 1948, Down Beat again asked where he was. The answer was leading his own band in Chicago.[3] In 1949, he both recorded with that group and as vocalist with Frankie Master’s orchestra on the small Chicago-based indie label Barthel. He remained with Masters through at least October 1951, touring with the band throughout the Midwest region.

In November 1951, DeWitt’s wife, Elizabeth, suffered the loss of a newborn child, perhaps a stillbirth.[4] DeWitt vanishes from the record again after that. In 1956, he returns, leading his own band in the Chicago area and continuing to do so through at least 1967, with the exception of a brief period in early 1957 when he sang for Eddie Neibaur’s group.[5] In 1984, DeWitt, then living in Berwyn, was a member of a Chicago-area club called the Browsers, big band experts who did guests spots on Bill Hubbard’s local WAIT-AM swing era radio show. Allan DeWitt passed away in 1997 at age 80.

In 1940, DeWitt had a loyal fan among the prisoners at Pontiac Reformatory in Illinois. This particular prisoner used two of his allotted four letters a month to write to the singer. In one letter, the prisoner lamented that his Down Beat subscription had expired, and DeWitt promptly renewed it for him.


  1. In later years, DeWitt amusingly claimed to have been the one who replaced Sinatra when Sinatra left Dorsey! A 1943 newspaper article billed him “the Frank Sinatra of Chicago.” DeWitt also claimed to have sang for Jack Teagarden and Matty Malneck, both of which are unverified. ↩︎

  2. Schoen often worked with the Andrews Sisters. ↩︎

  3. Down Beat was headquartered in Chicago but seemed to not know that DeWitt was performing in local clubs. ↩︎

  4. Death records indicate the child died on the day of its birth, with no cause given. ↩︎

  5. DeWitt’s orchestra consisted of seven-pieces in 1964. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 17 Jul. 2016.
  3. “The Reviewing Stand: Tiny Hill.” Billboard 1 Apr. 1939: 11.
  4. “Circus and Dance Combine with Movies to Provide Week's Amusements.” The Hammond Times [Hammond, IN] 20 Aug. 1939: 9.
  5. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 18 Nov. 1939: 10.
  6. “Tom Dorsey Gets Frank Sinatra.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1940: 5.
  7. “Allan DeWitt.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1940: 20.
  8. Feather, Leonard. “Auld Joins Savitt.” Down Beat 15 Apr. 1940: 7.
  9. “Gay Nineties Glamor, Music Revived in Film.” The Steubenville Herald-Star 23 May 1940: 16.
  10. Jovien, Harold. “Call It Even.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1940: 4.
  11. “On the Stand: Jan Savitt.” Billboard 17 Aug. 1940: 12.
  12. “Phila Houses Beat Strong Competish.” Billboard 11 Oct. 1941: 24.
  13. “On the Records.” Billboard 31 Jan. 1942: 37.
  14. “Where Is?” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 18.
  15. “Making the Rounds: The Casino Moderne.” Southeast Economist [Chicago, IL] 23 Dec. 1943: 5.
  16. “Where Is?” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1944: 10.
  17. “Making the Rounds.” Southtown Economist [Chicago, IL] 27 Dec. 1944: 8.
  18. “Allan DeWitt.” Southtown Economist [Chicago, IL] 17 Jan. 1945: 24.
  19. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1945: 4.
  20. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1945: 4.
  21. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 4.
  22. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1945: 4.
  23. “Night Club Reviews: Marine Dining Room, Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago.” Billboard 16 Jun. 1945: 30.
  24. “Music As Written.” Billboard 14 Jul. 1945: 17.
  25. “Making the Rounds.” Southeast Economist [Chicago, IL] 1 May 1947: 6.
  26. “Making the Rounds: Manaco's Tea Dancing.” Southeast Economist [Chicago, IL] 12 Jun. 1947: 8.
  27. “Where Is?” Down Beat 24 Mar. 1948: 10.
  28. “Making the Rounds: Casino Moderne.” Southeast Economist [Chicago, IL] 18 Nov. 1947: 9.
  29. “Music As Written.” Billboard 10 Sep. 1949: 42.
  30. “Music As Written.” Billboard 17 Dec. 1949: 39.
  31. “Masters Coming.” Monroe Evening Times [Monroe, WI] 28 Nov. 1950: 8.
  32. “Frankie Masters to Present Vaudeville Program at Evansville.” The Harrisburg Daily Register [Harrisburg, IL] 2 May 1951: 5.
  33. “Armar To Offer Masters Music.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette 14 Oct. 1951: 9.
  34. Advertisement. Southeast Economist [Chicago, IL] 2 Aug. 1956: 8.
  35. “Shutter's Ballroom.” Southtown Economist [Chicago, IL] 9 Jan. 1957: 12.
  36. “Little League Dance Set Saturday Night, Feb. 9.” Forest Park Review [Forest Park, IL] 10 Jan. 1957: 1.
  37. “Over 29 Dance.” Chicago Austin News [Chicago, IL] 5 Mar. 1958: 16G.
  38. “Allan DeWitt.” Blue Island Sun Standard [Blue Island, IL] 28 Jan. 1960: 5.
  39. “Allan DeWitt Band Now at Allegro.” Suburbanite Economist [Chicago, IL] 3 Jan. 1963: 38.
  40. “Thornridge Prom May 23.” The Markham Tribune [Markham, IL] 10 May 1964: 9.
  41. “Fourth of July Dance Planned By Moose Lodge.” Chicago Heights Star 2 Jul. 1964: 4.
  42. “Junior Women To Dance on Anniversary.” Arlington Heights Daily Herald [Arlington Heights, IL] 8 Oct. 1964: n. pag.
  43. “Benefit Dance This Saturday.” Roselle Register [Roselle, IL] 20 Oct. 1967: 4.
  44. “Browers (sic) are big on big bands.” Arlington Heights Daily Herald [Arlington Heights, IL] 24 Jan. 1984: 2.
  45. “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998,” FamilySearch ( : 23 March 2021), Allan J Dewitt, 1997.
  46. “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998,” FamilySearch ( : Fri Jan 05 22:03:47 UTC 2024), Entry for Dewitt and Allan Joseph Dewitt, 02 Nov 1951.
  47. “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : 9 January 2021), Allan J Dewitt, 24 Apr 1997; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).