Edythe Wright

Photo of Edythe Wright
  • Birth Name

    Edythe Heffernan Wright
  • Born

    August 16, 1914
    Bayonne, New Jersey
  • Died

    October 27, 1965 (age 51)
    Point Pleasant, New Jersey
  • Orchestras

    Tommy Dorsey

Vocalist Edythe Wright is best remembered today for her work with Tommy Dorsey during the late 1930s. Though Wright proved very popular with audiences while part of the band, she was unable to turn that popularity into a successful solo career, and she quickly fell into obscurity after she left Dorsey. By the end of 1940, she had virtually disappeared from the public eye.

Born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, the youngest of seven children, Wright lost her father at young age. Her mother had remarried by 1923, adding another child to the family. Wright had youthful aspirations of becoming a dancer, studying for eleven years in tap, toe and acrobatic dancing. She stumbled into singing in 1935, while in college. Frank Dailey, bandleader and owner of the Meadowbrook Ballroom, whom she knew from being a patron of his facility, asked her to fill in for his usual vocalist, Nancy Flake, who was ill that night. Her classmates had informed Dailey that she could sing, and she agreed to help. Little did Wright know that Tommy Dorsey’s manager, Arthur Michaud, was in the audience.

Michaud approached Wright and made her an offer to join Dorsey’s orchestra. At first, she wasn’t sure who Dorsey was, but after her brother filled her in on Dorsey’s status as one of the country’s top bandleaders, she took the job. Wright became very popular with audiences and critics, singing on some of Dorsey’s most notable early hits. She also worked with his Clambake Seven Dixieland combo.

Wright remained with Dorsey for four years, with two brief interludes, the first in June 1938 when she took medical leave.[1] Then in December of that year she abruptly left the band while they were at the Hotel New Yorker, supposedly to wed tennis star Don Budge, in what some suspect may have been a publicity stunt on her part. Mary Ann McCall was hired to replace her. McCall’s debut came on opening night in a Hartford, Connecticut, theater in January 1939. Some reports at the time say McCall was booed off the stage with audience members demanding Wright’s return. The real story, however, involved a contract dispute. Dorsey’s contract with the theater specified that Wright would appear, and when she didn’t the theater manager pressed the term. McCall was out, and Wright returned the next night, saying she was only on vacation and hadn’t really left the band. She indicated that she would stay with the orchestra until their present tour was completed.

Post-Dorsey Years

Wright left the band permanently in October 1939, being replaced by Anita Boyer. Most sources say she planned to go solo, though at the time noted radio columnist Edgar A. Thompson reported she had a “Little Bundle” on the way. Whether that was true or not is unknown. Wright wasn’t married at the time. It was six months, though, before she made her solo debut on April 14, 1940, in Rochester, New York.

After opening in Rochester, Wright went on the road with a new Billy Rose show in early May. In August, she toured with Charlie Barnet on a double bill, and in September she formed an act with Ruth Lowe, songwriter of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” who was under contract to Dorsey. The act continued through at least December. Wright married Vermont doctor James Higgins in October. The couple divorced at some point prior to 1953.

Rumors circulated in January 1940 and again in late 1941 that Dorsey, who was having domestic problems and in the midst of divorcing his then current wife, would marry Wright. The rumors proved untrue. The rumor again resurfaced in 1943, when Wright traveled to Los Angeles, where Dorsey was staying. Wright was referred to as Dorsey’s “longtime gal-friend.” Whether there’s any truth to it or not, public perception seemed to think that she and Dorsey had been carrying on an affair for many years.

Wright’s solo career never took off, and by the mid-1940s she had been mostly forgotten. She continued singing until at least the late 1940s. In 1953, she gave birth to a son by her second husband, John Smith.

Edythe Wright passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1965 at the age of 51.


  1. Reports were that Wright had an appendectomy, though if that was true or not is unknown. A lot of female singers in that era had appendectomies. It was a catch-all term used whenever a female vocalist went into the hospital and didn’t want the nature of her visit to be known publicly. ↩︎


  1. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  2. McCarthy, Albert. The Dance Band Era. Radnor, Pennsylvania: Chilton, 1971.
  3. “Highlights and Starlights.” Herald-Journal [Spartanburg, South Carolina] 17 Jul. 1938: 22.
  4. “Edythe Wright Leaves.” Down Beat Jan. 1939: 2.
  5. “Edythe Wright Rejoins Dorsey After 'Vacation'.” Down Beat Feb. 1939: 2.
  6. “Here's The True Story Of The McCall-Wright Mixup in Hartford.” Down Beat Mar. 1939: 2.
  7. Martin, Darrell. “Editors Battle Housewives in Crumit's Show.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 Apr. 1939: 24.
  8. “Edythe Wright Out.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1939: 3.
  9. Thompson, Edgar A. “Riding the Airwaves.” The Milwaukee Journal 8 Dec. 1939: 2.
  10. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “Kilgallen.” The Miami News 18 Jan. 1940: 15-A.
  11. “Edythe Wright Solo.” Down Beat 15 Apr. 1940: 2.
  12. “Edythe Wright, Noted Stage Singer, to Be Here Friday.” Herald-Journal [Spartanburg, South Carolina] 3 May 1940: 14.
  13. “Johnny Long Band is Strong on Romance.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1940: 19.
  14. “Ruth Lowe, Edythe Wright Form Act.” Billboard 28 Sep. 1940: 9.
  15. “Vaudeville Notes.” Billboard 2 Nov. 1940: 24.
  16. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “The Voice of Broadway.” The Miami Daily News 11 Dec. 1940: 7-B.
  17. Walker, Danton. “Broadway.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 17 Oct. 1941: Peach Section 2.
  18. “Hollywood Shots.” Reading Eagle [Reading, Pennsylvania] 3 Jan. 1943: 15.
  19. “Program Reviews: Victory Caravan.” Billboard 20 Mar 1943: 8.
  20. “New Ballroom in Philly Off To Big Start.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1943: 22.
  21. “Five Years Ago This Month: June 1938.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1943: 2.
  22. “New Jersey, Reclaim the Records, Geographic Birth Index, 1901-1929,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6NM3-2Q16 : Sat Mar 09 08:02:29 UTC 2024), Entry for Edith Wright, 16 Aug 1914.
  23. “New Jersey State Census, 1915,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9Q-664W : Mon Mar 11 00:41:05 UTC 2024), Entry for Harry Wright and Mrs, Mrs Hanna Wright, 1915.
  24. “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4RZ-1G9 : Sat Mar 09 12:49:19 UTC 2024), Entry for Hannah Wright and Ethel Wright, 1920.
  25. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4XL-V2J : Sat Mar 09 19:30:29 UTC 2024), Entry for Patrick Bradshaw and Hannah Bradshaw, 1930.
  26. “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K4TS-D4Q : Sun Mar 10 05:46:58 UTC 2024), Entry for Edward Kinsey and Catherine Kinsey, 1940.
  27. “Vermont, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1732-2005,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPQG-NC36 : Sat Mar 09 02:56:05 UTC 2024), Entry for James Francis Higgins and Edythe Heffernan Wright, 15 October 1940.
  28. “United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815-2011,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPB2-LYBM : Thu Mar 14 21:49:28 UTC 2024), Entry for Miss Edyth Wright and John Smith, 29 Oct 1965.