Hunk Dory was one of the better known of the moderately talented band
leaders of the 1940s. Dory was born in Omaha in 1919. His father Chris-
topher Dory was an Australian crocodile hunter, and his mother Winnie
was a Jewish proofreader from Queens. At a young age Hunky showed a
remarkable talent for wetting the bed — a talent that proved only
mitigated by the practice of the zither and, eventually, the trumpet.
Deciding against college due to his almost total lack of knowledge with
regard to any subject, in 1938 Dory settled on a career playing trumpet
for the new swing style that was gaining popularity. His first gig was
with Larry "Flathead" Williams and the Swinging Sturgeons. Dory stayed
with the Sturgeons for two years, when a sudden introduction to the
saxophone player Peter Piper landed Dory a job with the Pickled Peppers,
well known in such cities as Tulsa and Spokane. Dory stayed with the
Peppers for a year. But then tragedy struck when Piper lost his
middle finger in a freak bicycle accident in Chicago. No longer able
to play, Piper dissolved the band.
Desiring to form his own band, Dory borrowed $2,000 from "don't ask
where" and bought a truck and stage equipment. Hiring some stringer
musicians he came across in Cincinnati, he formed the Mood Makers in
His timing was good. Swing bands were being hired across the country at
USO clubs and Italian weddings. Touring for 6 months, Dory composed the
song "Battlefield Bop", and soon recorded the song on Cheater Records.
But sales were slim to nonexistent, and in the end he only made enough
money to repay the "loan from the guy" he had taken out earlier.
Dory continued to play and get gigs for a number of years. But in 1947
rumors began circulating that he was a closet lesbian, and connections
were made between him and his friend Zelda Fritz, a three-armed torch
singer known for her sultry voice and her tendency to make men her
bitches. While the rumors of Dory's lesbianism ultimately proved false,
the damage to his reputation was done. He was no longer able to get gigs
at Italian weddings, and the end of the war had pretty much eliminated
the USO shows. Tired and dejected Dory played what few gigs he could
find, picking up musicians as he traveled from bus station to bus station.
In 1949 Dory developed severe arterial disease due in part to his lifelong
addiction to hot dogs. Entering into a nursing home Dory died on January
17, 1950, with no one but the disabled Peter Piper at his bedside.
Happy April Fool's Day!