Sonny Dunham began at the age of seven years playing the trumpet, trombone at age eleven. In his youth he performed with local bands; of 1929 and 1931 he was a member of Paul Tremaine's orchestra, where he worked as an arranger and Bandvokalist; then he moved to the trumpet. In March 1937 he left Tremaine and founded his first orchestra with the band name Sonny Lee and the New York Yankees, which he, however, disbanded in November 1937. He then played in Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and participated in their recordings for Decca; his greatest success in this phase was the Eubie Blake number " Memories of You ".
This encouraged him to leave the Casa Loma Orchestra and build their own formation again; this was a 14 -piece band, but had little success. Dunham returned to the Casa Loma Orchestra, back where he remained for a further eight years. In the spring he left Casa Loma final and founded his ensemble Sonny Dunham and his Orchestra. This - stylistically influenced by Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra - was sponsored by a manufacturer of trumpet mouthpieces and was sent to search for unknown talent, young trumpeters. In this way, Dunham finally discovered the young Pete Candoli. The orchestra performed in the grand ballrooms of the United States, as well as in the hotels in New York, New York and Pennsylvania Hotels, Tune Town and at the Roseland Ballroom as well as in Frank Dailey 's Meadowbrook or the Hollywood Palladium in 1942, where she also a Hollywood movie of Universal Pictures ( Behind the Eight Bal ) participated. Sonny Dunham functioned as musical director. His band was then also be seen in the Universal short film Jivin ' Jam Session. A Soundie of 1942 Sleepy Lagoon with the band singer Ray Kellogg.
Dunham recorded for the Bluebird label, Hit and Vogue Records. Besides Pete Candoli the career of a series later known jazz musicians in Dunham's band began as, inter alia, Bob Bates, Conte Candoli, Corky Corcoran, Allen Eager, Moe Koffman, Don Lamond, Don Lanphere, Zoot Sims and Kai Winding as well as George Dale Williams as an arranger. Band singers were Harriet Clark and Dorothy Claire and in 1943 Don Darcy and Billy Usher. At the end of the Big Band era, his orchestra had only a few opportunities to perform; as Sonny Dunham broke his orchestra in 1951 and worked with Tommy Dorsey.
In the 1960s he lived in Florida and worked with a smaller ensemble, with whom he played mainly on cruise ships. After the had to end his active career as a musician because of lip problems, he organized bands for the shipping routes.
His trumpet playing up to the highest register earned him the nickname the Man from Mars a; He was so absorbed band also in 1939 in the very first Metronome All-Stars, where he played with Star trumpeters such as Bunny Berigan, Charlie Spivak and Harry James. Dunham was a composer of the title " Come and Git It ".