Prior to entering a teaching career Tommy experienced a full professional career as a performer and choreographer. He performed with such notables as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Nat King Cole and many others. He performed in numerous nightclubs, cabaret and theater revues across the country, Canada and Europe. As a choreographer he produced many revues and was the dance director for the legendary Mike Todd in his "Theater Cafe" and his production of "Gay New Orleans" starring Gyspy Rose Lee. One of his greatest performing thrills was working with Bill 'Bojangles "Robinson in the Broadway show, "The Red Hot Mikado".
Tommy's reputation as a performer grew and he soon became known and in high demand for his and private instruction and unique teaching skills. He then opened a studio in downtown Chicago at 218 S. Wabash which was an immediate success. It was at this point that Tommy realized that his own children and the children of his community were being neglected of dance training and education. With this goal in mind, in 1957 he established Mayfair Academy of Fine Arts on Chicago's south side. Mayfair Academy was the beginning of a new era in the career of Tommy Sutton and the development of one of the finest schools in the city dedicated to the best dance instruction for the children of his community. It has become one of the largest and best-known private dance schools, which still flourishes today under the direction of his daughter, Peggy Sutton. Over the years Tommy has taught thousands of students and Mayfair Academy continues to prosper today as his legacy, his teaching methods and techniques are still influencing thousands of students across the country and abroad.
It was through Mayfair Academy that Tommy Sutton had the opportunity to choreograph numerous Cotillion Balls for the Chicago Links and many other civic organizations that bestowed him the reputation of "Chicago's Cotillion Master" and led to the production of his own Mayfair Cotillions. Tommy Sutton has received numerous awards and recognition throughout the years and has served with many dance organizations such as the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, National Association of Dance Artist (N ADA), Dance Educators, Dance Masters and "Take Five".
In 1979 Tommy retired from Mayfair and moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he was on faculty at Spelman College, Atlanta University Dance Theater and taught various Tap workshops. While in Atlanta he wrote and published "Tap Along with Tommy", a technical manual for the tap dance teacher, in addition he also produced a videotape, album and cassette tape. He has inspired and influenced so many students throughout the years with his persistence in bringing out the best in everyone. Through the years he became a much sought after Master Teacher and lecturer on the subject of Tap instruction and he taught master workshops for teachers all over the United States as well as Jamaica and Europe.
Mr. Sutton passed away in his Atlanta home on Saturday, January 7, 1995. Tommy Sutton's professional and teaching career spanned over 50 years making him an expert and a leading authority on the art of Tap Dancing.