BENNY GOODMAN – The Kingdom of SWING

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The BG band at the San Francisco Golden Gate Expo in August 1939. Vocalist Louise Tobin sits and waits for her cue.

Early 1939 was an odd time for the Benny Goodman band.  On the one hand, they were at the height of popularity, with the weekly Camel Caravan sponsored radio series; a string of hit records (And the Angels Sing about to become a Number One hit); and the publication of Benny’s autobiography, The Kingdom of Swing, written in collaboration with Irving Kolodin.

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All was not well within the organization, however.  Personnel shakeups were affecting the band’s sound, most recently the loss of Harry James in January, who left to form his own orchestra.  Singer Martha Tilton left in May, to be replaced by Louise Tobin, who just happened to be Harry James’ wife!

Perhaps reflecting the situation, Benny’s recording of an original instrumental titled after his book was rejected and never issued on 78.

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A 78 test pressing of the unissued The Kingdom of Swing, recorded in April 1939.

Also in May, Benny left the Victor label, which had recorded the band since April 1935. Switching to the newly-reformed Columbia label, under the urging of friend and record producer John Hammond,  the band would debut a refreshed sound and personnel in August, during a lengthy stint on the West Coast.

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Around this time, Goodman saxophonist Jerry Jerome got his fellow bandmates to sign a copy of Benny’s book for his “jitterbug” sister.

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Strangely, Benny himself didn’t sign, but we have the signatures of Corky Cornelius, Chris Griffin (trumpets); Bruce Squires, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown (trombones);  Art Rollini, Hymie Shertzer, Jerry Jerome, Noni Bernardi (saxes);  Jess Stacy (piano); George Rose (guitar);  Nick Fatool (drums); Louise Tobin (vocals);  and Pee Wee Monte (road manager).

Missing from the page are Ziggy Elman, Lionel Hampton and bassist Artie Bernstein. Maybe they were all out having a drink!  Guitarist George Rose (he of the cute little caricature) joined the band around May 9 in St. Louis and was gone by July. Noni Bernardi was replaced by Toots Mondello around June 13, so we can definitively date the autographs to a brief period in May-June 1939.

The Kingdom of Swing book was quite successful and was reprinted several times, including a special paperback edition for the Armed Forces.  By the time the book had a commercial paperback version issued in 1961, Benny’s recording of the title time had finally been issued on a 1960 RCA LP, which just happened to have the same title. bg-kingdom-lp

Benny Goodman – Signing in at the Madhattan Room

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On a chilly evening during the first quarter of 1937, a privileged fan (perhaps a Camel Cigarettes executive) went to see Benny Goodman and his great swing band at the Madhattan Room in New York’s Pennsylvania Hotel. I say privileged since he acquired a lovely presentation copy of the restaurant’s menu, neatly autographed by every member of the band, plus a few ringers.

All except Benny signed in fountain pen, which was a pain to do on location. Most musicians’ autographs collected in those days were in pencil, since pens were liable to leak. Hymie Shertzer formally signed his first name as “Herman” and Ziggy Elman went for the less elegant “Ziggie.”

With the addition of Harry James in January, this was the classic configuration of the Goodman band that would remain intact for most of the year. As the newest member, perhaps it’s fitting that Harry signed his name in smaller letters than the others?

The musicians' view from the Madhattan Room bandstand.

The musicians’ view from the Madhattan Room bandstand.

The Madhattan Room would be the band’s continuous New York gig from the fall of 1936 to the spring of 1937 and again later in 1937-38. They were there during several of Goodman’s most sensational appearances, at the Paramount Theater and Carnegie Hall. Between their weekly Camel Caravan broadcasts and constant live remotes from Madhattan, eager fans nationwide could listen in to the band almost nightly.

Frances Hunt

Frances Hunt

Vocalist Frances Hunt was an interim singer, heard only on one Goodman record during her 4-month stay. After original vocalist Helen Ward left in December 1936, it wasn’t until August 1937 that Benny chose Martha Tilton as a permanent replacement. Frances, Peg LaCentra and Betty Van filled those open months, but were rarely heard on record if at all, since the band was on a recording hiatus from February through July 1937

The King of Swing greets his subjects.

The King of Swing greets his subjects.

Our next “signature” posting will feature a later edition of Benny’s band!

“GLENN MILLER CONCERT” – Are You Rusty, Gate?

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 1

RCA LPT-16

One O’Clock Jump

My Blue Heaven

Going Home

Jersey Bounce

St. Louis Blues

Georgia On My Mind

Tiger Rag

Everybody Loves My Baby

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GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 2

RCA LPT-30

Anchors Aweigh

My Buddy

I Got Rhythm

I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair

Vilia

Limehouse Blues

On The Alamo

On Army Team

Original UK 10" LP

Original UK 10″ LP

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 3

RCA LPT-3001

Dipper Mouth Blues

April in Paris

Are You Rusty, Gate?

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto

Fanhat Stomp

Sleepy Lagoon

Introduction to a Waltz

Intermezzo

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A few dates here – Columbia introduced the LP record in 1948. In 1950, Benny Goodman’s classic Carnegie Hall Concert was issued as a 2-LP set and Columbia reaped huge sales. With the vintage big bands undergoing a nostalgia boomlet at the time, rival RCA Victor fumed. They had Benny Goodman under contract in 1938 and felt that the rights to the famed concert should be theirs. Since Columbia had “stolen” it from under their nose, RCA quickly retaliated with a live “concert” package by their biggest band name, Glenn Miller.  Even with newer popular bands like Ralph Flanagan, Sauter-Finegan and Buddy Morrow on their roster, Glenn still had clout, as they would soon see.

RCA had introduced the 45 rpm disc in 1949 as an attempt to steal some thunder from Columbia’s innovative LP format, launching the “war of the speeds” that would continue for a few years. LP, 45, 78 – which would prevail? As we know, LP eventually became the preferred format for albums and 45 for single releases. Very, very reluctantly, RCA capitulated and began issuing LPs in 1950, while still pushing 45s whenever and wherever they could.

Even with the huge success of the Columbia Benny Goodman 12-inch LP set, RCA still could not envision anything larger than 10-inch LPs for popular music, so their first Glenn Miller live albums were issued in 1951 on three separate 10-inchers and also, by the way, on 45 and 78, just to play it safe. It wasn’t until 1955 that 12-inch LPs were regularly used for pop and jazz music.

This first “new” Glenn Miller release of the 1950s was comprised of 24 instrumental numbers, both ballads and hot jive, from Glenn’s large archive of Chesterfield radio broadcasts. Taken off the air by a professional recording company for Glenn’s personal reference, no thought had earlier been given to a commercial release of this material. Since these aircheck discs were of excellent fidelity, they were ripe for exploitation by RCA.

A goodly sum was paid to the Miller Estate for use of this material, along with remote broadcasts in NBC’s own archives. This repository of live Miller has been mined for RCA LP and CD releases into the 2000s.

When they were released in 1951, these CONCERT LPs were a revelation, showing off the band’s “sweet” and jazz modes, in a more relaxed manner than their RCA recording sessions. Vocalists Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton are retired to the sidelines, giving full attention to the arrangers and instrumentalists.

The jazz soloists get generous space – Tex Beneke, Clyde Hurley, Johnny Best, Billy May, Bobby Hackett, Ernie Caceres, Moe Purtill, Glenn himself and even talented tenorist Al Klink, who rarely got a chance to shine on record.

These selections also showed off the talents of Glenn’s arrangers. Highlights include Bill Finegan’s exquisite ballad charts of “Vilia,” “April in Paris” and “Sleepy Lagoon;” Jerry Gray swingers like “Jersey Bounce,” “Introduction to a Waltz” and “Everybody Loves My Baby;” and Billy May’s innovative ballad arrangement of “I Got Rhythm.” Glenn is also represented as an arranger, with “Dipper Mouth Blues,” a reworking of a chart he wrote back in 1934 for the Dorsey Brothers.

For those critics who denigrated Glenn’s as a “sweet” band, there are such venerable jazz standards as “One O’Clock Jump,” “Tiger Rag,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Limehouse Blues” and “Everybody Loves My Baby.”

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

In 1956, when 10” LPs were well and truly dead, RCA repackaged this material on two 12” discs, with the innovative titles, THE SOUND OF GLENN MILLER (RCA LPM-1189) and GLENN MILLER CONCERT (RCA LPM-1193). These two albums stayed in print for nearly 30 years.

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

Their success led directly to RCA pulling out the stops for their next Miller project, the massive LIMITED EDITIONS, Volumes 1 & 2. 10 full LPs of Miller magic also proved to be cash register magic, with sales beyond any accountant’s wildest imagination!

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THE GANG’S ALL HERE! Wartime antics

Benny Goodman (cl,vcl); Lee Castle, Harold Peppie, Bobby Guyer (tp); Charlie Castaldo, Miff Mole (tb); Hymie Schertzer, Leonard Kaye, Benny Carter (as); Jon Walton, Bob Taylor (onscreen solo recorded by Eddie Miller)(ts); Joe Rushton (bass sax); Jess Stacy (p); Bart Roth (g); Gus Van Camp (b); Louie Bellson (d); Eddie Sauter (arr). Alice Faye & Carmen Miranda (vcl). String section added for “No Love, No Nothin’.”

Film studio pre-recordings, Hollywood, late March/April 1943

Let’s Dance                                        20th Century Fox TCF233

Minnie’s in the Money (BG vcl)                   TCF-233

Paducah, Part 1 (BG vcl)                              TCF-237

Paducah, Part 2 (CM vcl)                              TCF-238

No Love, No Nothin’ (AF vcl)                        TCF-240

bg title_the_gangs_all_here_blu-ray_Benny Goodman made his first film appearances with his orchestra in 1936 and 1937 in THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1937 and HOLLYWOOD HOTEL. After these well-received features, he made no others for five long years, the period of his greatest popularity.

The film studios took awhile to fully embrace the Swing Era. Big bands were well featured in short films (as they had been doing so since the dawn of talkies), but features were a bit harder to crack. Duke Ellington, always a law unto himself, had made guest appearances in a batch of movies starting in 1930, as had Cab Calloway. These were always “specialty” sequences, rarely interacting with the lead characters.

After Goodman’s 1930s films, the concept of building a full-length film around a band began to take hold, though slowly. Artie Shaw actually played a role and had dialogue in his two features, DANCING CO-ED and SECOND CHORUS. With 1940’s LET’S MAKE MUSIC, Bob Crosby began a series of B-musicals starring his band.

Of course, Glenn Miller’s two movies truly showed that a band could carry a film (albeit with star support like skater Sonja Henie) as did Harry James’ PRIVATE BUCKAROO, with the red-hot Andrews Sisters. Jimmy Dorsey was well provided for in THE FLEET’S IN, with Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton and William Holden. Johnny Mercer and the film’s director Victor Schertzinger penned the finest score for any big band feature, including “Tangerine,” “I Remember You,” “Not Mine” and “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry.”

Brother Tommy Dorsey debuted with the micro-budgeted LAS VEGAS NIGHTS (1940) and then moved up to the slightly larger-budget SHIP AHOY, at MGM with Eleanor Powell. Harry James then had the distinction of being the first top band showcased in Technicolor, with future wife Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda in SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES. The hit song “I Had the Craziest Dream” was an added plus.

With the onerous 1942 recording ban and wartime travel restrictions in place, it was likely easier for bands to make Hollywood their home for lengthy periods. As the King of Swing, Benny Goodman soon began getting the call. Once World War II began, he and his band started popping up in film after film, six over the next two years.

1942 – SYNCOPATION, THE POWERS GIRL, STAGE DOOR CANTEEN

1943 – THE GANG’S ALL HERE

1944 – SWEET AND LOWDOWN, MAKE MINE MUSIC

bg Gang's All Here, The (1943)_01THE GANG’S ALL HERE remains the best-remembered Goodman film of the era, mostly for reasons that have little to do with Benny. 20th Century Fox pulled out all the stops for this one – who cared about wartime austerity? The film starred Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda and was acclaimed film choreographer-director Busby Berkeley’s first color assignment. Not just any color – Fox specialized in super-saturated Technicolor photography, which made Alice and Carmen look as luscious as cherry-topped ice-cream sundaes.

The film was also stuffed with familiar character players – Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Eugene Pallette, Phil Baker, Frank Faylen and dancer Tony DeMarco. Three future stars made brief appearances as showgirls and hat check honeys – Jeanne Crain, June Haver and Adele Jergens.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_02_blu-ray__blu-ray_After writing the wonderful scores for the two Glenn Miller films and Harry James’ SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES, Fox once again hired composer Harry Warren to write THE GANG’S ALL HERE score, but not with his usual lyricist Mack Gordon. Leo Robin was equally as adept as Gordon and crafted two lovely ballads, “No Love, No Nothin’” and “A Journey to a Star.” Alice Faye delivered both of them, memorably.

With the record ban firmly in place, neither tune got much record coverage though Judy Garland covered both songs on her first post-ban Decca session. It was surprising to find Judy singing Fox songs, rather than numbers from her home studio, MGM.

Since Benny was between vocalists at the time (Peggy Lee having just left the band) he got handed two novelties to sing, “Minnie’s in the Money” and “Paducah.” Both had catchy melodies but rather lame lyrics, with the latter tune reaching for the same sort of success that Warren’s previous two “city songs” had attained – “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.” Even with Carmen Miranda joining in, “Paducah” was a dud. Never the greatest actor, Benny was only handed a few incidental lines. Glenn Miller and Harry James fared better in the acting department in their pictures.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X03_blu-ray__blu-ray_In addition to the opening number, the Latin classic “Brazil,” Carmen Miranda made the most of her two feature novelties, “You Discover You’re in New York,” “The Lady with the Tutti-Frutti Hat” Director Busby Berkeley made the most of Fox Technicolor, with spectacular, surrealistic effects and over-the-top set pieces, like Carmen Miranda’s dancing bananas and huge fruit hat. The “Polka-Dot Polka” finale tops them all, with neon hoops, wild color shifts and a kaleidoscopic windup, with all the cast members singing a line of “A Journey to a Star” with their heads poked through a shimmering silver curtain. “Buy Your War Bonds at the Theater!”

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X05_blu-ray__blu-ray_The film was so stuffed with songs by the principals, comedy from Carmen, Charlotte Greenwood, Eugene Pallette and Edward Everett Horton, dance routines by Tony DeMarco and Berkeley’s lengthy production numbers that very little time was left for the mundane girl-falls-for-soldier plot, which was just as well. Berkeley was never a great dialogue director and Alice Faye pretty much sleepwalks her way though her on again-off again romance with the less than scintillating James Ellison. With all the male stars off at war, Faye had to make do with the leftovers here.

Also, Alice was pregnant during much of the shooting schedule and was not feeling at her best. This would prove to be her last starring Fox musical.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X09_blu-ray__blu-ray_Getting back to Benny and the boys, this was a band in transition. The draft had decimated his great 1941-42 band and a lot of newcomers were present here, as the personnel on the heading shows. Youngsters Lee Castle, Louis Bellson and Jon Walton play alongside oldsters Miff Mole, Jess Stacy and Hymie Schertzer.

The Goodman group swung like crazy during their brief solo spots. The great rhythm section was well recorded, with Jess Stacy and Louis Bellson especially prominent. The band was augmented with strings and a liquid Benny Carter alto solo during Alice Faye’s torcher, “No Love, No Nothin’.” Carter was on the Fox lot working on STORMY WEATHER and other arranging jobs and managed to wedge in this Goodman guest appearance.

bg alice carmenTHE GANG’S ALL HERE was one of the last Fox musicals that had special 78rpm pressings done of the songs as souvenir albums for the cast and production people. As with the Glenn Miller films, these albums are pretty rare. With the war going strong, niceties like these discs fell by the wayside and Fox stopped doing them in 1944. Little surprises do pop up on these discs. The “Paducah” record, for example, has several extra band choruses before Carmen Miranda’s vocal that were cut by the time the film was released. Only the Goodman numbers are mentioned above, but there were numerous additional ones as well.

bg gangs 1974As one of the most ephemeral of World War II era musicals, THE GANG’S ALL HERE has had a surprising afterlife. In 1974, the film was reissued to theaters in an eye-popping new print and it instantly became a camp classic, primarily for the Busby Berkeley and Carmen Miranda contributions. Reviewers like Rex Reed fell all over themselves to praise Berkeley and the candy-colored backgrounds. Other theatrical revivals followed and the film eventually turned up on the AMC cable network in the 1990s. It took awhile for a home video release, apparently due to problems with the film negative elements.

A 2008 Fox DVD release as past of an Alice Faye boxed set was criticized for its blurry transfer, so a remaster was done the following year and included in a Carmen Miranda set. While an improvement, it still can’t compare with the dazzling theatrical prints seen earlier. At some point, Fox apparently transferred their three-strip Technicolor film negatives to Eastmancolor stock, which has a duller color palette. That’s all we apparently have now.

Still, it remains a delight to see Benny Goodman at his peak in Technicolor, the only one of his band musicals to be filmed that way.  It’s also a treat to hear one of the least-recorded Goodman bands in such sparkling fidelity.

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Songs in Search of a Home

Everybody’s Got a Home But Me is an exquisitely mournful ballad from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1955 Broadway musical, PIPE DREAM. That title might be applied to several songs written by these composers and others that never found a home to settle into.

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MR. MONOTONY – In 1947, Irving Berlin wrote this quirky number for Judy Garland to perform in EASTER PARADE. Judy recorded and filmed the song, wearing a snazzy tuxedo and hat outfit that would later be immortalized in her Get Happy routine in SUMMER STOCK. The performance would be deleted before the film’s release; two reasons have been offered for its’ removal.

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It was suggested that Judy’s outfit was too contemporary looking for the movie’s 1912 time period, or that there were simply too many musical sequences and one would have to go. The film was preserved and has been included on several MGM DVDs.

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Never one to let a good song go to waste, Berlin tried it in another period piece, the 1949 Broadway musical MISS LIBERTY, where it was choreographed by Jerome Robbins. After a few performances, the song was found wanting again and was dropped. The same thing happened in the next Irving Berlin-Jerome Robbins show, 1950’s CALL ME MADAM, where star Ethel Merman asked for the song’s removal while the show was still in its pre-Broadway tryout.

And that was pretty much the end of Mr. Monotony. The Robbins choreography has fortunately been preserved and the number has been included in JEROME ROBBINS’ BROADWAY and other Robbins compilations. Yet the song is still causing problems. On a television episode of GLEE a few years ago, stars Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison were set to perform it, but it was dropped yet again! As in the case of Judy Garland, the recording still exists.

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BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME – this is an even sadder case. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this charmer in 1943 for a little show named OKLAHOMA!, when its title was still AWAY WE GO!  It was sung by Carly and Laurey as a love duet near the end of the show, but was dropped out of town in favor of a reprise of People Will Say We’re in Love. In a decidedly unusual circumstance, R&H sold the song to MGM, who decided to add it to the Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane score of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Martin and Blane were not happy.

Judy & Tom Drake slog around the muddy unfinished fairgrounds as she sings BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME

Judy & Tom Drake slog around the muddy unfinished fairgrounds as she sings BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME.

It was slotted into a spot right after The Trolley Song. Judy Garland and her beau Tom Drake walk around the unfinished site of the St Louis World’s Fair. To keep Judy from getting her feet muddy, Tom picks her up and carries her, as she sings the song. It was felt that the scene slowed down the action, so it all was cut, to the composers’ relief – now they wouldn’t be competing with Rodgers & Hammerstein! Judy did record it for her Decca 78 album of songs from the movie. Its inclusion puzzled collectors who were unaware of the number’s history for years.

BallGame

MGM dredged the tune up again in 1948 and gave it to Frank Sinatra to sing to Betty Garrett in TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. Though Frank gave it a tender reading as the duo walk around a picnic area, the scene was once again deemed too static and it was removed.

 

Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

Rodgers and Hammerstein apparently liked the song, as it then popped up in stage productions of their TV musical, CINDERELLA, usually assigned to the older King and Queen. In the 1965 TV remake, it is heard as background music during a dance sequence. The 1996 STATE FAIR stage musical used the song as a duet for the parents. Ironic that a song originally intended for a young couple would end up being repurposed for senior citizens.

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While on the subject of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, there is another song possibly connected to it that intrigues me. After ST. LOUIS, composers Martin and Blane contributed a few songs to the 1945 MGM film, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN HOLLYWOOD. Originally titled CLOSE SHAVE, the boys play barbers who end up nearly wrecking the aforementioned studio. The movie has several pleasant ballads sung by Bob Haymes, Dick’s sound-alike brother, billed under his stage name of Robert Stanton.

There is also one big production number with the oddly specific title of Fun On the Wonderful Midway. Bob sings and it is danced by Frances Rafferty and future MGM director Charles Walters (he helmed EASTER PARADE). Kay Thompson wrote the wild vocal arrangement. The song has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, being a production number that we see in the process of being filmed for another movie (all in one take!). Taking place on the amusement area of a pier side park, it allows for a comic rollercoaster chase with Lou Costello.

The Midway, aka "The Pike" at the 1904 St. Louis Fair

The Midway, aka “The Pike” at the 1904 St. Louis Fair

Another view of "The PIke"

Another view of “The Pike”

I wonder if the song had originally been written in mind for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, as the amusement area of the 1904 St. Louis Fair was known as the Midway (also nicknamed The Pike). It’s easy to see this song being considered for the film’s finale, especially since the last sequence at the Fair has no musical numbers and it would have been nice to end on a big final showcase for Judy. Who knows? It certainly would have cost a lot to stage and that was always a big consideration!

last-night-when-we-were-young-bluetibbett metr

Still in the Garland corner, Last Night When We Were Young was one additional casualty. Written by her future songwriters Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg in 1935 for METROPOLITAN, a Lawrence Tibbett 20th Century Fox film, it was cut before release.  Tibbett did record it for RCA Victor and Judy coveted her copy of the disc.  She tried several times to fit the composition into one of her pictures and succeeded with IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME in 1948. Yet once again, the song was cut.

judy summertime

The footage still exists and it can easily be seen why the sequence was dropped.  Though Judy looks and sounds sensational, this intensely sophisticated, mournful song just was too “heavy” for a light comedy-musical, albeit one with dramatic touches. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the nearly forgotten song became a semi-standard, through commercial recordings by Frank Sinatra and Garland.

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Coming full circle in the tangled history of these songs, as Judy sang in EASTER PARADE, Better Luck Next Time!

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Moppin’ and Boppin’

Fats Waller (p, vcl); Benny Carter (tp); Alton “Slim” Moore (tb); Gene Porter (cl,ts); Irving Ashby (g); Slam Stewart (b); Zutty Singleton (d); Ada Brown (vcl).

Pre-recording session, 20th Century Fox soundstage

Hollywood, CA, January 23, 1943

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (FW vcl)    TCF-203, Victor 40-4003

Moppin’ and Boppin’            TCF-191, 202,Victor 40-4003

That Ain’t Right (AB & FW vcl)       TCF-201, V-Disc 165-A

 

waller stormy-weather-3

In January 1943, Fats Waller arrived in Hollywood to make his third feature film appearance, in 20th Century Fox’s STORMY WEATHER. His earlier Hollywood excursion, in 1935, had resulted in two memorable performances, first in RKO’s HOORAY FOR LOVE and then 20th Century Fox’s KING OF BURLESQUE.

In HOORAY, he joined with tap dancers Bill Robinson and Jeni LeGon for a delightful, lengthy sequence built around the song Livin’ In a Great Big Way. This was a typical all-black “Hollywood Harlem” number, with the Negro performers confined to the routine, with no interaction with the otherwise white cast. Southern theater owners could easily cut the song, with no effect on the film’s plot.

Fats’ other appearance was a bit different. His participation in the I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed number in KING OF BURLESQUE, actually showed him interacting (sometimes in the same frame) with white singer-dancer Dixie Dunbar and her male dancing chorus. I can’t think of an earlier instance of this situation in an American film and I haven’t found any mention of Southern objections to the performance.

Still, it would be a long time before the races met on film with any regularity. Martha Raye was roundly criticized for appearing (in blackface) with Louis Armstrong in ARTISTS AND MODELS (1937). The Nicholas Brothers tap duo met with protests over their performing with whites in TIN PAN ALLEY (1940 – with Betty Grable & Alice Faye) and THE PIRATE (1948 – with Gene Kelly). A lamentable situation.

Bojangles and Fats, 1943

Bojangles and Fats, 1943

STORMY WEATHER avoided any such potential problems, being one of two all-black musicals that appeared in 1943, the other being MGM’s CABIN IN THE SKY. Each was loaded with African-American talent and Lena Horne starred in both. Bill Robinson also starred in STORMY, but he and Fats had almost no interaction this time around.

For the soundtrack, Fats assembled a fine band of West Coast jazzmen and a few old friends. Benny Carter was working on the film as arranger and conductor of the Cab Calloway Band – featured throughout on-screen and behind the scenes.  Zutty Singleton and Fats had recorded together on some of the Billy Banks’ Rhythmakers discs in 1932. Gene Porter and Slim Moore were then members of the Benny Carter big band.  Irving Ashby had been with Lionel Hampton’s LA-based band and soon would become a stalwart of the Jazz at the Philharmonic troupe and the Nat Cole Trio. Slam Stewart was then gigging on the West Coast after a sensational five-year run as the partner of Slim Gaillard in the Slim and Slam combo.  His distinctive trademark of humming along with the bass would soon be heard on a myriad of sessions with Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Art Tatum and his own groups.  Though Carter is heard on trumpet, the man playing on-screen was a look-alike actor, since Carter had too much on his plate to step in for the filming.

Fats and Ada Brown

Fats and Ada Brown

Waller is featured in a lengthy scene with his band at Ada Brown’s club in New Orleans.  Ada was a popular 1920s Vaudeville blues singer, who was then enjoying a welcome, though brief, rediscovery in Los Angeles. Her duet with Fats on That Ain’t Right is one of the film’s highlights. They play off each other affectionately, as if they had been doing so for years.  Fats slips in a reference to “balling” that must have snuck by the censors!  Manager/impresario/song publisher Irving Mills was contracted to assemble the music for the movie and not surprisingly all the tunes came from his various publishing firms.  That Ain’t Right was a relative newcomer, having been introduced in 1941 by its composer, Nat King Cole.  Mills is credited with the lyrics.

waller vdisc

Then it’s time for Fats’ featured number, his own Ain’t Misbehavin’, which is given a truly definitive rendition here.  Despite some hokum from the crowd and intrusive shots of Bill Robinson making goo-goo eyes at Lena Horne, Fats and the band get some nicely framed closeups, as does Zutty Singleton, showing off on the drums.  Aside from a few brief look-ins later on, Fats doesn’t have any more to do in the film.

wallerstooo

There is another treasure here, though. Moppin’ and Boppin’, a Waller-Benny Carter instrumental collaboration was recorded for but not featured in the picture. A few brief moments of it are heard off-screen at two points. This four-and a-half-minute tour-de-force shows everyone off at their best, starting with an arresting tom-tom intro by Zutty.

Zutty!

Zutty!

A brief solo by Gene Porter with Fats dancing on the keys is followed by an acidic high-note Carter trumpet chorus, split with Ashby.  Slam Stewart then does his thing vocally and bass-ically.  There follows a wonderful Zutty-Fats back-and-forth chorus, with some Waller vocal encouragement in the background.  A final ensemble chorus swings terrifically, with Waller getting a last spot in the release.

waller aintwaller moppin

It would have been a shame if these sparkling performances remained in the vaults.  That Ain’t Right surfaced in 1944 on a V-Disc. In addition to commercial recordings, broadcasts and special studio sessions, the V-Disc producers also swept up a few soundtrack items in their net.  Songs from CABIN THE SKY, DUBARRY WAS A LADY and SWEET AND LOW-DOWN (by Benny Goodman) were issued on these soldier records.  After the war, V-Disc A&R man Steve Sholes returned to his job at RCA Victor and in 1946, got permission from 20th Century Fox to issue the two Waller performances on a 12-inch 78 in Victor’s new green-label “hot jazz” series. Transferred from a lacquer he likely had glommed from Fox during the war, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Moppin’ and Boppin’  soon took their place on collectors’ shelves. The labels gave the full personnel, but no mention of the disc’s origin was mentioned. Now. of course, this music is once again legitimately available (and stunningly reproduced, I may add) on the Krtizerland CD of the STORMY WEATHER soundtrack, transferred from the original Fox 35mm film recording elements.

Steve Sholes would later get permission to issue some of Waller’s solo items from a September 1943 V-Disc session onto an RCA 45 EP.  These lovely, contemplative performances were among the last before the pianist’s untilemy death in December.

Fats' EP of V-Discs, 1953

Fats’ EP of V-Discs, 1953

It was a nice gesture on Sholes’ part to bring these forgotten items of tasty musicmaking into the public fold.  In fact, these Waller items were the only V-Disc selections to be given official release of any kind, untangling the massive red tape required from the Musicians’ Union to get these not-for-profit recordings onto commercial platters. It’s wasn’t as if Victor didn’t already have massive holdings of Fats Waller in their vaults!  I’m sure Fats was smiling down from his lofty perch on high. One never knows, do one?

fats-waller

Farewell Blues

Major Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Bernie Privin, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (French horn); Hank Freeman, Fred Guerra, Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Peanuts Hucko, Mannie Thaler (reeds); George Ockner (concertmaster of 20-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g); Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Johnny Desmond, The Crew Chiefs (Artie Malvin, Steve Steck, Gene Steck, Lynn Allison, Murray Kane); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson (arr).

Add Dinah Shore (vcl)

His Master’s Voice session, HMV Abbey Road Studios. London, September 16, 1944

OEA10285-1 Star Dust (DS vcl, RW arr)                           HMV Unissued Test

OEA10286-1 All I Do Is Dream of You (DS vcl, NL arr)         HMV Unissued Test

OEA10287-1 Farewell Blues (JG arr)                                 HMV Unissued Test

OEA10288-2 I’ve Got a Heart Filled with Love (JD & CC vcl, JG arr)       HMV Unissued Test

All titles issued in 1995 on Conifer/Happy Days (E)CDHD401/2 [CD set] titled “Glenn Miller – The Lost Recordings.”

gm farewell aef 78

We now reach the end of this series of Glenn Miller blog posts. On September 16th, 1944, the AAF (now AEF) Band made its sole “commercial” record date in London for HMV, RCA Victor’s UK affiliate. A complicated affair it was! Joining the band was singing star Dinah Shore, in England on a USO tour of European Allied bases. She had first performed with Miller on August 3rd, doing a live broadcast with the band and a transcription session with the Uptown Hall Gang, the small jazz group within the band.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

On September 15th, Dinah hooked up with the band for a live concert at a B-17 base in Bury St. Edmunds, which Glenn missed, due to severe headaches and sinus trouble. Likely this is why Glenn looks tired and drawn in the photos taken at the Abbey Road studio the very next day. Back in 1938, then-unknown Dinah auditioned for the fledgling Miller band and was not hired. Now both superstars, there apparently were difficulties between the lady and Glenn over the interpretation of her songs on this record date.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

In spite of any problems, four superb selections were in the can by the end of the four-hour session. Dinah sings beautifully on STAR DUST and ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU, sympathetically arranged by Ralph Wilkinson and Norman Leyden respectively, cushioning her voice with a myriad of strings. Both Dinah and Glenn had recorded STAR DUST for RCA pre-war and Wilkinson’s chart was a popular feature with the AAF Band, also recorded on their first V-Disc date. So the tune was a obvious choice.

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES.

ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU was an anomaly. Never before performed by either star, the song was a 1934 hit by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, from the Joan Crawford film, Sadie McKee. It would later be featured raucously (by Debbie Reynolds) in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Sung slowly and sensuously by Miss Shore, it became a perfect 1944 wartime ballad of longing.

gm all i do 34gm all i do 52

Miller then pulled two band features from the book to complete the date. I’VE GOT A HEART FILLED WITH LOVE, written by Joseph Meyer and Al Jacobs, was likely a product of Glenn’s Mutual Music publishing arm. Meyer had written the lyrics for PEEKABOO TO YOU and Jacobs the music for WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN, two Miller Bluebird discs. The wartime band played the tune often in the US and UK and a radio performance would turn up on V-Disc in 1945. Both Johnny Desmond and Tex Beneke with the postwar Miller band would wax the tune in later years. It’s a snappy performance of a good song, but it never became a hit outside of the Miller family.

gm farewell-blues-mel-thompson

FAREWELL BLUES makes for a fitting conclusion to the session. This 1923 New Orleans Rhythm Kings jazz standard had been a killer-diller for Glenn’s civilian band. In this ballad treatment by Jerry Gray, it was often heard as the “blue” tune on the band’s “Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue” radio medleys. It was occasionally extracted and played on its own, as was done here.

This session was undertaken with the best intentions. All proceeds from sales of the records were to be donated to American and British Army Charities and War Relief organizations. The Army, USO and RCA/HMV had to provide clearances for the discs to be issued. Though the British music press announced a December 1944 release for the 78s, nothing was forthcoming and the records were never issued.

gm dinah aaf

Test pressings were made and copied through the Miller collecting fraternity. I remember Glenn’s friend George T. Simon playing one of them on a New York radio station in 1974. In the 1990s, all four sides were finally released on a Conifer CD set in the UK, prepared by Alan Dell, a Miller fan and broadcaster. There was much press hoopla over the issuance of these “lost” recordings. The clean transfers from test pressings allowed the AEF band to be heard in high fidelity, the best sound quality of any of their UK recordings.

gm dinah mag

Glenn and the band would continue broadcasting and recording transcriptions by the barrelful until his ill-fated trip to Paris on December 15th and the band would continue touring France and Germany until the war ended.

GM AAF glennm3

Glenn Miller’s contribution to American culture can never be measured and even today, continues to draw discerning fans worldwide. I hope these blog entries add a bit of information to those seeking knowledge and background on his superb musical accomplishments.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery