Paradise for Glenn Miller & Goodbye to Brunswick

Brunswick Studios, New York – May 23, 1938

Johnny “Zulu” Austin, Bob Price, Gasparre Rebito (tp); Glenn Miller, Brad Jenney, Al Mastren (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Sol Kane (cl,as), Stanley “Moose” Aronson (ts,cl), Gordon “Tex” Beneke (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Rollie Bundock (b); Bob Spangler (d). Gail Reese, Ray Eberle (vcl)

22972-1         Don’t Wake Up My Heart (RE vcl) Brunswick 8152

22972-2         Don’t Wake Up My Heart (RE vcl)  first issued on CD

22973-1         Why’d Ya Make Me Fall in Love? (GR vcl) Brunswick 8152

22973-2         Why’d Ya Make Me Fall in Love? (GR vcl)  first issued on CD

22974-1         Sold American (GM arr)       Brunswick 8173

22974-2         Sold American (GM arr)       first issued on CD

22975-1         Dippermouth Blues (GM arr)          Brunswick 8173

22975-2         Dippermouth Blues (GM arr)          first issued on CD

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Breakup, then reformation. The first Glenn Miller band disbanded just after New Year’s 1938. For the next few months, Glenn freelanced with Ozzie Nelson and Tommy Dorsey, and also wrote several arrangements for Bob Crosby. By March, he was hard at work assembling a new group.   From the previous band, Bob Price, Hal McIntyre, Chummy MacGregor and Rollie Bundock were invited back. The new men included several who would contribute important voices, both instrumental and vocal, to the organization.

Willie Schwartz’s warmly rich clarinet technique would become the integral element of the Miller Sound, which Glenn decided to emphasize as the new band’s signature.   Saxophonist Tex Beneke was quickly built into a star, on tenor sax and with his pleasant down-home vocals.   Young Ray Eberle, brother of Jimmy Dorsey’s popular vocalist, Bob Eberly, had never sung professionally, but Glenn was determined to create another luminary from that family.

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By the time of this next and last Brunswick recording session, Glenn and the band were about to begin their first New York City gig, a two-week run at the Paradise Restaurant, on the corner of Broadway and 49th Streets. Next door to the Brill Building, the Paradise was the brainchild of Nils T. Granlund, a Broadway and nightclub impresario who favored half-naked showgirls and raucous comics in his shows. The bands featured at the Paradise were usually an afterthought, but big names like Paul Whiteman and Bunny Berigan had played there, receiving much welcome radio airtime.

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The Paradise décor was created by prestigious interior designer Joseph Urban, who in the 1920s, helped to popularize the Art Deco style. The nightclub named after Urban in Chicago’s Congress Hotel was one of the springboards to success for Benny Goodman in 1936. The postcard reproduced here shows the Paradise’s stylish look. So even if the entertainment was on the sleazy side, the setting most certainly wasn’t!

This record date is the only occasion in the Miller discography where alternate takes of the entire session have been issued.   Typically with Glenn’s carefully-rehearsed recordings, there is not much variation on the second takes.

The Miller Sound is unfurled in full bloom right from the opening notes of DON’T WAKE UP MY HEART, in what would be soon recognized as classic Miller ballad style. Ray Eberle doesn’t pop his “P” on the line, “Long ago I p-p-p-p-romised not to kiss again” on the alternate, but this take was likely rejected due to a reed flub during Willie Schwartz’s clarinet passage.

Beneke’s alternate solo on WHY’D YA MAKE ME FALL IN LOVE is noticeably different. He tended not to stick to set solos, as evidenced by many airchecks. Gail Reese makes her only appearance on wax with Miller; fortunately, there are a number of live performances from the Paradise to document her brief tenure with the band. These two pop tunes are mainly known through their Miller recordings, though Benny Goodman also happened to record them both.

Glenn’s original, SOLD AMERICAN, was developed from the catchy intro riff he used in his 1933-34 arrangements for the Boswell Sisters’ I HATE MYSELF and the Dorsey Brothers’ YOU’RE OKAY.  He apparently liked it enough to redo a year later on Bluebird. Glenn plays a crisply swinging solo, Tex is backed by some pretty corny drumming from Spangler and Johnny Austin tears into the kind of typically raucous trumpet solo that earned him the nickname, “Zulu.” The remake benefits from a much better rhythm section, but neither recording caught the attention of Lucky Strike Cigarettes, whose then-familiar musical ad chant was adapted here. Once Glenn came under the sponsorship of Chesterfield Cigarettes, the arrangement was surely dropped from the band’s book!

Glenn had written this arrangement of DIPPERMOUTH BLUES for the Dorsey Brothers band in 1934 and apparently was fond of it, as it remained in his band’s book until the end of 1940. It sticks close to the King Oliver original, with Schwartz handling Johnny Dodds’ original clarinet part and Miller recreating Oliver’s trumpet choruses. Trumpeter George Thow played the solo on the Dorsey Brothers record; it’s surprising that Glenn, always reluctant to feature his jazz trombone, would do so with his own band, but that’s how he performed it on every extant version.

Aside from the poky rhythm section, this record date is the first one that fully sounds like the Glenn Miller band of popular memory.   But four more months would pass before his next session and several more seasons would unfurl before Glenn tasted the first fruit of success.

 

 

 

Facing the Music at Brunswick

Brunswick Studios, New York – November 29, 1937

Bob Price, Pee Wee Erwin, Ardell Garrett (tp); Glenn Miller (tb,arr), Jesse Ralph, Bud Smith (tb); Irving Fazola, Hal McIntyre (cl,as), Tony Viola (as), Jerry Jerome, Carl Biesecker (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Carmen Mastren (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Doc Carney (d). Kathleen Lane sings on all titles except HUMORESQUE. George Siravo (arr).

22079-1         My Fine Feathered Friend (CB arr)            Brunswick 8034

22080-1         Humoresque (GS arr)           Brunswick 8062

22080-2         Humoresque (GS arr)           first issued on CD

22081-1         Doin’ the Jive (KL, JJ, GM & band vcl, GM arr)       Brunswick 8062

22082-1         Silhouetted in the Moonlight (GM arr)       Brunswick 8034

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Brunswick Studios, New York – December 13, 1937

22135-1         Every Day’s a Holiday (CB arr)       Brunswick 8041

22136-1         Sweet Stranger (GM arr)     Brunswick 8041

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Since the date in June, Glenn and the band had done pretty well for awhile. They triumphed with a 10-week extended gig at the Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans. This success was followed by another popular engagement at Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel and a month at the Hotel Nicollet in Minneapolis. Six weeks at Boston’s Raymor Ballroom came next; all these engagements provided radio hookups for the band, some providing nationwide exposure.

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This schedule sounds promising, but in actuality Glenn was losing money along the way. His wife Helen was having serious health problems, a series of one-nighters through New England occurred during horrendous weather conditions and several drunks in the band caused wrecked cars and discipline problems. With no extended gigs on the horizon, Glenn gave up and broke up the band just after the start of 1938.

Before this occurred, the band fulfilled two more record dates, which ironically, turned out to be their best so far. Fine New Orleans clarinetist Irving Fazola joined during the Hotel Roosevelt stint and Glenn now had five reed players, so he dropped the guitar to save money. Tommy Dorsey’s Carmen Mastren was borrowed for the record dates, and Miller friend Pee Wee Erwin came in to boost the trumpet section for the discs. Also new was drummer Doc Carney, who brought a propulsive beat that booted the rhythm section along nicely.

Since Fazola was not a great section player, Glenn suggested he double the tenor sax lead on his clarinet, and in this casual way, the Miller Sound was introduced. Glenn used this new voicing occasionally at first, as on HUMORESQUE.

All the other tunes recorded were new ones, mostly from popular films and by top composers, including Johnny Mercer, Richard Whiting, Sam Coslow and Jimmy McHugh. MY FINE FEATHERED FRIEND was introduced by Alice Faye in YOU’RE A SWEETHEART; Rosemary Lane sang SILHOUETTED IN THE MOONLIGHT in HOLLYWOOD HOTEL; and EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY was the title song of the newest Mae West feature.

Kathleen Lane sang them all well, in a series of sparkling, distinctive arrangements that offered solo space to Fazola’s liquid clarinet, Jerry Jerome’s dry tenor and a bit of hot trumpet from Bob Price. Doc Carney backs the soloists especially well with rim shots and other swinging punctuations.

DOIN’ THE JIVE was Glenn and Chummy’s attempt at crafting a hit novelty, which didn’t hit. Glenn joined Jerry Jerome (nicknamed “Buck”) for a bit of rap patter, a gimmick he continued to use with Jerry’s successor, Tex Beneke, to greater effect.

Glenn had to work with the band for five hours on the December date, to produce only two, rather than the usual four finished masters, expected from a three-hour session.  This kind of indulgence could not be tolerated, as Glenn would vow on his next attempt to form a successful band.

On to 1938!

Glenn Debuts on Brunswick Records

Brunswick Studios, New York – June 9, 1937

Charlie Spivak, Ralph Capelli, Tweet Peterson (tp); Glenn Miller (tb,arr), Jesse Ralph, Bud Smith (tb); Hal McIntyre (cl,as) George Siravo, (as) Jerry Jerome, Carl Biesecker (ts,arr); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bill Peyser (g); Rollie Bundock (b). Emery Kenyon (d).

Glenn is the arranger on all titles except the last, which was arranged by Carl Biesecker.

B-21234-3     I Got Rhythm             Brunswick 7915

B-21235-1     Sleepy Time Gal        Brunswick 7923

B-21236-1     Community Swing     Brunswick 7923

B-21240-1     Time On My Hands    Brunswick 7915

 

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Two and a half-months after the date with Decca, Glenn signed a contract with Brunswick Records, which would produce a total of four sessions over the next year. Not exactly munificent, but at least Miller would be getting some discs in the stores on a semi-regular basis.

As on the Decca session, the tunes performed were all vintage standards, except for one hot Miller original, COMMUNITY SWING. Notably, we get to hear Glenn solo for the first time with his own band, on TIME ON MY HANDS.  This date also marks the first appearance of pianist (and Miller right-hand man) Chummy MacGregor, who would hold the chair for the full length of the band’s existence.

SLEEPY TIME GAL, like several of the Decca tunes, features Biesecker’s tenor leading the reeds.  It’s a rather uneventful performance,  enlivened briefly by McIntyre’s bright clarinet. TIME ON MY HANDS is more of the same, with some nice interplay between the brass and reeds.  As mentioned earlier, Glenn solos, tightly muted, sticking close to the melody.

The two hot tunes have more to offer. COMMUNITY SWING is a standard riff piece, providing space for good solos by trumpeter Tweet Peterson and McIntyre, plus drum breaks from Kenyon.  I GOT RHYTHM is the winner of the date – a real all-stops-out tour-de-force that shows Glenn’s arranging skills at their imaginative best. Soloists McIntyre, Jerome and Peterson each get a full chorus, backed by a churning reed background.  The ride-out chorus features several false endings that surely caught dancers unaware!  Glenn apparently liked this final chorus so much that he tacked it onto his 1939 arrangement of HOLD TIGHT, with an added trumpet flourish as a coda.

It’s fascinating to compare this performance to Glenn’s almost martial 1930 chart of the tune for Red Nichols (with the GIRL CRAZY pit band) and Billy May’s refreshing ballad arrangement for the 1942 Miller band.  Actually, the opening choruses of the 1930 and 1937 performances are very similar in tempo and attack.

Coming on the next session – Glenn finally get a chance to record some current pop tunes!

GLENN MILLER EPIC45

 

The Decca Session

Decca Studios, New York – March 22, 1937

Charlie Spivak, Mannie Klein (tp), Stirling Bose (tp,vcl); Glenn Miller (tb,arr), Jesse Ralph, Harry Rogers (tb); Hal McIntyre (cl,as,arr), George Siravo (as,arr), Jerry Jerome, Carl Biesecker (ts); Howard Smith (p); Dick McDonough (g); Ted Kotsoftis (b); George T. Simon (d); Doris Kerr, The Tune Twisters (vcl).  Glenn is the arranger on all titles except the last, which was arranged by Hal McIntyre.

62058-A         Peg O’ My Heart        Decca 1342

62059-A         Wistful and Blue (dk vcl)     Decca 1284

62060-A         How Am I To Know ? (dk vcl)          Decca 1239

62061-A         Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere (sb, tt vcl)     Decca 1284

62062-A         Moonlight Bay (band vcl)    Decca 1239

62063-A         I’m Sittin’ on Top of the World        Decca 1342

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It’s almost two years since the Columbia session and this session marks the first that Glenn led with his own performing band, with the personnel bolstered by several friends.  Glenn had freelanced as a studio musician after leaving the Ray Noble band in mid-1936 and was seriously looking to start his own group by the end of the year.  By February 1937, the band was rehearsing around New York and Glenn’s reps landed a one-shot date at Decca.

Trumpeters Spivak, Klein and Bose, pianist Howard Smith (borrowed from Tommy Dorsey) and guitarist Mc Donough were the ringers; the rest of the guys were Glenn’s newcomers.  George Simon, editor at Metronome Magazine and close friend of Glenn’s, had helped in finding musicians and was tapped for the drum chair, since Glenn was having trouble locating a good drummer that he could afford.  Singer Doris Kerr was related to an NBC radio executive and then performing on sustaining broadcasts.  She sings pleasantly in a similar style to Glenn’s other early female vocalists, Kathleen Lane and Gail Reese.

 Simon later recounted the incredible pressure Glenn put on the musicians to produce six, rather than the usual four sides, in the three-hour time frame imposed by the musicians’ union.  Most record dates at that time were expected to complete four finished masters in the time allotted, but there were no constraints on completing more if you could. Well, Glenn made sure they could!

That pressure is evident in the rather tense atmosphere on the records. As before, the band does not sound terribly relaxed and the rhythm section pushes hard throughout.  Refusing to put himself in competition with Tommy Dorsey, Glenn didn’t play on the session and no other trombone solos are to be heard.

It was often the case with new bands on one-shot record dates that the songs chosen were standards, so the record label could space out the releases if they liked, without having to worry about new tunes becoming dated.  The newest song performed here is 1929’s HOW AM I TO KNOW and the oldest was almost moldy, namely MOONLIGHT BAY, published way back in 1912.  PEG O’MY HEART was just a year younger.

Though the songs were vintage, they were well-chosen by Glenn, as none would become Swing Era warhorses.  Glenn’s arrangements were fresh and filed with interesting ideas and voicings.  It’s surprising  to hear Biesecker’s tenor sax used several times as a lead instrument in the reed section. The famous “Miller Sound” of clarinet-over-reeds had not yet been thought of.

Soloists Biesecker and McIntyre come off best with imaginative contributions. Biesecker would remain with Glenn for the rest of the year and McIntyre stayed until 1941, but was rarely featured as he was here.

After the first three numbers, done at a rather plodding mid-tempo, the band noticeably loosens up a bit for the remainder of the date.  ANYTIME, ANYDAY, ANYWHERE is the gem of the session, with an endearingly mush-mouthed vocal and solo by trumpeter Stirling Bose (who had played and sung with Glenn in the Noble band).  Also Noble band alumni were the Tune Twisters, who were earlier known as “The Freshmen.”  Jack Lathrop, one of the Freshmen-Twisters, later joined the Miller band as guitarist and occasional vocalist.

MOONLIGHT BAY is perhaps the most recognizably Miller-style chart, with little clarinet fills throughout that are reminiscent of his hot charts for the Dorsey Brothers and Noble.  These fussy little touches, though distinctive, would soon disappear from Glenn’s arrangements as they became more forward-looking in the months to come.

 For years, these records were hard to come by. Now, of course, they are included on numerous CDs and are all over the Internet.  Back in 1967, British Decca’s budget LP label Ace of Hearts reissued them on microgroove for the first time, as THE SWING-HAPPY YEARS.  Image

Six sides by the Jan Savitt band completed the LP, several with Miller connections, like MOONLIGHT SERENADE and TUXEDO JUNCTION.  For this young Miller collector, Manhattan’s King Karol or Doubleday’s were the only places to find such esoteric imports.

 Yours truly was thrilled to hear these unfamiliar records, but not too happy with writer Michael Brooks’ liner notes.  This was my first acquaintance with his snarky style and his dislike of the Miller band was way apparent here.  After grudgingly stating that these Deccas were not so bad, he opined, “There is also a looseness in the playing that Miller would never have tolerated a few years later, when he led a bunch of bland, soporific Trilbys who obeyed their leader’s written instructions to the note.  In 1937, Miller hadn’t quite grasped that an all-star combination tends to obscure the leading light. He didn’t make the same mistake twice.”

 Wow.  “Bland, soporific Trilbys.”  I had to look up two of the three words in that statement.  And I remain wary of Michael Brooks to this day.

The First Miller Session – Part 2

Forgot to mention the vocalist on the date!  Smith-Ballew

Smith Ballew had been around as a studio singer since the late 1920s and had sung on many Dorsey Brothers and Ben Pollack dates that included Glenn and his chums. Glenn had also played in various touring bands led by Ballew and they were long-time friends.  So this date was a chance to toss some money Smith’s way.

His pleasantly bland vocal style were already going out of favor by 1935 and Smith soon relocated to Los Angeles where his Gary Cooper-ish looks helped him to get into musical Western movies.

Tune-wise, the first three songs on the date were all written and popularized in 1926;  and the one Miller “original,” SOLO HOP, was simply a riff on 1929’s PAGAN LOVE SONG, sans melody statement.  Oddly, except for A BLUES SERENADE, the other songs had first been performed as exotica/mysterioso compositions, suggesting foreign climes and mores.

Glenn later featured a hot PAGAN chart of his making with the 1939 band and revisited A BLUES SERENADE in several of his radio medleys.

Performance-wise, the records are tightly arranged and well-performed, as one would expect from Glenn, even at this early date.  One aspect that is readily apparent is the rather plodding rhythm section, with Bauduc clomping all over the place.  This trait would plague Miller’s band throughout  the civilian days.  Friend and writer George T. Simon, who sat in on drums early on, reported that Glenn often drove his musicians hard, creating a tense atmosphere while rehearsing and recording.  Recording in those days was difficult enough and achieving a sense of relaxation on disc didn’t happen often with Glenn.

The two ballads feature the strings, Glenn with a mute and a high-pitched Ballew, with brief solos by Berigan and Eddie Miller.  The hot tunes are something else, showing off the soloists, especially Bunny,  quite well. The strings saw along gamely during SPANISH TOWN, but are dropped on SOLO HOP, a looser arrangement that gives Berigan, Eddie Miller and Johnny Mince more of a chance to jam without interference.

The attractive blue wax discs did not sell well – evidenced by their rarity today – even a Columbia red-label reissue of the two instrumentals in 1941, when Glenn was hitting his peak, made no impression.

Artie Shaw, however, took Glenn’s experimental session to a new level.  In mid-1936, after a sensational NY appearance with a string quartet at a swing concert in Manhattan, Shaw was persuaded to start his own band.  He did, using the string quartet as a nucleus wrapped around a Swing-Dixie combo. Artie got a lot of press coverage for his new and “novel” instrumentation.

The setup was almost exactly the same as on Glenn’s record date (two trumpets, one trombone (Glenn used two), two reeds, 4 strings and four rhythm). Additionally, two of Glenn’s violinists – Harry Bluestone and Bill Schuman – played with Shaw in 1936.

Decades later, Artie claimed that he had never heard of Glenn’s records and the concept of a string-swing band was his own idea.  Artie was also quite contemptuous of Glenn’s music and popularity, missing no opportunity to knock him.

Quien sabe?

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The First Miller Session – Part 1

Let’s see how long I can keep this going!  Here’s the first of what I hope will be many posts concerning Glenn Miller’s civilian band recording sessions.

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Columbia Records Studios – New York, April 25, 1935

Bunny Berigan, Charlie Spivak (tp); Glenn Miller (tb,arr), Jack Jenney (tb); Johnny Mince (cl,as), Eddie Miller (ts); Claude Thornhill (p); Harry Bluestone, Vlad Selinski (vln); Harry Waller (viola); Bill Schuman (cello); Larry Hall (g); Delmar Kaplan (b); Ray Bauduc (d); Smith Ballew (vcl).

CO-17379-1      A Blues Serenade (sb vcl)         Columbia 3051-D

CO-17380-1      Moonlight on the Ganges (sb vcl)       Columbia 3051-D

 CO-17381-1      In a Little Spanish Town    Columbia 3058-D

 CO-17382-1      Solo Hop (Jack Jenney & strings out)          Columbia 3058-D

After spending almost ten years arranging and recording with a myriad of bands and musicians, Glenn finally got his name out there as leader of a record date.  Not that it led to a recording contract; it was a one-off session for the tottering Columbia label, which would expire the following year. Revived in 1939, Columbia was reborn as a top label, second only to RCA Victor. But in 1935, Columbia had little going for it.  Glenn, on the other hand, was doing pretty well, as musical organizer and “hot” arranger for the prestigious new American band of British composer-arranger Ray Noble.  With a continuing gig at Rockefeller Plaza’s Rainbow Room, a record contract with RCA Victor and a weekly radio series sponsored by Coty Cosmetics, Ray and Glenn were riding high.

However Glenn managed to land the session, he made the most of it, filling the band with current and previous musical compatriots.

Spivak, Mince, Thornhill and Kaplan were then members of the Noble band.  Bluestone had been first violin on a number of Dorsey Brothers records that were arranged by Glenn. Waller played on an odd 1933 Dorsey date that remade several Miller arrangements from 1929 and 1930.  He later played with Artie Shaw.  Selinski fiddled on many 1930-31 Red Nichols dates with Miller.  Schuman was with Glenn in Ben Pollack’s 1928-29 band and in Artie Shaw’s first string-swing group in 1936 (more on that later).  Eddie Miller  and Bauduc had also been with Pollack and soon would be mainstays of the Bob Crosby orchestra.  Berigan appeared on a batch of Glenn-arranged Dorsey sessions and was then gigging between stays with Benny Goodman.   Jenney had been with Isham Jones and on several recent Red Norvo Columbia dates.  The least-known member of the personnel, Larry Hall, played guitar on an  number of ARC dates with Chick Bullock, the ODJB, then Russ Morgan & Toots Mondello.

Next time, let’s look at the music!

“The Man with that Grand Band….”

March 1st of this year marked the 110th birthday of bandleader and Swing Era icon Glenn Miller. My interest in his music started 50 years ago when my Dad bought me this album:

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Little did my father know what this seemingly innocuous purchase would lead to.  This RCA Camden album reissue gave a young collector a lopsided view of the Miller band.  One ballad and two hot instrumentals, and seven (!) vocals by Ray Eberle, one shared with the Modernaires. Guess that’s why I have always liked Ray Eberle’s singing, due to his looming presence on this LP.

Thank goodness for RCA Camden! This $1.98 budget label offered a generous sampling  of RCA’s big band holdings to the low-income enthusiast – Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey and Fats Waller all had one or more discs in the catalog.  And there was more by Miller:

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Great cover!  This was my second Miller Camden purchase (though it actually had been issued first, in 1963).  All vocals this time, again heavy on the Eberle (6 tracks), but at least a look-in by other Miller singers Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke, Skip Nelson and the Modernaires.  Also included were some nonsensical burblings in the liner notes describing Glenn’s original Bluebird 78s as “jewels” and “pearls of great price.”  At the time I accepted this pronouncement as gospel. Later I would find out that most of Glenn’s 78s could be acquired for less than a buck, but what did I know in 1964?

By the time the third Glenn Miller Camden LP was issued in 1967 (another great cover design and with five more Eberles!), I was well on my way to full-fledged record passion.

Glenn Miller - The Nearness Of Youre

As I got deeper into the music of the Big Band Era, my mother would say (often), “I lived through this era once, do I have to again?”