A Bluebird Reverie – The First RCA Session

RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 27, 1938, 2:00-4:15 PM

Johnny Austin, Bob Price, Louis Mucci (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz (cl,as), Stanley Aronson, Tex Beneke (ts,cl), Bill Stegmeyer (ts,as,cl); Chummy MacGregor (p); Rollie Bundock (b); Bob Spangler (d); Ray Eberle (vcl). All titles arranged by Glenn Miller.

027410-1     My Reverie (RE vcl)    Bluebird 7853

027411-1      By the Waters of Minnetonka (Part 1)   Bluebird 7870

027412-1      By the Waters of Minnetonka (Part 2)   Bluebird 7870

027413-1      King Porter Stomp    Bluebird 7853

After the band left the Paradise Restaurant at the end of June, they gigged around the East Coast and New England. Regular gigs at the Roseland Ballroom in Boston and a week in Atlantic City at Hamid’s Million Dollar Pier were the highlights of this period.

Another high point came with the signing of the band to Bluebird Records for a single date in September. Bluebird was the 35-cent budget label spinoff from the 75-cent RCA Victor label. It was the brainchild of recording director Eli Oberstein, who started Bluebird in 1933, at the absolute low point for record sales during the Depression.

Signing popular bands like Rudy Vallee, Ted Weems and George Hall, Bluebird was a success from the beginning and by 1938, its roster included Artie Shaw, Shep Fields and Les Brown, along with carefully selected reissues by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and other jazz and country artists.

Oberstein was looking for a band to record a lower-price version of MY REVERIE, which was brokered into a hit by Larry Clinton on the parent Victor label. It was one of the first Swing Era pop tune adaptations from the classics, in this case, Debussy’s REVERIE.  Hearing that Glenn had a swell instrumental arrangement of the tune in his book, Eli approached Glenn for this single date.

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This would be Glenn’s only appearance on the suave Bluebird “staff” label, which had a sleek Art Deco design.   It would soon be redesigned in a more straightforward manner.

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Oberstein requested that a vocal be added to MY REVERIE and Miller obliged. Glenn slides right into the melody sans introduction, a somewhat daring way to begin the record. The Miller reeds sing out, leading into Ray’s plaintive vocal. Ray usually sounded plaintive on his earlier records, as Glenn seemed to like pitching his keys at the upper end of his range.

BY THE WATERS OF THE MINNETONKA, Glenn’s first two-part recording, offers a relaxed and leisurely ride through the old Indian parlor ballad. Oddly, Beneke is featured on a rather meandering two-chorus clarinet solo on Part 1, the first and only time Tex played clarinet on a Miller record. Why McIntyre didn’t get the hot solo spot is a mystery. Miller, Austin and Stegmeyer each get a full chorus on Part 2. Glenn’s arrangement is quite loose and simple, free of the fussy little touches his earlier hot charts were stuffed with.

KING PORTER STOMP is taken at exactly the same relaxed tempo, with Glenn’s trombone featured in the opening and for the first chorus. Austin is muted for a change, playing one of his more imaginative solos.  Spangler plods along on drums, showing some rhythmic impetus during Stegmeyer’s sinuous alto spot.

As evidence of the band’s efficiency, they completed all four titles in well under the three-hour session schedule. Glenn had apparently gotten over his fear of Tommy Dorsey, as he solos, and solos well, at length on each selection.

With the record session completed, the band went back to their regular grind of fall-into-winter gigs up and down the East Coast, broken up by more dates at the Roseland State Ballroom in Boston and at the familiar Paradise Restaurant in Manhattan. Wasn’t Glenn ever going to get that big break?

paradisegirls

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