A Contract with RCA-Bluebird!

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 6, 1939, 1:30-4:45 PM

Charlie Hill, Bob Price, Legh Knowles (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz (cl,as); Stan Aronson (ts,cl); Tex Beneke, Al Klink (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Allen Reuss (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Cody Sandifer (d). Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Bill Finegan (arr).

 

033607-1      (Gotta Get Some) Shut-Eye (MH vcl)          Bluebird 10139

033608-1      How I’d Like to Be With You in Bermuda (RE vcl) Bluebird 10139

033609-1      Cuckoo in the Clock (MH vcl, BF arr)          Bluebird 10145

033610-1      Romance Runs in the Family (MH vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10145

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Five more middling months in the saga of the Glenn Miller band unfolded, brightened mainly by a month-long engagement in NY at the Paradise Restaurant. The city was building up to the opening of the New York World’s Fair in April and tourist business was starting to flock to the Big Apple. There is a newsreel clip of a big Trylon & Perisphere (the Fair symbols) being popped open in front of the Paradise on New Year’s Eve, with a pretty girl bursting out.

As mentioned before, the club’s manager, Nils T. Granlund (known as N.T.G.), was really into busty showgirls and he was planning his biggest coup for the World’s Fair’s Amusement Area, the “CONGRESS OF BEAUTY” and “SUN-WORSHIPPERS COLONY.” Image

Basically it was a “nude ranch” of leggy women feeding cows and chickens while wearing see-through tops. Customers were encouraged to ogle, for a hefty admission fee, of course. This all fit right in with the Fair’s edifying theme, “Building the World of Tomorrow.”

But, I digress – February brought good news for Glenn, who signed a one-year no-royalty contract with RCA-Bluebird. Recording director Eli Oberstein was apparently pleased with the band, though their first pair of records didn’t break any sales records. For the second date, as Jerry Colonna would say, “Ahhhh… something new has been added!”

Having discarded a batch of girl vocalists through the summer of 1938, Glenn signed blond and bubbly Marion Hutton. Marion was the sister of Betty Hutton, who even then was making a name for herself as “America’s No. 1 Jitterbug” with Vincent Lopez’s orchestra. After checking out both Hutton sisters, Glenn decided Marion would be “easier to handle” and he was 100% right in his assessment. Marion soon became an indispensable and much beloved part of the Miller organization and a bouncy and ebullient asset to their live performances. On record, she was less effective, though the band always seemed to swing a little harder on her arrangements.

Speaking of arrangements, this date also marked the debut of Bill Finegan, whose first two charts were here recorded. Finegan had been one of a number of arrangers working for Tommy Dorsey and Glenn offered him a job after hearing his work. Bill would contribute some of the most gorgeous ballad arrangements to the Miller library until the end of the band’s existence, but he often found it tough to deal with Glenn’s heavy editing pencil. Glenn had written most of the band’s charts since its inception, and was reluctant to accept musical ideas that didn’t mesh with his own conception.

Finegan would also have trouble featuring the new tenor sax guy in the band, Al Klink. Klink joined just before this session and was recommended to Glenn by Legh Knowles. Al, like Bill Finegan, would remain with the band until it broke up. Unlike Bill, his work was rarely featured. A terrific jazz soloist, Klink just didn’t hit it off with Glenn, who preferred Tex Beneke’s solos and personality.   Finegan and the other arrangers tried to work solos for Klink into their charts, but Glenn would usually cut them or assign them to Tex.   When Klink got the chance, mostly on live performances, he really swung handsomely.

The songs recorded on this date were all current pops with vocals, well performed but not terribly memorable.

HOW I’D LIKE TO BE WITH YOU IN BERMUDA has none of the exotic, languorous atmosphere you’d expect from the title. In musical terms, the song might just as well be about Peoria.  Composers Bickley Reichner and Clay Boland wrote it for one of the renowned University Of Pennsylvania Mask And Wig Club musical revues, which Boland wrote and directed.

The composers and their publishers must have had some kind of conduit to the record labels, as many of their songs were recorded by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw on Victor alone.

Two of the songs had lyrics by Johnny Mercer – CUCKOO IN THE CLOCK and SHUT-EYE. Both had been recorded by Benny Goodman the week before. This was not surprising, as Mercer was then a regular on BG’s “Camel Caravan” radio series.

Glenn had no radio sponsorship and with this session completed, the rest of February would unspool with more routine New England gigs and little else to look forward to.  But March would be another story!

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