Dick Fisher (g) replaces Arthur Ens. Bill Challis, E.G. Eberhard & Eddie Durham (arrangers) added.
RCA Victor Studios, New York – June 2, 1939, 1:30-4:30 PM
037179-1 Guess I’ll Go Back Home (TB vcl, BCh arr) Bluebird 10317
037180-1 I’m Sorry for Myself (MH, TB & GM vcl, CD arr) Bluebird 10299
037181-1 Back to Back (MH vcl, EE arr) Bluebird 10299
037182-1 Slip Horn Jive (ED arr) Bluebird 10317
This next session packs a bit more heat – three out of the four selections are swingers and no Ray Eberle vocals. While at Glen Island, Glenn continued adding new arrangers to his staff. Here we have the first contributions of three scribes. E.G. Eberhard I know nothing about, but the other guys were quite celebrated in their musical spheres. Bill Challis was already a veteran by 1939, having spent the late 1920s writing some of the most innovative, forward-looking jazz-tinged arrangements for Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang and Bing Crosby were all featured on recordings of Challis’s charts. He later freelanced with Fletcher Henderson, Casa Loma and others through the 1930s, also leading his own big radio orchestra.
GUESS I’LL GO BACK HOME THIS SUMMER was Challis’ contribution here. A lovely, elegiac composition by Willard Robison, who specialized in lovely, elegiac songs with a Midwestern feel, like OLD FOLKS, A COTTAGE FOR SALE and ‘ROUND MY OLD DESERTED FARM. Mildred Bailey was the definitive interpreter of Robison’s oeuvre, but this Miller record ain’t bad. A sweet opening chorus by Tex and the singing reeds modulates to the first Beneke solo vocal on disc and his Texas-style delivery suits the wistful lyrics.
Eddie Durham had shown his chops as trombonist, guitarist and arranger with Bennie Moten, Willie Bryant, Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie. Glenn revered the Basie band and so went to the source to try to capture some of the Basie brand of swing for his own organization. SLIP HORN JIVE was the first original Durham chart to be recorded by Glenn, but it wasn’t exactly as original as it seemed.
In August 1938, the Count performed Durham’s arrangement of the old jazz standard, NAGASAKI on a broadcast from the Famous Door nightclub on 52nd Street. An aircheck reveals all of SLIP HORN JIVE nestled within NAGASAKI, once the melody chorus is completed. Trombonist Benny Morton played the swinging riff figures that are transferred to the whole Miller trombone section, thus suggesting the tune’s title. Beneke, Hurley and Glenn contribute fine solos and the trombones get a workout, which was likely choreographed to a “T” in live performance. I wonder if Glenn was aware that Durham was recycling himself when he bought this flagwaver?
The other two songs came from a new Fox B-musical, starring Tyrone Power and ice-skating darling Sonja Henie. Since neither of the stars could sing, Rudy Vallee and Mary Healy were trucked in to handle the vocal chores. Stellar composer Irving Berlin, who had had a mega-hit the previous year with Fox’s ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND, contributed a full song score. Though none of them became hits, they were all pleasantly tuneful. Artie Shaw recorded I POURED MY HEART INTO A SONG and WHEN WINTER COMES for Bluebird and Glenn got two others. I’M SORRY FOR MYSELF captures the first cross-talk-whistle vocal by Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke (plus Glenn), which would soon become a delightful regular feature. It’s also a wild swinger from the first note, with a great Charlie Dixon arrangement.
For years, I only knew BACK TO BACK from a sensational aircheck version issued on the Miller ON THE AIR 3-LP set. When I finally heard the studio recording, I found it to be slightly less exciting, but quite a winner on it’s own terms. Marion Hutton takes a swell vocal and there are groovy solos by Hurley and Beneke. Whoever the unknown E.G. Eberhard was, he certainly could pen a swinging chart.
With audiences dancing BACK TO BACK at Glen Island Casino, Glenn and the band remained on location for the next three weeks, returning to RCA for two sessions in quick succession toward the end of the month.