A Stairway to Stardom

Legh Knowles, Bob Price, Mickey McMickle (tp); Glenn Miller (tb,arr), Paul Tanner, Al Mastren (tb)’ Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz (cl,as), Gabe Galinas (as,bar), Tex Beneke, Al Klink (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Arthur Ens (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d). Ray Eberle (vcl).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – May 9, 1939, 9:15 PM-12:15 AM

036877-1      To You (RE vcl, GM arr)        Bluebird 10276

036878-1      Stairway to the Stars (RE vcl)          Bluebird 10276

After closing at the Meadowbrook on April 20, the band went on the road for the next month, attracting new audiences who had caught them on the air. During this period, Glenn swung by the Victor Studios in Manhattan for one quick session to cut two promising ballads, both of which became hits.

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TO YOU was written by old-timers Benny Davis (author of BABY FACE and MARGIE) and Ted Shapiro (writer of IF I HAD YOU, and long-time accompanist to Sophie Tucker). Tommy Dorsey’s name is on the song too, likely because he was the first to promote it. TD waxed it for Victor on April 17 and then the Miller band cut it for the Bluebird budget label three weeks later.

Glenn’s arrangement is another first-chorus showcase for the Miller Sound, then a simple modulation to a smooth Ray Eberle vocal and a bit of back-and-forth between the reeds and brass for the final chorus. That’s all that was needed for another Miller winner.

After Glenn made it a hit, Harry James (with Frank Sinatra), Bob Crosby, Jan Savitt, Ella Fitzgerald and Teddy Powell all programmed the song on broadcasts through the summer of 1939.

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STAIRWAY TO THE STARS began life as PARK AVENUE FANTASY, a multi-themed instrumental piece by Matty Malneck and Frank Signorelli, which they wrote for the Paul Whiteman band in 1934.

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Whiteman recorded it as a 12-inch Victor record; eventually the main theme was extracted and had lyrics added by Mitchell Parish (again!). It’s a lovely, meandering melody and kudos to Parish for fitting an attractive set of words to it.

Though not credited, it’s likely a Miller arrangement, with brief solos by Tex and Glenn and an eager-sounding Eberle vocal. Brother Bob Eberly also recorded STAIRWAY with Jimmy Dorsey, as did Ella Fitzgerald with her band. Glenn’s photo was featured on the sheet music, another sign that the band was becoming popular.

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The song had a later popularity as the love theme for Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy classic, SOME LIKE IT HOT. Matty Malneck was involved with the film’s scoring, and cannily chose one of his own compositions to feature throughout the movie. Every time Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe get passionate, STAIRWAY TO THE STARS is heard in a lush arrangement.

The session out of the way, Glenn and the guys hit the road again for more one-nighters and Spring proms, leading to the Glen Island Casino opening on May 17.

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