Tommy Mack (tb) replaces Toby Tyler; Benny Carter (arr) added
RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 3, 1939, 11:30 AM-2:30 PM
042780-1 Blue Rain (RE vcl) Bluebird 10486, Victor 20-1536
042781-1 Can I Help It ? (RE vcl) Bluebird 10448
042782-1 I Just Got a Letter (MH vcl) Bluebird 10448
RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 9, 1939, 11:30 AM-4 PM
042923-1 Bless You (RE vcl) Bluebird 10455
042924-1 Bluebirds in the Moonlight (MH vcl, BC arr) Bluebird 10465
042925-1 Faithful Forever (RE vcl) Bluebird 10465
042926-1 Speaking of Heaven (RE vcl) Bluebird 10455
Glenn Miller and his band got massive on-air exposure during their spring and summer gigs at the Meadowbrook and Glen Island, but didn’t make much money. Now that they were hitting the road, the money was pouring in. Their September-October three-week engagement at the New York Paramount alone would wind up grossing them $150,000, an amazing quantity of money for 1939!
How they managed to squeeze in two record dates while playing all day at the theater is a wonder. The October 3rd date begins with two Ray Eberle vocals, both songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with different wordsmiths, Johnny Mercer and bandleader-songwriter Eddie DeLange. Van Heusen would contribute close to a dozen songs to the Miller discography and later teamed with Sammy Cahn to become Frank Sinatra’s “house” composer.
BLUE RAIN is not one of Mercer’s more inspired lyrics, but the Miller arrangement is so charming that it carries the performance along. It was enough of a hit that it was reissued in 1943, as the backing for one of the band’s final recordings, CARIBBEAN CLIPPER.
CAN I HELP IT? is totally forgotten, both as a song and as a Miller recording, never reissued until the 1980s. A standard-issue pop tune of the era, it does capture the band and Eberle at their most relaxed.
I JUST GOT A LETTER is a welcome swinger after a surfeit of ballads. Dave Franklin’s song (he was the composer of THE MERRY-GO-ROUND BROKE DOWN and WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME) isn’t much, but the Miller crew mixes it into quite a tasty salad, with a nice Marion vocal, touches of Hal McIntyre’s sax and Moe’s drums. Some loose riffing winds it up. Somehow, the great Ethel Waters, who rarely handled this type of novelty, also waxed it for Bluebird!
Only three tunes were captured at the October 3rd session, but nearly a week later, the band set down its usual allotment of four songs, with Ray, once again, getting the majority of them.
BLESS YOU sounds very unpromising, as either a benediction or the response to a sudden sneeze. It’s one of the few songs written by Don Baker, then the featured organist at the Paramount Theater. Glenn likely got the tune from him during this engagement. Eddie Lane’s lyrics are pretty unimaginative, but the song is quite melodic and the chart shows off the reed sound at its lushest. Ray sings a lower ending here, but on an aircheck issued by RCA, he makes an octave jump and goes way high for the final notes.
By accident or design, Glenn managed to record a number of songs from kid-friendly films – THE WIZARD OF OZ, PINOCCHIO, DUMBO, MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN and here, two songs from Max Fleischer’s cartoon feature, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.
Paramount Pictures’s dependable house composers, Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, wrote both. FAITHFUL FOREVER was the movie’s hit ballad and features tightly muted brass and one of Eberle’s sweetest vocals. Great for romantic fox-trotting and holding your best gal close.
We get a welcome dose of Marion on BLUEBIRDS IN THE MOONLIGHT, which is also distinguished by a Benny Carter arrangement. A bit of Chummy’s boogie-woogie piano starts it off, with some imaginative reed backgrounds, as one would expect from Carter. After Marion’s twinkly vocal, with her sounding more self-assured than usual, Clyde Hurley, who has been barely in evidence for the last few sessions, gets an excellent half-chorus solo. A real winner all around.
Composer Jimmy Van Heusen returns with SPEAKING OF HEAVEN, another celestial ballad. Lyricist Mack Gordon would later play a very important part in the Miller pantheon, as the wordsmith for both of Glenn’s feature film scores. Tex Beneke is featured on the unusual intro and Ray takes a very smooth vocal.
And that’s it, recording-wise, for October 1939. However, between these two sessions, Glenn made a prestigious appearance at another important venue, which luckily was recorded – we’ll cover it next time!