RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 29, 1940, 1:00-4:15 PM
046735-1 Star Dust (BF, GM arr) Bluebird 10665
046736-1 My Melancholy Baby (TB vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 10665
046737-1 Let’s All Sing Together (MH vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10598
046737-2 Let’s All Sing Together (MH vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP
046738-1 Rug Cutter’s Swing (BF arr) Bluebird 10754
046739-1 The Woodpecker Song (MH vcl) Bluebird 10598
According to the discographies, Glenn Miller’s recording sessions on January 26th and January 29th, 1940 each lasted 3-1/4 hours. Normally, four tunes would be recorded in a 3-hour session. It’s surprising that only two records were cut on January 26th, but January 29th more than made up for the deficit. Three standards and two current pops were put down. The first number waxed was already a classic. “Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal STAR DUST,” as the radio announcers put it, was then part of every band and singer’s repertoire.
Since it’s introduction in 1927, the melody had slowly grown in prominence, helped immeasurably by the addition of Mitchell Parish’s lyric in 1929. Recordings by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong soon followed. By the late 1930s, Benny Goodman had swung it in a Fletcher Henderson arrangement and Jack Jenney recorded it as a meltingly romantic jazz trombone feature. With an assist from Glenn, Miller arranger Bill Finegan crafted a marvelous big band ballad chart, showcasing the fabulous reed section. Tex Beneke takes a relaxed solo and trumpeter Clyde Hurley plays his finest solo on a Miller record, channeling Bunny Berigan, with a pure, clean tone.
For the flip side, another vintage standard, circa 1912, was unearthed – MY MELANCHOLY BABY. This was the only hit for composer Ernie Burnett and lyricist George Norton, but what a hit it was! It’s hard to think of any musician or singer who didn’t perform this song. It is even credited with restoring the composer’s memory! Injured during World War I, Burnett was hospitalized with amnesia until he heard a visiting pianist play the song and abruptly snapped out of it. Whether true or not, it’s a good story.
Taken at a nice, comfortable tempo, Bill Finegan’s arrangement takes some pleasant liberties with the melody, before ushering in Tex Beneke’s best recorded vocal so far. Despite these qualities and Glenn’s general fondness for Tex, the chart did not become a regularly performed feature. There is just one known aircheck, with Glenn introducing Beneke’s vocal as being “in old-time rough style,” whatever that was!
Marion Hutton comes to bat next, doing her best with a truly dopey lyric. LET’S ALL SING TOGETHER is a catchy tune and Jerry Gray crafts a kicky chart, but those words! Even the magnificent Helen Forrest couldn’t make them work on her recording with Benny Goodman. Beneke and Hurley get their licks in, but a classic it ain’t. I couldn’t turn up any information on the composers, Joe Audino, Nick DiRocco and Billy Keeshan, but that’s just as well.
Now comes a surprise – Horace Henderson’s RUG CUTTER’S SWING, recorded by brother Fletcher Henderson’s band and a Henderson contingent led by Red Allen in 1934 and then completely forgotten. Unlike so many other Henderson originals that became Swing Era anthems, only Glenn picked up on RUG CUTTER. The Miller arrangement is credited to Bill Finegan, but since Glenn played in on radio as early as 1938, the chart is likely his, with a light polish perhaps added by Finegan.
In any case, the Miller version probably derives from a stock arrangement, played here much more “lightly and politely” than the choppy Henderson Decca 78, which is basically a string of solos held together by background riffs.
Marion takes the microphone again for THE WOODPECKER SONG, whose lyrics are a cut above LET’S ALL SING TOGETHER, but not by much. However, the sheer ebullience of the song and performance lift the record immeasurably. Discographies do not credit the musician who worked the ticking metronome!
We haven’t heard from Ray Eberle lately, but he’ll be back in a week for the next Bluebird date.