RCA Victor studios, New York – March 30, 1940, 1:00-5:00 PM
048482-1 Boog-It (MH vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10689
048483-1 Yours Is My Heart Alone (BF arr) Bluebird 10728
048484-1 I’m Stepping Out With a Memory Tonight (RE vcl) Bluebird 10717
048485-1 Alice Blue Gown Bluebird 10701
048486-1 Wonderful One (JG arr) Bluebird 10701
048487-1 Devil May Care (RE vcl) Bluebird 10717
RCA Victor studios, New York – March 31, 1940, 2:00-6:30 PM
048488-1 April Played the Fiddle (RE vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 10694
048489-1 Fools Rush In (RE vcl) Bluebird 10728
048490-1 I Haven’t Time To Be a Millionaire (TB vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10604
048490-2 I Haven’t Time To Be a Millionaire (TB vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP
048491-1 Slow Freight (BF arr) Bluebird 10740
After the February 24th RCA session, five weeks would pass before the Glenn Miller band returned to the studio. They weren’t traveling; New York was their home base, as they were in the midst of a three-month residency at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Non-stop work kept them too busy for much else. Two nightly evening sessions at the Cafe Rouge, three Chesterfield shows a week plus rehearsals and an additional two-week killer gig at the Paramount Theater (36 stage shows!) had the band panting for relief.
The strain finally got to Glenn, who collapsed from exhaustion and the flu on February 27th, the day before the Paramount opening. He was hospitalized for over a week, returning to the bandstand on March 6th. During his absence, friends Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Charlie Barnet and Dick Stabile led the band at the Paramount. Charile Spivak and Claude Thornhill brought their bands to fill in for Glenn at the Pennsylvania while the band was doing their Chesterfield radio programs.
The Andrews Sisters, costars of the Chesterfield show, also appeared with the band at the Paramount. Cab drivers likely made a bundle, constantly ferrying the orchestra all over the city. Once he returned to lead his band, Glenn thanked all the friends who helped him out in a special appearance on the Paramount stage.
The Sisters finished their 13-week contract for the radio program on March 21 and weren’t renewed. The sponsors decided that Miller could carry the show by himself; also, Glenn was scheduled to take the band on the road in April and the gals were going on their own road trip to Hollywood. Coordinating the two schedules to include three live joint programs a week was an impossibility.
The wildly successful (and profitable) Paramount engagement concluded on March 12 and the Cafe Rouge-Hotel Pennsylvania residency would end on April 4. Health restored, Glenn was ready to take the band back into the studio for two sessions to get some new tunes on wax for the fans. Ten numbers on two consecutive days were completed – six good popular songs and four instrumentals.
Once again, Glenn used Marion Hutton sparingly, assigning her just a single vocal. BOOG-IT originated in the Cab Calloway band, written by Buck Ram, who had also composed UTT DA ZAY and CHOP CHOP CHARLIE CHAN for Calloway. Though Ram was Jewish, he specialized in “hep” novelties for black artists like the Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald and later, the Platters. Lyricist Jack Palmer also regularly wrote for the Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford bands, penning THE JUMPIN’ JIVE and HI-HO TRAILUS BOOT WHIP. The new dance described in the lyrics consisted of gesturing with your hands “like shinin’ a window, but you ain’t got no window, so you just picture a window and BOOG-IT!” Miss Hutton likely danced her tuchus off while performing the number in person! On record, the band adds vocal punctuations and handclaps, along with swinging solos by Hal McIntyre on alto and fat-toned trumpeter Clyde Hurley.
Marion steps away from the microphone for a gorgeous Bill Finegan instrumental arrangement of YOURS IS MY HEART ALONE, the most popular melody from Land of Smiles, a Viennese operetta by Franz Lehar, composer of The Merry Widow. Published in 1929, it was introduced by tenor Richard Tauber who made the first recording in German. Several British singers and bands went on to popularize the song in a rather stiff English translation by veteran lyricist Harry B. Smith. In a revised form, it was republished and recorded in 1940 by Glen Gray & Kenny Sargent, Tommy Dorsey & Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman & Helen Forrest and Glenn, who did it strictly instrumental. Taken at a brisk tempo, the reeds sing out in the first chorus, muted brass in the second, capped by a liquid tenor sax passage by Tex Beneke. The mutes come off for the last chorus, as filigrees by Finegan wrap around the melody. A lovely, underrated recording!
Ray Eberle shows up for I’M STEPPING OUT WITH A MEMORY TONIGHT, by Herb Magidson and Allie Wrubel, an uncelebrated team who nevertheless wrote a pile of hits – GONE WITH THE WIND, MUSIC MAESTRO PLEASE, I’LL BUY THAT DREAM, THE MASQUERADE IS OVER and others. The Miller Men give it a pleasant performance all around, with an efficient Eberle vocal and a distinctive Beneke solo.
Back to instrumental territory, for two lovely waltzes, ALICE BLUE GOWN and WONDERFUL ONE. A musty favorite from the 1919 Broadway score of Irene, ALICE BLUE GOWN was built around a topical reference to the color Alice Blue, an azure fabric tint favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of former President Teddy Roosevelt. Long favored as a fashion trendsetter, Ms. Longworth popularized the hue for female attire. The Harry Tierney musical about a poor Irish shopgirl who breaks into high society was a massive hit, as was the song.
RKO remade the story in 1940, with British stage star Anna Neagle as Irene, including a lavish Technicolor sequence that showed off the famous gown in all its glory. Though a number of hot renditions had been done by Red Nichols (including Glenn in the personnel) and Ben Pollack, the Miller 78 plugged the new film and the song’s original waltz tempo. Bill Finegan’s richly detailed arrangement shifts the melody from section to section and then to Beneke’s plush saxophone.
WONDERFUL ONE originated in the 1922 Paul Whiteman band, then creating its first sensation of the nascent Jazz Age. Crafted by Whiteman and arranger Ferde Grofe, the beautiful melody was as far from jazz as you could get, but still became an instant hit. Jerry Gray treats the number simply and effectively, with softly muted brass and reeds. The coda is especially lovely.
We return to the present for the last tune of the day, DEVIL MAY CARE, written by familiar Miller contributors Johnny Burke and Harry Warren. It’s a quality pop song, which sounds like it might have been arranged by Glenn. Ray Eberle sings in a comfortable range for a change and the tempo in slow enough to allow him to give some meaning to the words. There is a very pleasant trombone choir in the final chorus before the full band finishes it off.
Glenn and the boys were back in the studio the very next day with more new songs, including two from Bing Crosby’s latest film, If I Had My Way. Though some of the movie’s music looked back to the Gay 90’s, these tunes by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Monaco were right up to date. APRIL PLAYED THE FIDDLE is a very endearing number, sung in rather lackluster fashion by Bing, but handled much more cheerfully by Glenn and Ray.
Bing sounds half-asleep singing I HAVEN’T TIME TO BE A MILLIONAIRE in the film; Tex Beneke doesn’t bring much more connection to his rendition, sounding as if he’s reading the lyrics for the first time, which could very well have been the case! Despite this, the band and altoist Ernie Caceres deliver the tune in a jaunty fashion.
Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom next deliver a classic standard, FOOLS RUSH IN, a major hit from day one. Glenn’s recording is iconic, with Eberle and the band combining for a straightforward, yet totally memorable rendition. The Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra version was nearly as big a hit as Glenn’s. Incidentally, Tommy was still dogging Glenn’s heels. Of the ten tunes on these March Miller sessions, Dorsey had competing records out of six of them.
Our BOOG-IT friend Buck Ram also composed SLOW FREIGHT, first recorded by Benny Carter’s orchestra in January 1940. Glenn quickly picked up on it, hoping for another hit in the TUXEDO JUNCTION vein. Even the title was reminiscent of the earlier number. Though the record went nowhere, it’s a more interesting and varied composition than JUNCTION. To maximize the similarity, Glenn again had Mickey McMickle playing it straight on muted trumpet, in conversation with the groovier Clyde Hurley, who uses a different-sounding mute for his horn.
No rest for the weary – with the New York gigs completed, the road beckoned for the Glenn Miller band. Another month of travel would pass before RCA Victor welcomed them back – and they wouldn’t be traveling by SLOW FREIGHT!