A Nightingale Sang

Mickey McMickle, Charles Frankhauser, Zeke Zarchy, Johnny Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g,vcl); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, The Four Modernaires {Hal Dickinson, Chuck Goldstein, Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster} (vcl); Bill Finegan; Jerry Gray (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 11, 1940, 1:45 PM-4:55 PM

056479-1      Make Believe Ballroom Time (Mods vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 10913

056479-2     Make Believe Ballroom Time (Mods vcl, JG arr)       RCA Victor EPA-5035

056480-1     You’ve Got Me This Way (MH vcl, JG arr)       Bluebird 10906

056481-1      A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (RE vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 10931

056481-2      A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (RE vcl, BF arr)   RCA Victor PR-125

056482-1      I’d Know You Anywhere (RE vcl, BF arr)       HMV 45 EP 7EG-8224

056482-2      I’d Know You Anywhere (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10906


Happiness is a season at the Café Rouge! That thought likely went through the minds of the Glenn Miller musicians when they settled in for a three-month residency at The Hotel Pennsylvania, as they had done the preceding winter. Traveling on the road may be exciting, with the accolades of fans ringing in their ears every night, but having a chance to relax, get the laundry done and eat regularly had its charms, too.

The band’s only record session in October 1940 also had its charms. The story behind the first number waxed, MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME, is an interesting one. WNEW Radio in New York City initiated one of the first regular “disc jockey” programs with Martin Block’s Make-Believe Ballroom in 1935. Since so much live music was available on the air, few though that listeners would take to a program of recorded music. Also, the record companies weren’t too keen on having their discs played on the air for free. They preferred customers to buy the record or pay for jukebox plays.

Glenn & Martin Block at the WNEW microphone. In the background are Clyde Hurley, Moe Purtill, Rollie Bundock & Willie Schwartz.

Glenn & Martin Block at the WNEW microphone. In the background are Clyde Hurley, Moe Purtill, Rollie Bundock & Willie Schwartz.

Block’s show was a huge and instant success and his relaxed, laid-back speaking style was a novelty in an age of stentorian announcers. In 1936, Charlie Barnet’s new band recorded MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM, by the popular black songwriting duo of Paul Denniker and Andy Razaf. The vocal was handled by the “Barnet Modern-Aires,” and was designed to be used as an on-air theme. With vocals at the beginning and end, the lengthy instrumental mid-section provided space for Block’s announcements.

Strangely, this recording was not specially made for Martin Block’s personal use, but was issued by RCA-Bluebird as a regular commercial release, so home collectors had the ability to recreate the popular program at home, if they so desired.

By 1940, apparently it was felt that a more up-to-date theme recording was needed, so Glenn (at his own expense!) agreed to produce a replacement. This time, Martin wisely cut himself in for a share of the song royalties, by collaborating on the lyrics with Harold Green and Mickey Stoner (who had written FAITHFUL TO YOU, which Glenn had waxed).   The Four Modernaires, by this time, veterans of the Paul Whiteman band, returned to add a bit of continuity to the new recording. This momentary collaboration with Miller would eventually reap big rewards for the Mods.

The Modernaires' autographs, from January 1940, when they were still with Paul Whiteman.

The Modernaires’ autographs, from January 1940, when they were still with Paul Whiteman.

The new song was as catchy as the first one, and Jerry Gray crafted a bouncy arrangement featuring the singing foursome and solos by Johnny Best and Tex Beneke.  Newly arrived, bassist Trigger Alpert brings an extrovert personality to his instrument, boosting the rhythm section immeasurably. The alternate take, first issued on an EP in the late 50s, likely by mistake, has noticeable differences in the solos and some rare clinkers by the band.

No clinkers are to be heard on A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, an all-time Miller classic and his first recording to allude, though glancingly, to World War II, then entering its second year in Europe. Offering a nostalgic look back to peacetime London, it was written by British songwriters Eric Maschwitz (aka Holt Marvell) and Manning Sherwin. Featured in the West End revue, New Faces, the song became a hit in England before repeating its success in the States.


Bill Finegan outdid himself with this exquisite arrangement. Willie Schwartz trills the introduction like a songbird and Ray Eberle enters, offering one of his most assured vocals. Tex Beneke is as smooth as butter and Ray and Willie’s clarinet return for a dynamic finish. Perfection from beginning to end! It’s also one of Glenn’s longest 78s, clocking in at three minutes and thirty-five seconds. The alternate take, first released on a compilation LP set in 1961, is almost indistinguishable from the master take.

The other two selections, though not reaching the heights of NIGHTINGALE, were goodies.   YOU’VE GOT ME THIS WAY and I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE originated in the Kay Kyser film, You’ll Find Out, which is best known today for the one-time teaming of horror stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. In 1940, however, the hugely popular Kay Kyser band brought in the movie admission shekels.

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Kyser, reportedly the only band whose financial success made Glenn jealous, was then shifting from a corny style to a smoother, more swing-oriented sound. Kay made nine films with his orchestra, more than any other Swing Era group. He always got the best songwriters to work on his pictures – You’ll Find Out boasted a fine score by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy McHugh.

YOU’VE GOT ME THIS WAY is full of typically Mercerian wordplay. Harry Babbitt sings it smoothly with Kyser, the Pied Pipers try to be overly hip on the Tommy Dorsey rendition and our Marion Hutton chirps it charmingly with Miller. Ernie Caceres can be heard again anchoring the sax section on baritone, a welcome addition to an increasing number of arrangements. At only two minutes and twenty seconds, Jerry Gray’s score could have benefited from an extra chorus with some solos.

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The film’s love ballad, I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE, gets the distinctive Miller mid-tempo ballad treatment. Arranger Bill Finegan wrote a nice brass modulation to Eberle’s vocal, which finds the singer in a cheerfully eager mood. Tommy Dorsey’s record is taken at an even faster tempo, with Frank Sinatra in typically efficient mode. Ray’s more callow approach seems to suit the song a little better, though Ginny Simms also did a great rendition with Kyser.

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Though Glenn and the band were now stationed in the New York area, an entire month would go by before the band’s next record date. They would cut more show and movie songs, plus another swipe at the wide open range!

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