Sun Valley Serenade – Part 1

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (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); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires, Pat Friday (voice dub for Lynn Bari), John Payne, Dorothy Dandridge, The Nicholas Brothers, Six Hits and a Miss (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

20th Century Fox Studios, Hollywood, March 24 – May 3, 1941

After the RCA studio sessions in February 1941, the Glenn Miller band took one more swing down the East Coast and then headed west for a series of dates, eventually arriving in Hollywood in mid-March.  Along the way, Glenn jettisoned vocalist Dorothy Claire, who, despite her fine vocal style, had not been a good fit with the band and leader.  She returned to Bobby Byrne’s band as if her two-month Miller stint had never happened. Though only heard on a handful of records, she left behind  a legacy of classy singing on a number of airchecks.

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Dorothy Claire rehearses with Glenn

As her replacement, Miller signed Paula Kelly, who just happened to be the wife of Modernaire Hal Dickenson.  Paula had been singing with the Dick Stabile and Al Donahue bands since 1938 and was a natural for the Miller band. Though not the strongest solo vocalist, she slotted in perfectly with the Modernaires, with whom she would be most often heard.

Paula Kelly

Paula Kelly

Once at 20th Century Fox, the band began rehearsing and routining the new arrangements for the soundtrack of Sun Valley Serenade. The film starred dimpled Sonja Henie, the Norwegian Olympic Champion skating star.  After her amazing sports career ended, she signed with 20th Century Fox in 1936 for a series of very popular skating musicals. Though she came across on-screen as sweet and rather simple, Henie was a tough businesswoman who demanded and got top money from studio head Darryl Zanuck.  Wisely realizing that Henie’s dimples and several skating numbers were not enough to support a successful film, Zanuck surrounded the star from the beginning with an array of seasoned stars and supporting players.

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In her movies, Sonja romanced Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Cesar Romero, Ray Milland and Robert Cummings, while comedians Joan Davis, Ethel Merman, the Ritz Brothers, Buddy Ebsen, Gypsy Rose Lee, Arthur Treacher and the Condos Brothers sang and danced. The formula worked, as all of the Henie ice epics were big hits.

Sun Valley Serenade, Henie’s seventh Fox film, was designed to fit snugly into the pattern. John Payne was the love interest, Lynn Bari supplied romantic conflict and comedy would be provided by young up-and-comer Milton Berle, raucous Joan Davis (whose role was severely truncated in the editing process), the dancing Nicholas Brothers and singer Dorothy Dandridge. Since big band musicals were highly popular, the Miller band was added for extra punch.  Glenn had held off from appearing in films until he had enough clout to insist upon the best screen presentation of his organization in an “A” picture.

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In the early 1940s. it was said that big bands got big parts in “B” pictures and small parts in “A” pictures.  Top bands like Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, for example, got short shrift in films like Dancing Co-ed and Las Vegas Nights.  By integrating the band into the plot of Sun Valley Serenade, the scriptwriters gave Glenn what he wanted. The band is seen and heard throughout and is the driving force behind the plot, silly though it may be. Unfortunately, in doing so, several of Glenn’s top people were squeezed out of the film. With John Payne playing the band’s pianist/male vocalist, Chummy MacGregor and Ray Eberle were shunted off to the sidelines.  Chummy only appears during CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO, while Payne is off skiing with Henie and Eberle is left totally in the snow, which must have upset him.

John Payne & Lynn Bari with Willie Schwartz & Tex Beneke in the background

John Payne & Lynn Bari with Willie Schwartz & Tex Beneke in the background

Lynn Bari plays the band’s singer (utilizing the luscious voice of Pat Friday), but Paula Kelly and the Modernaires, along with Tex Beneke, do get their time in the screen spotlight. Songwriters Harry Warren and Mack Gordon must have been inspired by the chance to write for the Miller band, as some of their very best compositions would wind up in Glenn’s two films.

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The band also received the best sound recording it would ever get, years ahead of the fidelity achieved by their RCA studio recordings. The film studios recorded music and voices using multiple microphones on multiple channels (termed “stems” or “angles” at that time).   They were not yet attempting to produce multichannel stereophonic recordings. The various “angles” were mixed down to produce a monaural single-channel soundtrack, but with the luxury of highlighting various instruments or sections. For example, when the camera panned across an orchestra, you might hear different instruments coming to the fore and then receding.

In cases where the studios preserved the multiple angles, a form of stereo could be newly mixed for later video and theater releases, as was done in the 1990s for The Wizard of Oz. Both Miller films were mixed for stereo when issued on VHS in the late 1980s, with pretty miraculous results. So far, only Orchestra Wives has had an official DVD release in the United States.

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At the time the films were made, 20th Century Fox produced albums of  78s featuring most of the final soundtrack performances for in-house distribution and also for cast & crew souvenirs. These are the first and only 78 issues of the movie tracks.

When The Glenn Miller Story was released in 1954 to popular acclaim (and $7 million at the box office), Decca’s soundtrack album hit #1 for 10 weeks on the Billboard charts. RCA cobbled together an album of the same songs in Glenn’s original performances and that stayed at #1 for 11 weeks!

Hoping to cash in on Miller Mania, 20th Century-Fox re-released both of Glenn’s films theatrically as a double-feature package and struck gold there, too. RCA Victor licensed those soundtracks from Fox and created two 10-inch LPs, including most of the numbers from the films and several unused tracks as well.

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In 1959, with 10-inch LPs out of favor, RCA would likely have combined the two albums onto a single 12-inch LP.  20th Fox Records apparently yanked the rights back and produced their own 2-LP set of Miller film music, which added several “new” numbers, left others off or truncated them.  In order to have the most complete original issue of Glenn’s Fox soundtracks, both RCA and Fox albums are required listening.

We’ll discuss the actual Miller music in the next installment!

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The Spirit Is Willing

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (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); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Dorothy Claire, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 19, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060911-1      When That Man Is Dead and Gone (TB & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11069-B

060912-1      The Spirit Is Willing (JG arr)            Bluebird 11135-A

060913-1      A Little Old Church in England (RE, M & Band vcl) Bluebird 11069-A

060914-1      Perfidia (DC & M vcl)           Bluebird 11095-A


RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 20, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060915-1      It’s Always You (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 11079-A

060916-1      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr)             Bluebird 11095-B

060916-2      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

060917-1      The Air-Minded Executive (TB, DC vcl)      Bluebird 11135-B

060918-1      Below the Equator (RE & M vcl)     Bluebird 11235-B

The Glenn Miller Band concluded a sensational three-week engagement at New York’s Paramount Theater on February 18th, 1941. They spent the next two days in the RCA studio setting down eight new tracks before leaving town again.

First up were two of Irving Berlin’s less-familiar patriotic songs, the first truly World War II-influenced numbers in the band’s library. WHEN THAT MAN IS DEAD AND GONE is a not-so-subtle jab at Adolf Hitler, referred to in the lyric as “Satan with a small mustache.” It’s rather too grim a subject to swing lightly, as here. Tex Beneke and the Modernaires blend their voices for the first time and brief hot solos by Ernie Caceres and Billy May are effective, but this is not a fun disc for repeated playing!

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A LITTLE OLD CHURCH IN ENGLAND references the terrible destruction of the London Blitz in an oblique manner. The entire band acts as a vocal choir here, adding their voices effectively to Ray and the Modernaires. Though she gets label credit, new gal singer Dorothy Claire is not audibly present. It’s another depressing song that couldn’t have been too welcome in those dark days of the war. Since both of these Berlin tunes were published through ASCAP (Berlin was one of the founders of the organization, back in 1914), they got no radio exposure, which perhaps is just as well.

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THE SPIRIT IS WILLING is a more cheerful opus and totally instrumental, though “voices” are to be heard. A witty Jerry Gray original, it offers a spirited (!) conversation between Billy May and likely Mickey McMickle, alternating muted and open trumpets. They each preach the gospel, eventually resolving their differences in a plaintive coda. Another underrated disc, the number catches Gray in an Ellington-Lunceford groove and was often featured on radio by Glenn.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

Next up is another biggie – PERFIDIA, one of Miller’s best-remembered hits. It had a similar history to FRENESI, another of Mexican composer Alberto Dominguez’s songs. Xavier Cugat recorded it in 1940 and co-wrote an English lyric with Will Heagney. Retitled TONIGHT (PERFIDIA), it was recorded by Gene Krupa, Ozzie Nelson and Jimmy Dorsey. This version was ASCAP-licensed, so in 1941, Milton Leeds penned a new BMI lyric, which is the one famously recorded by Benny Goodman and Glenn. Benny swung it nicely with Helen Forrest singing, but Glenn slowed it down, as he had done with FRENESI.


Set in a lush arrangement (likely by Jerry Gray), the insinuating melody is crooned romantically by Dorothy Claire and the Modernaires, with the full band once again providing vocal support. The final instrumental chorus alternates blaring brass with hypnotic reeds, building to a completely satisfying finish – another Glenn Miller mega-hit for the grateful fans!

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Back in the studio the very next day, the band set down four more typical performances, leading off with IT’S ALWAYS YOU, a lovely Johnny Burke-Jimmy Van Heusen ballad from the second Bob Hope-Bing Crosby film, Road to Zanzibar. Glenn’s own Crosby, Ray Eberle, sings the intensely romantic lyrics in a charmingly ardent manner and Bill Finegan’s sinuous arrangement is another plus. The Miller band was earlier criticized for playing ballads too fast, but by 1941 this was no longer the case. The competing Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra recording is noticeably speedier than Glenn’s. Unfortunately, being an ASCAP tune, neither of these worthy versions got any airplay.

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Glenn had recorded two songs written by his guitarist, Jack Lathrop, the preceding fall. Now he turned to a new Miller bandsman, Modernaire Hal Dickinson, for a tune, SPRING WILL BE SO SAD. Dickinson had recently composed two good numbers that Glenn played on the air but didn’t record, A LOVE SONG HASN’T BEEN SUNG and THESE THINGS YOU LEFT ME.

Ray and the Mods warble SPRING WILL BE SO SAD smoothly, backed by an able Jerry Gray chart. It’s another downer of a lyric, alluding to “this troubled world” and wartime unhappiness. The only bright spot is the exquisite coda, as the sun breaks through, via a lovely clarinet passage.

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Johnny Mercer takes us away from current events with THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE, a delightful collaboration with Bernie Hanighen. Hanighen is forgotten today, but he and Mercer had teamed up for a number of 30s hits, including THE DIXIELAND BAND, BOB WHITE and FARE-THEE-WELL TO HARLEM. By this time, Hanighen had moved away from composing to become a producer at Columbia Records, working most effectively with John Hammond on Billie Holiday’s sessions.

Dorothy Claire

Dorothy Claire

THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE tells the improbable tale of a forward-looking businessman who “dearly loves to fly” and romances his secretary on his “stratos-ferry.” The Miller version gives us our main chance to hear perky Dorothy Claire on record with the band, as she and Tex neatly revive the cross-talk routine that Marion Hutton had done so often with Mr. Beneke. The wordy song doesn’t give the band much to do, but it should be noted that the “airplane revving up” effect that opens the disc would be reused by Jerry Gray on KEEP ‘EM FLYING later in the year.

Concluding the February session, we go BELOW THE EQUATOR with Ray and the Mods. Its bolero rhythm suggests another song of South American origin, but Americans Charlie Tobias and Cliff Friend wrote it. Atmospheric and moody, this fine disc would be the last Glenn Miller disc for quite a long time. The band wouldn’t find themselves before a Victor microphone again for two and-a-half months. What were they doing during that period? Why, they were making a movie, in Hollywood!

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Sun Valley Jump

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (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); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Four Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 17, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

058884-1      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)    first issued on LP

058884-2      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)   Bluebird 11079-B

058885-1      Song of the Volga Boatmen (BF arr)                  Bluebird 11029-A

058886-1      The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11110-A

058887-1      You Stepped Out of a Dream (RE & M vcl)      Bluebird 11042-A

058888-1      I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem (JG arr)                Bluebird 11063-A

058889-1      Sun Valley Jump (JG arr)                                   Bluebird 11110-B


Today’s posting comes on the 70th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s tragic disappearance over the English Channel. His contributions to American music should never be forgotten.


1941!   A new year and several important personnel changes occurred in the Glenn Miller band as soon as the holiday decorations came down. Newlywed Marion Hutton announced she was newly pregnant and retired temporarily. Apparently this event had been brewing for a while, as Marion was being featured less and less on the Miller sustaining broadcasts, though she had her nightly spot on the Chesterfield program.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Pert Dorothy Claire was quickly signed away from her solid perch in the Bobby Byrne band, which resulted in bad blood and a lawsuit between the two leaders. She would join on January 8th, but did not appear on record until February. Seeking more vocal variety, Glenn also signed the Four Modernaires as permanent members of the ensemble. We’ve already heard from Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster, Hal Dickenson and Chuck Goldstein as guest singers on MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME. Featured earlier with Ozzie Nelson, Harry Reser, Charlie Barnet, George Hall and Paul Whiteman, the group had become quite popular and slotted in easily with the Miller band. They arrived on January 13th and immediately began rehearsing for the upcoming record date.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

Glenn also renewed his contract with RCA Victor, under new, more lucrative terms. He received twice what he had been getting per record (now $750) and increased royalty payments. Now Miller had to earn the money by producing hit records. The January 17th session delivered the goods.

IDA! SWEET AS APPLE CIDER was written in 1903 as a piece of special material by and for blackface minstrel-vaudevillian Eddie Leonard. It eventually became a jazz standard, with memorable recordings by Red Nichols’ Pennies and the Benny Goodman Quartet. Having fallen into the public domain, it was an obvious choice for Glenn to dust off, record and broadcast in 1941, as one of the few familiar song standards that was not an ASCAP tune.

As the first Billy May arrangement to be waxed by Glenn, it heralded the fresher, more relaxed direction the band was now taking. The Lunceford-style two-beat feel suited Tex Beneke perfectly, in both his vocal and sax solo and became one of his most-performed features with Glenn and his later, post-war band.

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Leonard had sung the number in the 1940 Bing Crosby film, If I Had My Way. He died in July 1941 at 71, hopefully having heard the Miller 78 that made his old song a hit all over again.

Raiding the public domain once more, Glenn did a further archeological job on SONG OF THE VOLGA BOATMEN, an old Russian folk song dating back to 1866. Jimmy Dorsey had recorded a 12-inch swing version for Decca in 1938, but no other jazz folk had touched it.

Bill Finegan took a subtler approach in his arrangement, starting with Trigger Alpert’s bass, an eerie vocal “whoo-oo-oo” from the band and creepy, muted wah-wahs by Billy May. A sinuous alto solo by Ernie Caceres follows, leading into a fugue section, with trombones, trumpets and handclaps circling in contrapuntal fashion. It sounds complicated, but it plays as very catchy! The full band roars to a minor-key conclusion and there you have it – a Number #1 hit record.  The arrangement would become increasingly timely as the war in Europe intensified and Glenn began introducing the number as “a tribute to our fighting Russian allies.”  Glenn’s later AAF Band would also perform it often.

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After these two radio-friendly performances, the band turned to two popular ASCAP songs, which means they got no airplay at all. That’s a shame, as they are fine records that also serve to welcome the Modernaires. They blend beautifully with Ray Eberle on THE ONE I LOVE, sounding as if they had been paired for years.

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Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers had cut a lazily swinging Sy Oliver arrangement of the song in 1940. This Miller rendition (arranged by Jerry Gray) goes totally for mood and romance and is taken at what may be the slowest tempo for a Miller ballad yet. The vocal is hushed and very effective – a lovely record!

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Whether by design or just coincidence, lyricist Gus Kahn, who had written THE ONE I LOVE with Isham Jones back in 1924, also wrote the words for YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. A collaboration with MGM songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, this new number was the big ballad from Ziegfeld Girl. Starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart, the film and the song were hugely successful.

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Performed in similar style to the preceding tune, YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM is slightly less effective, marred by a loud, out-of-place trumpet coda, which is not well played and breaks the quiet mood.

This lengthy session was concluded with two excellent Jerry Gray swing originals. Many compositions by Glenn and his arrangers (as well as their arrangements of public domain melodies) were published by Glenn’s own firm, Mutual Music. He signed with BMI to assure radio play for these numbers, as well as the new Miller radio theme, SLUMBER SONG, which replaced MOONLIGHT SERENADE for the duration.

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The title I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM is a cute take-off on I DREAMT THAT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS, the ancient operetta aria from The Bohemian Girl, familiar to fans of Laurel and Hardy from its use in their 1936 film version. There is no musical similarity between the two compositions. Gray’s catchy riff rocks along smoothly, with fine solos by Al Klink, Billy May, Trigger Alpert, Chummy MacGregor and Ernie Caceres. Live versions from the Café Rouge run over five minutes in length and are more effective. Too bad Glenn didn’t go for a 12-inch disc here!

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Often-overlooked Al Klink gets more solo space on SUN VALLEY JUMP, along with May and Caceres again. This great Jerry Gray swinger is tightly patterned and each theme follows one after the other with a feeling of inevitability. Allowing additional solo choruses would have make the piece less effective, unlike the looser I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM, which could go on as long as time allowed.

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Titled in honor of Glenn’s upcoming Sun Valley Serenade film, SUN VALLEY JUMP was rerecorded for the soundtrack, but ironically, not to be heard on screen. More on that later!

The Miller band closed their lengthy engagement at the Café Rouge the day after this session and then traveled a few blocks uptown for another three-week stint at the Paramount Theater in Times Square. It would be just over a month before they had the time to swing by RCA again.

Good-bye 1940

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (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 (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – December 13, 1940, 1:30-5:50 PM

058172-1      Anvil Chorus – Part 1 (JG arr)          Bluebird 10982-A

058173-1      Anvil Chorus – Part 2 (JG arr)         Bluebird 10982-B

058173-2     Anvil Chorus – Part 2 (JG arr)         Bluebird (Canada) 10982-B

058174-1     Frenesi (BF arr)                                  Bluebird 10994-A

058174-2    Frenesi (BF arr)                                  first issued on LP

RCA Victor Studios, New York – December 27, 1940, 1:00-4:00 PM

058805-1      The Mem’ry of a Rose (RE vcl)             Bluebird 11011-A

058806-1      I Do, Do You ? (RE vcl, BF arr)            Bluebird 11020-A

058807-1      Chapel in the Valley (RE vcl)                Bluebird 11029-B

058808-1      Prairieland Lullaby (RE vcl, BF arr)   Bluebird 11011-B

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Now the top band in the land, it’s strange that Glenn Miller recorded relatively infrequently in the last months of 1940. From October through year’s end, he waxed only 20 numbers, quite a drop-off from 1939. With their comfortable perch at the Café Rouge, it would seem that the time to commission and rehearse new numbers would be available. For whatever reason, this was not the case.

The first session in December came on Friday, the 13th, but it proved to be a lucky Miller date. Not so for Count Basie – he had a Columbia session that same day and superstitious musician Lester Young refused to show up, getting himself fired from the band.

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With the ASCAP radio ban looming on January 1st of the New Year, Glenn wisely concentrated on selections that would fit under the new BMI or public domain-only restrictions. The short session of December 13th consisted of a real oldie and a BMI newcomer. ANVIL CHORUS, a swing version of the familiar choral theme from Verdi’s 1853 opera, Il Trovatore, was needless to say, in the public domain!

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Jerry Gray penned the lengthy arrangement (even though Glenn got the label credit!), which was first broadcast in October. It ran seven minutes and was taken at a very slow tempo. This was too long even for a two-part 78, so it was sped up and several sections were edited, resulting in a five-minute jazz opus.

Note that this 45 reissue correctly credits Jerry Gray as the arranger.

Note that this 45 reissue correctly credits Jerry Gray as the arranger.

The band is in fine fettle, booted along by Moe Purtill and Trigger Alpert. Beneke, Ernie Caceres and Billy May get short solos, but the star here is the tightly routined band and Moe, who is heard in a lengthy drum spot on Part 2. The repeated riffs go on just long enough, leading to a neat coda. Later performances by both the civilian and AAF bands would lengthen the drum solo, making it nearly a percussion feature. The alternate take of Part 2 is easily identified by a fat trumpet clinker near the end.

FRENESI, on the other hand, was written by Mexican composer Alberto Dominguez in 1939 and became a popular hit there. Bandleader Artie Shaw heard a local band play it while on a vacation and brought it home to record instrumentally in March 1940 with his new swing-pus strings band. Though the A-side, ADIOS MARIQUITA LINDA, was expected to be the hit, FRENESI, the B-side, took off and became nearly the biggest success Shaw would ever have.

1940 sheet music with ASCAP lyric.

1940 sheet music with ASCAP lyric.

English lyrics were hastily added by Leonard Whitcup, an ASCAP lyricist, and several additional recordings were made.   The song’s American publisher, Southern Music, then switched their affiliation to BMI and a new set of English lyrics by Ray Charles (not the singer of that name) and S.K. Russell were attached. Glenn avoided the whole lyric question by recording the number as an instrumental ballad, slowing it down from Shaw’s rhythm-rumba tempo.

1941 sheet music with BMI lyric.

1941 sheet music with BMI lyric.

The saxes lead off with the insinuating melody, first by themselves and then with the clarinet lead. Tex Beneke picks it up, followed by lovely muted trumpets. Johnny Best takes an open trumpet solo, continued by Mickey McMickle on muted horn. More reed sounds and then the full band brings it home. This Bill Finegan chart is a leisurely beauty, though Artie Shaw’s landmark version is hard to beat. The title FRENESI means “frenzy” in English. Neither of these famous recordings suggest that at all!

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After these two winning discs, the Miller band’s final session for 1940 produced four pretty forgettable sides, which made no stir whatsoever, either artistically or commercially.  All the tunes were written by composers and lyricists who had done right by Glenn in the past.

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There are some pleasant arranging touches and Ray Eberle does his usual consistent job, but not one of the songs standa out especially. THE MEM’RY OF A ROSE, by Jimmy Kennedy (of MY PRAYER fame) and Richard Young, has the fusty-sounding lyric of a Civil War-era ballad.

I DO, DO YOU sounds a little more up-to-date, written by Lew Quadling, who had penned A MILLION DREAMS AGO earlier in the year.   Also returning was Leon Rene, writer of WHEN THE SWALLOWS COME BACK TO CAPISTRANO. CHAPEL IN THE VALLEY was not much of a follow-up, though it tries to suggest the melody and lyric of the earlier song.

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PRAIRIELAND LULLABY at least has an interesting lineage. It was written by Victor Young, one of Glenn’s comrades in the 1926 Ben Pollack band. Young had risen to become a top radio, recording and film composer/conductor. The song was part of the score for a Paramount musical travelogue short, Arizona Sketches, with an added lyric by Frank Loesser (of THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU).

Victor Young

Victor Young

Bill Finegan’s pleasant arrangement drags Ray Eberle onto a saddle again, for yet another lope through the Western tumbleweeds. He sings throughout and is in especially relaxed form, riding 1940 off into the sunset.

As Bluebird’s top-selling band, Glenn certainly had a say in the material he was given to record. It appears that he was becoming aware that he should concentrate on better songs in the future and not favor those published and plugged by friends or even his own publishing firm, at least not until they had better product to promote.

1941 would feature a higher quality of material and result in many memorable recordings, plus new sounds arriving in the Glenn Miller vocal department!

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