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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.