“While I’m Rollin’ My Last Cigarette…”

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); Bill Conway (g); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Chicago, IL – June 25, 1941, 1:00-4:45 PM

064471-1      Under Blue Canadian Skies (RE vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 11219-A

064472-1      The Cowboy Serenade (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11235-A

064473-1      You and I (RE vcl)     Bluebird 11215-A

064474-1      Adios (JG arr)            Bluebird 11219-B

From Southern California to Salt Lake City to Iowa to Chicago – the Glenn Miller band slowly wended its way through the Midwest in June 1941 for the first time, breaking records (but not making them) everywhere they played. After a week at the Chicago Theater, they played a few dates in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana and then back to Chicago for their next RCA Victor session.

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As mentioned, Trigger Alpert left the band upon receiving his draft notice and was replaced by Doc Goldberg, who would stay with the band for the rest of its existence. Goldberg can be heard on ADIOS, the biggest hit from this date. Ray Eberle is in particularly good form and sings his three numbers quite winningly, without the assistance of the Modernaires.

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UNDER BLUE CANADIAN SKIES is another example of an attractive melody (in a plush Bill Finegan arrangement) weighed down by a clichéd lyric. Written by the same trio who created BLUEBERRY HILL, Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis, it made little impression on record buyers.

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Ray Eberle hops into the saddle again for his last Miller excursion out West, with THE COWBOY SERENADE. It’s one of Glenn’s best forays into this genre. The song is nicely evocative, with Glenn accompanying Ray on muted trombone during the bridge. It’s also a rare early example of a “board fade,” with the studio engineer fading out the song as it ends. This technique would become de rigeur in the rock era, but was still a novelty in 1941. Composer Rich Hall doesn’t seem to have written much else, but the song was enough of a hit to be grabbed for the title tune of a 1942 Gene Autry oater.

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gm cowboy-serenade-below-the-equator-nice_6453110

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Glenn’s radio sponsor, Chesterfield, wasn’t too happy with the song’s opening line, “While I’m rollin’ my last cigarette.” Perish the thought that some smokers might like to roll their own. When played on the air, the line was changed to, “While I’m smokin’ my last cigarette.” A Chesterfield, of course!

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Meredith Willson, who was then the conductor/sidekick on the Maxwell House Coffee Time program, featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen, composed YOU AND I. Some 15 years later, Willson would create one of the biggest Broadway hit musicals of all time, The Music Man. YOU AND I is a sweetly unpretentious song that became a Number #1 hit for Glenn and the Bing Crosby and Dorsey/Sinatra versions didn’t do too badly, either. There’s an arrestingly arranged brass passage that leads into the vocal and Glenn once again is heard on muted trombone in the final chorus.

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The session’s sole instrumental, ADIOS dates back to 1931, written by Spanish-American bandleader Enric Madriguera. This exquisite melody had a brief spurt of popularity during the early 30s Latin music craze, which was begun by THE PEANUT VENDOR. Rummaging through the many vintage non-ASCAP Latin songs ripe for revival in 1941, Glenn selected ADIOS and hit pay dirt.

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It’s too bad that ADIOS was recorded in Chicago. For some reason, the major labels’ Chicago studios always produced the worst, most dull-sounding recordings in the 1930s and 1940s. The Hollywood/Los Angeles studios offered the most vibrant sound, with New York usually somewhere in-between. The dynamic range of this very vibrant Jerry Gray arrangement is tightly constricted. Once again, Glenn puts the mute into his trombone, as does Mickey McMickle, who solos in the first and last choruses.

1951 78 reissue of ADIOS, with echo added for "Enhanced Sound."

1951 78 reissue of ADIOS, with echo added for “Enhanced Sound.”

During this period, most recording producers favored a dry, heavily damped-down resonance with little reverberation, but the Chicago engineers often went too far. Many big band reissues in the LP era were awash in added echo, to give the old discs a more modern quality. ADIOS came to sound as if it had been recorded in a cavern!

Posted here is an interesting version of the song. Glenn’s AAF/AEF Band was a major sensation when they played in Britain in 1944. Many British bands picked up stylistic qualities from Miller, none more so than Geraldo, who had progressed from a 1930s tango ensemble to a postwar strings-with-swing powerhouse. Geraldo’s late-40s arrangement of ADIOS sounds as if it could be a lost recording by Glenn, echoing such AEF multi-tempo extravaganzas as ORANGES AND LEMONS. The vocal is by the clumsily-named “Geraldotones” group.

Having done their duty by RCA, Glenn and the entourage left Chicago for more summer touring through the Heartland of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana. Glenn also decided to give the band their first-ever (and well-deserved) vacation, from July 27th through August 15th. Chesterfield wouldn’t agree to the break, so the band had to reconvene in New York for their three-times-a-week broadcasts, but did no other work except for an August 11th record date, which we’ll examine next time.

gm chesterfiled astaire

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