It Happened in Hawaii

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Zeke Zarchy, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Skip Martin, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – November 24, 1941, 12:00-6:00 PM

068418-1      Moonlight Sonata (BF arr)   Bluebird 11386-A

068419-1      Slumber Song (BF arr)         Bluebird 11386-B

068420-1      The White Cliffs of Dover (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11397-A

068421-1      We’re the Couple in the Castle (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11397-B

068422-1      It Happened in Hawaii (RE & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11416-B

It was an all-ballad studio session for the Glenn Miller band on November 24, 1941. By this time, the experimental placement of Tex Beneke on alto sax lead had ended and he returned to his usual place in the reed section on tenor. New tenor addition Babe Russin left and Skip Martin joined as the new alto lead. Bobby Hackett kept his guitar position, with occasional cornet solos and Zeke Zarchy was added to the trumpets. With only slight changes, this personnel would remain in place for awhile.

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The first selection waxed was a rare feature for pianist Chummy MacGregor, on Bill Finegan’s arrangement of MOONLIGHT SONATA. This lovely setting of the main theme of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2 is mostly a fantasia for reeds and piano. Beneke, the only soloist heard on this session, gets a brief spot. It’s also one of Glenn’s longest Bluebird sides, squeezing 3 minutes and 35 seconds onto the disc.

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As an appropriate B-side, Miller finally set down his BMI radio theme song, SLUMBER SONG, which he had been using since October 1940, as an alternate to MOONLIGHT SERENADE. Though by now the ASCAP radio war was settled, Glenn continued to use SLUMBER SONG as his closing theme. It’s a suitably wistful melody, again arranged by Finegan, credited to Chummy MacGregor and lyricist Saul Tepper. Tepper was an advertising illustrator, who moonlighted as a songwriter, this being his best-known number. The Modernaires are tossed in for a soothing humming passage. Chummy gets label credit on both sides of Bluebird 11386!

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Comes next another big Miller hit, (THERE’LL BE BLUE BIRDS OVER) THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER. The title was inspired by Alice Duer Miller’s Anglocentric 1940 novel, The White Cliffs. By the time the book was filmed in 1944 (with Irene Dunne and Van Johnson), the song had been such an overwhelming success that the movie title was revised to The White Cliffs of Dover. The film was hugely successful as well.

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Intended to boost Anglo-American relations, this paean to British topography was totally an American product, by Nat Burton and Walter Kent (writers of WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN and I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS).

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UK songstress Vera Lynn boosted it into one of the most anthemic of World War II songs. Glenn’s record, with a sympathetic Jerry Gray arrangement and a sensitive Eberle vocal, was pretty iconic on this side of the Atlantic. However, Burton and Kent should have checked an avian atlas, as Bluebirds are not to be found in Europe (except on RCA Victor records!).

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Back in 1939, Glenn recorded two fine songs from the Paramount-Max Fleischer cartoon feature Gulliver’s Travels, by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. Now, the Fleischers’ second full-length animated effort, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, was about to be released. Top songwriters Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser wrote the score this time, with the plug song being WE’RE THE COUPLE IN THE CASTLE.

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Unfortunately, both the film and the song flopped big time. What with the war coming, were customers not in the mood for animated features like this and Dumbo? Did the subject of urban bugs turn people off? Was it simply a bad film?

Mr. Bug is no Dumbo, but it is a charmer in its own way. A later re-release, under the non-insect title Hoppity Goes to Town, was also unsuccessful and that failure pushed the Fleischers along the road to bankruptcy. Hoppity got an early sale to television and became a kiddie small-screen staple.

Hoppity, the star of MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN.

Hoppity, the star of MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN.

WE’RE THE COUPLE IN THE CASTLE is a pleasant enough song on its own and Bill Finegan does a fine job Millerizing it, with Ray effortlessly handling the lyrics.

IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII (here pronounced Hawaii-uh) now carries an ominous quality that wasn’t apparent in November 1941. By the time the record was released, the events of December 7th would, one would think, cause the song to be avoided. That apparently wasn’t the case, as both the Miller and Jimmy Dorsey-Bob Eberly-Helen O’Connell records were popular enough to receive 78 reissues in 1947. Go figure!

1947 reissue label of IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII.

1947 reissue label of IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII.

The song, by Mabel Wayne, who had a hit with the similarly titled IT HAPPENED IN MONTEREY, is, as expected, flavored with island exotica and a moody lyric by veteran Al Dubin. Ray and the Modernaires languorously float by on the waves of melody.

By the time the Glenn Miller Orchestra returned to the studio on December 8th, their world would be completely and shockingly upended.

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A String of Pearls

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink, Babe Russin (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – November 3, 1941, 12:00-5:30 PM

068066-1      Humpty Dumpty Heart (RE vcl, JG arr)      Bluebird 11369-A

068066-2      Humpty Dumpty Heart (RE vcl, JG arr)      first issued on LP

068067-1      Ev’rything I Love (RE & Choir vcl, JG arr)  Bluebird 11365-A

068068-1      A String of Pearls (JG arr)     Bluebird 11382-B

068069-1      Baby Mine (RE & Choir vcl, BF arr)             Bluebird 11365-B

068070-1      Long Tall Mama (BM arr)     Victor 27943-B

068071-1      Day Dreaming (RE & M vcl, BF arr)            Bluebird 11382-A

Glenn with newlyweds David Rose & Judy Garland - Hollywood Palladium, 1941

Glenn with newlyweds David Rose & Judy Garland – Hollywood Palladium, 1941

The stars aligned on November 3, 1941 as the Glenn Miller Band participated in one of their finest recording sessions – quality pop songs and memorable instrumentals, including one of their best-remembered hits.

Since the previous RCA session on October 20th, several events impinging on the Miller crew had occurred. First, the ASCAP radio ban ended on October 30th. Now Glenn could promote many of his recent recordings on the radio.  ELMER’S TUNE, CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and the other Sun Valley Serenade songs started racking up airplays and began climbing the popularity charts.

The other interesting event took place within the band.  Glenn decided to restructure the reed section, moving Tex Beneke to lead alto and adding Babe Russin to split the hot tenor solos with Al Klink.  Glenn had known Russin since they both worked with Red Nichols in 1930.  Since then, Babe had become one of the most respected jazz tenor men, featured with Larry Clinton, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.  It was a coup for Glenn to snag him and Russin gets several prominent solos on this date.

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The first number was the featured ballad in Playmates, the latest film featuring Kay Kyser and his Band. As mentioned in a previous entry, Kyser and his troupe were the top moneymakers in the dance band field. This latest movie co-starred a tottering John Barrymore (in his last screen appearance) and “Mexican Spitfire” Lupe Velez, along with popular Kyser vocalists Ginny Simms and Harry Babbitt.

Kay Kyser's singers - Ginny Simms, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt and Merwyn "Ish Kabibble" Bogue.

Kay Kyser’s singers – Ginny Simms, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt and Merwyn “Ish Kabibble” Bogue.

These two vocal lovebirds introduced HUMPTY DUMPTY HEART, written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. All the Kyser films featured good songs and this was one of the best.

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Despite the “novelty” title, HUMPTY DUMPTY HEART is a charming ballad. Jerry Gray’s exquisite arrangement slows the song into romance mode from the bouncy Kyser tempo. Ray Eberle delivers a tender vocal, one of his very best.  gm humpty

There is little difference between the 78 take and the alternate take 2, issued (likely by mistake) on a 1963 Camden LP.

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Eberle continues in the same hushed manner on EV’RYTHING I LOVE, the best-remembered song from Cole Porter’s hit Broadway musical, Let’s Face It.  Danny Kaye made his starring stage debut (after a featured role in Lady in the Dark) as a nervous draftee who gets involved with several hot-to-trot Army wives, played by Eve Arden and Vivian Vance.  This was the first of many wartime farces featuring namby-pamby soldiers being brutalized by drill sergeants and hungry women.  Abbott & Costello led the way on screen through a similar series of service comedies.

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Kaye jittered and twitched all over the stage, singing several of his patented tongue-twisting patter numbers and parlaying himself to top stardom. At one point, he slowed down long enough to duet EV’RYTHING I LOVE with Mary Jane Walsh, one of Cole Porter’s rare, totally sincere ballads.


The full band (termed “Choir” on the label) backs Eberle, humming along on another finely crafted Jerry Gray arrangement.  Between vocal choruses, the unusual sound of Beneke leading the saxes is followed by his alto sax solo and Ray comfortably rising to the closing high note.

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The band strikes up a perfect dance tempo for Jerry Gray’s A STRING OF PEARLS, a Number One hit for Glenn and the band.  The simple riff leads to a series of exciting sax exchanges, first between Caceres and Beneke on altos and then Russin and Klink on tenors.  A brief lull ushers in Bobby Hackett’s exquisite gem of a cornet solo, which started as a rehearsal warm-up that Glenn persuaded Bobby to incorporate into the arrangement without alteration.

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Once more, a sympathetic microphone pickup allows the guitar (likely Bill Conway) to be heard within the rhythm section. Purtill is also in especially good form, catching every inflection with his rim shots.

Other bands picked up A STRING OF PEARLS, including Benny Goodman, who recorded an uptempo version, smoothly arranged by Mel Powell.  Jerry Gray said that he liked the Goodman rendition better than his own and would drop in to hear it at the Hotel New Yorker that winter of 1941, only a few blocks from the Miller band’s Hotel Pennsylvania.

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After three Jerry Gray charts, Bill Finegan turns his hand to BABY MINE, a gorgeous Ned Washington-Frank Churchill lullaby from Walt Disney’s DUMBO, which was about to open in theaters nationwide. This wonderfully endearing film was somewhat overlooked at the time, as the dark days of December 1941 were not the time to premiere a charming family picture.

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Fortunately, time has shown Walt’s flying elephant story to be one of his greatest achievements and it hasn’t dated one bit. Even today, the most stone-faced viewer will find himself tearing up when Dumbo’s mother, chained up as a punishment, cradles the crying tyke in her trunk while the song plays on the soundtrack.

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The disc opens with an impressionistic Finegan intro, with Chummy MacGregor’s piano tinkling in the background throughout. Ray Eberle continues his winning streak, sweetly interpreting the tune with the band choir once again offering an effective vocal cushion.

Changing modes once again, the band next tackles Billy May’s LONG TALL MAMA, a neglected swinger in the band’s library that apparently was only performed this one time, never on broadcasts. Additionally, the disc languished in the RCA vaults until the summer of 1942, when it was released on the full-priced Victor label, which the Miller band had been promoted to in April.

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Despite its obscurity, LONG TALL MAMA is a winner, fully showing off the band’s swing credentials.  Nearly all the hot soloists get a look-in – first Beneke’s cutting alto, then Ernie Caceres on clarinet (twice), a great Billy May solo, strictly in his Cootie Williams mode and lastly, Al Klink with his booting tenor.  There’s that patented Miller fade-out before a stentorian windup.  Too bad Billy May didn’t write a dozen more swinging originals for Glenn like this!

Lyricist Gus Kahn had been writing hit songs since 1914, with dozens in his portfolio. One thing Kahn hadn’t done was collaborate with Jerome Kern, the greatest composer of the era. He finally got his chance with DAY DREAMING, published as an independent song.  Ironically, it turned out to be Kahn’s last, as he died on October 8, less than a month before this recording.  DAY DREAMING is neither man’s best work, but it is a pleasant number, with the Modernaires showing up to accompany Ray, their only appearance on the session. Bill Finegan supplies a sympathetic framework.

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What a fine session! Fortunately, Glenn would be back in the studios just two weeks later, in what would be the band’s last peacetime record date.

“Texas, Texas, Why Do You Walk That Way?”

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Benny Feman, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 20, 1941, 1:45-4:15 PM

071190-1      Dreamsville, Ohio (RE & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11342

071191-1      Papa Niccolini (The Happy Cobbler) (RE, TB & M vcl) Bluebird 11342

071192-1      Jingle Bells (TB, EC & M vcl, BF & GM arr) Bluebird 11353

071193-1      This Is No Laughing Matter (RE vcl)           Bluebird 11369

The Glenn Miller band had been nesting at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania since October 6th. This was their third straight winter season at the popular venue. Opening night saw the final appearance of altoist Hal McIntyre, who was leaving to form his own group, with Glenn’s financial backing.

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McIntyre had been a member of every incarnation of the Miller band, going back to their first Decca recording date in March 1937. Hal was also a good friend to Miller and his wife Helen. His leaving would cause some eventual restructuring of the reed section, but not yet.  Benny Feman took his chair for the time being.

"Hi there, Tex!"

“Hi there, Tex!”

It had been six weeks since the organization’s last visit to the RCA studios and their recording activity would soon begin to increase.  This sole date in October was a fast one – four numbers waxed in 2-1/2 hours.

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First on the docket was DREAMSVILLE, OHIO, an oddly affecting song with Ray and the Mods creating an elegiac mood and Bobby Hackett contributing a lovely eight-bar solo between vocal spots. Maybe the 1941 present was getting to be too much to bear, as the next number also harkens back to “the good old days.”

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PAPA NICCOLINI (THE HAPPY COBBLER) is a trifle that Glenn spins into a production number, with tempo changes and full vocal participation (though not credited on the label, Marion Hutton seems to be present here and on JINGLE BELLS, too, buried within the Modernaires). Taking a leaf from the Jimmy Dorsey formula for Bob Eberly-Helen O’Connell duets, the record starts with Ray Eberle singing in waltz tempo and then jumps into swing rhythm as Tex and the Mods have fun with the lyrics.

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The fans liked this song immensely and they can be heard cheering its announcement on several airchecks from the Cafe Rouge that winter.  BTW, the title of this blog posting refers to the speical-material lyric to PAPA NICCOLINI that the Mods sing to Tex Beneke.  Tex needs new soles for his shoes and only Papa will do them for cheap!

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The concept of pop holiday songs and records was just beginning to take hold in the 1940s. The previous decade had brought on WINTER WONDERLAND and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN, but no real hit “Christmas” tunes. That trend would be ignited by WHITE CHRISTMAS in 1942.

Back in 1935, RCA Victor had done a one-off coupling of JINGLE BELLS (Benny Goodman) and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN (Tommy Dorsey). That disc had become a winter perennial, so in 1941 Victor decided to duplicate it on their budget Bluebird label. Alvino Rey recorded SANTA CLAUS and Glenn was assigned JINGLE BELLS.

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Benny Goodman had done BELLS as an instrumental and now Miller pulled the stops out for a vocal treatment with Tex, the Mods and a brief trip South-of –the-border with Ernie Caceres. Modernaires Bill Conway and Hal Dickinson contributed the new lyrics. The jazz department wasn’t neglected, as Billy May delivered a sly trumpet solo.

After the crowded vocal presence on the first three titles, the last item was a solo for Eberle, THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER. It’s an attractive tune, sung ardently by Glenn’s “young man in the romance department.”

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It just so happens that three of these four songs were published by Glenn’s music firm, Mutual Music, which was registered with BMI to take advantage of airplay that was still denied to ASCAP songs. Glenn’s desire to have a successful publishing company sometimes led him to plug questionable material, but this batch was nothing to be ashamed of.

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Three were written by new composers, though Don George (lyricist of a number of Duke Ellington 1940s hits) and Al Rinker (former Rhythm Boy member and associate of Bing Crosby) were involved in DREAMSVILLE, OHIO and PAPA NICCOLINI respectively. The new Conway-Dickinson lyrics for JINGLE BELLS were copyrightable, so Glenn published a new edition of the song, under the title, GLENN MILLER’S JINGLE BELLS.  DJ Martin Block (again) got his name on THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER and it was published by his company.

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Glenn also invested in new bands, as mentioned above, bankrolling (to a greater or lesser extent) Charlie Spivak, Hal McIntyre and Claude Thornhill when they formed their combinations. All three dutifully recorded Mutual Music songs (Spivak waxed three of these four songs, for example).

Miller also published songs written by the members of the Modernaires and his arrangers, Jerry Gray and Bill Finegan. Billy May had a publishing contract with his old boss, Charlie Barnet, so his tunes for Glenn were published under his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s name, Arletta May.  This would prove to be a pain for Billy, as later Miller reissues of his “Arletta May” compositions would bring her a windfall of royalties.

It would only be a two-week wait for the next Glenn Miller record session and it turned out to be one of their very best!

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Says Who? Says You, Says I!

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, 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); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 3, 1941, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

067741-1      Says Who? Says You, Says I! (MH, TB & M vcl)      Bluebird 11315-B

067742-1      Orange Blossom Lane (RE vcl, JG arr)         Bluebird 11326-B

067743-1      Dear Arabella (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr)       Bluebird 11326-A

067744-1      The Man in the Moon (RE vcl, JG arr)         Bluebird 11299-B

067745-1      Ma-Ma Maria (RE & M vcl, BF arr)         Bluebird 11299- A

067746-1      This Time the Dream’s on Me (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11315-A

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Four days after their August 11th RCA Bluebird session, pert and pretty Marion Hutton returned to the Glenn Miller band, having given birth to a son in late May.  Paula Kelly shifted to Artie Shaw’s band (but returned to permanently front the Modernaires as a solo act in 1943).  Marion sings in a much more assured, mature manner during this second Miller stint, but for some reason, rarely sang solos anymore and was usually paired with the Modernaires.

This session featured two fine Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer songs from the film, Blues in the Night, which was a genre-crossing film-noirish semi-musical about an itinerant jazz band. Originally titled New Orleans Nights, even though most of the film was set in New Jersey, the early success of one of the featured numbers led to the title change. Actually, none of the tunes were fully featured in the movie, which interrupted all the music with dialogue and artsy montages, a specialty of director Anatole Litvak. Even BLUES IN THE NIGHT, which eventually became a pop standard, was tossed off in a montage with a black chorus of jailed prisoners.

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Jimmie Lunceford’s fabulous orchestra was nearly wasted in a short bit st at a roadhouse and the Will Osborne band plays a caricature of themselves in a nightclub scene, which is supposed to show the lead character’s decline by being forced to play piano in such a soggy group.

Glenn featured a superb Billy May arrangement of BLUES IN THE NIGHT on the air, but didn’t record it because Charlie Barnet got it for Bluebird (as did Dinah Shore). Every label saw the potential in the song and produced widely varying versions – few songs of the era were covered so thoroughly on wax! Artie Shaw performed it for Victor, in a superb version featuring Hot Lips Page at a somewhat rushed tempo to fit the whole chart in (too bad the label didn’t spring for a 12-inch disc).

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Tommy Dorsey also cut it with Jo Stafford on Victor, but held it back (until 1968!) so as not to cut into Artie Shaw’s sales. Benny Goodman featured Peggy Lee on a groovy Sextet record for Okeh. Cab Calloway’s full band also did an Okeh disc. Harry James brought in the lush strings on Columbia. Woody Herman featured it on Decca, as did Jimmie Lunceford on a two-sided 78 that superbly expanded the brief performance his band did in the original film.

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Glenn did cut the film’s hit ballad, THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME and the novelty SAYS WHO? SAYS YOU, SAYS I!, full of Merceresque wordplay. SAYS WHO? was deliberately trashed on screen in a cornball arrangement played by the Osborne band, with brash Mabel Todd braying with an intrusive vocal group (who also tap-dances on the piano). Glenn’s disc is much more subdued, almost too much so. Marion, Tex and the Mods have a fine time with the witty lyrics, but the tempo begins to sag a bit toward the end. A sparkier beat (or a bit more rehearsal) might have helped.  Unfortunately, this is the only Miller performance of the song, as he never programmed it on the air.

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Bobby Hackett is featured on the opening chorus of THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME, sounding a bit tentative as his horn dances around the reeds.  Hackett is more expansive and assured on a later aircheck of the song. Ray Eberle supplies a nice vocal, supported by Bill Finegan’s lovely arrangement.  During this period, Ray was singing quite well, with only the occasional bit of sloppy diction to mar his efforts.  Six-hour marathon record sessions, like this one, can be hard on the voice!

From high to low – ORANGE BLOSSOM LANE is a very forgettable number, written by classy songwriters Peter DeRose (DEEP PURPLE and ON A LITTLE STREET IN SINGAPORE) with lyrics by MOONLIGHT SERENADE’s Mitchell Parish. Newspaper columnist Nick Kenny’s name is also on the song. As mentioned in the September 1939 writeup of LAST NIGHT, many singers and bandleaders performed Kenny’s songs in order to get favorable press coverage.  Glenn wasn’t one of them, as he only played two or three Kenny songs  with his band. Why ORANGE BLOSSOM LANE was chosen for recording is a puzzle. Jerry Gray set the number in a fine arrangement, with brief solos by Hal McIntyre, Johnny Best, Glenn and Tex, helping Ray Eberle along. The result is still a dreary picture in a lovely frame.

DEAR ARABELLA is a perkier novelty, from the pre-wartime sub-genre of unfaithful soldiers’ sweethearts. ARABELLA is pretty blatant, advising her Army sweetie that she is cheating on him with other guys, but keeping his picture around to look at while doing so!  THREE LITTLE SISTERS is a similar song, with the gals cheating on their men with members of all the Armed Services!  December 7th put an end to these ditties, as the last thing soldiers wanted to hear was that their ladies were having a grand old time while they were gone.  Soon DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE would set a new template, with girlfriends promising to be faithful forever (where has that phrase been heard before?).

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In spite of its salacious message, DEAR ARABELLA became a popular Miller number, played often on the air through April 1942.  Marion does her best Mae West imitation, with Tex and the Mods chiming in. Jerry Gray’s enjoyable chart has Billy May supplying wry comments to the plight of Arabella’s “Private Johnny.” Written by Sid Lippman, author of I’M THRILLED, whose big hits would come later with “A” YOU’RE ADORABLE and TOO YOUNG.

Autographs of Glenn, Jerry Gray, Mel Powell, Ray McKinley and Johnny Desmond, 1944.

Autographs of Glenn, Jerry Gray, Mel Powell, Ray McKinley and Johnny Desmond, 1944.

Another song with “outside” connections is THE MAN IN THE MOON. Apparently written by Glenn’s own Jerry Gray, it became the theme melody of WMCA New York radio DJ Jerry Lawrence, who got his name on the number. Lawrence would later become a TV host and announcer on shows like Truth or Consequences. Co-composer John Benson Brooks would soon write JUST AS THOUGH YOU WERE HERE for Tommy Dorsey and later such diverse tunes as WHERE FLAMINGOS FLY and YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS (a big hit for future Miller cohort Ray McKinley).

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THE MAN IN THE MOON happens to be a great song and naturally, Jerry Gray arranged it for the Miller band.  The reeds sing out rather plaintively in the first chorus and Ray Eberle puts real feeling into the lyrics.  Another neglected Miller thriller!

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Can’t say the same about MA-MA-MARIA (FEE-DLE, EE-DLE-LEE, FEE-DLE-EE-DLE-LA), which is a rancid slice of Neapolitan cheese and one of the most painful songs ever immortalized by Glenn. It was written by the same guys, Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis, who gave us BLUEBERRY HILL and UNDER BLUE CANADIAN SKIES.  They should have had their ASCAP affilations yanked over this one. If the inane lyrics don’t get you, the “Fee-dle-ee-dle-las” certainly will.  And Ray and the Mods don’t stop, repeating and repeating the phrase until the last note, like a dentlst’s drill. File this one under “Fee-dle-ee-dle-Blah.”

Glenn and the boys (and girl) took off for a week in Boston right after this record date, then over to Albany and Schenectady. A week in Philadelphia and then another week in Pittsburgh followed, with the band returning to New York to open another winter season at the Cafe Rouge on October 5. Two weeks after that, they finally paid a return visit to RCA on October 20th to record, as Glenn might say, “some more swell songs.”


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“They All Sing Elmer’s Tune…”

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, 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); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); 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, New York – August 11, 1941, 1:00 7:00 PM

067625-1      It Happened in Sun Valley (PK, RE, TB, M & Band vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 11263-A

067626-1      I’m Thrilled (RE vcl, BF arr)             Bluebird 11287-B

067627-1      The Kiss Polka (PK, EC & M vcl, JG arr)      Bluebird 11263-B

067628-1      Delilah (TB & M vcl, BM arr)            Bluebird 11274-B

067629-1      From One Love to Another (RE vcl, BF arr)            Bluebird 11287-A

067630-1      Elmer’s Tune (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11274-A

Enjoying a hard-earned vacation from live appearances in July and August 1941, the Glenn Miller Band  held one session for RCA during their time off. It turned out to be a six-hour marathon that produced six selections, each one special in its own way.

Two novelty songs from Sun Valley Serenade, which was about to open in movie theaters, topped off the playlist.

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All the Miller vocalists turn out for IT HAPPENED IN SUN VALLEY, one of only three times that this occurred (the other two were MUTINY IN THE NURSERY and PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME). It’s odd to hear Ray Eberle on a rhythm song – he just sings it as if it were one of his usual ballads! Bill Finegan’s arrangement is the same as in the movie, only longer, with the full band joining in to sing. A welcome addition is a romping Al Klink solo, followed by an additional vocal chorus that ropes in Tex Beneke.

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THE KISS POLKA is a rollicking treat, especially since the Miller band doesn’t perform it in the film; the Fox studio band plays it. Jerry Gray penned a cheery chart, which Paula and the Mods deliver with relish. For the first time, reedman Ernie Caceres is heard vocally, lending an incongruous touch of Latino spice to the song. With the South American “Good Neighbor Policy” all the rage in 1941, adding Ernie’s Spanish vocals was a clever way for Glenn to ingratiate his troupe with Latin American fans.

I’M THRILLED is a typical Eberle ballad, an early effort by young BMI-ers Sid Lippman and Sylvia Dee, who later hit big with Nat King Cole’s UNFORGETTABLE. Once again Bill Finegan took a so-so song and dressed it up with gorgeous colors, especially in the introduction and first instrumental chorus. Ray is in good form on this session.

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Jimmy Shirl, who would have a hand in Johnny Ray’s 1953 hit, I BELIEVE, co-wrote DELILAH with Henry Manners. Another young BMI songwriting team, they had other snappy successes in 1941 with BRAGGIN’ (for Harry James) and GOOD EVENIN’, GOOD LOOKIN’ (for Benny Goodman). Glenn had also performed their KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR HEART on radio earlier in the year.  The powerful sound of the full band is evident from the first note and the microphone setup actually allows us to hear the guitar in the rhythm section, a rare occurrence. Billy May’s laid-back arrangement fits the song like a glove, with Tex and the Modernaires smoothly delivering the catchy lyrics.

1941 publication of DELILAH

1941 publication of DELILAH

1948 publication of DELILAH

1948 publication of DELILAH

The song was a bit of a hit for Glenn and also Horace Heidt on Columbia. In 1948, Glenn’s record was reissued by RCA (with ADIOS on the flip side) in the “Re-Issued by Request” series. The sheet music was reprinted, with a new cover featuring Tex, who by now was leading the postwar Miller band.

We next welcome a stellar addition to the band, cornetist Bobby Hackett. Hackett had been in the public eye for several years by 1941, hailed by critics as the “new Bix Beiderbecke.” Hackett had a melodic approach similar to the late Bix, though he wasn’t thrilled about being pigeonholed into such a stylistic straitjacket. Making his first records with members of the Eddie Condon mob, he soon jumped from 52nd Street small groups to leading his own brilliant-sounding big band (including future Miller sideman Ernie Caceres). Poor management by MCA quickly led to the band’s demise in the summer of 1939.

Young Bobby Hackett

Young Bobby Hackett

Now deep in debt to MCA, Hackett accepted a surprising offer to join Horace Heidt’s sweet band, where he stayed for nearly two years, enlivening a number of their discs with his lyrical solos. He also had dental problems during this period, which is very bad news for a horn man!

Glenn was a big Hackett fan; aware of his problems, Miller offered the musician a job as guitarist (Hackett’s other favored instrument), replacing Jack Lathrop and Bill Conway (who had been sitting in the guitar chair for several months). When he felt he was ready, Glenn assured Bobby that he would move him to the trumpet section. Not really a strong section player, Hackett understood that the leader wanted him around mostly as a soloist.

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Having joined the band on July 10th, Bobby apparently felt ready to take on trumpet duties by the August 11th record date. He makes his debut soaring over the reeds with a delightful opening break and 16-bar solo on FROM ONE LOVE TO ANOTHER. This was another Ernesto Lecuona composition; previously Glenn had waxed his SAY SI-SI and THE ANGELS CAME THRU.

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Originally titled DANZA LUCUMI, Artie Shaw had recorded the number in rumba tempo the preceding year, as a hoped-for follow-up to his massive success with FRENESI. English lyricist Albert Gamse (of AMAPOLA fame) smoothed the tune out into a standard fox-trot. Though it wasn’t a hit for Glenn, FROM ONE LOVE TO ANOTHER is a forgotten gem in the discography.

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If it was hits Glenn wanted, he couldn’t have been happier with ELMER’S TUNE, a thoroughly unlikely smash success. The TUNE originated with the semi-sweet Dick Jurgens band. Elmer Albrecht, a mortician’s assistant (!), liked to noodle at the piano on his lunch hour. Working next door to Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, Albrecht had gotten permission to fool around on their keyboard. Jurgens, whose band was playing there at the time, heard one of Elmer’s tunes and offered to help him polish it into a finished form. They then recorded it as a bouncy instrumental in April and the 78 became something of a hit.   Bob Crosby then cut it, again instrumentally, in June and that rendition went nowhere.

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Sensing the melody had greater potential, Robbins Music took it and assigned lyricist Sammy Gallop to come up with some words. So how do you lyricize something with the title of ELMER’S TUNE? Simply by verbally describing how catchy ELMER’S TUNE is.   Not much of a lyric, but it did the trick. Glenn and Benny Goodman (with Peggy Lee making her recording debut) waxed the fleshed-out number in August and wham! Another Number One hit for Glenn, which the fans happily sang along with whenever it was played. And Glenn played it incessantly on the air and in live performance.

With this session, we said hello to Bobby Hackett and Alec Fila (replacing young Ray Anthony on trumpet) and now goodbye to Paula Kelly. Miss Kelly was not leaving due to any dissatisfaction with her work (and she wouldn’t be going far, married as she was to Modernaire Hal Dickinson).  She was leaving to make way for the return of a Miller favorite, who we’ll welcome back next time!

Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle & the Modernaires

Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle & the Modernaires