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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!