Goin’ Home

Captain Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck, John Carisi, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (Frhrn); Hank Freeman, Gabe Galinas, Fred Guerra (as); Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Murray Wald, Peanuts Hucko, Lynn Allison (ts); Chuck Gentry, Mannie Thaler (bar); George Ockner (concertmaster of 20-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g) Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson, Bill Finegan (arr).

This is a composite personnel, from which the recording units were drawn.

 

V-Disc Session, RCA Victor Studios. New York, December 10, 1943

VP-415           The Squadron Song (JD & Band, vcl, JG arr)          V-Disc 144

VP-415           Tail End Charlie (BF arr)       V-Disc 144

VP-416           Medley: Goin’ Home/Honeysuckle Rose (MP arr)/My Blue Heaven   V-Disc 123

VP-1189         Holiday for Strings (Part 1)  (JG arr)                      V-Disc Unissued Test

VP-1190         Holiday for Strings (Part 2)   (JG arr)                       V-Disc Unissued Test

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The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band’s second V-Disc recording session was held six weeks after the first and embraced a similarly eclectic range of material. THE SQUADRON SONG, written by a trio of soldiers, was the first of many gung-ho patriotic numbers the band did, saluting various branches of the military. THERE ARE YANKS, WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE INFANTRY, WITH MY HEAD IN THE CLOUDS and THE ARMY AIR CORPS SONG would soon follow, all with the full band “glee club” augmented by Johnny Desmond and the Crew Chiefs vocal group. It’s a stimulating performance, taken in multiple tempos from ballad to swing to march, with the string section nicely spotted. Their witty little allusion to REVEILLE (“You’ve gotta get up this morning”) is a fun touch.

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Bill Finegan’s TAIL-END CHARLIE (originally titled TROOP MOVEMENT) was likely written for the civilian band, but never played by them. Finegan gave the chart (and other unused Miller items) to Horace Heidt’s band, which performed it on the air toward the end of 1942. Their version is quite credible, but Glenn’s many AAF renditions have greater sparkle. This V-Disc interpretation cuts about a minute from the full chart, so it and THE SQUADRON SONG could both fit onto one side of the record. By the way, the title referred to the tail gunners of fighter planes.

Chuck Gentry (on baritone) and Vince Carbone (on tenor) get the solo spots, but both are more effective and heard at greater length on live performances, such as the one originally included on the RCA AAF LP set, which is also taken at a snappier tempo than the V-Disc.

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Presumably to take advantage of the longer playing time of a 12-inch disc, next up was a “Miller Medley,” or at least ¾ of one! The AAF Band continued Glenn’s medley tradition of “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” which had been a weekly feature of the civilian Chesterfield radio shows. The AAF medleys took on a more elaborate shape and often ran 8 or 9 minutes in length, with varying tempos for the different selections.

This V-Disc of GOIN’ HOME/HONEYSUCKLE ROSE/MY BLUE HEAVEN hints at the range these medleys could cover, in this case, from Antonin Dvorak to Fats Waller! The missing “new” tune from this particular medley was PAPER DOLL, likely not recorded since it might not have been fresh by the time the record was circulated. The highlight here is Mel Powell’s imaginative piano spot on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE. Too bad it isn’t longer.

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The last two session recordings were of David Rose’s popular HOLIDAY FOR STRINGS, PARTS 1 & 2, in a blockbuster, pull-all-stops arrangement by Jerry Gray. Of course, the strings were well featured, as was the full dynamic power of the band playing both sweet and bluesy. This version is taken slower than later live versions, with a sudden pause halfway through to accommodate the break between the two parts. For some reason, this recording was never issued, though a live version from June 3, 1944 was later issued on one side of V-Disc 421. Test pressings do exist, as pictured here.

HOLIDAY became one of the AAF band’s top numbers, featured on many broadcasts, often as the closing performance. What, after all, could follow it?

All the recordings from the first AAF V-Disc session were issued back-to-back on V-Discs 65 and 91. This session’s output was split – the flip side of V-Disc 123 was a dub of IN THE MOOD by the civilian band and V-Disc 144 had two medley excerpts from a December 1943 radio program. The product of the next session would be similarly split.

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At the President’s Birthday Ball

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 – January 5, 1942, 12:00-5:30 PM

068833-1      At the President’s Ball (MH & M vcl, BM arr)        Bluebird 11429-A

068834-1      Angels of Mercy (RE, M & Band vcl)          Bluebird 11429-B

068836-1      On the Old Assembly Line (TB, MH & M vcl, JG arr)  Bluebird 11480-A

068837-1      Let’s Have Another Cup O’ Coffee (MH, EC & M vcl, JG arr)         Bluebird 11450-A

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As 1942 dawned, America was a month into World War II.   The news from the Pacific Theater of Operations was, to put it mildly, terrible for the Allies. There was little to cheer about in Europe, either.

Ironically, 1942 was perhaps the greatest year for the big bands, with many units at the top of their game. Glenn, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Claude Thornhill, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Jimmie Lunceford and Kay Kyser were at or near their creative peak, producing hit after hit.  Yet by the end of the year it all began to slowly unravel.

The wartime draft quickly began picking off  healthy young musicians.  Glenn and Artie Shaw disbanded to enter the service.  Shockingly, death claimed several great innovators – Bunny Berigan, Charlie Christian and Jimmie Blanton.  The ill-timed record ban would lock the bands out of the recording studios for more than a year. In retrospect, the handwriting was on the wall for the Swing Era.

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For the moment, Glenn Miller’s biggest goal to boost public morale.  He had begun a series of Saturday afternoon Sunset Serenade broadcasts the previous August. Designed to appeal to peacetime servicemen, each show paid tribute to a Army camp with a song popularity contest to award records and phonographs to the chosen camp. These sustaining shows were paid for by Glenn, who also picked up the tab for all the contest giveaways. The show continued into 1942 and the contest segment would eventually be folded into Glenn’s Chesterfield program.

Six of the eight selections he would record in January had wartime connotations, either sentimental or martial.   Songwriters and performers would quickly find that listeners and dancers much preferred the sentimental numbers rather than the jingoistic ones. Fortunately, the Miller band avoided the worst of the cheesy and racist songs that poured out of Tin Pan Alley in the early months of the war.

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin

Glenn had recorded just a handful of Irving Berlin songs before.  Suddenly, we are treated to three of them on the January 5th session, all products of the composer’s patriotic desires. The first had the shortest topical shelf-life.  Berlin wrote AT THE PRESIDENT’S BALL to publicize the President’s 60th Birthday Ball, held every year since 1934 as a fundraiser for the Infantile Paralysis Fund, a cause close to FDR’s heart. In 1942, Glenn was the National Chairman of the Dance Band Leaders’ Division of the event and the band was scheduled to play at the Ball in Washington on January 30th, but a previously scheduled engagement at the Paramount Theater in NY prevented the band from appearing. Instead, Johnny Long played at the Ball itself and Glenn appeared with the band at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for one of the ancillary balls held nationwide.   Eddie Cantor also performed.  Preserved broadcasts of the event suggest that a swell time was had by all.

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The song is a groovy, up-to-date number given a Lunceford-style two-beat treatment by Billy May.  Marion and the Modernaires have fun with it.  For some reason, RCA Victor had difficulty settling on the correct title, as there are copies of the disc out there with THREE different printed titles – AT THE PRESIDENT’S BALL, AT THE PRESIDENT’S BIRTHDAY BALL and THE PRESIDENT’S BIRTHDAY BALL.

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ANGELS OF MERCY was “written for and dedicated to the American Red Cross” and all of Berlin’s royalties were donated to the organization.  It’s a brief, anthemic number, running just a fraction over two minutes.  Ray and the band stolidly chant the somber lyrics, intended more for patriotic fervor than dancing.

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The third Berlin number, LET’S HAVE ANOTHER CUP O’ COFFEE, dates back to 1932 and was the hit from the Broadway musical revue, Face The Music.

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In its original staging, it was sung by newly-broke customers in a Depression-era Automat, resolving to stay cheerful in the face of adversity.  Irving revised the lyrics slightly in 1942, dropping the 30s-era references to John D. Rockefeller and President Hoover. Now the “rainbow in the sky” being hoped for was the end of the war, though only suggested obliquely.

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Glenn smartly added a topical special-material chorus for Ernie Caceres (“our Good-Will Ambassador”) and the gang in Spanish, reminding listeners that much of our coffee came from South America, land of the Good Neighbor Policy.

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The performance could have used a bit more punch, as everybody sounds a bit too laid-back.  The next disc, ON THE OLD ASSEMBLY LINE, has punch and excitement, alright, but it’s wasted on a piece of blatant propaganda that would be more suited to a movie production number than a popular record.

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Ray Henderson’s tune is OK, but Bud Green’s lyrics are pretty cringe-worthy – “When the overalls combine with the mighty dollar sign, there’ll be miles and miles of American smiles from the factory to the mine, on the old assembly line.”  Who would want to play that on their home radio-phonograph combination?  The most enjoyable moments are Jerry Gray’s bouncy intro and coda.

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Everything would continue to hum-hum-hum on the old RCA Victor assembly line when Glenn returned to the studio on January 8th!

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Let's Have Another Cup O' Coffee!

Let’s Have Another Cup O’ Coffee!

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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Long Time No See, Baby

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 – November 15, 1940, 1:45-4:45 PM

057648-1      Somewhere (RE vcl, JG arr)             Bluebird 10959

057649-1      Yes, My Darling Daughter (MH & Band vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10970

 

RCA Victor Studios, New York – November 22, 1940, 1:30-4:30 PM

057661-1      A Stone’s Throw from Heaven (RE vcl, BF arr)  Bluebird 11063

057662-1      Helpless (RE vcl, JG arr)       Victor 20-1600

057663-1      Long Time No See, Baby (MH vcl, JG arr)   Victor 20-1563

057663-2      Long Time No See, Baby (MH vcl, JG arr)    first issued on LP

057664-1      You Are the One (RE vcl, BF arr)     Bluebird 11020

gm ASCAPThe war in Europe was having less effect on America than the war between ASCAP and BMI that had also been brewing since 1939. The American Society of Composers and Publishers had been issuing warnings to the radio networks that they would shortly be increasing song royalty charges by an enormous amount. In retaliation, broadcasters formed a competing royalty agency, Broadcast Music Incorporated. Since ASCAP had nearly every major songwriter and music publisher under their umbrella, they weren’t overly worried about competition from BMI. The new agency tried signing up composers who went underneath ASCAP’s radar, like country, blues and Latin writers, even amateurs.

By the end of 1940, BMI had built up a rather meager catalog, but it would have to do. When the ASCAP deadline of January 1, 1941 came around, the products of BMI and the public domain would have to suffice for all music broadcast by NBC and CBS. The smaller Mutual network signed early with ASCAP, so they had no worries. To make matters worse, the networks decreed that BMI tunes had to be interspersed with ASCAP songs starting on October 10, 1940, to get listeners used to the new music. For each half-hour music broadcast, four of the usual eight tunes played had to be from BMI or elsewhere.

gm ascap coverAncient, out-of-copyright composers like Stephen Foster and Eddie Leonard suddenly became popular again, as did classical song adaptations (which were already a familiar occurrence). Tchaikovsky and Debussy were now hot tickets! South American music, also newly popular, got a big boost when the song libraries of Ernesto Lecuona and Alberto Dominguez were raided for melodies and new BMI-friendly English lyrics were added.

Glenn Miller’s recorded output would shortly begin reflecting the new radio rules, since Glenn certainly wanted to get his records played on the air. His own Mutual Music publishing arm signed with BMI and he corralled any of his arrangers and musicians who also wrote songs.

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The short session of November 15th consisted of two ASCAP compositions, one a flop and the other a huge hit. SOMEWHERE is a bland song from of all things, an ice skating revue, the Ice Capades of 1941. It was written by distinguished songwriters Peter DeRose and John Latouche (the lyricist of Cabin in the Sky), but is forgotten as soon as it’s heard. The band and Ray do their usual professional job, but why Glenn singled the number out for recording is a mystery.

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On the other hand, YES MY DARLING DAUGHTER is a knockout from start to finish. Jerry Gray’s kicky arrangement, Marion’s vocal and 16 supercharged bars by seldom-featured Al Klink combine to produce a winning record. Dinah Shore and the Andrews Sisters also got big sales from their discs.

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Another session a week later produced four neglected sides, familiar only to Miller completists and all BMI products. A STONE’S THROW FROM HEAVEN is a lovely melody unfortunately saddled with a clichéd lyric. Three unknowns composed it – Bob Ray, Jan Burton and Irving Green. Ray Eberle sings the song nicely and Bill Finegan wrapped it in a fine arrangement, but nothing came of it.

YOU ARE THE ONE is yet another dull, undistinguished ballad. It was a rare collaboration between John Scott Trotter, conductor of Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall radio series and Carroll Carroll, head writer for the show. Likely Glenn’s friendship with Bing resulted in this recording.

Moe Purtill, Johnny Best, Jack Lathrop, Ernie Caceres

Moe Purtill, Johnny Best, Jack Lathrop, Ernie Caceres

Miller had been using guitarist Jack Lathrop as an occasional vocalist. Now he gave him a tryout as a composer, recording and publishing two of his songs. Both tunes got a fair amount of airplay, but they went nowhere. Oddly, neither record was issued at the time, a very rare occurrence for Glenn’s output.   If RCA had not been desperate for new product during the 1942-44 recording ban, they might have languished in the vaults forever.

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HELPLESS is a sweet little tune, well sung by Ray and the record is a forgotten treat. LONG TIME NO SEE, BABY had definite possibilities, a jaunty, hip number with Marion at her best and Tex grooving on sax. The record’s delayed release did it no favors. gm long time

LONG TIME was issued in 1943 on Victor with HERE WE GO AGAIN, a product of the last Miller dates, as the flip side. HELPLESS was paired in early 1944 with a timely reissue of the 1942 WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME and has the distinction of being the last “new” Glenn Miller civilian band recording to be issued on Victor 78s.

Marion Hutton

Marion Hutton

For some reason, Glenn had lately been featuring Marion Hutton less frequently on records and broadcasts. On the Chesterfield airings, Marion and Ray would get one number apiece, but at the Café Rouge, she’d usually get just one vocal per half-hour program, while Ray would sing three. Her lone vocal on the November 22nd session would be her last with Miller for a long time.

Meanwhile, the trumpet section, having been in a state of flux since Clyde Hurley left in May, finally settled into a personnel configuration that would remain intact for long time.  The rest of the band was firmly set, so now Glenn had the musicians he wanted, most of whom would stay until the band broke up.

Now he needed more popular records. Glenn’s hit-making ability seemed to be on the blink as 1940 wound to its conclusion, but the next session would be a step in the right direction.

Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best (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); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 19, 1940, 1:00-4:30 PM

047067-1      Imagination (RE vcl)                         Bluebird 10622

047068-1      Shake Down the Stars (RE vcl)        Bluebird 10689

047069-1      I’ll Never Smile Again (RE vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 10673

047070-1      Starlight and Music (RE vcl, JG arr)            Bluebird 10684

 

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 24, 1940, 2:00-5:15 PM

047093-1      Polka Dots and Moonbeams (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10657

047094-1      My, My (MH vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 10631

047095-1      Say It (RE vcl, BF arr)           Bluebird 10631

047096-1      Moments in the Moonlight (RE vcl) Bluebird 10638

047097-1      Hear My Song, Violetta (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10684

047098-1      Sierra Sue (RE vcl, JG arr)    Bluebird 10638

Two Glenn Miller record sessions during the latter half of February 1940 produced ten record sides, all popular songs of the day. Nine of them had vocals by Ray Eberle, with one brief look-in from Marion Hutton. Churning out the commercial pops kept the music publishers happy; and several of these songs were hits, though not necessarily for Glenn!

gmimaginationIMAGINATION, by the prolific Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, was a major Miller success and became a standard. It’s a sweet, charming song well handled by Ray and the band. Unusually, there is no band intro, we are plunked right into the song, performed at a relaxed, medium tempo.

And who wrote the next song, SHAKE DOWN THE STARS? Jimmy Van Heusen again, this time with lyricist Eddie DeLange. The lyrics paint a pretty grim picture of thwarted love, but Miller gives it a more hopeful feel. A bluesy, Lunceford-style introduction sets the mood and Eberle’s vocal is plaintively effective.

I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN is known far and wide as a huge record hit for Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers. Their innovative, hushed chamber group approach with celeste backing was a fresh sound for the time and well suited the mournful song. In fact it was Sinatra’s first hit with the band. (Songwriter Ruth Lowe later wrote Frank’s theme song, PUT YOUR DREAMS AWAY.)

gmsmilgmgmsmiletdgmsmilefsThe story given at the time was that Ruth Lowe wrote it in the aftermath of her young husband’s death. Later it was reported that she had actually written it earlier. Whatever the case, the song certainly struck a chord with listeners.   Glenn got to it first, though. He recorded it two months before Tommy attempted it in April 1940. That first Dorsey recording was unissued; a remake a month later first hit the charts in July and was Number One for 12 weeks.

Glenn had a real head start, but his Bluebird disc was a major disappointment. Getting the standard Miller treatment, the song comes across as nothing out of the ordinary; it needed special handling, as Tommy realized.   Strangely, Glenn apparently sensed that the song had hit potential. On a March 4th broadcast, he took pains to introduce the song’s radio debut with a prediction that it would be a big hit. It was, but not for him!

STARLIGHT AND MUSIC, which concluded the February 19th session, is another forgettable recording. The song is unmemorable and it gets a decent performance, but that’s about all that can be said. Writers Maurice Hart, Al Hoffman and Walter Kent sound like nobodies, but Hoffman later wrote the score for Walt Disney’s CINDERELLA and Kent composed I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER.

gmpoladotsThe February 24th date opened with another Miller 78 hit, POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS. Whaddya know, once again the composers were Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. In the wrong hands, the cheerful lyric, referencing a “pug-nosed dream,” could border on treacle, but Glenn (and Dorsey-Sinatra) handled it well.

The lovely melody became a jazz standard, with Lester Young, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans and Johnny Hodges among those who performed it in later years.

gm1940 Buck Benny rides again (ing) 01Paramount Pictures must have had some kind of deal with RCA and/or Glenn, as Miller regularly recorded songs from their musicals. Here come two more, MY! MY! and SAY IT. The great Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh teamed up for these tuneful numbers from Buck Benny Rides Again, a Jack Benny musical Western. It featured his radio cast, taking place on his fictitious Nevada ranch that was a sketch favorite on the air.  Benny was so popular at the time that the film was one of the Top Ten moneymakers of 1940!

gmmymygmsayiteMY! MY! was a familiar catchphrase of Benny’s sidekick, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, making it an appealing title hook for a song.   Rochester sang it in the film, but here Marion takes her only vocal on these two sessions. Following Miss Hutton is the first recorded Miller solo by newcomer Ernie Caceres. This talented Mexican jazzman came to Glenn from Jack Teagarden’s band and was an important addition to the band’s jazz contingent with his spiky solos on alto and baritone sax, clarinet and even the occasional vocal.

gmsay itEberle takes a nicely relaxed vocal on SAY IT, the film’s lovely ballad. It’s a song that should have become a standard.   Ray is even more hushed and effective on a broadcast version of the song a few weeks later, part of a Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue medley.

Society bandleader Richard Himber co-wrote the next song, MOMENTS IN THE MOONLIGHT. Himber apparently was a leader who actually wrote the songs he is credited with, including his popular theme song, IT ISN’T FAIR. Lyrics were provided by Irving Gordon and Al Kaufman. Their other hits include UNFORGETTABLE, BLUE PRELUDE and Duke Ellington’s PRELUDE TO A KISS.

It’s a pleasant number taken at the perfect medium tempo, but pitched at the high end of Ray Eberle’s range, giving his voice a strained quality. It took a long time before Glenn began to lower Ray’s keys, allowing him to sing at a more comfortable pitch. Tex Beneke peeks in briefly before the windup.

gmviolettaHEAR MY SONG, VIOLETTA had a strange lineage. It was a popular German ballad by composers Othmar Klose and Rudolf Lukesch, introduced in 1936. Somehow it made it’s way to these shores; Buddy Bernier and Bob Emmerich provided the English lyrics. It became a moderate hit, with recordings by Glenn, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey and Van Alexander. Later, in 1947, Irish tenor Josef Locke recorded it (with new lyrics by Buddy Pepper) in tango tempo and it practically became his theme song.

Glenn treats the melody as a fast ballad and Ray sings it unadorned, with slightly suspect intonation. The band swings it a bit in the final chorus, with nice cymbal work by Moe Purtill.

gmsierra s posterFinally, the six-tune February 24th session wraps up with SIERRA SUE, another Miller excursion into Western territory. Subtitled “A Song of the Hills,” it was written by Joseph B. Carey back in 1916. Dusted off 24 years later, it became the title song of a Gene Autry musical Western. Gene Krupa and Casa Loma also waxed it and it was performed by such diverse talents as soignee cabaret singer Doris Rhodes and jazzman Bud Freeman!

gmsierraThough the term “country-western music” didn’t exist in 1916, the tune is a typical prairie ballad, played in citified style by Glenn, who throws in some “boo-wah” brass phrases before Eberle’s vocal.

Ten songs in five days – that was a lot of recording in such a short time for Glenn.  It’s worth noting that of these ten, Tommy Dorsey would also record eight of them, all after Glenn did! It might simply be coincidence, but Tommy was feuding with Glenn at the time over money matters and it’s not unlikely that Dorsey wanted to cut into Glenn’s Bluebird record sales (at 35 cents a copy) by cutting the same songs for the prestigious full-priced (75 cents) Victor label.

More than a month would pass before we next join the band in the studio and a lot would happen in the interim!

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Tuxedo Junction

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Dale “Mickey” McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Howard Gibeling, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Jimmy Abato, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan, Chummy MacGregor (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 5, 1940, 1:00-4:45 PM

046784-1      Sweet Potato Piper (MH vcl, JG arr)    Bluebird 10605

046785-1      Too Romantic (RE vcl)         Bluebird 10605

046786-1      Tuxedo Junction (JG arr)     Bluebird 10612 (gold label)

046786-2      Tuxedo Junction (JG arr)     Bluebird 10612 (silver label)

046787-1      Danny Boy [Londonderry Air] (GM, ChM arr)       Bluebird 10612

Dorothy, Bing & Bob harmonize on sweet potatoes.

The February 5th, 1940 Glenn Miller session was another auspicious one, including a top Miller hit and one of the oldest, sweetest charts in the band’s library. First, however, were two new movie tunes from the first Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour starrer, THE ROAD TO SINGAPORE. Dependable songwriters Johnny Burke and Jimmy Monaco crafted both. They had been turning out songs for Bing’s Paramount films for awhile and knew well how to bring out the best in his voice and manner.

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SWEET POTATO PIPER, a trio in the movie for the three stars, works neatly as another Marion Hutton-Tex Beneke swing duet routine – “you can’t jam on a yam!” The modulation into the vocal is especially pleasant. Tex runs up and down the scale during his solo and ends with an upward gliss.

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The film’s ballad, TOO ROMANTIC, begins with trombones leading into the reed sound. Ray Eberle warbles the vocal in a nicely plaintive manner and the coda is satisfyingly different.

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Four days before the Miller recordings, Tommy Dorsey recorded these same two tunes for RCA with his brand-new vocalists, The Pied Pipers and Frank Sinatra, respectively. This die-hard Miller fan must admit that the Dorsey renditions are superior, with Johnny Mince joining the Pipers on an actual sweet potato instrument and Sinatra delivering the ballad slowly and with much feeling.

By now, Glenn was starting to fall into repetitive routines with his ballads and novelty tunes, recycling familiar passages, modulations and codas.  Perhaps the band’s onerous schedule provided little time for Glenn and his arrangers to explore new creative avenues, especially on the recorded pop tunes.  As 1940 continued, Glenn gave Bill Finegan and Jerry Gray some more leeway and their arrangements began to show greater imaginative scope.

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Next on the session was a Miller blockbuster, TUXEDO JUNCTION.  It’s a rare case of Glenn adapting another band’s hit into an even bigger one.  Written by bandleader Erksine Hawkins and sidemen Julian Dash & Bill Johnson, it was recorded by Hawkins in July 1939 (on Glenn’s own Bluebird label!), becoming popular enough for the band to adopt it as their theme song.  Sensing a potential hit song, the publisher had words added by Buddy Feyne, describing the Tuxedo Junction trolley crossing in Hawkins’ home town of Birmingham, Alabama.

In quick succession from January through March 1940, the tune was recorded by Al Donahue, Jan Savitt, then Glenn, followed by Harry James, Casa Loma and Gene Krupa.  It shows how much clout Glenn had developed that he was allowed to record the number for the same label as Hawkins had, something that rarely occurred in those days.

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Glenn had first picked up on JUNCTION when his band played opposite the Hawkins band at the Savoy Ballroom on Christmas Eve, 1939.  Miller and Jerry Gray slowed the tempo down to a hypnotic lope, dropped most of the solos (except for Clyde Hurley’s emulation of Erskine’s original trumpet solo) and made it into more of an ensemble piece with repetitive riffs and blaring trumpets.  Apparently this was just what the fans and dancers wanted, as the Miller record shot to Number One on the sales and popularity charts and was programmed often on their radio shows.  The alternate take was apparently one of the few MIller alternates that was issued on 78 around the same time as the master take.  There is little difference between the two versions.

On the flip side, DANNY BOY (aka LONDONDERRY AIR) was one of the earliest entries in the Miller band library. Jointly arranged by Glenn and Chummy MacGregor (who plays the celeste introduction, adding an ethereal touch), it is a brief, one-chorus rendition of the vintage ballad. Composed in 1910 by English musician Frederick Weatherly, it quickly became a favorite for Irish audiences, who always loved a sentimental melody.  In Miller’s hands, muted brass and the reeds alternate passages, with Chummy tinkling in the background, leading to Glenn’s muted trombone at the end.

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As a change of pace during stage shows, this lovely, quiet number would hold audience attention, especially when colored lighting effects were applied to highlight the various sections of the band.

We’ve heard from Ray Eberle only fleetingly during the last few sessions. He returns with a vengeance on the next two dates, singing on all but one of the upcoming records!

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Star Dust Melody

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 29, 1940, 1:00-4:15 PM

046735-1      Star Dust (BF, GM arr)          Bluebird 10665

046736-1      My Melancholy Baby (TB vcl, BF arr)         Bluebird 10665

046737-1      Let’s All Sing Together (MH vcl, JG arr)      Bluebird 10598

046737-2      Let’s All Sing Together (MH vcl, JG arr)       first issued on LP

046738-1      Rug Cutter’s Swing (BF arr)                        Bluebird 10754

046739-1      The Woodpecker Song (MH vcl)               Bluebird 10598

According to the discographies, Glenn Miller’s recording sessions on January 26th and January 29th, 1940 each lasted 3-1/4 hours. Normally, four tunes would be recorded in a 3-hour session. It’s surprising that only two records were cut on January 26th, but January 29th more than made up for the deficit. Three standards and two current pops were put down. The first number waxed was already a classic. “Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal STAR DUST,” as the radio announcers put it, was then part of every band and singer’s repertoire.

gmstardustSince it’s introduction in 1927, the melody had slowly grown in prominence, helped immeasurably by the addition of Mitchell Parish’s lyric in 1929. Recordings by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong soon followed. By the late 1930s, Benny Goodman had swung it in a Fletcher Henderson arrangement and Jack Jenney recorded it as a meltingly romantic jazz trombone feature.   With an assist from Glenn, Miller arranger Bill Finegan crafted a marvelous big band ballad chart, showcasing the fabulous reed section. Tex Beneke takes a relaxed solo and trumpeter Clyde Hurley plays his finest solo on a Miller record, channeling Bunny Berigan, with a pure, clean tone.

gm star dusttThis writer considers Glenn’s recording to be one of two definitive Swing Era renditions of STAR DUST, second only to the majestic Artie Shaw-with-strings rendition, recorded nine months later.

gmMy_Melancholy_Baby_coverFor the flip side, another vintage standard, circa 1912, was unearthed – MY MELANCHOLY BABY. This was the only hit for composer Ernie Burnett and lyricist George Norton, but what a hit it was! It’s hard to think of any musician or singer who didn’t perform this song. It is even credited with restoring the composer’s memory! Injured during World War I, Burnett was hospitalized with amnesia until he heard a visiting pianist play the song and abruptly snapped out of it.  Whether true or not, it’s a good story.

gm melancholyTaken at a nice, comfortable tempo, Bill Finegan’s arrangement takes some pleasant liberties with the melody, before ushering in Tex Beneke’s best recorded vocal so far. Despite these qualities and Glenn’s general fondness for Tex, the chart did not become a regularly performed feature. There is just one known aircheck, with Glenn introducing Beneke’s vocal as being “in old-time rough style,” whatever that was!

Tex Beneke

Tex Beneke

Marion Hutton comes to bat next, doing her best with a truly dopey lyric. LET’S ALL SING TOGETHER is a catchy tune and Jerry Gray crafts a kicky chart, but those words! Even the magnificent Helen Forrest couldn’t make them work on her recording with Benny Goodman.  Beneke and Hurley get their licks in, but a classic it ain’t. I couldn’t turn up any information on the composers, Joe Audino, Nick DiRocco and Billy Keeshan, but that’s just as well.

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GMLETS ALL SING

Now comes a surprise – Horace Henderson’s RUG CUTTER’S SWING, recorded by brother Fletcher Henderson’s band and a Henderson contingent led by Red Allen in 1934 and then completely forgotten. Unlike so many other Henderson originals that became Swing Era anthems, only Glenn picked up on RUG CUTTER. The Miller arrangement is credited to Bill Finegan, but since Glenn played in on radio as early as 1938, the chart is likely his, with a light polish perhaps added by Finegan.

In any case, the Miller version probably derives from a stock arrangement, played here much more “lightly and politely” than the choppy Henderson Decca 78, which is basically a string of solos held together by background riffs.

GMWOODPECKERSMarion takes the microphone again for THE WOODPECKER SONG, whose lyrics are a cut above LET’S ALL SING TOGETHER, but not by much. However, the sheer ebullience of the song and performance lift the record immeasurably.  Discographies do not credit the musician who worked the ticking metronome!

GMWOODPECKERThe song was actually an Italian pop import by Eldo DiLazzaro, with English lyrics provided by Harold Adamson. The duo had another hit around the same time, FERRY BOAT SERENADE.

We haven’t heard from Ray Eberle lately, but he’ll be back in a week for the next Bluebird date.

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Say “Si Si”

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Tommy Mack, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Jimmy Abato, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 26, 1940, 2:00-5:15 PM

046727-1      Say “Si Si” [Para Vigo Me Voy] (MH vcl)     Bluebird 10622

046728-1      The Rumba Jumps (MH, TB vcl)   Bluebird 10673

046728-2      The Rumba Jumps (MH, TB vcl)   first issued on LP

Happily tootling along in New York, the Miller band worked through January on their Chesterfield program and Café Rouge appearances. Two more record dates were slotted in before the end of the month. Two tunes with a Latin tinge comprised the January 26th session. SAY “SI SI” was an authentic Cuban song by famed composer Ernesto Lecuona, published in 1935 under the title PARA VIGO ME VOY and recorded by Xavier Cugat.

gmsaysisiWith the developing craze for Latin American music, quite a few older songs by Lecuona, Alberto Dominguez and others got an American makeover with new English lyrics. Journeyman writer Al Stillman did the job here and also successfully lyricized THE BREEZE AND I and MAMA YO QUIERO around the same time. Marion Hutton sings jauntily, pushing the Miller disc into hit status. The Andrews’ Sisters version on Decca also sold well. Coincidentally, the Sisters featured the number on their Chesterfield radio appearances with Glenn, who therefore had to carry two arrangements of the song in his book!

gmrumbaUnlikely “Latin” composers Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer wrote THE RUMBA JUMPS, for their flop Broadway musical, Walk With Music; Glenn had earlier recorded OOH! WHAT YOU SAID from this score.      Future Miller stars, The Modernaires, sang both songs in the show. It tells a complicated story about a Harlem band stranded in the Dominican Republic and likely provided the impetus for a colorful production number on Broadway. On record, it serves as the first Hutton-Beneke vocal-whistling duet, with the hip “Hiya Tex, what’cha say?” patter that would become a familiar part of the band’s performances.

Just three days later, the band would be back at RCA for a lengthy session featuring Marion & Tex again.

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Wish Upon a Star

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Jimmy Abato ,Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 6, 1940, 2:00-5:30 PM

046082-1      The Gaucho Serenade (RE vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 10570

046083-1      The Sky Fell Down (RE vcl, BF arr)                         Bluebird 10580

046084-1      When You Wish Upon a Star (RE vcl)        Bluebird 10570

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 15, 1940, 1:00-4:30 PM

046431-1      Give a Little Whistle (MH vcl)          Bluebird 10580

046432-1      Missouri Waltz           Bluebird 10587

046433-1      Beautiful Ohio (JG arr)         Bluebird 10587

046434-1      What’s the Matter With Me? (MH vcl)       Bluebird 10657

gmhotelpennfair1940 arrived with a bang for Glenn and the band. Their new radio program for Chesterfield was getting under way and a lengthy engagement at New York’s prestigious Café Rouge (in midtown’s Pennsylvania Hotel) began on January 4th.

gmhotelpennadNow the band could stay put in one city for several months, rehearsing, performing, recording and broadcasting. The first recording session of the year came less than a week after New Year’s Day.

gmgauchoadFor some reason, Glenn’s very citified orchestra was assigned to record a hefty slice of Western and cowboy music, beginning with THE GAUCHO SERENADE. He would eventually record enough to fill an album, though RCA never saw fit to compile one. It’s also Jerry Gray’s first recorded arrangement for the band, though airchecks exist of several earlier ones from late 1939.

gmgauchoserenadeTHE GAUCHO SERENADE was the title song of singing cowboy Gene Autry’s latest film, stuffed as usual with tunes by various composers. James Cavanaugh, John Redmond and Nat Simon wrote it; they each had a long series of hits behind them, including POINCIANA, I LIKE MOUNTAIN MUSIC, MISSISSIPPI MUD and I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART. It’s a merry little ditty, with Ray Eberle serving as an unlikely South American cowboy.

Bill Finegan surfaces as the arranger for THE SKY FELL DOWN, sung with great assurance by Ray. It’s a simple, effective chart with a sweet solo for Glenn in the last chorus. The distinguished team of Louis Alter (MANHATTAN SERENADE, YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME and DOLORES) and Edward Heyman (BODY AND SOUL, OUT OF NOWHERE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT) counted this as one of their big hits.

gmskyfelldownThis song also had the distinction of being the first disc recorded by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey on the higher-priced Victor label. There would be many more songs recorded by both Eberle and Sinatra over the next three years. Eberle was the more popular vocalist in 1940, but that would soon change.

gmPinocchio-1940-postergmPinocchio_title_cardGlenn had previously recorded the 1939 Best Song Oscar winner, OVER THE RAINBOW and was lucky enough to be assigned the eventual 1940 award winner, WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR, from Pinocchio.  Composers Ned Washington and Leigh Harline were regular contributors to Disney films; eventually this song became the Disney “theme,” heard on TV and in the theme parks up to the present day.

gmpinnocihioThough the arrangement is nothing special, Ray’s pleasant vocal and the song’s inherent quality carries the day. In 1947, the disc was reissued as part of a Victor 78 album of Glenn’s “star” songs, titled Starlight Serenades.

gmstar    gmwishstarNine days later, as the first tune on the next record date, another Pinocchio melody was given a spritely treatment. Jiminy Cricket’s GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE is warbled by Marion, a bit off-key, but sweetly sincere. Chummy MacGregor gets a rare boogie-woogie solo, and Tex is his usual dependably swinging self. Oddly, Bluebird didn’t release the two PINOCCHIO songs back-to-back, but on separate discs.

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For a big change of pace, Glenn next recorded two waltzes. Every swing band had a few waltzes in their book to please older or more traditional dancers, but rarely got the chance to record them. That was the territory of the sweet bands. Wanting to be recognized as a well-rounded orchestra, Glenn apparently pushed Victor to let him record a few numbers in ¾ time; certainly music publishers weren’t promoting these oldies!

gmmissouritMISSOURI WALTZ, composed in 1914 by John Cameron Eppel, eventually became Missouri’s state song.   The arrangement, likely by Glenn, is simple and effective, with several tenor sax incursions by Beneke.

gmbeauohiooOn the flip side, BEAUTIFUL OHIO, not surprisingly, was the state song of Ohio. Ballard MacDonald and Robert King wrote it in 1918 as a standard love song. A later lyric revision made the song more Ohio-specific. Jerry Gray penned Glenn’s wistful chart, featuring muted brass and brief solos by Tex and Chummy.

Back to swing for the last item on the session – WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME?, written by Sam M. Lewis, with lyrics by Terry Shand. Lewis’ name is completely unknown today, but his songs aren’t – IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN, I’M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (both previously recorded by Glenn), FOR ALL WE KNOW and STREET OF DREAMS, to name just four. Terry Shand was a singer who recorded prolifically in the 1930s as a band vocalist and under his own name. He also wrote the lyrics for such hits as I DOUBLE DARE YOU and DANCE WITH A DOLLY.

gmWhatsTheMatterWithMeAfter a bouncy opening, Marion chirps the lyrics in a slightly subdued manner. The record really sparks to life with Clyde Hurley’s torrid solo, happily echoed by Tex, leading to a rousing windup.

Having been out of the studio for nearly all of December, Glenn was finally back at RCA on a regular recording schedule and more big hits were about to arrive!

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Way Back in 1939 A.D.

RCA Victor Studios, New York – December 6, 1939, 1:30-5:00 PM

043973-1      I Beg Your Pardon (RE vcl) Bluebird 10561

043974-1      Faithful To You (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10536

043975-1      It’s a Blue World (RE vcl)     Bluebird 10536

043976-1      Ooh! What You Said (MH vcl) Bluebird 10561

On the afternoon of the band’s last day at the Meadowbrook Ballroom, Glenn held his final recording session of 1939. All four songs had good lineage, but none became a major hit.

Chubby Mack Gordon asks George Raft for a pardon.

Chubby Mack Gordon asks George Raft for a pardon.

I BEG YOUR PARDON reportedly came about from an idea of lyricist Mack Gordon. A jolly, rotund figure, Gordon often used the titular phrase when squeezing in and out of elevators, so he decided to repurpose it as the title of a love song. J. Fred Coots, composer of SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN and YOU GO TO MY HEAD, wrote the music. Ray sings the song nicely, but no fireworks result.

More Ray is heard on FAITHFUL TO YOU, a collaboration between popular NY disc jockey Martin Block and co-writers Harry Green and Mickey Stoner. The trio would work together on several other songs recorded by Glenn in the coming years. Presumably, Block promoted Miller recordings on his Make Believe Ballroom show in gratitude for recording these tunes.

WNEW disc jockey Martin Block

WNEW disc jockey Martin Block

It’s another standard Miller ballad, with a brief, luscious clarinet solo by Jimmy Abato. Glenn took an instant dislike to the young musician and he didn’t last long in the band.

gmmusicinmyheartThere are more mournful reed sounds on IT’S A BLUE WORLD, which was introduced by future AAF Band vocalist Tony Martin in the film Music In My Heart, which co-starred young Rita Hayworth. Songwriters Robert Wright and Chet Forrest were then working as Hollywood songsmiths, but would eventually hit it big on Broadway with Song of Norway and Kismet.   Ray does his usual vocal stuff and the arrangement has some pleasantly original dynamic touches and a lovely coda.

Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael didn’t collaborate as often as they should have, but crafted some memorable songs when they did. In late 1939, they turned their sights toward Broadway, with the score for Three After Three, which was retitled Walk With Music. The show, based on the same play that would eventually be filmed as How to Marry a Millionaire, went through a rocky gestation and finally opened in June 1940. It closed in a little over a month. Hoagy never tried Broadway again, though Johnny returned with several semi-hits in the following decades.

Hoagy & Johnny

Hoagy & Johnny

Glenn recorded two songs from the show, OOH! WHAT YOU SAID and THE RUMBA JUMPS. In one of those interesting coincidences, OOH! was performed in the show by a vocal group named the Modernaires, who we’ll be hearing from later on!  It’s a welcome swinger after so many ballads. Marion Hutton sings the catchy lyrics and Tex surfaces for a good solo.

That’s it for 1939, as far as Glenn Miller’s recording sessions go. It had been quite an amazing year – from near-obscurity in January to the top of the big band pantheon in December.

The year wasn’t over yet – more road dates in December took the band for the first time as far west as Ohio. Arranger Jerry Gray joined, after the sudden breakup of Artie Shaw’s stellar orchestra. Jerry would bring some new sounds and many hits to the Miller band in the next three years. On Christmas Eve, Glenn and the boys broke all previous attendance records at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The same night, Glenn received a surprise gift of a 1940 Buick, which the bandsmen had pooled their money to buy.

Biggest news of all – the Miller band began a nationwide CBS radio series for Chesterfield Cigarettes on December 27th.  Replacing Paul Whiteman, whose music was considered old hat by now, the band was initially paired with the top-selling Andrews Sisters, since sponsor Liggett & Myers were unsure about the band’s ability to carry the show.

Once 1940 began, the band would be heard every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening on a 15-minute Chesterfield program. Continuing until the band broke up, this schedule, with some tweaks, would affect all aspects of Glenn’s itinerary, as the band had to be close to a big broadcasting center every week. Any such difficulties were far outweighed by the prestige of such a popular program, which any band would kill for. Also, the free availability of endless supplies of Chesterfields would be another plus for the hard-smoking Glenn and his personnel.  We’ll pick up the tobacco saga in our next installment.

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