Keep ‘Em Flying!

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); Bill Conway(g); 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 – December 8, 1941, 12:00-5:30 PM

068456-1      Moonlight Cocktail (RE & M vcl, JG arr)     Bluebird 11401-A

068457-1      Happy in Love (MH vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11401-B

068458-1      Fooled (RE vcl, JG arr)          Bluebird 11416-A

068459-1      Keep ‘Em Flying (JG arr)      Bluebird 11443-B

068460-1      Chip Off the Old Block          Bluebird 11450-B

068461-1      The Story of a Starry Night (RE vcl, BF arr)           Bluebird 11462-A

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When the Glenn Miller band assembled in RCA Victor’s New York studios at 12:00 Noon on Monday, December 8, 1941, momentous events were happening in Washington DC.  At 12:30 PM, President Roosevelt began his Day of Infamy speech, calling on the joint houses of Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. By 1:10 both houses had approved it and at 4:10 PM, while Glenn was still recording, the declaration was signed.

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At RCA, it was business as usual – and the world events did not affect the Miller orchestra’s efficiency. Six selections were completed in five-and-a-half hours, no longer than expected.

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MOONLIGHT COCKTAIL was first on the schedule, racking up yet another Number One hit for the band and one of the top-selling records of 1942.  Jerry Gray provides a plush setting, with velvety vocalizing by Ray and the Mods and Tex’s butter-smooth tenor sax.  This sophisticated ballad was, surprisingly, written by stride pianist Luckey Roberts. whose other compositions were mostly traditional blues and ragtime numbers.  Actually, Luckey wrote it in 1912 as a  virtuoso ragtime piece titled RIPPLES OF THE NILE.  Lyricist Kim Gannon  is more familiar to these pages, having composed FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE. Slowing Luckey’s finger-buster down, Gannon struck gold.

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The B-side of COCKTAIL was HAPPY IN LOVE, a sprightly tune from the Olsen & Johnson Broadway revue, Sons O’ Fun. A follow-up to the comedy duo’s 1938 blockbuster smash Hellzapoppin, the new show co-starred Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda, Scotch jazz singer Ella Logan and future Three Stooge Joe Besser.  The show was a hit with wartime audiences, running 742 performances.

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Considering the hoopla which greeted Marion Hutton when she returned to the band in August, it’s surprising that Glenn kept her under wraps on record.  She had not been heard on the past few sessions at all and HAPPY IN LOVE was her first of only three recorded solo vocals between her return and the band’s breakup. Of course, Marion was featured on the band’s radio shows and public performances with Tex and the Mods, but it’s a shame she was heard by herself so infrequently on disc, considering how much she had improved as a singer by late 1941.

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Composed by Sammy Fain and Jack Yellen, HAPPY IN LOVE would normally be an ebullient love song and Jerry Gray’s arrangement is joyous enough. But the tragic mood of the day apparently hit Marion hard and she sings in an arrestingly somber manner that transforms the recording into an unintentional testament to wartime shock and sorrow. Only at the very end, after Tex’s perky solo, does she shake off the melancholy. Her voice emerges into the sunlight to punch out the rhythmic coda.

Ray Eberle is back for FOOLED, a dud of a song that is unworthy of the Miller band at this peak artistic period.  Once again, Jerry Gray crafts a lovely frame for a mediocre painting, with twining reed patterns and a sweet Beneke solo.  Composers Frank Lavere and Ros Metzger wrote little else of note and though lyricist Bob Russell collaborated on some distinguished songs with Duke Ellington, his contribution here is underpar. Ray goes off-key at the beginning of the unwieldy lyric, but Glenn didn’t bother with a retake.

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Things improve with two fine instrumentals, which have been neglected by Miller fans and on reissues. A swing original could be titled almost anything and Jerry Gray’s KEEP ‘EM FLYING was originally named THAT’S WHERE I CAME IN. Miller first broadcast it back in July and the title was changed during the fall.  The familiar phrase was devised in May 1941 as an inspirational recruiting slogan for the Army Air Corps. It would soon be plastered on posters, stamps, flyers and even was used as the title for an Abbott & Costello service comedy that opened in late November.

Repeating the “engine revving up” motif that started his record of THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE, KEEP ‘EM FLYING is a screaming flagwaver from the first note. Glenn played a lot of super-fast tempoed numbers on radio, but recorded relatively few of them.  The band is at the height of swing precision here, with Beneke, Billy May, Chummy, Ernie Caceres and Moe Purtill getting their hot licks in. The fans loved this kind of number and would yell their heads off when it was played.

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CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK is a bit of a mystery – composer “Al Young” is a name unfamiliar to me, unless it is a pseudonym and there is no arranger credit in the discographies. It’s in the groovy vein of TUXEDO JUNCTION, with a little more “oomph.” Basically a succession of riffs, the high spot is an eight-bar Al Klink solo. Fewer riffs and more Klink would have made the piece more memorable, but it’s a pleasant addition to the Miller repertoire.

As with the past few sessions, the date ends with an Eberle ballad, this one with a classical pedigree. THE STORY OF A STARRY NIGHT was adapted from Tchaikovsky ‘s 6th Symphony, the “Pathetique.”  Earlier in the year, Freddie Martin had a huge hit with TONIGHT WE LOVE, adapted from Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. Glenn had an instrumental arrangement of that same theme in his book and played it often on radio.  Actually, so many classical adaptations were riding the airwaves and record charts in 1941, partially due to the ASCAP radio ban, that Les Brown recorded an opus titled EVERYBODY’S MAKING MONEY BUT TCHAIKOVSKY.

STARRY NIGHT made some money for Glenn, as his Mutual Music company published the sheet music, then re-published it in 1948 with a tie-in to Song of My Heart, a low-budget film biography of the composer.  Mann Curtis, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman are credited with the musical adaptation and lyrics.

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Once again, Bill Finegan crafted an exquisite arrangement, highlighting the trademark Miller reed sound. Earlier complaints about Glenn’s overly fast ballads were long gone by now and Ray was able to luxuriate in a slow-tempoed rendition of the attractive lyrics.

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This was the band’s last recording session for 1941.  They finished out the year at the Hotel Pennsylvania and would conclude this third and final winter engagement at the venue in early January.  One bright spot during this period was the brief return of Trigger Alpert, who was given a Christmas furlough (initiated by Glenn) and played with the band at the Cafe Rouge and on radio.  War news was growing increasingly more ominous now that America was in the conflict and Miller’s recorded output would begin to reflect the changing times with their next session.

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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.

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

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bill Conway (g); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Take the “A” Train

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, H.G. Chapman (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 20, 1941, 12:00-3:00 PM

061253-1      Don’t Cry, Cherie (RE vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 11183-A

061254-1      Cradle Song (RE, M & Band vcl, HGC arr)   Bluebird 11203-B

061255-1      Sweeter Than the Sweetest (PK & M vcl, BM arr)    Bluebird 11183-B

 

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 28, 1941, 11:30-3:30 PM

061265-1      I Guess I’ll Have to Dream the Rest (RE & M vcl) Bluebird 11187-A

061266-1      Take the “A” Train (BM arr)            Bluebird 11187-B

061267-1      Peekaboo To You (PK & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11203-A

061268-1      The Angels Came Thru (RE vcl)      Bluebird 11215-B

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After several sessions of quality songs, we start the May 20th date with a real woofer. Written by veterans Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, DON’T CRY, CHERIE begins well with a dramatic Bill Finegan-arranged intro, and then Ray Eberle sings the verse, an uncommon occurrence in a Miller record. The chorus, however, is pretty insipid, with verbal clichés of French folk Pierre and Cherie crying over their garden, which is not blooming anymore (wonder why?). We get the ominous sound of marching drums and even a musical quote from LA MARSEILLAISE. Too bad the beautiful sonic ambience of RCA’s Hollywood recording studio is wasted here.

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Brahms’ CRADLE SONG is up next, in a performance that manages to keep the inherent sappiness at bay. Ray sings in a hushed and restrained manner, backed by the band chorus and a bit of the Modernaires, who are not credited on the label. Being in the public domain, the melody was ripe for radio play, though it might have been more memorable handled instrumentally.

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Not a moment too soon, we turn back to swing with SWEETER THAN THE SWEETEST, one of the band’s best up-tempo novelties. It was an unlikely pop effort by jazz pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith and lyricist Neil Lawrence (who had written song lyrics for Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong). Arranger Billy May is thoroughly inspired here, with great passages for the brass and reeds, culminating in a groovy Al Klink solo. The byplay between the band and the Mods toward the end is captivating. Paula Kelly shines here, as do Ernie Caceres on baritone sax and bassist Trigger Alpert. A great example of Billy May’s influence on creating a looser swing approach for Glenn’s band.

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A week later, still in Hollywood, the boys return to the bread-and-butter ballads with I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO DREAM THE REST. A BMI winner, also recorded by Harry James/Dick Haymes and Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra, it was another song contribution by disc jockey Martin Block with Mickey Stoner and Harold Green. The trio had earlier written FAITHFUL TO YOU and MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME, but this new endeavor was even more successful.

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Ray and the Mods make beautiful music, singing throughout, with just a brief break for a Tex solo. It’s an attractive melody, with an especially lovely bridge.

1941 was a transitional year, as singers began to come to the fore. Previously, most big band ballads featured the band in the first and last choruses, with the vocal sandwiched in the middle. Now, as heard here on DREAM, the vocal choruses began and ended the records, with a band interlude midway. Tempos were slowing, too, replacing the jitterbug rhythms with romantic clinches on the dance floor. Maybe it was a reaction to the grim war news. Who knows?

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Billy May scores again with an unlikely ballad treatment of Duke Ellington’s new BMI radio theme song, TAKE THE “A” TRAIN. A vivid contrast to the rural CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, it’s a jumper written by Billy Strayhorn that replaced SEPIA PANORAMA when the ASCAP fight started. An immediate sensation, “A” TRAIN was kept as the Duke’s signature tune forever after, to the point that most fans thought he had written it.

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Billy’s witty chart features lazy clarinets blowing the train whistle and his own muted trumpet signaling the way to Harlem. Beneke maintains the relaxed mood on tenor and the reeds take it out. Very hip!

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Next is an unjustly forgotten Miller disc, PEEKABOO TO YOU. This one never had a reissue on LP or CD until the issuance of The Complete Glenn Miller sets, which is a shame. Paula and the Mods, with Trigger Alpert and the rhythm section stomping along, cheerily sing the witty Johnny Mercer lyric. Arranger Jerry Gray shifts the sections after the vocal with trombones, trumpet “boo-wahs,” Caceres’ alto backed by walking bass and Johnny Best’s trumpet booted along by drums.

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Lyricist Mercer teamed here with lesser-known writers Carl Sigman and Sol Meyer, both of whom had lengthy song hit credits. This is likely the only popular song that mentions a “fowling piece,” which is fancy talk for a shotgun!

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We haven’t had a Miller song of Latin derivation for a while, so the final song of the May 28th date is a lovely Ernesto Lecuona composition, THE ANGELS CAME THRU. No arranger is credited in the discographies, but it bears the Bill Finegan touch, with attractive organ-like chords from the band. Old friend Al Dubin wrote a serviceable English lyric, which sits very nicely on the melody. Mr. Eberle is just a wee bit sluggish on the vocal, but the record still registers as a neglected good one.

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Ending their Hollywood Palladium engagement on May 22nd, Glenn and the band began touring up and down the West Coast for the first time, greeting ecstatic fans wherever they played. The group’s personnel had been stable for more than half a year, but now several changes were occurring. Guitarist Jack Lathrop left at the end of the Palladium gig and Modernaire Bill Conway took over until a permanent replacement could be hired. Much-loved Trigger Alpert was the first Miller bandsman to be drafted and bassist Myer Rubin would soon be in his chair.

Tickets & autographs from the Miller band's appearance at the Pacific Square Ballroom in San Diego

Tickets & autographs from the Miller band’s appearance at the Pacific Square Ballroom in San Diego

More alterations were in the works once Miller left California on June 5th for Salt Lake City and points east. We’ll catch up with them in Chicago.

 

 

 

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, Fred Norman (arr).

 

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA – May 7, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

061243-1      Boulder Buff (FN arr)           Bluebird 11163-A

061244-1      The Booglie Wooglie Piggy (TB, PK & M vcl; JG arr) Bluebird 11163-B

061245-1      Chattanooga Choo Choo (TB, PK & M vcl; JG arr) Bluebird 11230-B

061246-1      I Know Why (PK & M vcl; BF & JG arr)      Bluebird 11230-A

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After six weeks taking it easy in Hollywood while making their movie, the Glenn Miller band was released by 20th Century-Fox on May 3rd. Aside from their thrice-weekly Chesterfield radio show, the group had been nearly invisible to the public during that period.

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Wasting no time, they immediately began a three-week engagement at the new Hollywood Palladium, which had replaced the fire-destroyed Palomar Ballroom as Los Angeles’ premier big band venue. Having not made any commercial recordings since February, Glenn set about to rectify that by scheduling three RCA sessions in May.

The first one took place on May 7th, cutting two tunes from their new film and two other radio-friendly BMI numbers, the first an instrumental and the second a pop novelty. We immediately note the livelier acoustics of Victor’s Hollywood studio, which has more resonance and brightness than the sound achieved on the band’s New York sessions.

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A new name appears on BOULDER BUFF – Fred Norman. A top Harlem musician from the early 1930s on, he wrote and arranged for Claude Hopkins, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and many others. The band is loose and relaxed, with welcome solos by seldom-featured Al Klink (two choruses, likely his longest solo on a Miller record) and always–dependable Billy May. The composition, however is a potboiler and not particularly memorable. Glenn thought otherwise and featured it on radio quite often staring in January 1941, months before committing it to wax.

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On the other hand, Glenn (and arranger Jerry Gray) do wonders with a truly dopey novelty tune, THE BOOGLIE WOOGLIE PIGGY. The band and the singers have a fine time, with the rhythm section really clicking. The Mods back Tex’s tenor solo with vocal “doo-wahs,” which was something of an innovation in 1941. Billy May concludes Tex’s chorus with a rip-roaring solo. Composer Roy Jacobs collaborated with a number of black musicians to write such numbers as I’M GONNA MOVE TO THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN, I’M IN A LOWDOWN GROOVE and SOUTHERN FRIED.

At this point in time, what more can be said about CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO? The song is inextricably linked to Glenn forever and was the biggest sales hit he ever had. The concept of a Gold Record award was conceived by RCA to honor Miller when the CHOO CHOO reached sales of 1,250,000. That was an almost unheard-of figure in March 1942, when the award was presented. Yet the song was issued as the B-side of Bluebird 11230!   The soundtrack recording from Sun Valley Serenade is longer and groovier, but the record preserves nearly all the best parts of the film arrangement (except Tex’s whistling).

Glenn's Gold Record for CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO.

Glenn’s Gold Record for CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO.

The A-side of Bluebird 11230 is I KNOW WHY (AND SO DO YOU), obviously expected to be the hit tune from the movie. The film version of the Gordon-Warren song is superb, with the record running a distant second, mostly due to Paula Kelly. Film singer Pat Friday’s succulent sound, hyped by the 20th Century-Fox engineers, is unbeatable. Though a superb lead voice with the Modernaires, Paula sounds rather limp and unsure here as a solo singer (though she does well as a soloist on many Chesterfield broadcasts).

With the ASCAP radio band still operating, Glenn was likely annoyed that he couldn’t plug these two potential hits on radio, but at least they were getting onto store shelves and jukeboxes months ahead of the movie’s release in September.

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The Spirit Is Willing

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Dorothy Claire, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 19, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060911-1      When That Man Is Dead and Gone (TB & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11069-B

060912-1      The Spirit Is Willing (JG arr)            Bluebird 11135-A

060913-1      A Little Old Church in England (RE, M & Band vcl) Bluebird 11069-A

060914-1      Perfidia (DC & M vcl)           Bluebird 11095-A

 

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 20, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060915-1      It’s Always You (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 11079-A

060916-1      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr)             Bluebird 11095-B

060916-2      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

060917-1      The Air-Minded Executive (TB, DC vcl)      Bluebird 11135-B

060918-1      Below the Equator (RE & M vcl)     Bluebird 11235-B

The Glenn Miller Band concluded a sensational three-week engagement at New York’s Paramount Theater on February 18th, 1941. They spent the next two days in the RCA studio setting down eight new tracks before leaving town again.

First up were two of Irving Berlin’s less-familiar patriotic songs, the first truly World War II-influenced numbers in the band’s library. WHEN THAT MAN IS DEAD AND GONE is a not-so-subtle jab at Adolf Hitler, referred to in the lyric as “Satan with a small mustache.” It’s rather too grim a subject to swing lightly, as here. Tex Beneke and the Modernaires blend their voices for the first time and brief hot solos by Ernie Caceres and Billy May are effective, but this is not a fun disc for repeated playing!

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A LITTLE OLD CHURCH IN ENGLAND references the terrible destruction of the London Blitz in an oblique manner. The entire band acts as a vocal choir here, adding their voices effectively to Ray and the Modernaires. Though she gets label credit, new gal singer Dorothy Claire is not audibly present. It’s another depressing song that couldn’t have been too welcome in those dark days of the war. Since both of these Berlin tunes were published through ASCAP (Berlin was one of the founders of the organization, back in 1914), they got no radio exposure, which perhaps is just as well.

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THE SPIRIT IS WILLING is a more cheerful opus and totally instrumental, though “voices” are to be heard. A witty Jerry Gray original, it offers a spirited (!) conversation between Billy May and likely Mickey McMickle, alternating muted and open trumpets. They each preach the gospel, eventually resolving their differences in a plaintive coda. Another underrated disc, the number catches Gray in an Ellington-Lunceford groove and was often featured on radio by Glenn.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

Next up is another biggie – PERFIDIA, one of Miller’s best-remembered hits. It had a similar history to FRENESI, another of Mexican composer Alberto Dominguez’s songs. Xavier Cugat recorded it in 1940 and co-wrote an English lyric with Will Heagney. Retitled TONIGHT (PERFIDIA), it was recorded by Gene Krupa, Ozzie Nelson and Jimmy Dorsey. This version was ASCAP-licensed, so in 1941, Milton Leeds penned a new BMI lyric, which is the one famously recorded by Benny Goodman and Glenn. Benny swung it nicely with Helen Forrest singing, but Glenn slowed it down, as he had done with FRENESI.

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Set in a lush arrangement (likely by Jerry Gray), the insinuating melody is crooned romantically by Dorothy Claire and the Modernaires, with the full band once again providing vocal support. The final instrumental chorus alternates blaring brass with hypnotic reeds, building to a completely satisfying finish – another Glenn Miller mega-hit for the grateful fans!

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Back in the studio the very next day, the band set down four more typical performances, leading off with IT’S ALWAYS YOU, a lovely Johnny Burke-Jimmy Van Heusen ballad from the second Bob Hope-Bing Crosby film, Road to Zanzibar. Glenn’s own Crosby, Ray Eberle, sings the intensely romantic lyrics in a charmingly ardent manner and Bill Finegan’s sinuous arrangement is another plus. The Miller band was earlier criticized for playing ballads too fast, but by 1941 this was no longer the case. The competing Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra recording is noticeably speedier than Glenn’s. Unfortunately, being an ASCAP tune, neither of these worthy versions got any airplay.

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Glenn had recorded two songs written by his guitarist, Jack Lathrop, the preceding fall. Now he turned to a new Miller bandsman, Modernaire Hal Dickinson, for a tune, SPRING WILL BE SO SAD. Dickinson had recently composed two good numbers that Glenn played on the air but didn’t record, A LOVE SONG HASN’T BEEN SUNG and THESE THINGS YOU LEFT ME.

Ray and the Mods warble SPRING WILL BE SO SAD smoothly, backed by an able Jerry Gray chart. It’s another downer of a lyric, alluding to “this troubled world” and wartime unhappiness. The only bright spot is the exquisite coda, as the sun breaks through, via a lovely clarinet passage.

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Johnny Mercer takes us away from current events with THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE, a delightful collaboration with Bernie Hanighen. Hanighen is forgotten today, but he and Mercer had teamed up for a number of 30s hits, including THE DIXIELAND BAND, BOB WHITE and FARE-THEE-WELL TO HARLEM. By this time, Hanighen had moved away from composing to become a producer at Columbia Records, working most effectively with John Hammond on Billie Holiday’s sessions.

Dorothy Claire

Dorothy Claire

THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE tells the improbable tale of a forward-looking businessman who “dearly loves to fly” and romances his secretary on his “stratos-ferry.” The Miller version gives us our main chance to hear perky Dorothy Claire on record with the band, as she and Tex neatly revive the cross-talk routine that Marion Hutton had done so often with Mr. Beneke. The wordy song doesn’t give the band much to do, but it should be noted that the “airplane revving up” effect that opens the disc would be reused by Jerry Gray on KEEP ‘EM FLYING later in the year.

Concluding the February session, we go BELOW THE EQUATOR with Ray and the Mods. Its bolero rhythm suggests another song of South American origin, but Americans Charlie Tobias and Cliff Friend wrote it. Atmospheric and moody, this fine disc would be the last Glenn Miller disc for quite a long time. The band wouldn’t find themselves before a Victor microphone again for two and-a-half months. What were they doing during that period? Why, they were making a movie, in Hollywood!

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Sun Valley Jump

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Four Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 17, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

058884-1      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)    first issued on LP

058884-2      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)   Bluebird 11079-B

058885-1      Song of the Volga Boatmen (BF arr)                  Bluebird 11029-A

058886-1      The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11110-A

058887-1      You Stepped Out of a Dream (RE & M vcl)      Bluebird 11042-A

058888-1      I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem (JG arr)                Bluebird 11063-A

058889-1      Sun Valley Jump (JG arr)                                   Bluebird 11110-B

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Today’s posting comes on the 70th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s tragic disappearance over the English Channel. His contributions to American music should never be forgotten.

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1941!   A new year and several important personnel changes occurred in the Glenn Miller band as soon as the holiday decorations came down. Newlywed Marion Hutton announced she was newly pregnant and retired temporarily. Apparently this event had been brewing for a while, as Marion was being featured less and less on the Miller sustaining broadcasts, though she had her nightly spot on the Chesterfield program.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Pert Dorothy Claire was quickly signed away from her solid perch in the Bobby Byrne band, which resulted in bad blood and a lawsuit between the two leaders. She would join on January 8th, but did not appear on record until February. Seeking more vocal variety, Glenn also signed the Four Modernaires as permanent members of the ensemble. We’ve already heard from Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster, Hal Dickenson and Chuck Goldstein as guest singers on MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME. Featured earlier with Ozzie Nelson, Harry Reser, Charlie Barnet, George Hall and Paul Whiteman, the group had become quite popular and slotted in easily with the Miller band. They arrived on January 13th and immediately began rehearsing for the upcoming record date.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

Glenn also renewed his contract with RCA Victor, under new, more lucrative terms. He received twice what he had been getting per record (now $750) and increased royalty payments. Now Miller had to earn the money by producing hit records. The January 17th session delivered the goods.

IDA! SWEET AS APPLE CIDER was written in 1903 as a piece of special material by and for blackface minstrel-vaudevillian Eddie Leonard. It eventually became a jazz standard, with memorable recordings by Red Nichols’ Pennies and the Benny Goodman Quartet. Having fallen into the public domain, it was an obvious choice for Glenn to dust off, record and broadcast in 1941, as one of the few familiar song standards that was not an ASCAP tune.

As the first Billy May arrangement to be waxed by Glenn, it heralded the fresher, more relaxed direction the band was now taking. The Lunceford-style two-beat feel suited Tex Beneke perfectly, in both his vocal and sax solo and became one of his most-performed features with Glenn and his later, post-war band.

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Leonard had sung the number in the 1940 Bing Crosby film, If I Had My Way. He died in July 1941 at 71, hopefully having heard the Miller 78 that made his old song a hit all over again.

Raiding the public domain once more, Glenn did a further archeological job on SONG OF THE VOLGA BOATMEN, an old Russian folk song dating back to 1866. Jimmy Dorsey had recorded a 12-inch swing version for Decca in 1938, but no other jazz folk had touched it.

Bill Finegan took a subtler approach in his arrangement, starting with Trigger Alpert’s bass, an eerie vocal “whoo-oo-oo” from the band and creepy, muted wah-wahs by Billy May. A sinuous alto solo by Ernie Caceres follows, leading into a fugue section, with trombones, trumpets and handclaps circling in contrapuntal fashion. It sounds complicated, but it plays as very catchy! The full band roars to a minor-key conclusion and there you have it – a Number #1 hit record.  The arrangement would become increasingly timely as the war in Europe intensified and Glenn began introducing the number as “a tribute to our fighting Russian allies.”  Glenn’s later AAF Band would also perform it often.

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After these two radio-friendly performances, the band turned to two popular ASCAP songs, which means they got no airplay at all. That’s a shame, as they are fine records that also serve to welcome the Modernaires. They blend beautifully with Ray Eberle on THE ONE I LOVE, sounding as if they had been paired for years.

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Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers had cut a lazily swinging Sy Oliver arrangement of the song in 1940. This Miller rendition (arranged by Jerry Gray) goes totally for mood and romance and is taken at what may be the slowest tempo for a Miller ballad yet. The vocal is hushed and very effective – a lovely record!

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Whether by design or just coincidence, lyricist Gus Kahn, who had written THE ONE I LOVE with Isham Jones back in 1924, also wrote the words for YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. A collaboration with MGM songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, this new number was the big ballad from Ziegfeld Girl. Starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart, the film and the song were hugely successful.

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Performed in similar style to the preceding tune, YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM is slightly less effective, marred by a loud, out-of-place trumpet coda, which is not well played and breaks the quiet mood.

This lengthy session was concluded with two excellent Jerry Gray swing originals. Many compositions by Glenn and his arrangers (as well as their arrangements of public domain melodies) were published by Glenn’s own firm, Mutual Music. He signed with BMI to assure radio play for these numbers, as well as the new Miller radio theme, SLUMBER SONG, which replaced MOONLIGHT SERENADE for the duration.

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The title I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM is a cute take-off on I DREAMT THAT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS, the ancient operetta aria from The Bohemian Girl, familiar to fans of Laurel and Hardy from its use in their 1936 film version. There is no musical similarity between the two compositions. Gray’s catchy riff rocks along smoothly, with fine solos by Al Klink, Billy May, Trigger Alpert, Chummy MacGregor and Ernie Caceres. Live versions from the Café Rouge run over five minutes in length and are more effective. Too bad Glenn didn’t go for a 12-inch disc here!

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Often-overlooked Al Klink gets more solo space on SUN VALLEY JUMP, along with May and Caceres again. This great Jerry Gray swinger is tightly patterned and each theme follows one after the other with a feeling of inevitability. Allowing additional solo choruses would have make the piece less effective, unlike the looser I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM, which could go on as long as time allowed.

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Titled in honor of Glenn’s upcoming Sun Valley Serenade film, SUN VALLEY JUMP was rerecorded for the soundtrack, but ironically, not to be heard on screen. More on that later!

The Miller band closed their lengthy engagement at the Café Rouge the day after this session and then traveled a few blocks uptown for another three-week stint at the Paramount Theater in Times Square. It would be just over a month before they had the time to swing by RCA again.