G. I. Jive

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, January 21, 1944

VP-563           Embraceable You (strings only) (RW arr)   V-Disc 183

VP-563           G.I. Jive (RMcK & CC vcl, JG arr)    V-Disc 183

VP-618           Moon Dreams (JD & CC vcl)            V-Disc 201

VP-655           Stealin’ Apples  (Fletcher Henderson arr)         V-Disc 223

 

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By the time of the third Glenn Miller AAF Band V-Disc recording session, the V-Disc program directors were making arrangements to acquire fresh material for their releases. In addition to reissuing older commercial records and producing their own sessions, they were now able to use performances from CBS and NBC radio broadcasts and rehearsals. This opened a vast library of material to choose from, and bands like Glenn’s did not need to record specifically for V-Disc, as their regular broadcasts provided quality music to select from. After this January date, a dozen later Miller V-Discs came from his radio shows, specifically the weekly I Sustain the Wings NBC series.

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Two standards and two new songs make up the program. The strings have it all to themselves for the Gershwins’ lovely EMBRACEABLE YOU, with concertmaster George Ockner’s fiddle leading the way.   Fourteen years earlier, Glenn was in the pit band of Girl Crazy, the Broadway musical in which the song was introduced. Perhaps he was thinking of how far he had come when recording this version!

Bobby Nichols’ trumpet starts off G. I. JIVE, an amiable showcase for Ray McKinley’s singing, with able assistance from the Crew Chiefs. Jerry Gray’s swinging chart is a winner, with an especially delightful windup. Johnny Mercer wrote both words and music and was the first to record it for his fledgling Capitol Records at their first session after the recording ban, held on October 15, 1943. It was a much-needed hit for the new label.

Martha Tilton with Benny Goodman, 1938

Martha Tilton with Benny Goodman, 1938

Mercer also lyricized MOON DREAMS, a melody by Glenn’s old friend and pianist, Chummy MacGregor. This song had also debuted on Capitol, at the label’s very first session – April 6, 1942, sung by Martha Tilton. In fact, it has the distinction of being Capitol master #1. Capitol didn’t have much time to get going before the recording ban struck on August 1; they had waxed barely 80 masters. Despite that tiny backlog, the Tilton rendition of MOON DREAMS languished in the vault until late in the summer of 1943. Perhaps Mercer wasn’t pleased with it. Martha’s vocal is fine, but the band accompaniment is rather anemic.

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Not so for the Miller arrangement! Running just over five minutes, this “symphonic” chart is reminiscent of Paul Whiteman’s lavish 12-inch recordings of pop songs from the late 1920s. It’s a lovely, moody performance that shows off the oddly impressionistic melody and lyrics. Johnny Desmond and the Crew Chiefs deliver a hushed vocal. (For some reason, Desmond is credited as “Johann Desmond” on the label. A mistake or an in-joke of some kind?)

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After a batch of AAF performances, the song quickly disappeared, but eventually had a surprising revival. Perhaps Miller French hornist Addison “Junior” Collins brought it to his attention, for in 1948, Miles Davis added the song to the repertoire of his “Birth of the Cool” band, in a shimmering Gil Evans arrangement. Collins played with the group during their September 1948 gig at the Royal Roost, where two airchecks of MOON DREAMS were preserved.   It was eventually recorded at the group’s last Capitol session, in March 1950. Due to this Miles connection, Herbie Mann, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Flora Purim and Meredith D’Ambrosio did other jazz versions in the following years.

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Pianist Mel Powell “borrowed” the classic Fletcher Henderson arrangement of STEALIN’ APPLES from Benny Goodman, his former boss. Glenn apparently liked it a lot, since the AAF band performed it constantly. Because the first two notes are seemingly missing here, I used to think that this performance was badly dubbed onto the V-Disc. Listening to other Miller performances, I soon found that all of them clipped the introduction, perhaps to provide a more arresting kickoff. Powell and clarinetist Peanuts Hucko take exuberant solos, backed by Ray McKinley’s lightly dancing drums.

These selections were eventually split-coupled – EMBRACEABLE YOU and G.I. JIVE, on one side of V-Disc 183, were backed by two Duke Ellington numbers. MOON DREAMS was coupled with Glenn’s 1942 record of SLEEPY TOWN TRAIN on V-Disc 201 and STEALIN’ APPLES was paired with two other AAF radio performances on V-Disc 223.

That was it for the AAF Band’s “original” V-Discs. The dozen or so later Miller releases on the label were all drawn from broadcast transcriptions, keeping the orchestra’s name and sound alive into 1949, when the V-Disc program was ended. It wasn’t until 1955 that RCA belatedly produced a lavish 5-LP set showcasing their best performances, introducing the ensemble to a general audience. We’ll examine one more Glenn Miller AAF record session next time.

Glenn and the band in England, 1944.

Glenn and the band in England, 1944.

 

 

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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