“GLENN MILLER CONCERT” – Are You Rusty, Gate?

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 1

RCA LPT-16

One O’Clock Jump

My Blue Heaven

Going Home

Jersey Bounce

St. Louis Blues

Georgia On My Mind

Tiger Rag

Everybody Loves My Baby

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GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 2

RCA LPT-30

Anchors Aweigh

My Buddy

I Got Rhythm

I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair

Vilia

Limehouse Blues

On The Alamo

On Army Team

Original UK 10" LP

Original UK 10″ LP

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 3

RCA LPT-3001

Dipper Mouth Blues

April in Paris

Are You Rusty, Gate?

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto

Fanhat Stomp

Sleepy Lagoon

Introduction to a Waltz

Intermezzo

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A few dates here – Columbia introduced the LP record in 1948. In 1950, Benny Goodman’s classic Carnegie Hall Concert was issued as a 2-LP set and Columbia reaped huge sales. With the vintage big bands undergoing a nostalgia boomlet at the time, rival RCA Victor fumed. They had Benny Goodman under contract in 1938 and felt that the rights to the famed concert should be theirs. Since Columbia had “stolen” it from under their nose, RCA quickly retaliated with a live “concert” package by their biggest band name, Glenn Miller.  Even with newer popular bands like Ralph Flanagan, Sauter-Finegan and Buddy Morrow on their roster, Glenn still had clout, as they would soon see.

RCA had introduced the 45 rpm disc in 1949 as an attempt to steal some thunder from Columbia’s innovative LP format, launching the “war of the speeds” that would continue for a few years. LP, 45, 78 – which would prevail? As we know, LP eventually became the preferred format for albums and 45 for single releases. Very, very reluctantly, RCA capitulated and began issuing LPs in 1950, while still pushing 45s whenever and wherever they could.

Even with the huge success of the Columbia Benny Goodman 12-inch LP set, RCA still could not envision anything larger than 10-inch LPs for popular music, so their first Glenn Miller live albums were issued in 1951 on three separate 10-inchers and also, by the way, on 45 and 78, just to play it safe. It wasn’t until 1955 that 12-inch LPs were regularly used for pop and jazz music.

This first “new” Glenn Miller release of the 1950s was comprised of 24 instrumental numbers, both ballads and hot jive, from Glenn’s large archive of Chesterfield radio broadcasts. Taken off the air by a professional recording company for Glenn’s personal reference, no thought had earlier been given to a commercial release of this material. Since these aircheck discs were of excellent fidelity, they were ripe for exploitation by RCA.

A goodly sum was paid to the Miller Estate for use of this material, along with remote broadcasts in NBC’s own archives. This repository of live Miller has been mined for RCA LP and CD releases into the 2000s.

When they were released in 1951, these CONCERT LPs were a revelation, showing off the band’s “sweet” and jazz modes, in a more relaxed manner than their RCA recording sessions. Vocalists Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton are retired to the sidelines, giving full attention to the arrangers and instrumentalists.

The jazz soloists get generous space – Tex Beneke, Clyde Hurley, Johnny Best, Billy May, Bobby Hackett, Ernie Caceres, Moe Purtill, Glenn himself and even talented tenorist Al Klink, who rarely got a chance to shine on record.

These selections also showed off the talents of Glenn’s arrangers. Highlights include Bill Finegan’s exquisite ballad charts of “Vilia,” “April in Paris” and “Sleepy Lagoon;” Jerry Gray swingers like “Jersey Bounce,” “Introduction to a Waltz” and “Everybody Loves My Baby;” and Billy May’s innovative ballad arrangement of “I Got Rhythm.” Glenn is also represented as an arranger, with “Dipper Mouth Blues,” a reworking of a chart he wrote back in 1934 for the Dorsey Brothers.

For those critics who denigrated Glenn’s as a “sweet” band, there are such venerable jazz standards as “One O’Clock Jump,” “Tiger Rag,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Limehouse Blues” and “Everybody Loves My Baby.”

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

In 1956, when 10” LPs were well and truly dead, RCA repackaged this material on two 12” discs, with the innovative titles, THE SOUND OF GLENN MILLER (RCA LPM-1189) and GLENN MILLER CONCERT (RCA LPM-1193). These two albums stayed in print for nearly 30 years.

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

Their success led directly to RCA pulling out the stops for their next Miller project, the massive LIMITED EDITIONS, Volumes 1 & 2. 10 full LPs of Miller magic also proved to be cash register magic, with sales beyond any accountant’s wildest imagination!

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THE GANG’S ALL HERE! Wartime antics

Benny Goodman (cl,vcl); Lee Castle, Harold Peppie, Bobby Guyer (tp); Charlie Castaldo, Miff Mole (tb); Hymie Schertzer, Leonard Kaye, Benny Carter (as); Jon Walton, Bob Taylor (onscreen solo recorded by Eddie Miller)(ts); Joe Rushton (bass sax); Jess Stacy (p); Bart Roth (g); Gus Van Camp (b); Louie Bellson (d); Eddie Sauter (arr). Alice Faye & Carmen Miranda (vcl). String section added for “No Love, No Nothin’.”

Film studio pre-recordings, Hollywood, late March/April 1943

Let’s Dance                                        20th Century Fox TCF233

Minnie’s in the Money (BG vcl)                   TCF-233

Paducah, Part 1 (BG vcl)                              TCF-237

Paducah, Part 2 (CM vcl)                              TCF-238

No Love, No Nothin’ (AF vcl)                        TCF-240

bg title_the_gangs_all_here_blu-ray_Benny Goodman made his first film appearances with his orchestra in 1936 and 1937 in THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1937 and HOLLYWOOD HOTEL. After these well-received features, he made no others for five long years, the period of his greatest popularity.

The film studios took awhile to fully embrace the Swing Era. Big bands were well featured in short films (as they had been doing so since the dawn of talkies), but features were a bit harder to crack. Duke Ellington, always a law unto himself, had made guest appearances in a batch of movies starting in 1930, as had Cab Calloway. These were always “specialty” sequences, rarely interacting with the lead characters.

After Goodman’s 1930s films, the concept of building a full-length film around a band began to take hold, though slowly. Artie Shaw actually played a role and had dialogue in his two features, DANCING CO-ED and SECOND CHORUS. With 1940’s LET’S MAKE MUSIC, Bob Crosby began a series of B-musicals starring his band.

Of course, Glenn Miller’s two movies truly showed that a band could carry a film (albeit with star support like skater Sonja Henie) as did Harry James’ PRIVATE BUCKAROO, with the red-hot Andrews Sisters. Jimmy Dorsey was well provided for in THE FLEET’S IN, with Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton and William Holden. Johnny Mercer and the film’s director Victor Schertzinger penned the finest score for any big band feature, including “Tangerine,” “I Remember You,” “Not Mine” and “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry.”

Brother Tommy Dorsey debuted with the micro-budgeted LAS VEGAS NIGHTS (1940) and then moved up to the slightly larger-budget SHIP AHOY, at MGM with Eleanor Powell. Harry James then had the distinction of being the first top band showcased in Technicolor, with future wife Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda in SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES. The hit song “I Had the Craziest Dream” was an added plus.

With the onerous 1942 recording ban and wartime travel restrictions in place, it was likely easier for bands to make Hollywood their home for lengthy periods. As the King of Swing, Benny Goodman soon began getting the call. Once World War II began, he and his band started popping up in film after film, six over the next two years.

1942 – SYNCOPATION, THE POWERS GIRL, STAGE DOOR CANTEEN

1943 – THE GANG’S ALL HERE

1944 – SWEET AND LOWDOWN, MAKE MINE MUSIC

bg Gang's All Here, The (1943)_01THE GANG’S ALL HERE remains the best-remembered Goodman film of the era, mostly for reasons that have little to do with Benny. 20th Century Fox pulled out all the stops for this one – who cared about wartime austerity? The film starred Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda and was acclaimed film choreographer-director Busby Berkeley’s first color assignment. Not just any color – Fox specialized in super-saturated Technicolor photography, which made Alice and Carmen look as luscious as cherry-topped ice-cream sundaes.

The film was also stuffed with familiar character players – Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Eugene Pallette, Phil Baker, Frank Faylen and dancer Tony DeMarco. Three future stars made brief appearances as showgirls and hat check honeys – Jeanne Crain, June Haver and Adele Jergens.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_02_blu-ray__blu-ray_After writing the wonderful scores for the two Glenn Miller films and Harry James’ SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES, Fox once again hired composer Harry Warren to write THE GANG’S ALL HERE score, but not with his usual lyricist Mack Gordon. Leo Robin was equally as adept as Gordon and crafted two lovely ballads, “No Love, No Nothin’” and “A Journey to a Star.” Alice Faye delivered both of them, memorably.

With the record ban firmly in place, neither tune got much record coverage though Judy Garland covered both songs on her first post-ban Decca session. It was surprising to find Judy singing Fox songs, rather than numbers from her home studio, MGM.

Since Benny was between vocalists at the time (Peggy Lee having just left the band) he got handed two novelties to sing, “Minnie’s in the Money” and “Paducah.” Both had catchy melodies but rather lame lyrics, with the latter tune reaching for the same sort of success that Warren’s previous two “city songs” had attained – “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.” Even with Carmen Miranda joining in, “Paducah” was a dud. Never the greatest actor, Benny was only handed a few incidental lines. Glenn Miller and Harry James fared better in the acting department in their pictures.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X03_blu-ray__blu-ray_In addition to the opening number, the Latin classic “Brazil,” Carmen Miranda made the most of her two feature novelties, “You Discover You’re in New York,” “The Lady with the Tutti-Frutti Hat” Director Busby Berkeley made the most of Fox Technicolor, with spectacular, surrealistic effects and over-the-top set pieces, like Carmen Miranda’s dancing bananas and huge fruit hat. The “Polka-Dot Polka” finale tops them all, with neon hoops, wild color shifts and a kaleidoscopic windup, with all the cast members singing a line of “A Journey to a Star” with their heads poked through a shimmering silver curtain. “Buy Your War Bonds at the Theater!”

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X05_blu-ray__blu-ray_The film was so stuffed with songs by the principals, comedy from Carmen, Charlotte Greenwood, Eugene Pallette and Edward Everett Horton, dance routines by Tony DeMarco and Berkeley’s lengthy production numbers that very little time was left for the mundane girl-falls-for-soldier plot, which was just as well. Berkeley was never a great dialogue director and Alice Faye pretty much sleepwalks her way though her on again-off again romance with the less than scintillating James Ellison. With all the male stars off at war, Faye had to make do with the leftovers here.

Also, Alice was pregnant during much of the shooting schedule and was not feeling at her best. This would prove to be her last starring Fox musical.

bg 800__the_gangs_all_here_X09_blu-ray__blu-ray_Getting back to Benny and the boys, this was a band in transition. The draft had decimated his great 1941-42 band and a lot of newcomers were present here, as the personnel on the heading shows. Youngsters Lee Castle, Louis Bellson and Jon Walton play alongside oldsters Miff Mole, Jess Stacy and Hymie Schertzer.

The Goodman group swung like crazy during their brief solo spots. The great rhythm section was well recorded, with Jess Stacy and Louis Bellson especially prominent. The band was augmented with strings and a liquid Benny Carter alto solo during Alice Faye’s torcher, “No Love, No Nothin’.” Carter was on the Fox lot working on STORMY WEATHER and other arranging jobs and managed to wedge in this Goodman guest appearance.

bg alice carmenTHE GANG’S ALL HERE was one of the last Fox musicals that had special 78rpm pressings done of the songs as souvenir albums for the cast and production people. As with the Glenn Miller films, these albums are pretty rare. With the war going strong, niceties like these discs fell by the wayside and Fox stopped doing them in 1944. Little surprises do pop up on these discs. The “Paducah” record, for example, has several extra band choruses before Carmen Miranda’s vocal that were cut by the time the film was released. Only the Goodman numbers are mentioned above, but there were numerous additional ones as well.

bg gangs 1974As one of the most ephemeral of World War II era musicals, THE GANG’S ALL HERE has had a surprising afterlife. In 1974, the film was reissued to theaters in an eye-popping new print and it instantly became a camp classic, primarily for the Busby Berkeley and Carmen Miranda contributions. Reviewers like Rex Reed fell all over themselves to praise Berkeley and the candy-colored backgrounds. Other theatrical revivals followed and the film eventually turned up on the AMC cable network in the 1990s. It took awhile for a home video release, apparently due to problems with the film negative elements.

A 2008 Fox DVD release as past of an Alice Faye boxed set was criticized for its blurry transfer, so a remaster was done the following year and included in a Carmen Miranda set. While an improvement, it still can’t compare with the dazzling theatrical prints seen earlier. At some point, Fox apparently transferred their three-strip Technicolor film negatives to Eastmancolor stock, which has a duller color palette. That’s all we apparently have now.

Still, it remains a delight to see Benny Goodman at his peak in Technicolor, the only one of his band musicals to be filmed that way.  It’s also a treat to hear one of the least-recorded Goodman bands in such sparkling fidelity.

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Farewell Blues

Major Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Bernie Privin, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (French horn); Hank Freeman, Fred Guerra, Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Peanuts Hucko, Mannie Thaler (reeds); 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); Johnny Desmond, The Crew Chiefs (Artie Malvin, Steve Steck, Gene Steck, Lynn Allison, Murray Kane); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson (arr).

Add Dinah Shore (vcl)

His Master’s Voice session, HMV Abbey Road Studios. London, September 16, 1944

OEA10285-1 Star Dust (DS vcl, RW arr)                           HMV Unissued Test

OEA10286-1 All I Do Is Dream of You (DS vcl, NL arr)         HMV Unissued Test

OEA10287-1 Farewell Blues (JG arr)                                 HMV Unissued Test

OEA10288-2 I’ve Got a Heart Filled with Love (JD & CC vcl, JG arr)       HMV Unissued Test

All titles issued in 1995 on Conifer/Happy Days (E)CDHD401/2 [CD set] titled “Glenn Miller – The Lost Recordings.”

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We now reach the end of this series of Glenn Miller blog posts. On September 16th, 1944, the AAF (now AEF) Band made its sole “commercial” record date in London for HMV, RCA Victor’s UK affiliate. A complicated affair it was! Joining the band was singing star Dinah Shore, in England on a USO tour of European Allied bases. She had first performed with Miller on August 3rd, doing a live broadcast with the band and a transcription session with the Uptown Hall Gang, the small jazz group within the band.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

On September 15th, Dinah hooked up with the band for a live concert at a B-17 base in Bury St. Edmunds, which Glenn missed, due to severe headaches and sinus trouble. Likely this is why Glenn looks tired and drawn in the photos taken at the Abbey Road studio the very next day. Back in 1938, then-unknown Dinah auditioned for the fledgling Miller band and was not hired. Now both superstars, there apparently were difficulties between the lady and Glenn over the interpretation of her songs on this record date.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

In spite of any problems, four superb selections were in the can by the end of the four-hour session. Dinah sings beautifully on STAR DUST and ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU, sympathetically arranged by Ralph Wilkinson and Norman Leyden respectively, cushioning her voice with a myriad of strings. Both Dinah and Glenn had recorded STAR DUST for RCA pre-war and Wilkinson’s chart was a popular feature with the AAF Band, also recorded on their first V-Disc date. So the tune was a obvious choice.

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES.

ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU was an anomaly. Never before performed by either star, the song was a 1934 hit by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, from the Joan Crawford film, Sadie McKee. It would later be featured raucously (by Debbie Reynolds) in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Sung slowly and sensuously by Miss Shore, it became a perfect 1944 wartime ballad of longing.

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Miller then pulled two band features from the book to complete the date. I’VE GOT A HEART FILLED WITH LOVE, written by Joseph Meyer and Al Jacobs, was likely a product of Glenn’s Mutual Music publishing arm. Meyer had written the lyrics for PEEKABOO TO YOU and Jacobs the music for WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN, two Miller Bluebird discs. The wartime band played the tune often in the US and UK and a radio performance would turn up on V-Disc in 1945. Both Johnny Desmond and Tex Beneke with the postwar Miller band would wax the tune in later years. It’s a snappy performance of a good song, but it never became a hit outside of the Miller family.

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FAREWELL BLUES makes for a fitting conclusion to the session. This 1923 New Orleans Rhythm Kings jazz standard had been a killer-diller for Glenn’s civilian band. In this ballad treatment by Jerry Gray, it was often heard as the “blue” tune on the band’s “Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue” radio medleys. It was occasionally extracted and played on its own, as was done here.

This session was undertaken with the best intentions. All proceeds from sales of the records were to be donated to American and British Army Charities and War Relief organizations. The Army, USO and RCA/HMV had to provide clearances for the discs to be issued. Though the British music press announced a December 1944 release for the 78s, nothing was forthcoming and the records were never issued.

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Test pressings were made and copied through the Miller collecting fraternity. I remember Glenn’s friend George T. Simon playing one of them on a New York radio station in 1974. In the 1990s, all four sides were finally released on a Conifer CD set in the UK, prepared by Alan Dell, a Miller fan and broadcaster. There was much press hoopla over the issuance of these “lost” recordings. The clean transfers from test pressings allowed the AEF band to be heard in high fidelity, the best sound quality of any of their UK recordings.

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Glenn and the band would continue broadcasting and recording transcriptions by the barrelful until his ill-fated trip to Paris on December 15th and the band would continue touring France and Germany until the war ended.

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Glenn Miller’s contribution to American culture can never be measured and even today, continues to draw discerning fans worldwide. I hope these blog entries add a bit of information to those seeking knowledge and background on his superb musical accomplishments.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

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.

 

 

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.

gm army hit kit

St. Louis Blues March

Captain Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck, John Carisi (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 18-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 (arr).

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

 

V-Disc Session, RCA Victor Studios. New York, October 29, 1943, 2:00-6:00 PM

VP-264           Speech by Captain Glenn Miller      V-Disc 65

VP-265           Buckle Down, Winsocki         V-Disc 91

VP-265           El Capitan (March)   V-Disc 91

VP-266           The St. Louis Blues March (arr JG & RMcK)           V-Disc 65, 522

VP-264           Star Dust (arr RW)   V-Disc 65

VP-267           Stormy Weather (arr RW)   V-Disc 91

 

Captain Miller with star-struck fans, 1943.

Captain Miller with star-struck fans, 1943.

Just the facts Ma’am! The history of the Glenn Miller Army Air Forces Band has been chronicled in greater detail and with much more panache than I ever could, so I offer these next few blog entries as an addendum to my chronicle of the Miller civilian band’s recording sessions.

The stupendous AAF Band left us a huge legacy of recordings – hundreds upon hundreds of preserved live broadcasts, rehearsals and transcribed studio programs. In addition to their original purpose, these recordings were used in assembling Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) programs and libraries and for V-Discs, the only wartime records distributed directly to the soldiers overseas for personal enjoyment. Most of the Miller V-Discs were transferred from broadcast rehearsals or live shows.

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Out of this enormous stockpile, only four studio record sessions were intended purely for V-Discs or commercial 78s. These will be covered here. The first three were done at RCA Victor’s New York studios and the last in London, for Victor’s HMV affiliate.

The first date, on October 29, 1943, was produced under similar circumstances to the Miller civilian band sessions, in a heavily damped studio, to cut down on resonance. The discs have a very dry acoustic, but do capture the power of the ensemble.

At first, the Army brass was wary of too much pop music being recorded by the V-Disc program. Many of the early releases were of marches and other patriotic selections, often with the slogan, “Music for Marching Men,” included on the label.

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The first three selections on the date fit this bill, played in march tempi by the band without their 18-piece string section.

BUCKLE DOWN, WINSOCKI was actually a Broadway show tune, less than two years old at the time.   Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane had written it for Best Foot Forward, their hit 1941 musical. The rousing song was the anthem of Winsocki, a fictional boys’ prep school. Tommy Dix, a cute, pint-sized actor with a deep, booming voice, sang it in the show. Dix also sang it on Benny Goodman’s Columbia record and in the 1943 film version.

Glenn performs it in a straightforward manner, then swings it a bit in the second chorus, with a late entry by distinctive boo-wah brass. It fits nicely into Captain Miller’s desire to modernize the marching music repertoire for the 1940s soldier.

Strictly conventional is EL CAPITAN, the familiar John Philip Sousa opus, socked over with great verve. These two standard-length selections were coupled on one 12-inch V-Disc side. The remaining three numbers ran over four minutes each, taking advantage of the increased running time of the larger discs.

Original V-Disc

Original V-Disc , released December 1943.

Special V-Disc pressing

Special V-Disc pressing

This most popular of V-Discs was reissued in October 1945!

This most popular of V-Discs was reissued in October 1945!

ST. LOUIS BLUES MARCH has become, in retrospect, the most famous recording by the AAF Band. Arranged by Sgt. Jerry Gray (with contributions from Perry Burgett and Ray McKInley), this performance of the hoary old W.C. Handy chestnut has come to encapsulate Glenn’s entire wartime contribution in one tidy package. Drummers Ray McKInley and Frank Ippolito set the driving martial pulse, which never lets up, even during bluesy solos by Bobby Nichols (trumpet), Vince Carbone (tenor sax) and Hank Freeman (alto sax). It was then and remains now a fresh, exciting jazz masterwork.

Gray and Norman Leyden also arranged BLUES IN THE NIGHT MARCH and JERSEY BOUNCE MARCH in similar fashion, but just ST. LOUIS was recorded. In fact, this V-Disc of ST. LOUIS BLUES MARCH is the only performance in existence by the band. All reissues of the tune have been sourced from this sole rendition (some cut down to standard three-minute length by omitting the trumpet and tenor solos).

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Tex Beneke later waxed a shortened version for RCA in 1947 (and BLUES IN THE NIGHT MARCH, too). It wasn’t until it was featured in THE GLENN MILLER STORY film in 1953 (and on the soundtrack album) that the arrangement really captured the public imagination. Previously, only those with access to the original V-Disc were familiar with it. Since V-Discs were produced gratis for the war effort, negotiations with the Musicians’ Union were necessary to allow a commercial release. Therefore, RCA didn’t cough up the 1943 recording for public consumption until it was included on the 5-LP GLENN MILLER ARMY AIR FORCE BAND set in 1955. Many later single and LP reissues followed.

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gm march 45 copy

STAR DUST and STORMY WEATHER bring in the string section for two luscious instrumental ballads, as far from marching music as you can get! Arranger Ralph Wilkinson sets the violins insinuating themselves in, out, over and through the brass and saxes. Brief solos by Addison Collins (French horn), Vince Carbone (tenor) and Bobby Nichols (trumpet) add variety, but the full band is on showcase here. The wide dynamic range of these ballads must have worn out many V-Discs when played on the primitive equipment of the era! Glenn makes a stiff little spoken introduction before STAR DUST, a personal feature that would be made on many of these recordings.  An alternate take exists of the speech where something crashes in the background while Glenn is speaking and he exclaims, “Jesus Christ! What?”

gm Stardust_Glenn_Miller_V_Disc_65

The AAF Band featured both charts often and so did the postwar Tex Beneke/Miller band, which also had a string section for its first two years of existence. Tex recorded both for RCA in 10-inch versions and also did a 12-inch take of STAR DUST that was only released on a special one-sided disc that was gifted to RCA dealers and friends for Christmas 1947.

Despite their intense schedule of war bond-selling concerts, radio broadcasts and other appearances, the ensemble made time for another V-Disc only recording date in early December – that’s for next time!

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10 Unjustly Forgotten Songs of World War II

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I begin this entry by repeating a bit of what I wrote about the last Glenn Miller sessions by his civilian band in July 1942.

James C. Petrillo, the volatile head of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), made an announcement in June 1942. Due to a dispute over recording fees for musicians between the record companies and the AFM, Petrillo decreed that union musicians must stop all recording engagements starting August 1, 1942. Even a plea from President Roosevelt, arguing that wartime was not the moment to stop producing morale-building music, couldn’t sway Petrillo.

The record companies began a non-stop session schedule to get as many tunes on wax from their artists before the deadline. Since no one knew how long the ban would continue, even songs from films and shows that would not open until 1943 were fed into the pipeline. As it played out, younger companies Decca and Capitol, who depended heavily on current pop songs, caved in October 1943. RCA Victor and Columbia held out until November 1944, denying posterity the opportunity to fully document the Swing Era at its final peak and the early experiments in be-bop.

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Quixotically, during this terrible period in American history, pop and theater songwriting were maintaining a very high level of quality. Great new songs were flowing nonstop and fans clamored for recordings of them, but none were to be had from the major companies. The new Broadway show Oklahoma!, for instance, contained a batch of great Rodgers & Hammerstein songs that could only be heard live or on radio.   For awhile, Columbia, Decca and RCA experimented with a capella accompaniment, backing Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore and Perry Como with large choruses singing and humming in the background. These anemic-sounding discs included, of course, songs from Oklahoma!

When Decca and Capitol capitulated to Petrillo’s demands, one of the first sessions held by Decca was a recording of the original cast album of Oklahoma!, which sold over a million copies quickly.

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Some wartime hit songs managed to reach permanent standard status, despite the lack of quality recordings. These include YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY, SPEAK LOW, HAPPINESS IS A THING CALLED JOE, MY SHINING HOUR, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU, THEY’RE EITHER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD and even novelties like MAIRZY DOATS and MILKMAN, KEEP THOSE BOTTLES QUIET.

Other 1943-44 tunes weren’t so lucky and faded away before they were able to make much of an impression. Here are 10 favorite numbers, mostly from films, that deserved better.

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HOW SWEET YOU ARE (by Arthur Schwartz & Frank Loesser). A lovely, evocative ballad from Thank Your Lucky Stars, Warner Bros. entry into the all-star patriotic revue genre. Schwartz and Loesser wrote a full score that was performed by such stars as John Garfield, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Hattie McDaniel, Bette Davis and Eddie Cantor. Oddly, the worst singer among them, Bette Davis, scored big with THEY’RE EITHER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD, which hit just the right topical note, lamenting the loss of all the young, attractive men to the armed services.

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Radio singer Dinah Shore made a grand film debut here and creamily sang several songs, including HOW SWEET YOU ARE, one of many wartime paeans to absent lovers.

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THE CANTEEN BOUNCE (by Johnny Fortis & Max Spickol). This songwriting team wrote many forgettable songs, but this spritely swing number is not one of them. It’s a catchy number that got radio plays by Duke Ellington, Les Brown and Jerry Wald, but no recordings, which is a shame.

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MY HEART TELLS ME (by Mack Gordon & Harry Warren). The stellar songwriting team of the era crafted this gorgeous song for top Fox star Betty Grable to perform in Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Soaking in a bathtub and reading the damp sheet music with no orchestra in sight, Betty delivers an iconic rendition.

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The number had little longevity, unlike Gordon & Warren’s other big 1943 composition for a Fox blonde. Their YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, introduced by Alice Faye in Hello, Frisco, Hello won the Best Song Academy Award.

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I’M MAKING BELIEVE (by Mack Gordon & Jimmy Monaco). Benny Goodman introduced this rhythmic ballad in Sweet and Low-Down, a Fox band musical, with Linda Darnell and Lynn Bari, who sang the song with a dubbed voice as she had done in both Glenn Miller films. Eddie Sauter wrote a beautiful arrangement for Benny, which likely would have been a big hit had the band been able to record it. Harry James, Les Brown, Cab Calloway and Charlie Spivak all recognized a good tune when they heard it and played it on air, but only Hal McIntyre got to wax it after the ban ended. By then, the song had passed its chance for popularity.

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COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE (by Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn). Frank Sinatra’s first starring film for RKO, Higher and Higher, had produced three fine ballads for the singer – I COULDN’T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT, THE MUSIC STOPPED and A LOVELY WAY TO SPEND AN EVENING. Sinatra recorded them for Columbia with choral accompaniment and composers Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson even got an Oscar nomination for WINK. For his next film, Step Lively, Frank insisted on hiring Styne and Cahn, who were personal friends. Their efforts produced several forgettable ballads and this charmer of a rhythm number. Sung in the film as a duet with lovely Gloria DeHaven, it should have become a Sinatra favorite, but without a recording, it went nowhere.

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HOW BLUE THE NIGHT (by Jimmy McHugh & Harold Adamson). Composers McHugh and Adamson also wrote for Sinatra’s biggest 1940s rival, Dick Haymes. The younger crooner made his film debut in Four Jills and a Jeep, another all-star patriotic effort from Fox, built around the real-life wartime USO tour taken by Martha Raye, Kay Francis, Carole Landis and Mitzi Mayfair. Haymes played a callow singing soldier, but didn’t really make an impression on film until 1945’s State Fair and Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe. A whole raft of bands broadcast this insinuating beguine, from Duke Ellington and Jimmy Dorsey to Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Count Basie, but once again, no studio recordings.

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NOW I KNOW (by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler). Another lightly Latin beguine, written for Danny Kaye’s lavish premiere vehicle for Samuel Goldwyn, Up in Arms. Danny took over the screen like he was born for it and the film was a solid smash. Somewhat lost along the way were several songs by Arlen & Koehler, reteaming the 1930s Cotton Club composers. Dinah Shore sang two of them, the catchy novelty, TESS’ TORCH SONG and NOW I KNOW. One of Arlen’s most inventive, rangy melodies, it only got recorded by Cootie Williams’ band for the tiny Hit label, with a vocal by young Pearl Bailey.

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SUDDENLY IT’S SPRING (by Johnny Burke & Jimmy Van Heusen). For the 1944 film version of the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, Paramount dropped nearly all the original score (including the haunting MY SHIP) and only added one new number, the almost-equally haunting SUDDENLY IT’S SPRING. Sung by Ginger Rogers during an elaborate wedding dream sequence, the studio decided to cut Rogers’ vocal, leaving only a choral rendition. Without a full-out performance of the song, it went exactly nowhere with the public. Happily, in the 1950s, June Christy, Chris Connor, Stan Getz and George Shearing unearthed and recorded it.

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TIME ALONE WILL TELL (by Mack Gordon & James Monaco). Lyricist Mack Gordon scored yet again, this time with composer Jimmy Monaco, on another terrific ballad for a Betty Grable film, Pin-Up Girl. Betty didn’t sing it, however. It was given to Charlie Spivak’s band with June Hutton and the Stardusters, who performed it beautifully. Part of the number was covered by dialogue, which was a shame, since Spivak did not otherwise preserve it, even in a radio performance. Just about the only recording made was by Ella Fitzgerald, who also managed to cut I’M MAKING BELIEVE for Decca.

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SLOWLY (by David Raksin & Kermit Goell). Here’s another case of a worthy song that was excised from the film that was supposed to feature it. David Raksin had written the score for Otto Preminger’s popular 1944 Fox movie, Laura. With a lyric added by Johnny Mercer, the theme melody became a major success and a lasting standard. Preminger hired Raksin to score his next film, Fallen Angel. Desiring another hit song, he pushed Raksin and lyricist Kermit Goell to come up with one. SLOWLY was the result. Maybe it wasn’t another LAURA, but SLOWLY has it’s own definite charms. The song was heard in the background on a diner jukebox, played often by waitress Linda Darnell. Dick Haymes sang the jukebox record. Star Alice Faye also sang it in a scene while driving with Dana Andrews. For some reason, Preminger cut the Faye vocal before the film was released, in order to feature Linda Darnell more prominently. This was one of the reasons Alice quit the Fox studio as soon as the picture was completed. Aside from records by Haymes and Kay Kyser, the song faded rapidly without a boost from the movie, which also was not a success.

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