Yesterday’s Gardenias

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Steve Lipkins, 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, George Williams (arr).
RCA Victor Studios, New York City – June 17, 1942, 10:00 AM-3:55 PM
075090-1      That’s Sabotage (MH vcl)     Victor 27935-B
075091-1      Conchita, Marquita, Lolita, Pepita, Rosita, Juanita Lopez (MH, TB, EC & M vcl, JG arr)  Victor 27943-A
075092-1      The Humming-Bird (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr)         Victor 27933-B
075093-1      Yesterday’s Gardenias (RE & M vcl)           Victor 27933-A
After completing their work on Orchestra Wives in late May, Glenn Miller and the band trained it from Los Angeles to Chicago and worked around the Midwest until they returned to New York on June 9th. A few New England one-nighters followed and then the orchestra hit the recording studio. RCA was likely thrilled that they had boosted Glenn Miller to their full price label, as he immediately produced massive hits with AMERICAN PATROL and the Orchestra Wives songs on the last session. This June session is something of a forgotten date, as none of the songs made any great impression at the time and none were reissued before the 1980s.

A  REAL "Yesterday's Gardenia!"

A REAL “Yesterday’s Gardenia!”

It would also prove to be the band’s last recording date in New York, Marion Hutton’s last solo disc performance and Ray Eberle’s farewell. Of course, none of the performers were aware of these melancholy milestones at the time.

THAT’S SABOTAGE was the fourth of five songs written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon for Orchestra Wives. It would eventually be cut before the film’s release, but was still in the tunestack at the time of this session, obviously. Strangely, Glenn didn’t record PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME, the movie’s jivey opening tune, which was a dilly of a production number. The soundtrack performance really couldn’t be topped, but it would have been nice to have an additional version to enjoy.

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The Victor THAT’S SABOTAGE is a close copy of the movie track, without the slight rhythmic pause heard between Miss Hutton’s verse and chorus. The dance tempo had to be maintained on record! Marion delivers an equally fine vocal and Al Klink peeks in for a bouncy eight-bar tenor solo.  Mack Gordon supplied a Johnny Mercer-like lyric, full of such snappy phrases as, “Don’t run helter-skelter, there’s a bomb-proof shelter in my arms” and “I can’t sleep, I’ve got to keep my F-B-eye on you.”

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One of the band’s most enjoyable novelty numbers is CONCHITA, MARQUITA, LOLITA, PEPITA, ROSITA, JUANITA LOPEZ, a cheeky tale about what we would today call a “mixed marriage,” in this case, Irish-Mexican. Marion, Tex, the Mods and Ernie Caceres get their vocal moments in and Al Klink provides a powerful sax outburst. The song is the work of youngsters Jule Styne and Herb Magidson, both of whom would have stellar careers.

Written for the Paramount wartime B-musical, Priorities on Parade, which starred Ann Miller, it was sung there by dialect comedian Jerry Colonna with balladeer Johnny Johnston. Colonna made a fine vocal stew of all the Latin and Irish names in the song! Other contemporary recordings by Dinah Shore and the King Sisters treat it as either an old-fashioned waltz or an unwieldy jive number. Only Miller got it to work as a hot novelty.

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THE HUMMING-BIRD was an attempt to repeat the massive success of THE WOODPECKER SONG, by the same Italian composer, Eldo DiLazzaro, with English lyrics again provided by Harold Adamson. Lightning did not strike twice, as the follow-up flopped. The song is decent enough, but Glenn tosses it off in a fairly short rendition. The proceedings briefly get interesting, when Billy May slides in for a hot muted solo after the first vocal, but he only gets eight bars before the singers come back to wrap it up. A real missed opportunity for some good jazz.

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After three swingers, it’s time for a ballad. Popular 1930s crooner Dick Robertson, along with Sammy Mysels and Nelson Cogane, wrote YESTERDAY’S GARDENIAS. Robertson would soon write G0ODNIGHT, WHEREVER YOU ARE, which the Miller AAF Band often featured. GARDENIAS is a seemingly old-style song, recalling the pressed flowers in a “book of loneliness” that remind the singer of a lost love.   The attractive melody and poetic lyrics work nicely together and though Ray Eberle has a few unsure moments, he and the Mods really deliver. The lovely, rich harmonies of the arrangement (likely by Bill Finegan) and the good acoustics of RCA’s studio help to produce a great record.

Charlie Spivak also recorded the song, memorably, but it soon was forgotten. Surprisingly, 1950s jazzmen and singers Russ Freeman, Serge Chaloff, Jeri Southern and Dave Lambert, revived it, giving it something of a “hip” cachet.

Ray, Glenn and the Mods

Ray, Glenn and the Mods

After this session, Glenn gave the musicians more than a week off (aside from the Chesterfield radio series), before building up to a heavy summer performing and recording schedule in Chicago. We’ll delve into the reasons for this next time!

 

 

Serenade in Blue

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Steve Lipkins, 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, George Williams (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 20, 1942, 9:00 AM-3:35 PM

072283-1      I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (TB, MH & M vcl, arr JG)        Victor 27934

072284-1      Serenade in Blue (RE & M vcl, BM & BF arr)         Victor 27935

072285-1      At Last (RE vcl, JG & BF arr)             Victor 27934

072286-1      Lullaby of the Rain (RE & M vcl)     Victor 27894

072287-1      Knit One, Purl Two (MH & M vcl, JG arr)    Victor 27894

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As their work on the film Orchestra Wives was ending, the Glenn Miller band visited RCA Victor’s Hollywood studio to record three of the songs from the movie, all of which became huge hits. They remain among the most reissued of Miller recordings. The two other songs that were recorded that day were forgotten and never reissued until the 1980s, though they are pleasant ballads.

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In three minutes and fifteen seconds, the Victor recording of KALAMAZOO manages to encapsulate all the best ingredients of the longer film rendition. Starting with Billy May’s impudent trumpet intro, the band sounds really loose and the singers readily jive their way through Jerry Gray’s arrangement.

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When Bill Finegan had trouble coming up with the free-flowing introduction to SERENADE IN BLUE that Glenn wanted, Billy May stepped in and crafted it in record time. Taking a full 45 seconds of the three-minute record, it sets an ethereal tone, which is then maintained by the saxes stating the romantic melody, garnished by Bobby Hackett’s lovely cornet. Ray Eberle delivers a fine vocal, closely surrounded by the Modernaires. It helps to have such fine Mack Gordon lyrics to work with!

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It’s a shame that this studio take of AT LAST had to omit the arresting trumpet introduction that begins the extended performance in the movie. Fortunately, room was found here for the attractive muted trombone choir that precedes the vocal. For once on these 1942 sessions, Ray gets to sing the vocal solo, without the Mods (or Lynn Bari/Pat Friday) and he softly croons a definitive rendition (at least, until Etta James came along). The high-quality acoustics of RCA’s Hollywood facilities allow us to hear such subtle touches as Chummy MacGregor’s background piano fills.

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From the heights of these Harry Warren-Mack Gordon compositions, we descend to the lyrical banalities of LULLABY OF THE RAIN. Of course, Glenn wraps the song in a sparkling package, with an arresting musical simulation of raindrops in the introduction and Bobby Hackett’s single-string guitar notes repeating the rain motif at the end.

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Songwriter Lou Ricca was best known for one of Perry Como’s early hits, GOODBYE SUE and not much else. Glenn must have had some sort of stake in the tune, as Claude Thornhill, one of Miller’s satellite bands, also recorded it, not once, but multiple times.

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There is quite a story attached to the next number, KNIT ONE, PURL TWO and not just the fact that is a rare ballad given to Marion Hutton. Collectors might have found the composer credits on the 78 to be puzzling. They read, “”Flossy Frills and Ben Lorre. Edited by Glenn Miller.” Flossy Frills just happened to be a cartoon character featured in the Sunday edition of the American Standard, a Hearst newspaper.

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Flossy had first appeared in the 1920s and was purportedly designed to resemble William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend, movie actress Marion Davies. The character was revived and modernized by writer Carolyn Wells and illustrator Russell Patterson for The New Adventures of Flossy Frills in 1939. Flossy was kind of a fashion-plate ditz, who liked to kick up her heels at fancy parties. By 1942, like so many other folks, Flossy was buckling down to do her part for the war effort. Flossy Frills Helps Out was a strip story running from March to July 1942. In it, Flossy starts a knitting club with her friends. Deciding that she needs a song to motivate them, she visits Glenn Miller (who appeared in the strip) and asks for his help in writing and promoting a knitting-centric tune for American women. “Ladies, let’s knit for Victory!”

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This promotion served a number of purposes. It continued Hearst’s attempts to get involved in music publishing, bolstered his wobbly patriotic credentials and supported the campaign to get women knitting, to help provide sweaters and scarves for servicemen and family members (most clothing companies were overwhelmed with orders for military wear.) All kinds of plans were announced to promote Flossy Frills women’s clubs around the country, promoting recycling of toothpaste tubes, rubber, tin cans and so on. Club meetings would feature performances by name bands and Sammy Kaye, Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, Shep Fields and Vincent Lopez would make recordings of the song. As far as I can determine, none of these grandiose plans ever happened. Glenn’s was the only recording made and Flossy petered out after a 1943 strip titled, Flossy Frills Does Her Bit.

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Getting back to KNIT ONE PURL TWO, which was actually composed solely by Ben Lorre (who later wrote several numbers for Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five), it’s a rather slight melody and lyric sweetly performed by Miller. It doesn’t have the oomph one would expect to galvanize women to pick up their knitting needles! Marion with the Modernaires achieves a beautiful blend and it’s too bad that no other arrangements with this ballad vocal combination were attempted.

The war was by now infiltrating into all aspects of home front life and soon Glenn Miller would be preparing to “do his bit.”

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Orchestra Wives – Part 2

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Steve Lipkins, 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, Pat Friday, The Nicholas Brothers (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, George Williams (arr).

Orchestra Wives soundtrack, 20th Century-Fox Studios, Hollywood, CA – March-April, 1942

Moonlight Serenade (film version)             TCF-150

Moonlight Serenade (alternate version with harp)    20th Century Fox 100-2

People Like You and Me (MH, RE, TB & M vcl, GW and/or JG arr) TCF-127

Boom Shot (GW arr)             20th Century Fox 100-2

At Last (PF, RE vcl, JG & BF arr)       TCF-129

American Patrol (JG arr)      RCA LPT3065

Bugle Call Rag (GM arr)       RCA LPT3065

Serenade in Blue (PF, RE & M vcl, BM & BF arr)   TCF- 131/132

I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (TB, MH, M & NB vcl, JG arr) TCF-136/137/138

I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (Finale) (JG arr)        TCF- 150

That’s Sabotage (MH vcl)     TCF- 128

Moonlight Sonata (BF arr)   LPT3065

You Say the Sweetest Things, Baby            20th Century Fox 100-2

The TCF catalog numbers are for the contemporaneous 78 and 33-1/3 pressings made by Fox for publicity/souvenir purposes. First commercial issues are RCA LPT-3065 (10” LP issued 1954) and 20th Century-Fox 100-2 (2-LP set issued 1959). All further releases stem from these albums. RCA’s transfers are clean, but Fox adds a bit of reverberation to the tracks (and more echo on later issues). RCA did not release the three numbers that premiered on the Fox LP set, as noted above. RCA also omitted this recording of AT LAST, since they issued the 1941 recording on their “Sun Valley Serenade” album. The Fox LPs only include the 1942 version, with an instrumental portion snipped out. Fox also cut the Nicholas Brothers segment of KALAMAZOO on their LPs.

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Merchants will likely put their best merchandise on display up front in a store window to attract customers. The movie studios often did the same with their big band musicals – start the proceedings with a solid swing number. Ship Ahoy (Tommy Dorsey), I Dood It (Jimmy Dorsey), Private Buckaroo (Harry James), Sweet and Lowdown (Benny Goodman) and many other films began with their prime products on screen, sometimes even before the credits rolled.

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Orchestra Wives followed that pattern. The film’s credits run over a lush Glenn Miller rendition of their theme song, MOONLIGHT SERENADE and the viewer is immediately presented with the band in a recording studio environment. After a brief reminder of CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, the ensemble launches into PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME, a wonderful vocal showcase for all the band’s singers, while smooth tracking shots show off all the musicians. Marion Hutton and Ray Eberle look and sound great and the Modernaires groove along, slick and sleek behind them.

Sweet Marion & suave Ray

Sweet Marion & suave Ray

The guys are dressed in a variety of natty outfits, none more so that Tex Beneke, wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt with splashy designs. Star George Montgomery mimes to Johnny Best’s hot trumpet, while Best himself sits on the other end of the section. At least Johnny got to appear in the film. Ringers Jackie Gleason and Cesar Romero mimed their parts convincingly., while Chummy Mac Gregor and Doc Goldberg sat on the sidelines.  Musicians viewing the film apparently thought Montgomery fumbled his trumpet fingering and laughed out loud in theaters when the trumpet solos occurred. To this viewer, he seems competent and shows off a flashy trumpet spin at the end of his solos, which becomes his “trademark” throughout the proceedings.

"Hi there, Tex!"

“Hi there, Tex!”

A short dialogue scene following this exuberant number leads into the soda shop setting that introduces our heroine, Ann Rutherford, and her friend, Harry Morgan. She plays the fateful record of BOOM SHOT on the jukebox, precipitating a discussion of the dance where “Gene Morrison” is playing. This fades into the most striking part of the movie, likely the most haunting big band sequence in movie history. In six minutes, it captures the romance and appeal of the Swing Era to young folks everywhere.

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BOOM SHOT is a very catchy Billy May original, arranged by George Williams, with solos by Johnny Best and May on open and muted trumpets, Ernie Caceres on alto and Glenn, briefly. Named after the camera crane technique that is used twice during the number, this soundtrack performance is the only one in the Miller discography and was issued on record in 1959 by 20th Century Fox. The first RCA issue of the film track in 1954 omitted it.

The restless camera swoops over, around and through the dancers who are seen happily jitterbugging, finally pulling back to catch their protests when the song ends and the band starts to take a break. Glenn/Gene signals “one more” to the crowd, which surges around the bandstand as AT LAST begins.

Though recorded and cut from SUN VALLEY SERENADE, the song was saved and, happily, found its home here. One of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s most notable compositions, the slowed-down Jerry Gray-Bill Finegan arrangement is much superior to the snappier-tempoed 1941 chart. It’s romantic to a fault, with brilliant passages featuring Johnny Best’s trumpet (played on screen by our hero, George Montgomery as Bill Abbott), an arresting trombone choir and plush vocals from Pat Friday (for Lynn Bari) and our own Ray Eberle. For some reason, the trombone choir moment was clipped from the 20th Fox LP and CD issues of the soundtrack.

Ann Rutherford is hooked, Harry Morgan is skeptical.

Ann Rutherford is hooked, Harry Morgan is skeptical.

The camera roams around the band and dreamily swaying audience, poking into foliage and drawing close to the trombones (a continuous shot that must have been difficult to achieve). Without any dialogue, the plot develops, as Connie/Rutherford makes starry-eyed looks at her trumpete, which are noticed and identified by Janie/Lynn Bari, who will become her romantic rival. At the end of the song, there is a masterful shot beginning in the bell of Montgomery’s trumpet, pulling back quickly to encompass the whole scene.

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After this first quarter-hour, encompassing three terrific musical numbers, the story starts rolling and we are thrust into the behind-the scenes machinations of the orchestra wives and their hapless husbands. Before that happens, the band gets another feature spot, with a partial performance of AMERICAN PATROL and a full rendition of BUGLE CALL RAG. It appears that THAT’S SABOTAGE, featuring Marion Hutton, was originally included between those two instrumentals, but was cut shortly before the film’s release. It has been part of all the film soundtrack releases on LP and CD. A brief clip from it was used in a TV documentary back in the 1970s, but the whole number has never surfaced.

A moment from THAT'S SABOTAGE.

A moment from THAT’S SABOTAGE.

That’s too bad, as it is a great song, smartly linking love troubles with wartime spy tactics. Marion is in fine voice and Al Klink plays a typically rhythmic solo. BUGLE CALL RAG preserves a visual record of one of the Miller band’s longest-lasting hot instrumentals, with short breaks by Miller, Beneke and Caceres and stylish choreography by the trumpets and trombones. Drummer Moe Purtill is well featured, in the spotlight for a climactic drum solo. The comic bit where he collapses into his drum kit at the end is a bit much, but it’s a good-natured moment.

Moe Purtill and BUGLE CALL RAG.

Moe Purtill and BUGLE CALL RAG.

A half-hour goes by before the next Miller number, an unfortunately truncated performance of the film’s second superb ballad, SERENADE IN BLUE. The original prerecording runs nearly six minutes. In the film, the lengthy, impressionistic introduction, arranged by Billy May and Bill Finegan, along with Bobby Hackett’s first-chorus solo, were jettisoned and only Pat Friday’s vocal, backed by Eberle and the Modernaires is seen.

KALAMAZOO!

KALAMAZOO!

Breakups and makeups, loud arguments and apologies ensue for another half-hour. With all grievances settled, everyone gets kissy-kissy and Glenn takes center stage for a walloping finale, I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO. Patterned after CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, the song proved to be an equally big hit, with it’s  simple, catchy lyric, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I got a gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo zoo…..” Marion, Tex and the Mods really shine, with all kinds of jokey posturing and kidding around, very loose and natural. Just like the CHOO CHOO, after the band portion comes the Nicholas Brothers, raising the proceedings to another level, with their sensational acrobatic steps.

The Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers

In a nice touch, even that is not the ending, for Moe Purtill kicks off an uptempo instrumental reprise of KALAMAZOO that allows us to get a last glimpse of the two lovebirds, Glenn and the full band. So, with the love problems settled, the musicians and their families will just go on to their next adventure on the road.

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That’s also not the end of the ORCHESTRA WIVES soundtrack. Three other numbers not yet mentioned were also recorded at the time and not used. An alternate short version of MOONLIGHT SERENADE, with a harp introduction, was later issued by 20th Fox. It is slower than the performance that opens the film. MOONLIGHT SONATA, recorded back in November 1941 for Bluebird, was also redone for the film, apparently intended for Cesar Romero to mime to. Considering how badly his visual pianistics match the soundtrack already discussed, it was probably a good thing the number was cut.

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Finally, YOU SAY THE SWEETEST THINGS, BABY is a real anomaly. The song, a Gordon-Warren number sung by Alice Faye in Tin Pan Alley back in 1940, is played by a small group that seems to consist of muted trumpet, two tenor saxes (one of them Beneke), piano and drums, in the first chorus. It is performed in an exaggerated, sweet style, until Billy May’s hot open trumpet blasts into the second chorus, joined by Ernie Caceres’ jazz clarinet. The two styles then battle it out to the conclusion, with May leading the way.   My friend Paul Holroyd informs me that this number was intended for a cut scene where Connie & Bill take a night off to go dancing. They stop at a tea shop which has a sour little band playing and Bill can’t resist the opportunity to liven them up with his trumpet.

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Since the Miller band was featured more prominently in their second film, shooting took longer then before, requiring two full months of Glenn’s time.  There was a lot of catching up to do, both professionally and personally. First thing to take care of after leaving Fox was a Victor recording date, designed to wax some of the film songs for commercial release. That’s for next time.

"Zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo!"

“Zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo!”

Orchestra “Wife” – Part 1

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For their second 20th Century Fox film, Glenn Miller and the band were featured front and center throughout. They were not supporting a star like Sonja Henie. This time the orchestra was the star.  Fox tried to boost the feminine appeal of the movie by titling it ORCHESTRA WIFE, then decided, just before release, to multiply the “oomph” quotient by renaming it ORCHESTRA WIVES.  It is mostly the story of  “orchestra wife” Ann Rutherford, the nominal top-billed name, but she was supporting the ensemble instead of the other way around. Ann was a very well known starlet, best remembered as Polly Benedict, Andy Hardy’s on-again, off-again girlfriend in the Mickey Rooney-led series at MGM.

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Aside from her Andy Hardy chores, Ann appeared in small roles in many other MGM pictures, most notably A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind, as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s long-suffering sisters. With the Andy Hardy series winding down in the early 40s, Ann began freelancing at other studios before leaving MGM in 1943. ORCHESTRA WIVES would be one of Rutherford’s first starring roles and Fox featured her nicely in the film.

Her character of Connie Ward is nicely developed, from star-struck music fan to slightly disillusioned spouse of a (possibly) philandering trumpet player. The trumpeter was George Montgomery, a former B-western star at Fox, whom the studio was grooming for bigger things. After a nice co-starring role in Roxie Hart with Ginger Rogers, he was assigned to the Miller film.

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‘Big bad trumpet player” George Montgomery with Ann Rutherford

Though not as versatile an actor as Sun Valley Serenade‘s John Payne, Montgomery’s good looks and easygoing character made him a perfect match with Rutherford as the uneasy newlyweds. Montgomery would soon marry Dinah Shore, whose own Miller connection will be discussed in a later entry.

Poor Lynn Bari, always typecast as "the other woman."

Poor Lynn Bari, always typecast as “the other woman.”

Old friend Lynn Bari, band vocalist Vivian Dawn in SUN VALLEY SERENADE, returned as band vocalist Janie Stevens in the new film, just as ornery and scheming as before. The Nicholas Brothers were signed again for another show-stopping dance specialty.

The movie's rhythm section: Bobby Hackett, Moe Purtill, Jackie Gleason & Cesar Romero.

The movie’s rhythm section: Bobby Hackett, Moe Purtill, Jackie Gleason & Cesar Romero.

Two new actors played band members. Fox stalwart Cesar Romero appeared as the oddly-named pianist, Sinjin Smith, once again knocking Chummy MacGregor out of the film and Jackie Gleason performed as the bass player, supplanting Doc Goldberg. Gleason was so new to films that he doesn’t even rate billing in the on-screen credits. Jackie began a lifelong friendship with Bobby Hackett on the set and later featured him on the popular Capitol series of jazzy mood music LPs issued under Gleason’s name.

Orchestra wives Virginia Gilmore, Carole Landis and Mary Beth Hughes with Cesar Romero.

Orchestra wives Virginia Gilmore, Carole Landis and Mary Beth Hughes with Cesar Romero.

Then there were the titular orchestra wives – Carole Landis as Tex Beneke’s spouse, Mary Beth Hughes as Mrs. Moe Purtill, Virginia Gilmore, whose husband is never identified and Tamara Geva (stage actress and wife of choreographer George Balanchine, wasted here in a nothing role) as Jackie Gleason’s missus. The film’s writers were so eager to pair people off that they wrote in Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton as a married couple!  Landis is the real catty gal, aiding and abetting Lynn Bari in her plot to break up Ann Rutherford’s marriage. In real life, Landis was a volatile personality who married five times and committed suicide in 1948 at age 29 when actor Rx Harrison wouldn’t leave his wife for her.

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In smaller roles, future MASH TV star Harry Morgan plays Cully, the soda jerk who takes Rutherford to the dance which precipitates the whole story and Dale Evans (later Mrs. Roy Rogers) is the girl at the soda shop who tells Connie she’s “going to wear the record out” on the jukebox.

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Glenn has a much bigger acting role this time around and plays “himself” nicely (renamed Gene Morrison, so the band’s “GM” bandstands could be used). There is a slightly sarcastic edge to some of his dialogue, delivered with a distinctively flat Midwestern twang. He looks sharp and snappy in his custom suits, as do the other band members. Along with ringers Jackie Gleason and Cesar Romero, musicians Moe Purtill and Tex Beneke get some lines to deliver, as do vocalists Marion Hutton and Ray Eberle. Even “Bullets” Durgom, Glenn’s band boy turned road manager pipes up in several scenes.

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Behind the camera, Fox gave Glenn nothing but the best – director Archie Mayo had a career stretching back to silent days and had helmed musicals starring Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Mae West, Alice Faye and the Marx Brothers, plus dramas with Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.

Best shot in the film - Ann falls in love instantly, framed by George Montgomery's arms and trumpet.

Best shot in the film – Ann falls in love instantly, framed by George Montgomery’s arms and trumpet.

Top cinematographer Lucien Ballard was assigned to the film and his smooth camerawork and lighting design add to the film’s sheen.   Songwriters Harry Warren and Mack Gordon returned to the Miller fold to duplicate their success with the score of SUN VALLEY SERENADE. They managed to surpass their earlier efforts, with five fine songs, three of which became top hits and Miller standards – AT LAST, SERENADE IN BLUE and I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO.

The screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Darrell Ware, based on an original story by James Prindle, managed to provide a fairly credible dramatic script with humor and some grit, along with enough solid characterization to give the actors something to dig into.   The result is an interesting story that could have worked well on its own without the musical sequences, wonderful as they are.

Apparently a lot of footage was filmed, and then cut, as many studio stills exist of scenes that aren’t even hinted at in the final product. At least three musical numbers were also cut; since the film as we know it runs almost and hour and 40 minutes (more than 10 minutes longer than SUN VALLEY SERENADE), it appears that Fox could have ended up with a 2-hour-plus movie if they hadn’t gotten to work in the editing room!

We’ll discuss the cut numbers and all the other marvelous ORCHESTRA WIVES music in our next post.

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American Patrol

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Steve Lipkins, 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, George Williams (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA – April 2, 1942, 8:00 AM-12:30 PM

072230-1      American Patrol (JG arr)      Victor 27873-A

072231-1      Soldier, Let Me Read Your Letter (RE & M vcl, BM arr)    Victor 27873-B

072232-1      Sleep Song (RE & M vcl, GW arr)     Victor 27879-B

072233-1      Sweet Eloise (RE & M vcl, JG arr)    Victor 27879-A

Glenn Miller and his Orchestra arrived in Los Angeles on March 17th, after a fairly rapid trip across the country. After a few days getting acclimated, they reported to the 20th Century Fox studios to begin work on their second feature film, originally titled ORCHESTRA WIFE.

Before getting too heavily involved in the filmmaking process, Victor pulled them into a Hollywood recording studio for an early-morning session. As before, most of the tunes had a wartime connection, starting with AMERICAN PATROL.

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Written in 1885 by F. W Meacham, the composition was one of his many patriotic marches that became a popular sensation. The original music worked in other martial airs, including COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE OCEAN, YANKEE DOODLE and THREE CHEERS FOR THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE and Jerry Gray’s brilliant arrangement included these as well, at least initially. The earliest Miller broadcast version from March 27th ran nearly five minutes and included several sequences that were cut to trim the chart to 78 length, as was done with the original longer rendition of IN THE MOOD. Too bad RCA didn’t spring for a 12-inch release that would have preserved the whole thing!

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Listening to a turn-of-the century performance by Sousa’s Band, it’s surprising to hear just how much of the original piece was adapted by Jerry Gray, down to the gradual fade out toward the end which is shattered by a powerful fortissimo coda.

Original to Glenn’s version are the superbly timed drum breaks by Moe Purtill and Billy May’s wild trumpet.

Billy May, Moe Purtill & Glenn

Billy May, Moe Purtill & Glenn

It’s fortunate that this great instrumental was taken down at Victor’s Hollywood studio, which afforded Glenn the finest technical recording quality that RCA ever gave him. The entire band sparkles and we can hear clearly such details as the sax riffs behind Billy’s solo and the kicking rhythm section.

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The remainder of the date produced three Eberle-Modernaires ballads and here too, we can appreciate the depth and richness of sound that the band could produce. Case in point is the dynamic introduction to Billy May’s arrangement of SOLDIER, LET ME READ YOUR LETTER, with even Bobby Hackett’s quiet guitar strumming audible.   It was written by two actual soldiers, Private Pat Fallon and Private Tim Pasma, with help from pro songwriter Sid Lippman (of I’M THRILLED and DEAR ARABELLA fame). Glenn’s Mutual Music firm published the song.

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Presumably the soldier-songwriters were familiar with the depressing situation described in their number, as a lonely G.I. begs to read his comrade’s correspondence. He “hasn’t got a sweetheart” and has “left no one behind.” Female listeners were likely persuaded to feel guilty about the isolated guys overseas. Girls, start writing those V-Mail letters! They’re doing the fighting, so you do the writing!

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Another Mutual Music product, SLEEP SONG is a clever twist on the morning bugle call, REVEILLE. It’s a more serious variation of Irving Berlin’s OH, HOW I HATE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING and was composed by middling scribes Don Reid (whose biggest hit was REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR) and Henry Tobias (who would much later create Bette Davis’ creepy I’VE WRITTEN A LETTER TO DADDY for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?).

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George Williams, a new addition to the arranging team, penned the fine chart. Glenn hired Williams from the Sonny Dunham band to help with the additional writing chores that the new film would require. Nicknamed “the Fox,” George would go on to a successful career with Gene Krupa, Ray Anthony and Jackie Gleason.

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The final selection, SWEET ELOISE, is an attractive melody by fellow trombonist-bandleader Russ Morgan, who started as a fine jazz musician and arranger and made a fortune playing corny, muted wah-wah solos with his equally saccharine band. Russ did manage to write (or co-write) the occasional quality song, like SOMEBODY ELSE IS TAKING MY PLACE. Popular lyricist Mack David handled the words.

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Bobby Hackett finally gets another chance to shine, with a lovely cornet obbligato in the first chorus. Ray Eberle and the Modernaires lightly toss the lyrics back and forth, then Hackett returns to lead the saxes through a sinuous instrumental passage, which is the record’s highlight. Where have you been hiding, Bobby?

Aside from their radio broadcasts, this record date would be the last fans would hear from the Miller band until they completed their movie in late May. Happily, the movie would turn out to be one of the best big band films of the era. Details to come!

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Glenn’s photo on sheet music was a guarantee of big sales.

 

Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Bill Graham, 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 – February 18, 1942, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

071860-1      Shhh, It’s a Military Secret (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11493-B

071861-1      Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (MH, TB & M vcl)            Bluebird 11474-B

071862-1      She’ll Always Remember (RE & M vcl)       Bluebird 11493-A

071863-1      The Lamplighter’s Serenade (RE & M vcl)          Bluebird 11474-A

071864-1      When Johnny Comes Marching Home (TB, MH & M vcl, BF arr)     Bluebird 11480-B

After a record-breaking run through the Midwest, in  January 1942, the Glenn Miller band hit the Paramount Theater in New York for three monumental weeks of packed houses and high grosses. They finished the engagement on February 17th and showed up at RCA Victor the following morning for a solidly commercial and artistically successful recording session.  This would be Glenn’s last appearance on 35-cent Bluebird discs. For their next date in April, the band would be raised to the full-price, 50-cent RCA Victor parent label. It made good sense, both promotion-wise and money-wise.

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When Miller signed with Victor in 1939, he was placed on Bluebird for several reasons. First, with the Depression still lingering, the lower Bluebird price would likely be more attractive to buyers. Also, as a relatively new band, they didn’t yet have the fan base to warrant a premium price.  Finally, RCA Victor wouldn’t dare place a rival trombonist up against hit-maker Tommy Dorsey on the more prestigious label.  Clarinetist Artie Shaw found himself in much the same position on Bluebird, so as not to compete with rival Benny Goodman on Victor. Benny moved over to Columbia in August 1939 and so Artie, by now a big disc seller, was bumped up to Victor early in 1940.

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Tommy Dorsey wasn’t going anywhere, so RCA waited several more years before promoting Glenn to Victor status. By 1942, the budget labels were less necessary, since record purchasers were making more money as the economy picked up steam.  Columbia had experimentally switched Benny to their 35-cent Okeh label in September 1941, in part to compete with Glenn’s similarly-priced platters.  Once Glenn transferred to Victor, Benny was immediately restored to 50-cent Columbia status.  It was also becoming ridiculous to see Miller alumnus Hal McIntyre’s new band debuting on Victor, while his former leader was still on Bluebird, even recording some of the same songs!

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For this February session, once again, the war played heavily into the music selection, as four of the five songs dealt with wartime themes.  SHHH, IT’S A MILITARY SECRET was written by black composer Walter Bishop, better known for such jive songs as THE STUFF IS HERE AND IT’S MELLOW and SWING, BROTHER, SWING.  Presumably, Earl Allvine wrote the lyrics, as the other name on the song is disc jockey Alan Courtney, who had earlier wangled his name onto Les Brown’s hit number, JOLTIN’ JOE DiMAGGIO.

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Like ON THE OLD ASSEMBLY LINE, the song is purely a propaganda poster set to rhythm, with an awkward attempt to leaven the hard-sell (“These are critical times, be careful of espionage”) with romance (“It’s no military secret that I love you”).  Yet the band and singers deliver the goods in such a jaunty manner that the results are more delightful than didactic.

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Marion, Tex and the Modernaires reappear on DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE, another massive Miller hit, free of the cumbersome sloganeering of the previous number. This time, it’s all romance, with an overseas soldier cautioning his girl back home to remain faithful. Unlike the scheming miss of DEAR ARABELLA, this Army sweetheart promises to be true to her worried G.I.  Marion gets a full solo chorus to declare her love, showing how much her vocal style had improved by this time.  The bouncy arrangement, likely by Jerry Gray, helped to make this disc one of Glenn’s 1942 best.

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It was also a hit for the Andrews Sisters, who sang it with Harry James in their popular film, Private Buckaroo. The song was written by veteran hitmakers Lew Brown, Charlie Tobias and Sam Stept.  All three began composing in the 1920s and got a new lease on popularity with such timely WWII songs as WE DID IT BEFORE AND WE CAN DO IT AGAIN and THIS IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

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Next comes SHE’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER, a hefty slice of sentiment mixed with mother love.  Like DEAR MOM, this one goes almost over the edge into bathos, with lyrics like, “Now a soldier man you may be, but you are still her baby.”  The utterly sincere vocal performance saves it, though.  Writers Eddie Pola and Johnny Marks (Mr. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER) had a minor hit with this song, mostly due to the Miller and Kate Smith recordings. Kate also introduced it on radio, a fact proudly trumpeted on the sheet music cover.

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A lovely, dynamic band intro (beautifully recorded, as this whole session happens to be) leads into a sweet Mickey McMickle muted trumpet lead, with the Modernaires humming in the background. Beneke surfaces briefly on tenor and then Ray and the Mods take over for the rest of the disc.

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Ray and the Mods also deliver THE LAMPLIGHTER’S SERENADE, another gorgeous Hoagy Carmichael melody, with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.  A memorable touch here are the vocal “doo-wah, doo-wah” phrases by the Modernaires echoing the band’s trumpet “boo-wahs.”  Issued as the “A” side of DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE, the disc was a double-headed hit.  The sweetly nostalgic lyric describes an “old-fashioned gent” who lights street lamps (were there still gas lamps anywhere in 1942?) and casts a love spell on couples passing by.  Wonder if he’s a relative of PAPA NICCOLINI?

Glenn’s record was the most successful, though it was also recorded by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who thought enough of the tune to include it on his first-ever solo session, coincidentally on Glenn’s Bluebird label.

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A number of World War I-era songs like OVER THERE and OH, HOW I HATE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING were successfully dusted off and recycled for the new war.  Only Glenn thought to reach even further back to the Civil War for WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME. It’s surprising that no other bands picked up on the tune.

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This authentic piece of 1863 nostalgia by bandleader Patrick Gilmore was still familiar to 1942 audiences.  Modernaires Hal Dickinson and Bill Conway slightly revised the lyric and Bill Finegan shaped and arranged the vintage march into a totally contemporary swing opus. This new version was published by Miller’s Mutual Music firm, making everyone happy.

Canadian pressing

Canadian pressing

Finegan really outdid himself, with a witty, extroverted chart full of joyful abandon. The deceptively pianissimo intro and first chorus lead into a stentorian brass passage and then the swinging vocal.  Another martial trumpet fanfare culminates in a booting tenor spot for Al Klink and the inevitable jivey rideout.  It’s another underrated Miller disc and a great ending to a very enjoyable studio session.

Postwar German pressing

Postwar German pressing

Glenn gave the band a few days off before beginning another road trip down the East Coast, finally heading west to Chicago and then on to Los Angeles. Arriving there on March 17th, they had only a few days to get used to the climate before reporting to 20th Century Fox once again for their second feature film.  One more record date would be wedged in before it was time to smile for the cameras.

Tex, Marion & Glenn got the paper doll treatment in 1942, but where's poor Ray?

Tex, Marion & Glenn got the paper doll treatment in 1942, but where’s poor Ray?

When The Roses Bloom Again

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Bill Graham, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Skip Martin, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 8, 1942, 12:00-4:20 PM

068789-1      Skylark (RE vcl, BF arr)        Bluebird 11462-B

068789-2      Skylark (RE vcl, BF arr)        first issued on LP

068835-1      Dear Mom (RE & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11443-A

068790-1      When the Roses Bloom Again (RE vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

068790-2      When the Roses Bloom Again (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11438-A

068791-1      Always in My Heart (RE vcl, BM arr)          Bluebird 11438-B

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

In the three days between January record dates, Glenn Miller and the band finished their engagement at the Hotel Pennsylvania’s Cafe Rouge on the 7th, followed by Charlie Spivak on the 8th.

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

The Miller men reassembled at RCA Victor that day, with more hit-worthy results on an all-ballad, all-Ray Eberle program. SKYLARK was the standout of the session, a top-quality song by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer that quickly became a standard.  Recognizing its worth, it was rapidly waxed by Harry James & Helen Forrest, Gene Krupa & Anita O’Day, Woody Herman, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Earl Hines & Billy Eckstine and Bunny Berigan, on his last recording session.

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The song has an interesting history.  In 1939, Hoagy was asked to work on a projected Broadway musical about jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, based on Dorothy Baker’s popular Bix-inspired novel, Young Man with a Horn.  Hoagy came up with a Bixian melody which he titled BIX LIX.  The show fell through and Hoagy eventually gave the tune to Johnny Mercer to see if he could come up with a lyric. Mercer worked for over  a year trying to craft a suitable tale to fit the haunting, intricate melody.  Considering Johnny’s penchant for “birdplay,” as evidenced in BOB WHITE and MISTER MEADOWLARK, the resulting lofty lyric of SKYLARK is sheer perfection.

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Bill Finegan serves up a perfect, relaxed setting, with singing reeds and muted brass ushering in Ray Eberle, who takes advantage of the easy tempo to deliver the words with full impact.  Two takes have been released of this performance, with the LP take sounding slightly more focused.

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Next is one of the first examples of the WWII “soldier’s letter back home” song genre, with DEAR MOM.  We know we are in the realm of fantasy when the soldier in question tells Mother that the Army “food is OK.”  Aside from that, Maury Coleman Harris (who seems to have written just this one number) did a decent job with his simple, sincere lyric and sweet melody. As usual, Miller arranger Jerry Gray does his best to showcase the tune, with Tex’s tenor and Al Klink’s bass clarinet in the introduction and a somber Tex solo later on.  The Modernaires quietly echo Ray’s vocal, keeping the proceedings from growing too saccharine.

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Only slightly less morose is WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN, given a dramatic setting by arranger Gray. Mickey McMickle, tightly muted as usual, states the melody, before the reeds come soaring in.  Eberle goes a bit overboard early on, but calms down at the end, with a yearning touch of Beneke’s sax leading into the coda.

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The song was composed by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, who had given us THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER only a few months before.  Similar in mood, the earlier song was a massive hit, and while ROSES was not, it did well enough.

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Still in the mode of wartime longing is ALWAYS IN MY HEART, the title number of a lesser Warner Brothers drama that starred Kay Francis and Walter Huston.  It’s another composition by Cuban musician Ernesto Lecuona, with Kim Gannon adding the English lyric.  Gannon had recently crossed Glenn’s path with his MOONLIGHT COCKTAIL.  The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to WHITE CHRISTMAS.

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In a rare ballad arrangement, Billy May proved to be totally adept with slow tempos. A powerfully masculine introduction and first chorus bring on Ray, once again dealing with a “we’ll meet again someday” scenario.  When first issued on LP in the 1953 Glenn Miller Limited Edition, Volume One set, the disc was transferred from a very off-center 78 master, resulting in a terribly off-speed, wobbly ending.  That’s how many Miller fans (this one included) first came to know this recording. Fortunately, later LP and CD releases corrected the flaw.

As in 1940 and 1941, once Glenn and the band wound up their Hotel Pennsylvania gig, they took to the road before settling into a successful run at the Paramount Theater. They repeated that scenario in 1942 and five weeks would pass before they paid another visit to RCA.

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At the President’s Birthday Ball

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Zeke Zarchy, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Skip Martin, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 5, 1942, 12:00-5:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Let's Have Another Cup O' Coffee!

Let’s Have Another Cup O’ Coffee!

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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