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

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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Is There Anything Finer?

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“Gay Guffaws Galore!”  The recent DVD release of four of Danny’s Kaye’s 1940s Goldwyn films serves as a reminder of a lovely pairing that occurred in the first film, UP IN ARMS. I don’t mean the partnership of Danny Kaye with Samuel Goldwyn, but the  collaboration of Dinah Shore and Harold Arlen.

This 1944 Technicolor extravaganza was Danny’s feature film debut and Goldwyn outfitted the comedian with enough padding to fill a three-ring circus.  Elaborate sets, dozens of nubile Goldwyn Girls, outlandish costumes, Daliesque dream sequences and Danny set in the middle of it all like a gleaming diamond in a platinum setting.  Kaye is provided with several trademark patter numbers, written by wife Sylvia Fine, that gave Warner Brothers cartoons enough material for Daffy Duck to parody for years.

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In the middle of the frenzy stands Dinah Shore. In this, her second feature film, she radiates warmth and a cool brunette sexiness, quite a difference from her later blond extrovert TV personality.

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Dinah’s jazz chops have always been overlooked. She had strong Dixie roots from her Southern upbringing and years spent on the Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street radio series.  Her choice to go the pop, rather than jazz route, has worked against her in the view of music historians, who liken her more to Kate Smith than Anita O’Day.

Dinah had a big hit with Harold Arlen’s “Blues in the Night” a few years earlier, so he was a natural choice to craft her two numbers for the movie.  With his old Cotton Club lyricist Ted Koehler, Arlen created two winners – a sinuous ballad, “Now I Know,” and a swing tune, “Tess’s Torch Song.”  Dinah’s performances are definitive and she is, thankfully, given full charge of the screen for both of them.  These song sequences are the only relief from wall-to-wall Danny and they are most welcome.

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Due to the onerous 1942-44 musicians’ record ban, neither song got much public attention. Dinah did manage to record them both – “Now I Know” for RCA, in an a capella rendition backed solely by a doo-wah chorus; and “Tess’s Torch Song” for Columbia in 1947, by which time the song had been totally forgotten. A later Dinah LP recording of “Now I Know,” while most welcome, didn’t raise the song’s profile.

Any contemporary singer interested in obscure Harold Arlen would do well to check them out!

Here’s Dinah in the film:

and Johnny Desmond with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in a gorgeous Norman Leyden arrangement, sung in German for a wartime propaganda broadcast: