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.

 

 

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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“Texas, Texas, Why Do You Walk That Way?”

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

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 20, 1941, 1:45-4:15 PM

071190-1      Dreamsville, Ohio (RE & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11342

071191-1      Papa Niccolini (The Happy Cobbler) (RE, TB & M vcl) Bluebird 11342

071192-1      Jingle Bells (TB, EC & M vcl, BF & GM arr) Bluebird 11353

071193-1      This Is No Laughing Matter (RE vcl)           Bluebird 11369

The Glenn Miller band had been nesting at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania since October 6th. This was their third straight winter season at the popular venue. Opening night saw the final appearance of altoist Hal McIntyre, who was leaving to form his own group, with Glenn’s financial backing.

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McIntyre had been a member of every incarnation of the Miller band, going back to their first Decca recording date in March 1937. Hal was also a good friend to Miller and his wife Helen. His leaving would cause some eventual restructuring of the reed section, but not yet.  Benny Feman took his chair for the time being.

"Hi there, Tex!"

“Hi there, Tex!”

It had been six weeks since the organization’s last visit to the RCA studios and their recording activity would soon begin to increase.  This sole date in October was a fast one – four numbers waxed in 2-1/2 hours.

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First on the docket was DREAMSVILLE, OHIO, an oddly affecting song with Ray and the Mods creating an elegiac mood and Bobby Hackett contributing a lovely eight-bar solo between vocal spots. Maybe the 1941 present was getting to be too much to bear, as the next number also harkens back to “the good old days.”

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PAPA NICCOLINI (THE HAPPY COBBLER) is a trifle that Glenn spins into a production number, with tempo changes and full vocal participation (though not credited on the label, Marion Hutton seems to be present here and on JINGLE BELLS, too, buried within the Modernaires). Taking a leaf from the Jimmy Dorsey formula for Bob Eberly-Helen O’Connell duets, the record starts with Ray Eberle singing in waltz tempo and then jumps into swing rhythm as Tex and the Mods have fun with the lyrics.

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The fans liked this song immensely and they can be heard cheering its announcement on several airchecks from the Cafe Rouge that winter.  BTW, the title of this blog posting refers to the speical-material lyric to PAPA NICCOLINI that the Mods sing to Tex Beneke.  Tex needs new soles for his shoes and only Papa will do them for cheap!

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The concept of pop holiday songs and records was just beginning to take hold in the 1940s. The previous decade had brought on WINTER WONDERLAND and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN, but no real hit “Christmas” tunes. That trend would be ignited by WHITE CHRISTMAS in 1942.

Back in 1935, RCA Victor had done a one-off coupling of JINGLE BELLS (Benny Goodman) and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN (Tommy Dorsey). That disc had become a winter perennial, so in 1941 Victor decided to duplicate it on their budget Bluebird label. Alvino Rey recorded SANTA CLAUS and Glenn was assigned JINGLE BELLS.

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Benny Goodman had done BELLS as an instrumental and now Miller pulled the stops out for a vocal treatment with Tex, the Mods and a brief trip South-of –the-border with Ernie Caceres. Modernaires Bill Conway and Hal Dickinson contributed the new lyrics. The jazz department wasn’t neglected, as Billy May delivered a sly trumpet solo.

After the crowded vocal presence on the first three titles, the last item was a solo for Eberle, THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER. It’s an attractive tune, sung ardently by Glenn’s “young man in the romance department.”

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It just so happens that three of these four songs were published by Glenn’s music firm, Mutual Music, which was registered with BMI to take advantage of airplay that was still denied to ASCAP songs. Glenn’s desire to have a successful publishing company sometimes led him to plug questionable material, but this batch was nothing to be ashamed of.

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Three were written by new composers, though Don George (lyricist of a number of Duke Ellington 1940s hits) and Al Rinker (former Rhythm Boy member and associate of Bing Crosby) were involved in DREAMSVILLE, OHIO and PAPA NICCOLINI respectively. The new Conway-Dickinson lyrics for JINGLE BELLS were copyrightable, so Glenn published a new edition of the song, under the title, GLENN MILLER’S JINGLE BELLS.  DJ Martin Block (again) got his name on THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER and it was published by his company.

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Glenn also invested in new bands, as mentioned above, bankrolling (to a greater or lesser extent) Charlie Spivak, Hal McIntyre and Claude Thornhill when they formed their combinations. All three dutifully recorded Mutual Music songs (Spivak waxed three of these four songs, for example).

Miller also published songs written by the members of the Modernaires and his arrangers, Jerry Gray and Bill Finegan. Billy May had a publishing contract with his old boss, Charlie Barnet, so his tunes for Glenn were published under his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s name, Arletta May.  This would prove to be a pain for Billy, as later Miller reissues of his “Arletta May” compositions would bring her a windfall of royalties.

It would only be a two-week wait for the next Glenn Miller record session and it turned out to be one of their very best!

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Take the “A” Train

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

“The Man with that Grand Band….”

March 1st of this year marked the 110th birthday of bandleader and Swing Era icon Glenn Miller. My interest in his music started 50 years ago when my Dad bought me this album:

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Little did my father know what this seemingly innocuous purchase would lead to.  This RCA Camden album reissue gave a young collector a lopsided view of the Miller band.  One ballad and two hot instrumentals, and seven (!) vocals by Ray Eberle, one shared with the Modernaires. Guess that’s why I have always liked Ray Eberle’s singing, due to his looming presence on this LP.

Thank goodness for RCA Camden! This $1.98 budget label offered a generous sampling  of RCA’s big band holdings to the low-income enthusiast – Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey and Fats Waller all had one or more discs in the catalog.  And there was more by Miller:

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Great cover!  This was my second Miller Camden purchase (though it actually had been issued first, in 1963).  All vocals this time, again heavy on the Eberle (6 tracks), but at least a look-in by other Miller singers Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke, Skip Nelson and the Modernaires.  Also included were some nonsensical burblings in the liner notes describing Glenn’s original Bluebird 78s as “jewels” and “pearls of great price.”  At the time I accepted this pronouncement as gospel. Later I would find out that most of Glenn’s 78s could be acquired for less than a buck, but what did I know in 1964?

By the time the third Glenn Miller Camden LP was issued in 1967 (another great cover design and with five more Eberles!), I was well on my way to full-fledged record passion.

Glenn Miller - The Nearness Of Youre

As I got deeper into the music of the Big Band Era, my mother would say (often), “I lived through this era once, do I have to again?”

The Duke Steps Out!

Here’s a slight puzzle – no year or city are mentioned on this garish little flyer, promoting a Fraternity Dance featuring Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra.ImageImage

A quick Google search reveals that the other band, led by Johnny Brown, often played in the Philadelphia area and was listed on a flyer from 1931 promoting Cab Calloway at a similar Fraternity Dance in 1931. ImageLikely at the same Elk’s Club, same $3.00 price and a confirmation of Philadelphia as the location.  Since research shows that the Duke played New York’s Roseland on this date in 1930 and was in Boston from October 14-20, 1932, my best guess for this engagement is 1931. Tough Depression times to spend $3.00 for a Hallowe’en Frolic!