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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.