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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“While I’m Rollin’ My Last Cigarette…”

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); Bill Conway (g); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Chicago, IL – June 25, 1941, 1:00-4:45 PM

064471-1      Under Blue Canadian Skies (RE vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 11219-A

064472-1      The Cowboy Serenade (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11235-A

064473-1      You and I (RE vcl)     Bluebird 11215-A

064474-1      Adios (JG arr)            Bluebird 11219-B

From Southern California to Salt Lake City to Iowa to Chicago – the Glenn Miller band slowly wended its way through the Midwest in June 1941 for the first time, breaking records (but not making them) everywhere they played. After a week at the Chicago Theater, they played a few dates in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana and then back to Chicago for their next RCA Victor session.

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As mentioned, Trigger Alpert left the band upon receiving his draft notice and was replaced by Doc Goldberg, who would stay with the band for the rest of its existence. Goldberg can be heard on ADIOS, the biggest hit from this date. Ray Eberle is in particularly good form and sings his three numbers quite winningly, without the assistance of the Modernaires.

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UNDER BLUE CANADIAN SKIES is another example of an attractive melody (in a plush Bill Finegan arrangement) weighed down by a clichéd lyric. Written by the same trio who created BLUEBERRY HILL, Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis, it made little impression on record buyers.

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Ray Eberle hops into the saddle again for his last Miller excursion out West, with THE COWBOY SERENADE. It’s one of Glenn’s best forays into this genre. The song is nicely evocative, with Glenn accompanying Ray on muted trombone during the bridge. It’s also a rare early example of a “board fade,” with the studio engineer fading out the song as it ends. This technique would become de rigeur in the rock era, but was still a novelty in 1941. Composer Rich Hall doesn’t seem to have written much else, but the song was enough of a hit to be grabbed for the title tune of a 1942 Gene Autry oater.

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Glenn’s radio sponsor, Chesterfield, wasn’t too happy with the song’s opening line, “While I’m rollin’ my last cigarette.” Perish the thought that some smokers might like to roll their own. When played on the air, the line was changed to, “While I’m smokin’ my last cigarette.” A Chesterfield, of course!

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Meredith Willson, who was then the conductor/sidekick on the Maxwell House Coffee Time program, featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen, composed YOU AND I. Some 15 years later, Willson would create one of the biggest Broadway hit musicals of all time, The Music Man. YOU AND I is a sweetly unpretentious song that became a Number #1 hit for Glenn and the Bing Crosby and Dorsey/Sinatra versions didn’t do too badly, either. There’s an arrestingly arranged brass passage that leads into the vocal and Glenn once again is heard on muted trombone in the final chorus.

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The session’s sole instrumental, ADIOS dates back to 1931, written by Spanish-American bandleader Enric Madriguera. This exquisite melody had a brief spurt of popularity during the early 30s Latin music craze, which was begun by THE PEANUT VENDOR. Rummaging through the many vintage non-ASCAP Latin songs ripe for revival in 1941, Glenn selected ADIOS and hit pay dirt.

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It’s too bad that ADIOS was recorded in Chicago. For some reason, the major labels’ Chicago studios always produced the worst, most dull-sounding recordings in the 1930s and 1940s. The Hollywood/Los Angeles studios offered the most vibrant sound, with New York usually somewhere in-between. The dynamic range of this very vibrant Jerry Gray arrangement is tightly constricted. Once again, Glenn puts the mute into his trombone, as does Mickey McMickle, who solos in the first and last choruses.

1951 78 reissue of ADIOS, with echo added for "Enhanced Sound."

1951 78 reissue of ADIOS, with echo added for “Enhanced Sound.”

During this period, most recording producers favored a dry, heavily damped-down resonance with little reverberation, but the Chicago engineers often went too far. Many big band reissues in the LP era were awash in added echo, to give the old discs a more modern quality. ADIOS came to sound as if it had been recorded in a cavern!

Posted here is an interesting version of the song. Glenn’s AAF/AEF Band was a major sensation when they played in Britain in 1944. Many British bands picked up stylistic qualities from Miller, none more so than Geraldo, who had progressed from a 1930s tango ensemble to a postwar strings-with-swing powerhouse. Geraldo’s late-40s arrangement of ADIOS sounds as if it could be a lost recording by Glenn, echoing such AEF multi-tempo extravaganzas as ORANGES AND LEMONS. The vocal is by the clumsily-named “Geraldotones” group.

Having done their duty by RCA, Glenn and the entourage left Chicago for more summer touring through the Heartland of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana. Glenn also decided to give the band their first-ever (and well-deserved) vacation, from July 27th through August 15th. Chesterfield wouldn’t agree to the break, so the band had to reconvene in New York for their three-times-a-week broadcasts, but did no other work except for an August 11th record date, which we’ll examine next time.

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Say “Si Si”

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Tommy Mack, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Jimmy Abato, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 26, 1940, 2:00-5:15 PM

046727-1      Say “Si Si” [Para Vigo Me Voy] (MH vcl)     Bluebird 10622

046728-1      The Rumba Jumps (MH, TB vcl)   Bluebird 10673

046728-2      The Rumba Jumps (MH, TB vcl)   first issued on LP

Happily tootling along in New York, the Miller band worked through January on their Chesterfield program and Café Rouge appearances. Two more record dates were slotted in before the end of the month. Two tunes with a Latin tinge comprised the January 26th session. SAY “SI SI” was an authentic Cuban song by famed composer Ernesto Lecuona, published in 1935 under the title PARA VIGO ME VOY and recorded by Xavier Cugat.

gmsaysisiWith the developing craze for Latin American music, quite a few older songs by Lecuona, Alberto Dominguez and others got an American makeover with new English lyrics. Journeyman writer Al Stillman did the job here and also successfully lyricized THE BREEZE AND I and MAMA YO QUIERO around the same time. Marion Hutton sings jauntily, pushing the Miller disc into hit status. The Andrews’ Sisters version on Decca also sold well. Coincidentally, the Sisters featured the number on their Chesterfield radio appearances with Glenn, who therefore had to carry two arrangements of the song in his book!

gmrumbaUnlikely “Latin” composers Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer wrote THE RUMBA JUMPS, for their flop Broadway musical, Walk With Music; Glenn had earlier recorded OOH! WHAT YOU SAID from this score.      Future Miller stars, The Modernaires, sang both songs in the show. It tells a complicated story about a Harlem band stranded in the Dominican Republic and likely provided the impetus for a colorful production number on Broadway. On record, it serves as the first Hutton-Beneke vocal-whistling duet, with the hip “Hiya Tex, what’cha say?” patter that would become a familiar part of the band’s performances.

Just three days later, the band would be back at RCA for a lengthy session featuring Marion & Tex again.

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