Songs in Search of a Home

Everybody’s Got a Home But Me is an exquisitely mournful ballad from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1955 Broadway musical, PIPE DREAM. That title might be applied to several songs written by these composers and others that never found a home to settle into.

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MR. MONOTONY – In 1947, Irving Berlin wrote this quirky number for Judy Garland to perform in EASTER PARADE. Judy recorded and filmed the song, wearing a snazzy tuxedo and hat outfit that would later be immortalized in her Get Happy routine in SUMMER STOCK. The performance would be deleted before the film’s release; two reasons have been offered for its’ removal.

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It was suggested that Judy’s outfit was too contemporary looking for the movie’s 1912 time period, or that there were simply too many musical sequences and one would have to go. The film was preserved and has been included on several MGM DVDs.

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Never one to let a good song go to waste, Berlin tried it in another period piece, the 1949 Broadway musical MISS LIBERTY, where it was choreographed by Jerome Robbins. After a few performances, the song was found wanting again and was dropped. The same thing happened in the next Irving Berlin-Jerome Robbins show, 1950’s CALL ME MADAM, where star Ethel Merman asked for the song’s removal while the show was still in its pre-Broadway tryout.

And that was pretty much the end of Mr. Monotony. The Robbins choreography has fortunately been preserved and the number has been included in JEROME ROBBINS’ BROADWAY and other Robbins compilations. Yet the song is still causing problems. On a television episode of GLEE a few years ago, stars Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison were set to perform it, but it was dropped yet again! As in the case of Judy Garland, the recording still exists.

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BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME – this is an even sadder case. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this charmer in 1943 for a little show named OKLAHOMA!, when its title was still AWAY WE GO!  It was sung by Carly and Laurey as a love duet near the end of the show, but was dropped out of town in favor of a reprise of People Will Say We’re in Love. In a decidedly unusual circumstance, R&H sold the song to MGM, who decided to add it to the Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane score of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Martin and Blane were not happy.

Judy & Tom Drake slog around the muddy unfinished fairgrounds as she sings BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME

Judy & Tom Drake slog around the muddy unfinished fairgrounds as she sings BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME.

It was slotted into a spot right after The Trolley Song. Judy Garland and her beau Tom Drake walk around the unfinished site of the St Louis World’s Fair. To keep Judy from getting her feet muddy, Tom picks her up and carries her, as she sings the song. It was felt that the scene slowed down the action, so it all was cut, to the composers’ relief – now they wouldn’t be competing with Rodgers & Hammerstein! Judy did record it for her Decca 78 album of songs from the movie. Its inclusion puzzled collectors who were unaware of the number’s history for years.

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MGM dredged the tune up again in 1948 and gave it to Frank Sinatra to sing to Betty Garrett in TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. Though Frank gave it a tender reading as the duo walk around a picnic area, the scene was once again deemed too static and it was removed.

 

Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

Rodgers and Hammerstein apparently liked the song, as it then popped up in stage productions of their TV musical, CINDERELLA, usually assigned to the older King and Queen. In the 1965 TV remake, it is heard as background music during a dance sequence. The 1996 STATE FAIR stage musical used the song as a duet for the parents. Ironic that a song originally intended for a young couple would end up being repurposed for senior citizens.

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While on the subject of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, there is another song possibly connected to it that intrigues me. After ST. LOUIS, composers Martin and Blane contributed a few songs to the 1945 MGM film, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN HOLLYWOOD. Originally titled CLOSE SHAVE, the boys play barbers who end up nearly wrecking the aforementioned studio. The movie has several pleasant ballads sung by Bob Haymes, Dick’s sound-alike brother, billed under his stage name of Robert Stanton.

There is also one big production number with the oddly specific title of Fun On the Wonderful Midway. Bob sings and it is danced by Frances Rafferty and future MGM director Charles Walters (he helmed EASTER PARADE). Kay Thompson wrote the wild vocal arrangement. The song has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, being a production number that we see in the process of being filmed for another movie (all in one take!). Taking place on the amusement area of a pier side park, it allows for a comic rollercoaster chase with Lou Costello.

The Midway, aka "The Pike" at the 1904 St. Louis Fair

The Midway, aka “The Pike” at the 1904 St. Louis Fair

Another view of "The PIke"

Another view of “The Pike”

I wonder if the song had originally been written in mind for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, as the amusement area of the 1904 St. Louis Fair was known as the Midway (also nicknamed The Pike). It’s easy to see this song being considered for the film’s finale, especially since the last sequence at the Fair has no musical numbers and it would have been nice to end on a big final showcase for Judy. Who knows? It certainly would have cost a lot to stage and that was always a big consideration!

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Still in the Garland corner, Last Night When We Were Young was one additional casualty. Written by her future songwriters Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg in 1935 for METROPOLITAN, a Lawrence Tibbett 20th Century Fox film, it was cut before release.  Tibbett did record it for RCA Victor and Judy coveted her copy of the disc.  She tried several times to fit the composition into one of her pictures and succeeded with IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME in 1948. Yet once again, the song was cut.

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The footage still exists and it can easily be seen why the sequence was dropped.  Though Judy looks and sounds sensational, this intensely sophisticated, mournful song just was too “heavy” for a light comedy-musical, albeit one with dramatic touches. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the nearly forgotten song became a semi-standard, through commercial recordings by Frank Sinatra and Garland.

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Coming full circle in the tangled history of these songs, as Judy sang in EASTER PARADE, Better Luck Next Time!

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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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The Final Sessions

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And now, we reach the sudden, unexpected final chapter in the recorded legacy of the Glenn Miller civilian band.   The first reason for this was an announcement in June 1942 by James C. Petrillo, the volatile head of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). 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.

The second reason for these sessions preserving the last studio sounds of the Miller band was Glenn’s decision to enlist in the Army. Since the war began, Glenn had wanted to do more for his country than just lead a dance orchestra. Intensely patriotic, he likely took note of Artie Shaw’s decision to disband and enlist in the Navy in April 1942. Glenn had big ideas for what he could do for music and entertainment in the Army and after tense and lengthy negotiations, made plans to enlist in September 1942.

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Getting back to July – following some east coast dates, Miller set up shop in Chicago for a 10-day stay at the Hotel Sherman’s Panther Room, which was lushly upholstered in jungle décor and panther spots! This meant that Glenn would have to perform his last studio appearances at RCA’s Chicago studio. That was a slight disappointment, as the Chicago venue was notorious for its dry acoustics. After his recent recordings made in the sonorous Victor Hollywood and New York studios, these Chicago 78s sound dull by comparison.

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Not that the performances were dull! Thirteen songs were recorded on three back-to-back afternoon sessions. Glenn covered all bases here – swing instrumentals, ballad instrumentals, current pop vocals and novelty songs. All the familiar Miller tropes were employed and not incidentally, several top hits and enduring standards happened to be waxed.

Sadly, one of the main Miller voices would not appear on these discs. Glenn fired Ray Eberle on July 9th, after the singer showed up late for a rehearsal. Apparently, this was the final straw in a relationship that had cooled considerably over the years. Glenn discovered and nurtured Ray back in 1938 and for awhile they had a warm, almost father-son rapport.

By 1942, Ray was increasingly dissatisfied with his role in the band and his compensation. When the other musicians were getting paid for their participation in Orchestra Wives, Ray was informed that since he was under personal contract to Glenn, he wouldn’t be getting any additional reimbursement. Riding high in the vocal popularity polls, Ray likely felt he was one of the band’s biggest draws and deserved to be recognized. Supposedly alcohol was another factor in Ray’s downfall. Whatever the final reason or reasons, Ray was out on July 9th.

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Poor Ray – he could have no premonition of how fast and how far he would now fall. Without the Miller connection, he was not a hot commodity. He soon joined Gene Krupa’s band, becoming the fourth banana in a star-studded ensemble that featured the drummer-leader, singer Anita O’Day and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Next to these attention-grabbers, Ray went almost unnoticed. Even worse, the band broke up in early 1943, under a cloud of Krupa’s rumored drug conviction.

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Ray formed his own orchestra and signed with Universal Pictures in 1943, making a slew of B-musicals and band shorts, none of which drew much attention. Drafted in 1944, Eberle got back into music in 1946 with a new orchestra and a smattering of recordings on the Apollo and Signature labels, but by then he was already a nostalgia act.

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Ray

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?

“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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The Spirit Is Willing

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, Dorothy Claire, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 19, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060911-1      When That Man Is Dead and Gone (TB & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11069-B

060912-1      The Spirit Is Willing (JG arr)            Bluebird 11135-A

060913-1      A Little Old Church in England (RE, M & Band vcl) Bluebird 11069-A

060914-1      Perfidia (DC & M vcl)           Bluebird 11095-A

 

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 20, 1941, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

060915-1      It’s Always You (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 11079-A

060916-1      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr)             Bluebird 11095-B

060916-2      Spring Will Be So Sad (RE & M vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

060917-1      The Air-Minded Executive (TB, DC vcl)      Bluebird 11135-B

060918-1      Below the Equator (RE & M vcl)     Bluebird 11235-B

The Glenn Miller Band concluded a sensational three-week engagement at New York’s Paramount Theater on February 18th, 1941. They spent the next two days in the RCA studio setting down eight new tracks before leaving town again.

First up were two of Irving Berlin’s less-familiar patriotic songs, the first truly World War II-influenced numbers in the band’s library. WHEN THAT MAN IS DEAD AND GONE is a not-so-subtle jab at Adolf Hitler, referred to in the lyric as “Satan with a small mustache.” It’s rather too grim a subject to swing lightly, as here. Tex Beneke and the Modernaires blend their voices for the first time and brief hot solos by Ernie Caceres and Billy May are effective, but this is not a fun disc for repeated playing!

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A LITTLE OLD CHURCH IN ENGLAND references the terrible destruction of the London Blitz in an oblique manner. The entire band acts as a vocal choir here, adding their voices effectively to Ray and the Modernaires. Though she gets label credit, new gal singer Dorothy Claire is not audibly present. It’s another depressing song that couldn’t have been too welcome in those dark days of the war. Since both of these Berlin tunes were published through ASCAP (Berlin was one of the founders of the organization, back in 1914), they got no radio exposure, which perhaps is just as well.

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THE SPIRIT IS WILLING is a more cheerful opus and totally instrumental, though “voices” are to be heard. A witty Jerry Gray original, it offers a spirited (!) conversation between Billy May and likely Mickey McMickle, alternating muted and open trumpets. They each preach the gospel, eventually resolving their differences in a plaintive coda. Another underrated disc, the number catches Gray in an Ellington-Lunceford groove and was often featured on radio by Glenn.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

Next up is another biggie – PERFIDIA, one of Miller’s best-remembered hits. It had a similar history to FRENESI, another of Mexican composer Alberto Dominguez’s songs. Xavier Cugat recorded it in 1940 and co-wrote an English lyric with Will Heagney. Retitled TONIGHT (PERFIDIA), it was recorded by Gene Krupa, Ozzie Nelson and Jimmy Dorsey. This version was ASCAP-licensed, so in 1941, Milton Leeds penned a new BMI lyric, which is the one famously recorded by Benny Goodman and Glenn. Benny swung it nicely with Helen Forrest singing, but Glenn slowed it down, as he had done with FRENESI.

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Set in a lush arrangement (likely by Jerry Gray), the insinuating melody is crooned romantically by Dorothy Claire and the Modernaires, with the full band once again providing vocal support. The final instrumental chorus alternates blaring brass with hypnotic reeds, building to a completely satisfying finish – another Glenn Miller mega-hit for the grateful fans!

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Back in the studio the very next day, the band set down four more typical performances, leading off with IT’S ALWAYS YOU, a lovely Johnny Burke-Jimmy Van Heusen ballad from the second Bob Hope-Bing Crosby film, Road to Zanzibar. Glenn’s own Crosby, Ray Eberle, sings the intensely romantic lyrics in a charmingly ardent manner and Bill Finegan’s sinuous arrangement is another plus. The Miller band was earlier criticized for playing ballads too fast, but by 1941 this was no longer the case. The competing Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra recording is noticeably speedier than Glenn’s. Unfortunately, being an ASCAP tune, neither of these worthy versions got any airplay.

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Glenn had recorded two songs written by his guitarist, Jack Lathrop, the preceding fall. Now he turned to a new Miller bandsman, Modernaire Hal Dickinson, for a tune, SPRING WILL BE SO SAD. Dickinson had recently composed two good numbers that Glenn played on the air but didn’t record, A LOVE SONG HASN’T BEEN SUNG and THESE THINGS YOU LEFT ME.

Ray and the Mods warble SPRING WILL BE SO SAD smoothly, backed by an able Jerry Gray chart. It’s another downer of a lyric, alluding to “this troubled world” and wartime unhappiness. The only bright spot is the exquisite coda, as the sun breaks through, via a lovely clarinet passage.

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Johnny Mercer takes us away from current events with THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE, a delightful collaboration with Bernie Hanighen. Hanighen is forgotten today, but he and Mercer had teamed up for a number of 30s hits, including THE DIXIELAND BAND, BOB WHITE and FARE-THEE-WELL TO HARLEM. By this time, Hanighen had moved away from composing to become a producer at Columbia Records, working most effectively with John Hammond on Billie Holiday’s sessions.

Dorothy Claire

Dorothy Claire

THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE tells the improbable tale of a forward-looking businessman who “dearly loves to fly” and romances his secretary on his “stratos-ferry.” The Miller version gives us our main chance to hear perky Dorothy Claire on record with the band, as she and Tex neatly revive the cross-talk routine that Marion Hutton had done so often with Mr. Beneke. The wordy song doesn’t give the band much to do, but it should be noted that the “airplane revving up” effect that opens the disc would be reused by Jerry Gray on KEEP ‘EM FLYING later in the year.

Concluding the February session, we go BELOW THE EQUATOR with Ray and the Mods. Its bolero rhythm suggests another song of South American origin, but Americans Charlie Tobias and Cliff Friend wrote it. Atmospheric and moody, this fine disc would be the last Glenn Miller disc for quite a long time. The band wouldn’t find themselves before a Victor microphone again for two and-a-half months. What were they doing during that period? Why, they were making a movie, in Hollywood!

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Sun Valley Jump

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, The Four Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 17, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

058884-1      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)    first issued on LP

058884-2      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)   Bluebird 11079-B

058885-1      Song of the Volga Boatmen (BF arr)                  Bluebird 11029-A

058886-1      The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11110-A

058887-1      You Stepped Out of a Dream (RE & M vcl)      Bluebird 11042-A

058888-1      I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem (JG arr)                Bluebird 11063-A

058889-1      Sun Valley Jump (JG arr)                                   Bluebird 11110-B

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Today’s posting comes on the 70th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s tragic disappearance over the English Channel. His contributions to American music should never be forgotten.

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1941!   A new year and several important personnel changes occurred in the Glenn Miller band as soon as the holiday decorations came down. Newlywed Marion Hutton announced she was newly pregnant and retired temporarily. Apparently this event had been brewing for a while, as Marion was being featured less and less on the Miller sustaining broadcasts, though she had her nightly spot on the Chesterfield program.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Pert Dorothy Claire was quickly signed away from her solid perch in the Bobby Byrne band, which resulted in bad blood and a lawsuit between the two leaders. She would join on January 8th, but did not appear on record until February. Seeking more vocal variety, Glenn also signed the Four Modernaires as permanent members of the ensemble. We’ve already heard from Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster, Hal Dickenson and Chuck Goldstein as guest singers on MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME. Featured earlier with Ozzie Nelson, Harry Reser, Charlie Barnet, George Hall and Paul Whiteman, the group had become quite popular and slotted in easily with the Miller band. They arrived on January 13th and immediately began rehearsing for the upcoming record date.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

Glenn also renewed his contract with RCA Victor, under new, more lucrative terms. He received twice what he had been getting per record (now $750) and increased royalty payments. Now Miller had to earn the money by producing hit records. The January 17th session delivered the goods.

IDA! SWEET AS APPLE CIDER was written in 1903 as a piece of special material by and for blackface minstrel-vaudevillian Eddie Leonard. It eventually became a jazz standard, with memorable recordings by Red Nichols’ Pennies and the Benny Goodman Quartet. Having fallen into the public domain, it was an obvious choice for Glenn to dust off, record and broadcast in 1941, as one of the few familiar song standards that was not an ASCAP tune.

As the first Billy May arrangement to be waxed by Glenn, it heralded the fresher, more relaxed direction the band was now taking. The Lunceford-style two-beat feel suited Tex Beneke perfectly, in both his vocal and sax solo and became one of his most-performed features with Glenn and his later, post-war band.

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Leonard had sung the number in the 1940 Bing Crosby film, If I Had My Way. He died in July 1941 at 71, hopefully having heard the Miller 78 that made his old song a hit all over again.

Raiding the public domain once more, Glenn did a further archeological job on SONG OF THE VOLGA BOATMEN, an old Russian folk song dating back to 1866. Jimmy Dorsey had recorded a 12-inch swing version for Decca in 1938, but no other jazz folk had touched it.

Bill Finegan took a subtler approach in his arrangement, starting with Trigger Alpert’s bass, an eerie vocal “whoo-oo-oo” from the band and creepy, muted wah-wahs by Billy May. A sinuous alto solo by Ernie Caceres follows, leading into a fugue section, with trombones, trumpets and handclaps circling in contrapuntal fashion. It sounds complicated, but it plays as very catchy! The full band roars to a minor-key conclusion and there you have it – a Number #1 hit record.  The arrangement would become increasingly timely as the war in Europe intensified and Glenn began introducing the number as “a tribute to our fighting Russian allies.”  Glenn’s later AAF Band would also perform it often.

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After these two radio-friendly performances, the band turned to two popular ASCAP songs, which means they got no airplay at all. That’s a shame, as they are fine records that also serve to welcome the Modernaires. They blend beautifully with Ray Eberle on THE ONE I LOVE, sounding as if they had been paired for years.

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Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers had cut a lazily swinging Sy Oliver arrangement of the song in 1940. This Miller rendition (arranged by Jerry Gray) goes totally for mood and romance and is taken at what may be the slowest tempo for a Miller ballad yet. The vocal is hushed and very effective – a lovely record!

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Whether by design or just coincidence, lyricist Gus Kahn, who had written THE ONE I LOVE with Isham Jones back in 1924, also wrote the words for YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. A collaboration with MGM songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, this new number was the big ballad from Ziegfeld Girl. Starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart, the film and the song were hugely successful.

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Performed in similar style to the preceding tune, YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM is slightly less effective, marred by a loud, out-of-place trumpet coda, which is not well played and breaks the quiet mood.

This lengthy session was concluded with two excellent Jerry Gray swing originals. Many compositions by Glenn and his arrangers (as well as their arrangements of public domain melodies) were published by Glenn’s own firm, Mutual Music. He signed with BMI to assure radio play for these numbers, as well as the new Miller radio theme, SLUMBER SONG, which replaced MOONLIGHT SERENADE for the duration.

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The title I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM is a cute take-off on I DREAMT THAT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS, the ancient operetta aria from The Bohemian Girl, familiar to fans of Laurel and Hardy from its use in their 1936 film version. There is no musical similarity between the two compositions. Gray’s catchy riff rocks along smoothly, with fine solos by Al Klink, Billy May, Trigger Alpert, Chummy MacGregor and Ernie Caceres. Live versions from the Café Rouge run over five minutes in length and are more effective. Too bad Glenn didn’t go for a 12-inch disc here!

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Often-overlooked Al Klink gets more solo space on SUN VALLEY JUMP, along with May and Caceres again. This great Jerry Gray swinger is tightly patterned and each theme follows one after the other with a feeling of inevitability. Allowing additional solo choruses would have make the piece less effective, unlike the looser I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM, which could go on as long as time allowed.

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Titled in honor of Glenn’s upcoming Sun Valley Serenade film, SUN VALLEY JUMP was rerecorded for the soundtrack, but ironically, not to be heard on screen. More on that later!

The Miller band closed their lengthy engagement at the Café Rouge the day after this session and then traveled a few blocks uptown for another three-week stint at the Paramount Theater in Times Square. It would be just over a month before they had the time to swing by RCA again.