“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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Falling Leaves

Mickey McMickle, Charles Frankhauser, Zeke Zarchy, Johnny Best (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,vcl); Tony Carlson (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Bill Finegan (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 3, 1940, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM

055579-1      Yesterthoughts (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10893

055580-1      Falling Leaves            Bluebird 10876

055581-1      Shadows on the Sand (RE vcl)        Bluebird 10900

055582-1      Goodbye, Little Darlin’, Goodbye (RE vcl)   Bluebird 10931


RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 12, 1940, 9:00 AM-1:30 PM

056106-1      Five O’Clock Whistle (MH & band vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10900

056107-1      Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar (JL vcl)    Bluebird 10876

056107-2      Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar (JL vcl)    first issued on LP

056108-1      Ring Telephone, Ring (RE vcl)         Bluebird 11042 (gold label)

056108-2      Ring Telephone, Ring (RE vcl)         Bluebird 11042 (silver label)

Once again, a road tour interrupted Glenn Miller’s recording schedule. They didn’t go too far, though – some dates in Pennsylvania and Boston, two engagements at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City (including Labor Day weekend) and – wonder of wonders! A three-day vacation, from August 23-26.

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Back in the studio on September 3rd, the band sounds refreshed and relaxed on an all-ballad session. As it turns out, all the songs were written by musicians who had crossed Glenn’s path before.

Though he had been dead for 16 years, composer Victor Herbert contributed the first song, YESTERTHOUGHTS. Actually written as a piano piece in 1900, lyricist Stanley Adams now added words, as Al Dubin had done in 1939 for Herbert’s INDIAN SUMMER. The previous song was an enormous hit; YESTERTHOUGHTS not so much, but it drew respectable attention. Raymond Scott and Jimmy Dorsey also waxed it, but the Miller recording got the most jukebox plays.

Bill Finegan arranged a beautiful introduction, followed by a richly scored chorus, played by the reeds and Glenn, with his horn tightly muted. Ray Eberle enters and does well by the lyric, which is not up to the level of INDIAN SUMMER. It would have played better as an instrumental, which was the case for the next tune.

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FALLING LEAVES was a big success for its composer, pianist Frankie Carle, then featured with Horace Heidt’s band. Carle had given Glenn a huge hit with SUNRISE SERENADE and this new composition made for one of Miller’s most memorable renditions. It’s a beauty of a theme, starting with an arresting out-of tempo intro that suggests a clutch of leaves swiftly gliding to the ground. The reeds joyously sing the melody and then Tex Beneke uncorks a lovely half-chorus solo. Sadly, the arranger isn’t credited in any of the discographies.


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Another arresting introduction leads into SHADOWS ON THE SAND, a mournful tale of love betrayed, well, nearly so, by another deceased composer, Will Grosz. Grosz had published IN AN OLD DUTCH GARDEN in 1939, which Glenn recorded. Stanley Adams wrote these words too, as he had for YESTERTHOUGHTS. Apparently Adams liked to work with collaborators who wouldn’t talk back! Eberle handles the song slowly and with feeling. By comparison, Frank Sinatra sounds rather blasé on the competing Tommy Dorsey version.

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It’s back to cow country for the last number, GOODBYE, LITTLE DARLIN’ GOODBYE. Cowboy star Gene Autry is credited with this one, along with popular 1920s singer Johnny Marvin, who likely wrote the whole thing. Marvin was a longtime pal of Autry’s and crafted songs for dozens of Autry westerns. Ray handles this sad-saddle ballad smoothly and quite wistfully.

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Glenn and the boys then played a week’s engagement at the RKO Keith Theater in Boston, then swung back to New York for more records. This time, Ray shared the microphone with two other familiar voices.

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Bill Finegan’s FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE chart brings Marion Hutton front-and center and showcases that new “Lunceford lope” feel that the band was employing occasionally. It’s a groovy, hep number, written by neophyte songwriters Josef (later Joseph) Myrow, Kim Gannon and Gene Irwin. Myrow and Gannon would have many hits to come, including others for Miller – MOONLIGHT COCKTAIL and ALWAYS IN MY HEART. WHISTLE was also recorded by Duke Ellington, Erskine Hawkins, Count Basie (as a marvelous Lester Young feature) and Ella Fitzgerald. Marion is a bit more polite than Ivie Anderson and Ella, but the Miller version holds its own against such formidable competition. Ernie Caceres’ rollicking baritone sax anchors the reeds and Beneke’s tenor solo is a winner.

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The next song is a distinct letdown, for Glenn, that is. BEAT ME DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR was a huge hit for the Will Bradley band (as an epic, uptempo two-sided 78) and the Andrews Sisters. Glenn’s conception is a decided runner-up. The catchy theme originated with drummer Ray McKinley of the Bradley ensemble and was expanded into a full-fledged song by Don Raye and Hughie Prince. (On the published song sheet, McKinley used his wife’s name, Eleanore Sheehy, for some reason).

Raye and Prince parlayed the number into a franchise of boogie-woogie- flavored blockbusters – BOOGIE WOOGIE BUGLE BOY, BOUNCE ME BROTHER WITH A SOLID FOUR, RHUMBOOGIE, ROCK-A-BYE THE BOOGIE. COW COW BOOGIE and SCRUB ME MAMA WITH A BOOGIE BEAT.

Chummy MacGregor liked to play in boogie style, so it’s natural he would lead off and conclude the Miller version. Jack Lathrop sings the number rather blandly and this slowed-down arrangement generates little heat, except for Ernie Caceres’ piercing clarinet solo.

Ray Eberle makes his sole appearance for this session on RING TELEPHONE, RING, an oddly affecting ballad by Peter Tinturin and Buck Ram, whose names have appeared here before (as writers of TWILIGHT INTERLUDE and BOOG-IT). Beneke plays one of his loveliest melody choruses, and Ray sings the somber lyrics in an appealingly yearning fashion. The song did not achieve popularity, but someone must have remembered it, as it was revived and recorded again in 1947 by Kay Kyser with Harry Babbitt.  This record also holds the distinction of being one of the very few Miller numbers where two different takes of the song were issued on 78.

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Once more, a month would go by before the next recording date. The Miller band would play more East Coast engagements, before finally settling in on October for another fall/winter New York residency at the Hotel Pennsylvania’s Café Rouge.

Some new faces would appear on the bandstand for the October 11th session at RCA Victor!

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A Handful of Stars

Same personnel as June 13th.

RCA Victor Studios, New York – August 8, 1940, 11:15 AM-3:15 PM

05501-1         The Call of the Canyon (RE vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 10845

05502-1         Our Love Affair (RE vcl)                              Bluebird 10845

05503-1         Crosstown (JL vcl)                                        Bluebird 10832

05504-1         What’s Your Story, Morning Glory? (TB vcl)   Bluebird 10832


RCA Victor Studios, New York – August 14, 1940, 11:00 PM-2:00 AM & 3:00-5:00 AM

055515-1      Fifth Avenue (MH & TB vcl, JG arr)    Bluebird 10860

055516-1      I Wouldn’t Take a Million (RE vcl)      Bluebird 10860

055517-1      A Handful of Stars (RE vcl, BF arr)     Bluebird 10893

055518-1      Old Black Joe (GM, ChM arr)              Bluebird 10913


Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and then back to New York – the Glenn Miller band came off the road in early August 1940 for two recording sessions after nearly two months without a new disc being waxed. Song-wise, we first head out west again for THE CALL OF THE CANYON, with cowboy Ray in the saddle. Billy Hill, writer of so many Western hits, crafted this one for Gene Autry, who featured it in Melody Ranch, a 1940 Republic musical.

gmmelodyranchAutry’s Republic movies were usually pretty cheap endeavors, but this one got a budget boost, along with co-stars Jimmy Durante and Ann Miller, both somewhat out of sync with the rural setting. The film was a hit, and gave its name to Autry’s radio series and his later movie studio.

gmcalcanyonGlenn’s recording boasts an attractive Bill Finegan arrangement and a lovely opening solo by Tex Beneke. Ray sounds a bit strained and less effective than Frank Sinatra on the Tommy Dorsey rendition. The Miller chart is more imaginative than Dorsey’s, so you pays your money and you takes your choice!

OUR LOVE AFFAIR is another movie song, from the overblown Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland blockbuster, Strike Up The Band. The film costars bandleader Paul Whiteman as himself; Whiteman actually mentions Glenn in the dialogue, referring to Miller as one of the newer bands!

gm Strike Up the Band_01MGM’s all-around music guru Roger Edens wrote it, with lyrics by Arthur Freed (of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN fame). Freed was then transitioning from songwriter to film producer and would soon lead the Freed Unit at the studio, turning out some of the finest film musicals of the next two decades.

gm our love affairIt’s a sweet little song, handled well by Glenn and Ray, who sounds much happier than on the preceding track. In the film, the song acts as a lead-in to a sappy (and endless) sequence with real pieces of fruit dressed as members of a miniature symphony orchestra – no kidding!

CROSSTOWN is a forgettable novelty number, which brings Jack Lathrop back to the microphone.   Composer Nat Simon struck it big with POINCIANA and with his collaborators James Cavanaugh and John Redmond had also written THE GAUCHO SERENADE, recorded by Glenn earlier in the year.

gmcrosstownNow something really special, WHAT’S YOUR STORY, MORNING GLORY?, composed by pianist-arranger Mary Lou Williams (of the Andy Kirk band) and trumpeter Paul Webster (of the Jimmie Lunceford band). Versatile lyricist Jack Lawrence crafted a lyric to fit the meandering, bluesy melody and he sang it on the premiere recording by Andy Kirk in 1938. It sat around until mid-1940, when apparently Webster promoted an instrumental recording by the Lunceford band.

A few months later, it got to Glenn, who waxed it here with Tex Beneke on the vocal. The unfortunately uncredited arranger takes a fresh approach, giving the band a groovy “Lunceford lope,” with solos by Beneke and Johnny Best, along with Tex’s appealingly plaintive voice.

gm morning gloryyPost-Swing Era, the song was deservedly resurrected by Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’ Day and Julie London, among others.

Back to movie songs again for the August 14th session, this time from 20th Century Fox and superstar Shirley Temple’s last film there. Young People had Shirley as a 12-year-old vaudeville veteran, who, along with adoptive parents Jack Oakie and Charlotte Greenwood, leaves show business for life in a small midwestern town. The stuffy townspeople turn up their collective noses to these “show folk,” in extremely nasty ways, it must be added, until a local disaster allows the newcomers to show their worth. Personally, I would have told the smug residents to buzz off and headed back to Broadway on the first train, but that’s not how these films worked.

gm YoungPeopleThe picture was not too successful and Fox, seeing the handwriting on the wall as Shirley was reaching the awkward age, unceremoniously dumped her. The movie holds up well today, with fine performances all around and a superlative song score by veterans Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, teamed here for the first time. They would go on to write a batch of sensational songs for Fox musicals, including the scores for Glenn’s two films and the Oscar-winner, YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.

gm take a millionUnfortunately, neither of the Young People songs is handled especially well by the Miller vocalists. This might be due to the fact that this session was held in the middle of the night, between 11 PM and 5 AM! Both Marion and Ray sound pretty pooped on FIFTH AVENUE and I WOULDN’T TAKE A MILLION. Also, the Marion-Tex jive dialogue routine was starting to wear out its welcome and this turned out to be the last record that featured it.

Ray literally runs out of voice on the line, “the twinkle in your eyes” and the band sounds pretty enervated, too. An hour-long break was taken midway in the proceedings and this may have recharged the guys, as the next tune, A HANDFUL OF STARS, is an all-around winner.  Versatile Jack Lawrence also wrote these lyrics, to Ted Shapiro’s melody.  Few music aficionados are aware that this standard song came from an MGM B-musical, Hullabaloo, which reteamed Wizard of Oz co-stars Frank Morgan and Billie Burke.

gm handfulA new, more “mature” sound on Miller ballad arrangements started developing with THE NEARNESS OF YOU and now is heard on A HANDFUL OF STARS. Credit is due to arranger Bill Finegan, who wrote both. It’s a richer, slower, more thoughtful approach, providing a sympathetic frame for Ray Eberle’s vocals. A more congenial tempo and subtler backing now replace the relentless pumping rhythm of MOON LOVE and OH, YOU CRAZY MOON.

On his Chesterfield show, Glenn had a regular feature titled, “From the Album of Musical Favorites.” These included such ancient melodies as GOIN’ HOME, FLOW GENTLY SWEET AFTON, I’LL TAKE YOU HOME AGAIN KATHLEEN and Stephen Foster’s JEANNIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR and OLD BLACK JOE. Only the last of these was recorded by Victor, almost as an afterthought at the end of the August 14th date.

Jointly arranged by Glenn and pianist Chummy MacGregor (like their DANNY BOY effort), the chart might have been around since the early days of the band. It’s a simple one-chorus performance of the theme, with MacGregor’s piano tinkling sweetly throughout.

Having these vintage public domain numbers in the band book would soon come in handy, as the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP), was starting to rumble with dissatisfaction over radio royalties paid for performances of songs they controlled. Before too long, nearly all post-World War I pop music would be off-limits for airplay, affecting everyone from Kate Smith to Duke Ellington to Glenn Miller.


Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best (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); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 19, 1940, 1:00-4:30 PM

047067-1      Imagination (RE vcl)                         Bluebird 10622

047068-1      Shake Down the Stars (RE vcl)        Bluebird 10689

047069-1      I’ll Never Smile Again (RE vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 10673

047070-1      Starlight and Music (RE vcl, JG arr)            Bluebird 10684


RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 24, 1940, 2:00-5:15 PM

047093-1      Polka Dots and Moonbeams (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10657

047094-1      My, My (MH vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 10631

047095-1      Say It (RE vcl, BF arr)           Bluebird 10631

047096-1      Moments in the Moonlight (RE vcl) Bluebird 10638

047097-1      Hear My Song, Violetta (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10684

047098-1      Sierra Sue (RE vcl, JG arr)    Bluebird 10638

Two Glenn Miller record sessions during the latter half of February 1940 produced ten record sides, all popular songs of the day. Nine of them had vocals by Ray Eberle, with one brief look-in from Marion Hutton. Churning out the commercial pops kept the music publishers happy; and several of these songs were hits, though not necessarily for Glenn!

gmimaginationIMAGINATION, by the prolific Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, was a major Miller success and became a standard. It’s a sweet, charming song well handled by Ray and the band. Unusually, there is no band intro, we are plunked right into the song, performed at a relaxed, medium tempo.

And who wrote the next song, SHAKE DOWN THE STARS? Jimmy Van Heusen again, this time with lyricist Eddie DeLange. The lyrics paint a pretty grim picture of thwarted love, but Miller gives it a more hopeful feel. A bluesy, Lunceford-style introduction sets the mood and Eberle’s vocal is plaintively effective.

I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN is known far and wide as a huge record hit for Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers. Their innovative, hushed chamber group approach with celeste backing was a fresh sound for the time and well suited the mournful song. In fact it was Sinatra’s first hit with the band. (Songwriter Ruth Lowe later wrote Frank’s theme song, PUT YOUR DREAMS AWAY.)

gmsmilgmgmsmiletdgmsmilefsThe story given at the time was that Ruth Lowe wrote it in the aftermath of her young husband’s death. Later it was reported that she had actually written it earlier. Whatever the case, the song certainly struck a chord with listeners.   Glenn got to it first, though. He recorded it two months before Tommy attempted it in April 1940. That first Dorsey recording was unissued; a remake a month later first hit the charts in July and was Number One for 12 weeks.

Glenn had a real head start, but his Bluebird disc was a major disappointment. Getting the standard Miller treatment, the song comes across as nothing out of the ordinary; it needed special handling, as Tommy realized.   Strangely, Glenn apparently sensed that the song had hit potential. On a March 4th broadcast, he took pains to introduce the song’s radio debut with a prediction that it would be a big hit. It was, but not for him!

STARLIGHT AND MUSIC, which concluded the February 19th session, is another forgettable recording. The song is unmemorable and it gets a decent performance, but that’s about all that can be said. Writers Maurice Hart, Al Hoffman and Walter Kent sound like nobodies, but Hoffman later wrote the score for Walt Disney’s CINDERELLA and Kent composed I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER.

gmpoladotsThe February 24th date opened with another Miller 78 hit, POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS. Whaddya know, once again the composers were Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. In the wrong hands, the cheerful lyric, referencing a “pug-nosed dream,” could border on treacle, but Glenn (and Dorsey-Sinatra) handled it well.

The lovely melody became a jazz standard, with Lester Young, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans and Johnny Hodges among those who performed it in later years.

gm1940 Buck Benny rides again (ing) 01Paramount Pictures must have had some kind of deal with RCA and/or Glenn, as Miller regularly recorded songs from their musicals. Here come two more, MY! MY! and SAY IT. The great Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh teamed up for these tuneful numbers from Buck Benny Rides Again, a Jack Benny musical Western. It featured his radio cast, taking place on his fictitious Nevada ranch that was a sketch favorite on the air.  Benny was so popular at the time that the film was one of the Top Ten moneymakers of 1940!

gmmymygmsayiteMY! MY! was a familiar catchphrase of Benny’s sidekick, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, making it an appealing title hook for a song.   Rochester sang it in the film, but here Marion takes her only vocal on these two sessions. Following Miss Hutton is the first recorded Miller solo by newcomer Ernie Caceres. This talented Mexican jazzman came to Glenn from Jack Teagarden’s band and was an important addition to the band’s jazz contingent with his spiky solos on alto and baritone sax, clarinet and even the occasional vocal.

gmsay itEberle takes a nicely relaxed vocal on SAY IT, the film’s lovely ballad. It’s a song that should have become a standard.   Ray is even more hushed and effective on a broadcast version of the song a few weeks later, part of a Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue medley.

Society bandleader Richard Himber co-wrote the next song, MOMENTS IN THE MOONLIGHT. Himber apparently was a leader who actually wrote the songs he is credited with, including his popular theme song, IT ISN’T FAIR. Lyrics were provided by Irving Gordon and Al Kaufman. Their other hits include UNFORGETTABLE, BLUE PRELUDE and Duke Ellington’s PRELUDE TO A KISS.

It’s a pleasant number taken at the perfect medium tempo, but pitched at the high end of Ray Eberle’s range, giving his voice a strained quality. It took a long time before Glenn began to lower Ray’s keys, allowing him to sing at a more comfortable pitch. Tex Beneke peeks in briefly before the windup.

gmviolettaHEAR MY SONG, VIOLETTA had a strange lineage. It was a popular German ballad by composers Othmar Klose and Rudolf Lukesch, introduced in 1936. Somehow it made it’s way to these shores; Buddy Bernier and Bob Emmerich provided the English lyrics. It became a moderate hit, with recordings by Glenn, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey and Van Alexander. Later, in 1947, Irish tenor Josef Locke recorded it (with new lyrics by Buddy Pepper) in tango tempo and it practically became his theme song.

Glenn treats the melody as a fast ballad and Ray sings it unadorned, with slightly suspect intonation. The band swings it a bit in the final chorus, with nice cymbal work by Moe Purtill.

gmsierra s posterFinally, the six-tune February 24th session wraps up with SIERRA SUE, another Miller excursion into Western territory. Subtitled “A Song of the Hills,” it was written by Joseph B. Carey back in 1916. Dusted off 24 years later, it became the title song of a Gene Autry musical Western. Gene Krupa and Casa Loma also waxed it and it was performed by such diverse talents as soignee cabaret singer Doris Rhodes and jazzman Bud Freeman!

gmsierraThough the term “country-western music” didn’t exist in 1916, the tune is a typical prairie ballad, played in citified style by Glenn, who throws in some “boo-wah” brass phrases before Eberle’s vocal.

Ten songs in five days – that was a lot of recording in such a short time for Glenn.  It’s worth noting that of these ten, Tommy Dorsey would also record eight of them, all after Glenn did! It might simply be coincidence, but Tommy was feuding with Glenn at the time over money matters and it’s not unlikely that Dorsey wanted to cut into Glenn’s Bluebird record sales (at 35 cents a copy) by cutting the same songs for the prestigious full-priced (75 cents) Victor label.

More than a month would pass before we next join the band in the studio and a lot would happen in the interim!


Wish Upon a Star

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren, 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); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 6, 1940, 2:00-5:30 PM

046082-1      The Gaucho Serenade (RE vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 10570

046083-1      The Sky Fell Down (RE vcl, BF arr)                         Bluebird 10580

046084-1      When You Wish Upon a Star (RE vcl)        Bluebird 10570

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 15, 1940, 1:00-4:30 PM

046431-1      Give a Little Whistle (MH vcl)          Bluebird 10580

046432-1      Missouri Waltz           Bluebird 10587

046433-1      Beautiful Ohio (JG arr)         Bluebird 10587

046434-1      What’s the Matter With Me? (MH vcl)       Bluebird 10657

gmhotelpennfair1940 arrived with a bang for Glenn and the band. Their new radio program for Chesterfield was getting under way and a lengthy engagement at New York’s prestigious Café Rouge (in midtown’s Pennsylvania Hotel) began on January 4th.

gmhotelpennadNow the band could stay put in one city for several months, rehearsing, performing, recording and broadcasting. The first recording session of the year came less than a week after New Year’s Day.

gmgauchoadFor some reason, Glenn’s very citified orchestra was assigned to record a hefty slice of Western and cowboy music, beginning with THE GAUCHO SERENADE. He would eventually record enough to fill an album, though RCA never saw fit to compile one. It’s also Jerry Gray’s first recorded arrangement for the band, though airchecks exist of several earlier ones from late 1939.

gmgauchoserenadeTHE GAUCHO SERENADE was the title song of singing cowboy Gene Autry’s latest film, stuffed as usual with tunes by various composers. James Cavanaugh, John Redmond and Nat Simon wrote it; they each had a long series of hits behind them, including POINCIANA, I LIKE MOUNTAIN MUSIC, MISSISSIPPI MUD and I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART. It’s a merry little ditty, with Ray Eberle serving as an unlikely South American cowboy.

Bill Finegan surfaces as the arranger for THE SKY FELL DOWN, sung with great assurance by Ray. It’s a simple, effective chart with a sweet solo for Glenn in the last chorus. The distinguished team of Louis Alter (MANHATTAN SERENADE, YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME and DOLORES) and Edward Heyman (BODY AND SOUL, OUT OF NOWHERE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT) counted this as one of their big hits.

gmskyfelldownThis song also had the distinction of being the first disc recorded by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey on the higher-priced Victor label. There would be many more songs recorded by both Eberle and Sinatra over the next three years. Eberle was the more popular vocalist in 1940, but that would soon change.

gmPinocchio-1940-postergmPinocchio_title_cardGlenn had previously recorded the 1939 Best Song Oscar winner, OVER THE RAINBOW and was lucky enough to be assigned the eventual 1940 award winner, WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR, from Pinocchio.  Composers Ned Washington and Leigh Harline were regular contributors to Disney films; eventually this song became the Disney “theme,” heard on TV and in the theme parks up to the present day.

gmpinnocihioThough the arrangement is nothing special, Ray’s pleasant vocal and the song’s inherent quality carries the day. In 1947, the disc was reissued as part of a Victor 78 album of Glenn’s “star” songs, titled Starlight Serenades.

gmstar    gmwishstarNine days later, as the first tune on the next record date, another Pinocchio melody was given a spritely treatment. Jiminy Cricket’s GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE is warbled by Marion, a bit off-key, but sweetly sincere. Chummy MacGregor gets a rare boogie-woogie solo, and Tex is his usual dependably swinging self. Oddly, Bluebird didn’t release the two PINOCCHIO songs back-to-back, but on separate discs.


For a big change of pace, Glenn next recorded two waltzes. Every swing band had a few waltzes in their book to please older or more traditional dancers, but rarely got the chance to record them. That was the territory of the sweet bands. Wanting to be recognized as a well-rounded orchestra, Glenn apparently pushed Victor to let him record a few numbers in ¾ time; certainly music publishers weren’t promoting these oldies!

gmmissouritMISSOURI WALTZ, composed in 1914 by John Cameron Eppel, eventually became Missouri’s state song.   The arrangement, likely by Glenn, is simple and effective, with several tenor sax incursions by Beneke.

gmbeauohiooOn the flip side, BEAUTIFUL OHIO, not surprisingly, was the state song of Ohio. Ballard MacDonald and Robert King wrote it in 1918 as a standard love song. A later lyric revision made the song more Ohio-specific. Jerry Gray penned Glenn’s wistful chart, featuring muted brass and brief solos by Tex and Chummy.

Back to swing for the last item on the session – WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME?, written by Sam M. Lewis, with lyrics by Terry Shand. Lewis’ name is completely unknown today, but his songs aren’t – IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN, I’M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (both previously recorded by Glenn), FOR ALL WE KNOW and STREET OF DREAMS, to name just four. Terry Shand was a singer who recorded prolifically in the 1930s as a band vocalist and under his own name. He also wrote the lyrics for such hits as I DOUBLE DARE YOU and DANCE WITH A DOLLY.

gmWhatsTheMatterWithMeAfter a bouncy opening, Marion chirps the lyrics in a slightly subdued manner. The record really sparks to life with Clyde Hurley’s torrid solo, happily echoed by Tex, leading to a rousing windup.

Having been out of the studio for nearly all of December, Glenn was finally back at RCA on a regular recording schedule and more big hits were about to arrive!