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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That Old Black Magic

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Steve Lipkins, 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, Skip Nelson, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, George Williams (arr).

RCA Victor Studios,   Chicago – July 14, 1942, 11:00 AM-2:40 PM

074736-1      Dearly Beloved (SN & Band vcl, JG arr)      Victor 27953 -A

074737-1      Moonlight Mood (SN & M vcl, JG arr)          Victor 20-1520-B

074738-1      Caribbean Clipper (JG arr) Victor 20-1536-B

074739-1      Here We Go Again (JG arr)   Victor 20-1563-A

 

RCA Victor Studios,    Chicago – July 15, 1942, 11:00 AM-3:15 PM

074740-1      That Old Black Magic (SN & M vcl)             Victor 20-1523-A

074740-2      That Old Black Magic (SN & M vcl)        first issued on CD

074741-1      Moonlight Becomes You (SN & M vcl)        Victor 20-1520–A

074742-1      Juke Box Saturday Night (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr)   Victor 20-1509-A

074743-1      It Must Be Jelly (M vcl, GW arr)       Victor 20-1546-A

Fame can be very fickle – in 1940, Ray Eberle was on top of the popularity charts. By war’s end, band singers Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes and Perry Como were now the top male solo singers and other formerly big names like Harry Babbitt, Ray Eberle and brother Bob Eberly had dropped out of contention.

Glenn’s immediate concern was to replace Ray in a matter of days, before the quickly-approaching Victor session of July 14th. He contacted young Skip Nelson of the Chico Marx band and flew him to Chicago within a day of Ray’s departure. Skip actually looked and sounded quite a bit like Ray, so he was a natural choice.

Skip Nelson with the Casa Loma Band in 1945.

Skip Nelson with the Casa Loma Band in 1945.

First to be recorded on July 14th (and the first to be issued, judging by catalog number), was DEARLY BELOVED, one of the beautiful Jerome Kern-Johnny Mercer songs from You Were Never Lovelier. Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth were teamed in this A-class Columbia musical, that also featured I’M OLD FASHIONED, which Glenn got around to on July 16th.

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Skip makes his Miller debut here, backed by the band humming along. He sounds fairly grim and heavy, nervous traits that unfortunately continue through these sessions. Skip sounded a bit lighter-voiced on an earlier session with Chico Marx; he can certainly be forgiven for coming off stiff here, as he had barely spent three days getting adjusted his new surroundings!

The band sounds rich and sonorous, with organ-like textures reflecting the greater depth the band had achieved by this time. It’s too bad the damped-down sound of RCA’s Chicago studio can’t fully capture that depth, but just compare this Jerry Gray arrangement to one of his from 1940 and you’ll get the idea.

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MOONLIGHT MOOD is not of the quality of DEARLY BELOVED, but once again Jerry Gray works magic with the material. Like DEEP PURPLE, the song began as an instrumental composition by Peter DeRose. Harold Adamson added the words later.   Skip Nelson is a mite less heavy-sounding than on the preceding tune, but oddly, the original 78 omits his vocal credit, mentioning only the Modernaires.

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Skip gets a break, as the other two numbers on this day’s program are strictly instrumental. CARIBBEAN CLIPPER was a new Jerry Gray original, taken slightly below flagwaver tempo. Tex, Billy May and Moe Purtill get some welcome solo space, after a heavy diet of ballads and vocal novelties on the recent sessions. The brass and saxes intertwine gracefully and Moe’s solo breaks are especially imaginative. Doc Goldberg can also be heard, pushing the rhythm along on bass.

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HERE WE GO AGAIN concludes this all-Jerry Gray session. This swinger had been in the book for some time, being heard often on the air since May 1941. It’s a fairly repetitive riff number, allowing full-chorus solos for Al Klink and Billy May, more Purtill drum breaks and a lengthy rideout ending. Nice to get this one on wax!

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The following day, Skip and the Mods lead off with THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, an instant standard by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer from the Paramount all-star feature, STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM. Despite the presence of Bing Crosby, newcomer Johnnie Johnston, who waxed it for Capitol, introduced the song on screen. Bing didn’t even cut it for Decca (Judy Garland did), but the Number #1 selling version was this one by Glenn. It was also his last Number #1 record, hitting the top spot in January 1943.

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One slow vocal chorus of the lengthy song takes up the entire record; Skip and the Mods give it their all and the vocal arrangement tosses the melody back and forth from the soloist to the group with enough variety to keep the performance interesting.

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The next number was introduced and recorded by Bing Crosby – MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU, from the popular Road To Morocco, with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. The Miller band waxed songs from the first three Road pictures and this last one is a real beauty.  Composed by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, the recording features an exquisite opening and coda, with Mickey McMickle’s muted trumpet heard in the first chorus, along with the gorgeous sound of the Miller reeds. Skip and the Mods once again put their all into it and the result is one of the highlights of these sessions.

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Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke make their only appearance on the July dates with JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT and what a rousing appearance it is! Another huge Miller standard, the song was introduced in an ice skating revue, Stars on Ice, produced by our old friend, Sonja Henie. Produced at the Center Theater in Rockefeller Center, which was billed as “America’s only ice theater,” the extravaganza ran over two years.  The Modernaires used the basic Al Stillman-Paul McGrane tune as a jumping-off point for their own arranged tribute to current pop performers Harry James (imitated by Johnny Best) and the Ink Spots.

Marion, Tex and the Mods

Marion, Tex and the Mods

This jukebox routine had been first used in 1941 for Glenn’s live arrangement of THE NICKEL SERENADE, that time featuring parodies of Sammy Kaye, Charlie Barnet and Kay Kyser. Since Miller didn’t record the routine, it was ripe for reuse in the new number.  Skittish RCA was afraid that the record would annoy jukebox operators and almost didn’t release it. They were surely glad that they relented!

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Another hot one finishes off the session – IT MUST BE JELLY (‘CAUSE JAM DON’T SHAKE LIKE THAT). Written and arranged by George Williams, the simple, catchy riff tune was later picked up by Harry James and Woody Herman, who played it often. Basically a framework to hang solos on, we hear again from Al Klink, then Johnny Best and Billy May trading fours. Skip Martin makes a rare appearance on alto before we get the patented Miller slow fade, building up to a sudden finish.  The number was published by Glenn’s Mutual Music firm. Another George Williams original, I HEAR YOU SCREAMIN’, was played by the civilian band on the air, but only recorded by the AAF Band and also Gene Krupa.

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We also do a slow fade here, picking up next time for the final Glenn Miller record date.

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Says Who? Says You, Says I!

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, 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); 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 – September 3, 1941, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

067741-1      Says Who? Says You, Says I! (MH, TB & M vcl)      Bluebird 11315-B

067742-1      Orange Blossom Lane (RE vcl, JG arr)         Bluebird 11326-B

067743-1      Dear Arabella (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr)       Bluebird 11326-A

067744-1      The Man in the Moon (RE vcl, JG arr)         Bluebird 11299-B

067745-1      Ma-Ma Maria (RE & M vcl, BF arr)         Bluebird 11299- A

067746-1      This Time the Dream’s on Me (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11315-A

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Four days after their August 11th RCA Bluebird session, pert and pretty Marion Hutton returned to the Glenn Miller band, having given birth to a son in late May.  Paula Kelly shifted to Artie Shaw’s band (but returned to permanently front the Modernaires as a solo act in 1943).  Marion sings in a much more assured, mature manner during this second Miller stint, but for some reason, rarely sang solos anymore and was usually paired with the Modernaires.

This session featured two fine Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer songs from the film, Blues in the Night, which was a genre-crossing film-noirish semi-musical about an itinerant jazz band. Originally titled New Orleans Nights, even though most of the film was set in New Jersey, the early success of one of the featured numbers led to the title change. Actually, none of the tunes were fully featured in the movie, which interrupted all the music with dialogue and artsy montages, a specialty of director Anatole Litvak. Even BLUES IN THE NIGHT, which eventually became a pop standard, was tossed off in a montage with a black chorus of jailed prisoners.

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Jimmie Lunceford’s fabulous orchestra was nearly wasted in a short bit st at a roadhouse and the Will Osborne band plays a caricature of themselves in a nightclub scene, which is supposed to show the lead character’s decline by being forced to play piano in such a soggy group.

Glenn featured a superb Billy May arrangement of BLUES IN THE NIGHT on the air, but didn’t record it because Charlie Barnet got it for Bluebird (as did Dinah Shore). Every label saw the potential in the song and produced widely varying versions – few songs of the era were covered so thoroughly on wax! Artie Shaw performed it for Victor, in a superb version featuring Hot Lips Page at a somewhat rushed tempo to fit the whole chart in (too bad the label didn’t spring for a 12-inch disc).

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Tommy Dorsey also cut it with Jo Stafford on Victor, but held it back (until 1968!) so as not to cut into Artie Shaw’s sales. Benny Goodman featured Peggy Lee on a groovy Sextet record for Okeh. Cab Calloway’s full band also did an Okeh disc. Harry James brought in the lush strings on Columbia. Woody Herman featured it on Decca, as did Jimmie Lunceford on a two-sided 78 that superbly expanded the brief performance his band did in the original film.

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Glenn did cut the film’s hit ballad, THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME and the novelty SAYS WHO? SAYS YOU, SAYS I!, full of Merceresque wordplay. SAYS WHO? was deliberately trashed on screen in a cornball arrangement played by the Osborne band, with brash Mabel Todd braying with an intrusive vocal group (who also tap-dances on the piano). Glenn’s disc is much more subdued, almost too much so. Marion, Tex and the Mods have a fine time with the witty lyrics, but the tempo begins to sag a bit toward the end. A sparkier beat (or a bit more rehearsal) might have helped.  Unfortunately, this is the only Miller performance of the song, as he never programmed it on the air.

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Bobby Hackett is featured on the opening chorus of THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME, sounding a bit tentative as his horn dances around the reeds.  Hackett is more expansive and assured on a later aircheck of the song. Ray Eberle supplies a nice vocal, supported by Bill Finegan’s lovely arrangement.  During this period, Ray was singing quite well, with only the occasional bit of sloppy diction to mar his efforts.  Six-hour marathon record sessions, like this one, can be hard on the voice!

From high to low – ORANGE BLOSSOM LANE is a very forgettable number, written by classy songwriters Peter DeRose (DEEP PURPLE and ON A LITTLE STREET IN SINGAPORE) with lyrics by MOONLIGHT SERENADE’s Mitchell Parish. Newspaper columnist Nick Kenny’s name is also on the song. As mentioned in the September 1939 writeup of LAST NIGHT, many singers and bandleaders performed Kenny’s songs in order to get favorable press coverage.  Glenn wasn’t one of them, as he only played two or three Kenny songs  with his band. Why ORANGE BLOSSOM LANE was chosen for recording is a puzzle. Jerry Gray set the number in a fine arrangement, with brief solos by Hal McIntyre, Johnny Best, Glenn and Tex, helping Ray Eberle along. The result is still a dreary picture in a lovely frame.

DEAR ARABELLA is a perkier novelty, from the pre-wartime sub-genre of unfaithful soldiers’ sweethearts. ARABELLA is pretty blatant, advising her Army sweetie that she is cheating on him with other guys, but keeping his picture around to look at while doing so!  THREE LITTLE SISTERS is a similar song, with the gals cheating on their men with members of all the Armed Services!  December 7th put an end to these ditties, as the last thing soldiers wanted to hear was that their ladies were having a grand old time while they were gone.  Soon DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE would set a new template, with girlfriends promising to be faithful forever (where has that phrase been heard before?).

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In spite of its salacious message, DEAR ARABELLA became a popular Miller number, played often on the air through April 1942.  Marion does her best Mae West imitation, with Tex and the Mods chiming in. Jerry Gray’s enjoyable chart has Billy May supplying wry comments to the plight of Arabella’s “Private Johnny.” Written by Sid Lippman, author of I’M THRILLED, whose big hits would come later with “A” YOU’RE ADORABLE and TOO YOUNG.

Autographs of Glenn, Jerry Gray, Mel Powell, Ray McKinley and Johnny Desmond, 1944.

Autographs of Glenn, Jerry Gray, Mel Powell, Ray McKinley and Johnny Desmond, 1944.

Another song with “outside” connections is THE MAN IN THE MOON. Apparently written by Glenn’s own Jerry Gray, it became the theme melody of WMCA New York radio DJ Jerry Lawrence, who got his name on the number. Lawrence would later become a TV host and announcer on shows like Truth or Consequences. Co-composer John Benson Brooks would soon write JUST AS THOUGH YOU WERE HERE for Tommy Dorsey and later such diverse tunes as WHERE FLAMINGOS FLY and YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS (a big hit for future Miller cohort Ray McKinley).

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THE MAN IN THE MOON happens to be a great song and naturally, Jerry Gray arranged it for the Miller band.  The reeds sing out rather plaintively in the first chorus and Ray Eberle puts real feeling into the lyrics.  Another neglected Miller thriller!

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Can’t say the same about MA-MA-MARIA (FEE-DLE, EE-DLE-LEE, FEE-DLE-EE-DLE-LA), which is a rancid slice of Neapolitan cheese and one of the most painful songs ever immortalized by Glenn. It was written by the same guys, Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis, who gave us BLUEBERRY HILL and UNDER BLUE CANADIAN SKIES.  They should have had their ASCAP affilations yanked over this one. If the inane lyrics don’t get you, the “Fee-dle-ee-dle-las” certainly will.  And Ray and the Mods don’t stop, repeating and repeating the phrase until the last note, like a dentlst’s drill. File this one under “Fee-dle-ee-dle-Blah.”

Glenn and the boys (and girl) took off for a week in Boston right after this record date, then over to Albany and Schenectady. A week in Philadelphia and then another week in Pittsburgh followed, with the band returning to New York to open another winter season at the Cafe Rouge on October 5. Two weeks after that, they finally paid a return visit to RCA on October 20th to record, as Glenn might say, “some more swell songs.”

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Over the Rainbow

RCA Victor Studios, New York – July 12, 1939, 1:30-4:30 PM

038261-1      Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead (MH vcl)        Bluebird 10366

038262-1      Over The Rainbow (RE vcl)    Bluebird 10366

038263-1      The Little Man Who Wasn’t There (GM & TB vcl)   Bluebird 10358

038264-1      The Man With The Mandolin (MH vcl)        Bluebird 10358

New pop songs continued to appear on the band’s recording schedule. The first two on this date would eventually become among the most familiar melodies of the century, but on July 12th, they didn’t stand out as being anything special.  The film they were written for, THE WIZARD OF OZ, would not be released for another month and no one could have predicted that one of these songs would win an Academy Award.

gm wizoz57859That song was, of course, OVER THE RAINBOW, immortalized by young Judy Garland.   In this case, Glenn was not infallible in smelling hits.  Sometimes a great song would get a mediocre treatment, and that was, unfortunately, the case here.  The arrangement is routine and played too fast in a slapdash manner. Also, the key is too high for Ray’s comfort, as he struggles to get through the wordy bridge without mishap. He’s not out of the Haunted Forest of Oz yet! Eberle mixes up the closing lyrics, singing, “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I.”  It’s hard to listen to this non-rhyme without wincing, but obviously nobody in the studio caught the error.

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Lose one, win one – DING-DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD sparkles from beginning to end. The witty, low-key (and uncredited) arrangement is likely by Miller, as it has a similar sound and flavor to Glenn’s Ray Noble chart of BUGLE CALL RAG.  Marion Hutton effervesces, Tex gets a nice little solo and the band winds down to an unusual diminuendo ending. The record’s only drawback is its brevity – an additional chorus could easily have been accommodated.

The next disc has a similar quiet ending and an odd genesis. THE LITTLE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE began life in 1899 as Antigonish, a poem by college professor Hughes Mearns, based on a ghostly legend from Nova Scotia.  Songwriters Harold Adamson and Bernie Hanighan lifted the poem’s text nearly verbatim and got themselves a big hit and a title phrase that became a part of the American vernacular (see below).

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Moe Purtill makes with the tom-toms, Glenn & Tex deliver some cross-talk patter and Tex then launches into the strange story of the Little Man.

Marion returns with another swinging “Man” – THE MAN WITH THE MANDOLIN.  It was written by Frank Weldon, James Cavanaugh and John Redmond, journeyman songwriters who had created I LIKE MOUNTAIN MUSIC, THE UMBRELLA MAN and other hits. The band hits the perfect tempo for this jivey arrangement, which holds the distinction of offering the only solo appearance by guitarist Richard Fisher.

Coming up on the next record date – a surprising and short-lived major personnel change!

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Is There Anything Finer?

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“Gay Guffaws Galore!”  The recent DVD release of four of Danny’s Kaye’s 1940s Goldwyn films serves as a reminder of a lovely pairing that occurred in the first film, UP IN ARMS. I don’t mean the partnership of Danny Kaye with Samuel Goldwyn, but the  collaboration of Dinah Shore and Harold Arlen.

This 1944 Technicolor extravaganza was Danny’s feature film debut and Goldwyn outfitted the comedian with enough padding to fill a three-ring circus.  Elaborate sets, dozens of nubile Goldwyn Girls, outlandish costumes, Daliesque dream sequences and Danny set in the middle of it all like a gleaming diamond in a platinum setting.  Kaye is provided with several trademark patter numbers, written by wife Sylvia Fine, that gave Warner Brothers cartoons enough material for Daffy Duck to parody for years.

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In the middle of the frenzy stands Dinah Shore. In this, her second feature film, she radiates warmth and a cool brunette sexiness, quite a difference from her later blond extrovert TV personality.

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Dinah’s jazz chops have always been overlooked. She had strong Dixie roots from her Southern upbringing and years spent on the Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street radio series.  Her choice to go the pop, rather than jazz route, has worked against her in the view of music historians, who liken her more to Kate Smith than Anita O’Day.

Dinah had a big hit with Harold Arlen’s “Blues in the Night” a few years earlier, so he was a natural choice to craft her two numbers for the movie.  With his old Cotton Club lyricist Ted Koehler, Arlen created two winners – a sinuous ballad, “Now I Know,” and a swing tune, “Tess’s Torch Song.”  Dinah’s performances are definitive and she is, thankfully, given full charge of the screen for both of them.  These song sequences are the only relief from wall-to-wall Danny and they are most welcome.

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Due to the onerous 1942-44 musicians’ record ban, neither song got much public attention. Dinah did manage to record them both – “Now I Know” for RCA, in an a capella rendition backed solely by a doo-wah chorus; and “Tess’s Torch Song” for Columbia in 1947, by which time the song had been totally forgotten. A later Dinah LP recording of “Now I Know,” while most welcome, didn’t raise the song’s profile.

Any contemporary singer interested in obscure Harold Arlen would do well to check them out!

Here’s Dinah in the film:

and Johnny Desmond with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in a gorgeous Norman Leyden arrangement, sung in German for a wartime propaganda broadcast: