“GLENN MILLER CONCERT” – Are You Rusty, Gate?

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 1

RCA LPT-16

One O’Clock Jump

My Blue Heaven

Going Home

Jersey Bounce

St. Louis Blues

Georgia On My Mind

Tiger Rag

Everybody Loves My Baby

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GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 2

RCA LPT-30

Anchors Aweigh

My Buddy

I Got Rhythm

I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair

Vilia

Limehouse Blues

On The Alamo

On Army Team

Original UK 10" LP

Original UK 10″ LP

GLENN MILLER CONCERT, VOLUME 3

RCA LPT-3001

Dipper Mouth Blues

April in Paris

Are You Rusty, Gate?

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto

Fanhat Stomp

Sleepy Lagoon

Introduction to a Waltz

Intermezzo

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A few dates here – Columbia introduced the LP record in 1948. In 1950, Benny Goodman’s classic Carnegie Hall Concert was issued as a 2-LP set and Columbia reaped huge sales. With the vintage big bands undergoing a nostalgia boomlet at the time, rival RCA Victor fumed. They had Benny Goodman under contract in 1938 and felt that the rights to the famed concert should be theirs. Since Columbia had “stolen” it from under their nose, RCA quickly retaliated with a live “concert” package by their biggest band name, Glenn Miller.  Even with newer popular bands like Ralph Flanagan, Sauter-Finegan and Buddy Morrow on their roster, Glenn still had clout, as they would soon see.

RCA had introduced the 45 rpm disc in 1949 as an attempt to steal some thunder from Columbia’s innovative LP format, launching the “war of the speeds” that would continue for a few years. LP, 45, 78 – which would prevail? As we know, LP eventually became the preferred format for albums and 45 for single releases. Very, very reluctantly, RCA capitulated and began issuing LPs in 1950, while still pushing 45s whenever and wherever they could.

Even with the huge success of the Columbia Benny Goodman 12-inch LP set, RCA still could not envision anything larger than 10-inch LPs for popular music, so their first Glenn Miller live albums were issued in 1951 on three separate 10-inchers and also, by the way, on 45 and 78, just to play it safe. It wasn’t until 1955 that 12-inch LPs were regularly used for pop and jazz music.

This first “new” Glenn Miller release of the 1950s was comprised of 24 instrumental numbers, both ballads and hot jive, from Glenn’s large archive of Chesterfield radio broadcasts. Taken off the air by a professional recording company for Glenn’s personal reference, no thought had earlier been given to a commercial release of this material. Since these aircheck discs were of excellent fidelity, they were ripe for exploitation by RCA.

A goodly sum was paid to the Miller Estate for use of this material, along with remote broadcasts in NBC’s own archives. This repository of live Miller has been mined for RCA LP and CD releases into the 2000s.

When they were released in 1951, these CONCERT LPs were a revelation, showing off the band’s “sweet” and jazz modes, in a more relaxed manner than their RCA recording sessions. Vocalists Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton are retired to the sidelines, giving full attention to the arrangers and instrumentalists.

The jazz soloists get generous space – Tex Beneke, Clyde Hurley, Johnny Best, Billy May, Bobby Hackett, Ernie Caceres, Moe Purtill, Glenn himself and even talented tenorist Al Klink, who rarely got a chance to shine on record.

These selections also showed off the talents of Glenn’s arrangers. Highlights include Bill Finegan’s exquisite ballad charts of “Vilia,” “April in Paris” and “Sleepy Lagoon;” Jerry Gray swingers like “Jersey Bounce,” “Introduction to a Waltz” and “Everybody Loves My Baby;” and Billy May’s innovative ballad arrangement of “I Got Rhythm.” Glenn is also represented as an arranger, with “Dipper Mouth Blues,” a reworking of a chart he wrote back in 1934 for the Dorsey Brothers.

For those critics who denigrated Glenn’s as a “sweet” band, there are such venerable jazz standards as “One O’Clock Jump,” “Tiger Rag,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Limehouse Blues” and “Everybody Loves My Baby.”

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

In 1956, when 10” LPs were well and truly dead, RCA repackaged this material on two 12” discs, with the innovative titles, THE SOUND OF GLENN MILLER (RCA LPM-1189) and GLENN MILLER CONCERT (RCA LPM-1193). These two albums stayed in print for nearly 30 years.

1956 12" reissue

1956 12″ reissue

Their success led directly to RCA pulling out the stops for their next Miller project, the massive LIMITED EDITIONS, Volumes 1 & 2. 10 full LPs of Miller magic also proved to be cash register magic, with sales beyond any accountant’s wildest imagination!

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Farewell Blues

Major Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Bernie Privin, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (French horn); Hank Freeman, Fred Guerra, Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Peanuts Hucko, Mannie Thaler (reeds); George Ockner (concertmaster of 20-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g); Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Johnny Desmond, The Crew Chiefs (Artie Malvin, Steve Steck, Gene Steck, Lynn Allison, Murray Kane); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson (arr).

Add Dinah Shore (vcl)

His Master’s Voice session, HMV Abbey Road Studios. London, September 16, 1944

OEA10285-1 Star Dust (DS vcl, RW arr)                           HMV Unissued Test

OEA10286-1 All I Do Is Dream of You (DS vcl, NL arr)         HMV Unissued Test

OEA10287-1 Farewell Blues (JG arr)                                 HMV Unissued Test

OEA10288-2 I’ve Got a Heart Filled with Love (JD & CC vcl, JG arr)       HMV Unissued Test

All titles issued in 1995 on Conifer/Happy Days (E)CDHD401/2 [CD set] titled “Glenn Miller – The Lost Recordings.”

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We now reach the end of this series of Glenn Miller blog posts. On September 16th, 1944, the AAF (now AEF) Band made its sole “commercial” record date in London for HMV, RCA Victor’s UK affiliate. A complicated affair it was! Joining the band was singing star Dinah Shore, in England on a USO tour of European Allied bases. She had first performed with Miller on August 3rd, doing a live broadcast with the band and a transcription session with the Uptown Hall Gang, the small jazz group within the band.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

Dinah Shore in France, 1944.

On September 15th, Dinah hooked up with the band for a live concert at a B-17 base in Bury St. Edmunds, which Glenn missed, due to severe headaches and sinus trouble. Likely this is why Glenn looks tired and drawn in the photos taken at the Abbey Road studio the very next day. Back in 1938, then-unknown Dinah auditioned for the fledgling Miller band and was not hired. Now both superstars, there apparently were difficulties between the lady and Glenn over the interpretation of her songs on this record date.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

Glenn & Dinah at HMV.

In spite of any problems, four superb selections were in the can by the end of the four-hour session. Dinah sings beautifully on STAR DUST and ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU, sympathetically arranged by Ralph Wilkinson and Norman Leyden respectively, cushioning her voice with a myriad of strings. Both Dinah and Glenn had recorded STAR DUST for RCA pre-war and Wilkinson’s chart was a popular feature with the AAF Band, also recorded on their first V-Disc date. So the tune was a obvious choice.

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES

Dinah with husband George Montgomery, who had appeared with Glenn in ORCHESTRA WIVES.

ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU was an anomaly. Never before performed by either star, the song was a 1934 hit by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, from the Joan Crawford film, Sadie McKee. It would later be featured raucously (by Debbie Reynolds) in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Sung slowly and sensuously by Miss Shore, it became a perfect 1944 wartime ballad of longing.

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Miller then pulled two band features from the book to complete the date. I’VE GOT A HEART FILLED WITH LOVE, written by Joseph Meyer and Al Jacobs, was likely a product of Glenn’s Mutual Music publishing arm. Meyer had written the lyrics for PEEKABOO TO YOU and Jacobs the music for WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN, two Miller Bluebird discs. The wartime band played the tune often in the US and UK and a radio performance would turn up on V-Disc in 1945. Both Johnny Desmond and Tex Beneke with the postwar Miller band would wax the tune in later years. It’s a snappy performance of a good song, but it never became a hit outside of the Miller family.

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FAREWELL BLUES makes for a fitting conclusion to the session. This 1923 New Orleans Rhythm Kings jazz standard had been a killer-diller for Glenn’s civilian band. In this ballad treatment by Jerry Gray, it was often heard as the “blue” tune on the band’s “Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue” radio medleys. It was occasionally extracted and played on its own, as was done here.

This session was undertaken with the best intentions. All proceeds from sales of the records were to be donated to American and British Army Charities and War Relief organizations. The Army, USO and RCA/HMV had to provide clearances for the discs to be issued. Though the British music press announced a December 1944 release for the 78s, nothing was forthcoming and the records were never issued.

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Test pressings were made and copied through the Miller collecting fraternity. I remember Glenn’s friend George T. Simon playing one of them on a New York radio station in 1974. In the 1990s, all four sides were finally released on a Conifer CD set in the UK, prepared by Alan Dell, a Miller fan and broadcaster. There was much press hoopla over the issuance of these “lost” recordings. The clean transfers from test pressings allowed the AEF band to be heard in high fidelity, the best sound quality of any of their UK recordings.

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Glenn and the band would continue broadcasting and recording transcriptions by the barrelful until his ill-fated trip to Paris on December 15th and the band would continue touring France and Germany until the war ended.

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Glenn Miller’s contribution to American culture can never be measured and even today, continues to draw discerning fans worldwide. I hope these blog entries add a bit of information to those seeking knowledge and background on his superb musical accomplishments.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

G. I. Jive

Captain Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck, John Carisi, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (Frhrn); Hank Freeman, Gabe Galinas, Fred Guerra (as); Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Murray Wald, Peanuts Hucko, Lynn Allison (ts); Chuck Gentry, Mannie Thaler (bar); George Ockner (concertmaster of 20-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g) Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson, Bill Finegan (arr).

This is a composite personnel, from which the recording units were drawn.

 

V-Disc Session, RCA Victor Studios. New York, January 21, 1944

VP-563           Embraceable You (strings only) (RW arr)   V-Disc 183

VP-563           G.I. Jive (RMcK & CC vcl, JG arr)    V-Disc 183

VP-618           Moon Dreams (JD & CC vcl)            V-Disc 201

VP-655           Stealin’ Apples  (Fletcher Henderson arr)         V-Disc 223

 

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By the time of the third Glenn Miller AAF Band V-Disc recording session, the V-Disc program directors were making arrangements to acquire fresh material for their releases. In addition to reissuing older commercial records and producing their own sessions, they were now able to use performances from CBS and NBC radio broadcasts and rehearsals. This opened a vast library of material to choose from, and bands like Glenn’s did not need to record specifically for V-Disc, as their regular broadcasts provided quality music to select from. After this January date, a dozen later Miller V-Discs came from his radio shows, specifically the weekly I Sustain the Wings NBC series.

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Two standards and two new songs make up the program. The strings have it all to themselves for the Gershwins’ lovely EMBRACEABLE YOU, with concertmaster George Ockner’s fiddle leading the way.   Fourteen years earlier, Glenn was in the pit band of Girl Crazy, the Broadway musical in which the song was introduced. Perhaps he was thinking of how far he had come when recording this version!

Bobby Nichols’ trumpet starts off G. I. JIVE, an amiable showcase for Ray McKinley’s singing, with able assistance from the Crew Chiefs. Jerry Gray’s swinging chart is a winner, with an especially delightful windup. Johnny Mercer wrote both words and music and was the first to record it for his fledgling Capitol Records at their first session after the recording ban, held on October 15, 1943. It was a much-needed hit for the new label.

Martha Tilton with Benny Goodman, 1938

Martha Tilton with Benny Goodman, 1938

Mercer also lyricized MOON DREAMS, a melody by Glenn’s old friend and pianist, Chummy MacGregor. This song had also debuted on Capitol, at the label’s very first session – April 6, 1942, sung by Martha Tilton. In fact, it has the distinction of being Capitol master #1. Capitol didn’t have much time to get going before the recording ban struck on August 1; they had waxed barely 80 masters. Despite that tiny backlog, the Tilton rendition of MOON DREAMS languished in the vault until late in the summer of 1943. Perhaps Mercer wasn’t pleased with it. Martha’s vocal is fine, but the band accompaniment is rather anemic.

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Not so for the Miller arrangement! Running just over five minutes, this “symphonic” chart is reminiscent of Paul Whiteman’s lavish 12-inch recordings of pop songs from the late 1920s. It’s a lovely, moody performance that shows off the oddly impressionistic melody and lyrics. Johnny Desmond and the Crew Chiefs deliver a hushed vocal. (For some reason, Desmond is credited as “Johann Desmond” on the label. A mistake or an in-joke of some kind?)

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After a batch of AAF performances, the song quickly disappeared, but eventually had a surprising revival. Perhaps Miller French hornist Addison “Junior” Collins brought it to his attention, for in 1948, Miles Davis added the song to the repertoire of his “Birth of the Cool” band, in a shimmering Gil Evans arrangement. Collins played with the group during their September 1948 gig at the Royal Roost, where two airchecks of MOON DREAMS were preserved.   It was eventually recorded at the group’s last Capitol session, in March 1950. Due to this Miles connection, Herbie Mann, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Flora Purim and Meredith D’Ambrosio did other jazz versions in the following years.

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Pianist Mel Powell “borrowed” the classic Fletcher Henderson arrangement of STEALIN’ APPLES from Benny Goodman, his former boss. Glenn apparently liked it a lot, since the AAF band performed it constantly. Because the first two notes are seemingly missing here, I used to think that this performance was badly dubbed onto the V-Disc. Listening to other Miller performances, I soon found that all of them clipped the introduction, perhaps to provide a more arresting kickoff. Powell and clarinetist Peanuts Hucko take exuberant solos, backed by Ray McKinley’s lightly dancing drums.

These selections were eventually split-coupled – EMBRACEABLE YOU and G.I. JIVE, on one side of V-Disc 183, were backed by two Duke Ellington numbers. MOON DREAMS was coupled with Glenn’s 1942 record of SLEEPY TOWN TRAIN on V-Disc 201 and STEALIN’ APPLES was paired with two other AAF radio performances on V-Disc 223.

That was it for the AAF Band’s “original” V-Discs. The dozen or so later Miller releases on the label were all drawn from broadcast transcriptions, keeping the orchestra’s name and sound alive into 1949, when the V-Disc program was ended. It wasn’t until 1955 that RCA belatedly produced a lavish 5-LP set showcasing their best performances, introducing the ensemble to a general audience. We’ll examine one more Glenn Miller AAF record session next time.

Glenn and the band in England, 1944.

Glenn and the band in England, 1944.

 

 

Goin’ Home

Captain Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck, John Carisi, Jack Steele (tp); Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (Frhrn); Hank Freeman, Gabe Galinas, Fred Guerra (as); Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Murray Wald, Peanuts Hucko, Lynn Allison (ts); Chuck Gentry, Mannie Thaler (bar); George Ockner (concertmaster of 20-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g) Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson, Bill Finegan (arr).

This is a composite personnel, from which the recording units were drawn.

 

V-Disc Session, RCA Victor Studios. New York, December 10, 1943

VP-415           The Squadron Song (JD & Band, vcl, JG arr)          V-Disc 144

VP-415           Tail End Charlie (BF arr)       V-Disc 144

VP-416           Medley: Goin’ Home/Honeysuckle Rose (MP arr)/My Blue Heaven   V-Disc 123

VP-1189         Holiday for Strings (Part 1)  (JG arr)                      V-Disc Unissued Test

VP-1190         Holiday for Strings (Part 2)   (JG arr)                       V-Disc Unissued Test

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The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band’s second V-Disc recording session was held six weeks after the first and embraced a similarly eclectic range of material. THE SQUADRON SONG, written by a trio of soldiers, was the first of many gung-ho patriotic numbers the band did, saluting various branches of the military. THERE ARE YANKS, WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE INFANTRY, WITH MY HEAD IN THE CLOUDS and THE ARMY AIR CORPS SONG would soon follow, all with the full band “glee club” augmented by Johnny Desmond and the Crew Chiefs vocal group. It’s a stimulating performance, taken in multiple tempos from ballad to swing to march, with the string section nicely spotted. Their witty little allusion to REVEILLE (“You’ve gotta get up this morning”) is a fun touch.

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Bill Finegan’s TAIL-END CHARLIE (originally titled TROOP MOVEMENT) was likely written for the civilian band, but never played by them. Finegan gave the chart (and other unused Miller items) to Horace Heidt’s band, which performed it on the air toward the end of 1942. Their version is quite credible, but Glenn’s many AAF renditions have greater sparkle. This V-Disc interpretation cuts about a minute from the full chart, so it and THE SQUADRON SONG could both fit onto one side of the record. By the way, the title referred to the tail gunners of fighter planes.

Chuck Gentry (on baritone) and Vince Carbone (on tenor) get the solo spots, but both are more effective and heard at greater length on live performances, such as the one originally included on the RCA AAF LP set, which is also taken at a snappier tempo than the V-Disc.

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Presumably to take advantage of the longer playing time of a 12-inch disc, next up was a “Miller Medley,” or at least ¾ of one! The AAF Band continued Glenn’s medley tradition of “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” which had been a weekly feature of the civilian Chesterfield radio shows. The AAF medleys took on a more elaborate shape and often ran 8 or 9 minutes in length, with varying tempos for the different selections.

This V-Disc of GOIN’ HOME/HONEYSUCKLE ROSE/MY BLUE HEAVEN hints at the range these medleys could cover, in this case, from Antonin Dvorak to Fats Waller! The missing “new” tune from this particular medley was PAPER DOLL, likely not recorded since it might not have been fresh by the time the record was circulated. The highlight here is Mel Powell’s imaginative piano spot on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE. Too bad it isn’t longer.

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The last two session recordings were of David Rose’s popular HOLIDAY FOR STRINGS, PARTS 1 & 2, in a blockbuster, pull-all-stops arrangement by Jerry Gray. Of course, the strings were well featured, as was the full dynamic power of the band playing both sweet and bluesy. This version is taken slower than later live versions, with a sudden pause halfway through to accommodate the break between the two parts. For some reason, this recording was never issued, though a live version from June 3, 1944 was later issued on one side of V-Disc 421. Test pressings do exist, as pictured here.

HOLIDAY became one of the AAF band’s top numbers, featured on many broadcasts, often as the closing performance. What, after all, could follow it?

All the recordings from the first AAF V-Disc session were issued back-to-back on V-Discs 65 and 91. This session’s output was split – the flip side of V-Disc 123 was a dub of IN THE MOOD by the civilian band and V-Disc 144 had two medley excerpts from a December 1943 radio program. The product of the next session would be similarly split.

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St. Louis Blues March

Captain Glenn Miller (tb & director); Zeke Zarchy, Whitey Thomas, Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck, John Carisi (tp)’ Jimmy Priddy, James Harwood, John Halliburton, Larry Hall, Nat Peck (tb); Addison Collins (Frhrn); Hank Freeman, Gabe Galinas, Fred Guerra (as); Jack Ferrier, Vinnie Carbone, Murray Wald, Peanuts Hucko, Lynn Allison (ts); Chuck Gentry, Mannie Thaler (bar); George Ockner (concertmaster of 18-piece string section); Mel Powell, Jack Russin (p); Carmen Mastren (g) Trigger Alpert, Joe Shulman (b); Ray McKinley, Frank Ippolito (d); Jerry Gray, Norman Leyden, Ralph Wilkinson (arr).

This is a composite personnel, from which the recording units were drawn.

 

V-Disc Session, RCA Victor Studios. New York, October 29, 1943, 2:00-6:00 PM

VP-264           Speech by Captain Glenn Miller      V-Disc 65

VP-265           Buckle Down, Winsocki         V-Disc 91

VP-265           El Capitan (March)   V-Disc 91

VP-266           The St. Louis Blues March (arr JG & RMcK)           V-Disc 65, 522

VP-264           Star Dust (arr RW)   V-Disc 65

VP-267           Stormy Weather (arr RW)   V-Disc 91

 

Captain Miller with star-struck fans, 1943.

Captain Miller with star-struck fans, 1943.

Just the facts Ma’am! The history of the Glenn Miller Army Air Forces Band has been chronicled in greater detail and with much more panache than I ever could, so I offer these next few blog entries as an addendum to my chronicle of the Miller civilian band’s recording sessions.

The stupendous AAF Band left us a huge legacy of recordings – hundreds upon hundreds of preserved live broadcasts, rehearsals and transcribed studio programs. In addition to their original purpose, these recordings were used in assembling Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) programs and libraries and for V-Discs, the only wartime records distributed directly to the soldiers overseas for personal enjoyment. Most of the Miller V-Discs were transferred from broadcast rehearsals or live shows.

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Out of this enormous stockpile, only four studio record sessions were intended purely for V-Discs or commercial 78s. These will be covered here. The first three were done at RCA Victor’s New York studios and the last in London, for Victor’s HMV affiliate.

The first date, on October 29, 1943, was produced under similar circumstances to the Miller civilian band sessions, in a heavily damped studio, to cut down on resonance. The discs have a very dry acoustic, but do capture the power of the ensemble.

At first, the Army brass was wary of too much pop music being recorded by the V-Disc program. Many of the early releases were of marches and other patriotic selections, often with the slogan, “Music for Marching Men,” included on the label.

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The first three selections on the date fit this bill, played in march tempi by the band without their 18-piece string section.

BUCKLE DOWN, WINSOCKI was actually a Broadway show tune, less than two years old at the time.   Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane had written it for Best Foot Forward, their hit 1941 musical. The rousing song was the anthem of Winsocki, a fictional boys’ prep school. Tommy Dix, a cute, pint-sized actor with a deep, booming voice, sang it in the show. Dix also sang it on Benny Goodman’s Columbia record and in the 1943 film version.

Glenn performs it in a straightforward manner, then swings it a bit in the second chorus, with a late entry by distinctive boo-wah brass. It fits nicely into Captain Miller’s desire to modernize the marching music repertoire for the 1940s soldier.

Strictly conventional is EL CAPITAN, the familiar John Philip Sousa opus, socked over with great verve. These two standard-length selections were coupled on one 12-inch V-Disc side. The remaining three numbers ran over four minutes each, taking advantage of the increased running time of the larger discs.

Original V-Disc

Original V-Disc , released December 1943.

Special V-Disc pressing

Special V-Disc pressing

This most popular of V-Discs was reissued in October 1945!

This most popular of V-Discs was reissued in October 1945!

ST. LOUIS BLUES MARCH has become, in retrospect, the most famous recording by the AAF Band. Arranged by Sgt. Jerry Gray (with contributions from Perry Burgett and Ray McKInley), this performance of the hoary old W.C. Handy chestnut has come to encapsulate Glenn’s entire wartime contribution in one tidy package. Drummers Ray McKInley and Frank Ippolito set the driving martial pulse, which never lets up, even during bluesy solos by Bobby Nichols (trumpet), Vince Carbone (tenor sax) and Hank Freeman (alto sax). It was then and remains now a fresh, exciting jazz masterwork.

Gray and Norman Leyden also arranged BLUES IN THE NIGHT MARCH and JERSEY BOUNCE MARCH in similar fashion, but just ST. LOUIS was recorded. In fact, this V-Disc of ST. LOUIS BLUES MARCH is the only performance in existence by the band. All reissues of the tune have been sourced from this sole rendition (some cut down to standard three-minute length by omitting the trumpet and tenor solos).

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Tex Beneke later waxed a shortened version for RCA in 1947 (and BLUES IN THE NIGHT MARCH, too). It wasn’t until it was featured in THE GLENN MILLER STORY film in 1953 (and on the soundtrack album) that the arrangement really captured the public imagination. Previously, only those with access to the original V-Disc were familiar with it. Since V-Discs were produced gratis for the war effort, negotiations with the Musicians’ Union were necessary to allow a commercial release. Therefore, RCA didn’t cough up the 1943 recording for public consumption until it was included on the 5-LP GLENN MILLER ARMY AIR FORCE BAND set in 1955. Many later single and LP reissues followed.

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STAR DUST and STORMY WEATHER bring in the string section for two luscious instrumental ballads, as far from marching music as you can get! Arranger Ralph Wilkinson sets the violins insinuating themselves in, out, over and through the brass and saxes. Brief solos by Addison Collins (French horn), Vince Carbone (tenor) and Bobby Nichols (trumpet) add variety, but the full band is on showcase here. The wide dynamic range of these ballads must have worn out many V-Discs when played on the primitive equipment of the era! Glenn makes a stiff little spoken introduction before STAR DUST, a personal feature that would be made on many of these recordings.  An alternate take exists of the speech where something crashes in the background while Glenn is speaking and he exclaims, “Jesus Christ! What?”

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The AAF Band featured both charts often and so did the postwar Tex Beneke/Miller band, which also had a string section for its first two years of existence. Tex recorded both for RCA in 10-inch versions and also did a 12-inch take of STAR DUST that was only released on a special one-sided disc that was gifted to RCA dealers and friends for Christmas 1947.

Despite their intense schedule of war bond-selling concerts, radio broadcasts and other appearances, the ensemble made time for another V-Disc only recording date in early December – that’s for next time!

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Rhapsody in Blue

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 16, 1942, 11:00 AM-3:45 PM

074744-1      I’m Old Fashioned (SN vcl)  Victor 27953-B

074745-1      A Pink Cocktail for a Blue Lady (SN vcl, JG arr)     Victor 20-1523-B

074746-1      Rainbow Rhapsody   Victor 20-1546-B

074747-1      Sleepy Town Train    Victor 20-1509-B

074748-1      Rhapsody in Blue (BF arr)   Victor 20-1529-A

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After nearly four years of success, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra assembled in an RCA Victor studio for the last time.   The band still had more than two months of existence left, but it must have been a sad experience to set up in the quiet confines of a recording room for a final session.   The organization had not really been hit hard by the wartime draft and many of the participants had been along for the ride since nearly the beginning – Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke, Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo, Willie Schwartz, Al Klink, Chummy MacGregor, Moe Purtill, Jerry Gray and Bill Finegan had joined in 1938-39 or even earlier, in the case of Chummy.

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Despite Glenn’s reputation as a strict martinet, he obviously inspired great loyalty in his bandsmen and felt a warm family feeling toward many of the gang, which was reciprocated.

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As with the other July sessions, newcomer Skip Nelson sang on the first two numbers and the remaining tunes were instrumentals. I’M OLD FASHIONED is a sweetly pure song by Jerome Kern & Johnny Mercer from the score of You Were Never Lovelier, which had also provided DEARLY BELOVED on the July 14th date.  Willie Schwartz’s clarinet once again leads the reeds in the “Miller Sound,” with Ernie Caceres’ baritone anchoring the section. There is a beautifully-scored transition to the vocal, likely arranged by Bill Finegan.   Skip still needs to relax, but he manages a pleasant rendition, sans Modernaires.

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A PINK COCKTAIL FOR A BLUE LADY is nicely arranged by Jerry Gray, but it’s a minor song, with a rather clunky lyric about the wartime displacement of a bejeweled European dame. It was written by Herb Magidson, lyricist of the recent CONCHITA, ETC., LOPEZ and popular composer Ben Oakland.  Like the earlier song, DINNER FOR ONE, PLEASE, JAMES, the lyric takes the form of a monologue from a rather tiresome nightclub patron toward a patient waiter. The lady “was once the toast of Vienna, when Vienna was gay,” a line that has dated badly. Spike Jones might have had a field day with the number, but Skip Nelson delivers it straight.

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Multi-instrumentalist-bandleader-composer-arranger Benny Carter had written several charts for Glenn back in 1939, but nothing since. RAINBOW RHAPSODY is a lovely Carter composition that provides a real showcase for the Miller reeds. Carter always loved writing for sax sections! Bobby Hackett makes a welcome appearance with his melodic cornet. Tex Beneke also solos briefly, but this RHAPSODY is a mostly orchestral conception.

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SLEEPY TOWN TRAIN is the last stop on the line of Glenn Miller train pieces – TUXEDO JUNCTION, SLOW FREIGHT and that CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO. Allan Roberts, who later worked for Columbia Pictures and wrote such hits as TAMPICO and PUT THE BLAME ON MAME, penned it with Bill Fontaine. Roberts also wrote lyrics for RAINBOW RHAPSODY.   SLEEPY TOWN is arranged in a similar slow and groovy manner to TUXEDO JUNCTION, with Mickey McMickle once again playing muted trumpet.

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Finally and fittingly, the session concludes with another “rhapsody,” Bill Finegan’s exquisite arrangement of RHAPSODY IN BLUE. Using just the ravishing blues theme from George Gershwin’s seminal concert work, Finegan taps Bobby Hackett for an arresting opening solo and a bit of quiet, almost subliminal Beneke in this mainly ensemble creation. It’s one of the Miller band’s most mature and evocative recordings and a suitable testament to this wonderful ensemble, whose performances endure all these decades later.

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The popular songs from these July sessions were released over the next six months. RCA took their time issuing the instrumentals, which had no “expiration date,” parceling them out into early 1944 and backing several titles with previously-issued songs. This helped keep “fresh” material by the Miller band in the public ear long after Glenn had moved on to his stellar Army Air Force Band.

Glenn was surely aware of what RCA was doing, as he featured JUKEBOX SATURDAY NIGHT, IT MUST BE JELLY, RHAPSODY IN BLUE, CARIBBEAN CLIPPER and HERE WE GO AGAIN on numerous AAF broadcasts. The RCA recordings of MOONLIGHT MOOD and SLEEPY TOWN TRAIN were also issued on V-Disc, the Armed Forces’ program that provided records to service camps all over the world for soldiers to play in their leisure time.

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The last months of the Miller band have been chronicled in many books, blogs and articles – here we’ll just mention a few facts. Glenn disbanded on September 27, 1942. He reported for Army duty on October 9. Skip Nelson returned to Chico Marx’s band. His brief Miller tenure didn’t do much to advance his career, though in 1943, he replaced Dick Haymes in the Tommy Dorsey band. Moe Purtill also went to Dorsey, replacing Buddy Rich. Purtill had played with Tommy for all of 1938, so he was on familiar ground.

Skip went on to be featured with the Casa Loma band in 1944-45. Bobby Hackett landed with Casa Loma for awhile, too. Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke went on a theater tour with the Modernaires, billed as “the singing stars of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.” Once Tex left to join the Navy, Marion stayed with the Mods until going solo in 1944. She had several radio series, appeared in a couple of films and recorded for MGM in the later 1940s. Paula Kelly came back to sing with the Mods and fronted the group into the 1970s. Tex, of course, led the official Glenn Miller Band after the war and in the 1960s, joined Ray Eberle, Paula and the Modernaires for over a decade of successful touring as a nostalgia act.

The entire Miller trombone section signed on with Charlie Spivak’s band and can be seen in the 1944 Betty Grable musical, PIN-UP GIRL. This would actually have been Glenn’s next film for 20th Century Fox, had he not enlisted. Originally titled BLIND DATE, it would also have given us the opportunity to see Glenn and the band in Technicolor. As it turned out, the AAF Band did plug the movie’s best song on radio, TIME ALONE WILL TELL.

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As mentioned earlier, all of the recordings described herein are easily available for listening via that wondrous invention, You Tube. Glenn’s studio recordings make up only a portion of his preserved legacy. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of live performances by the band, many of which have been issued legitimately by RCA or illegitimately on a myriad of LP and CD labels. Even more haven’t seen the light of day (yet). I’ll save a discussion of all the additional live Miller music for another lifetime! With a relatively small, but vociferous, fan base still active after 75 years, the final chapter of Glenn Miller on record still hasn’t been written.

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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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Yesterday’s Gardenias

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, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, George Williams (arr).
RCA Victor Studios, New York City – June 17, 1942, 10:00 AM-3:55 PM
075090-1      That’s Sabotage (MH vcl)     Victor 27935-B
075091-1      Conchita, Marquita, Lolita, Pepita, Rosita, Juanita Lopez (MH, TB, EC & M vcl, JG arr)  Victor 27943-A
075092-1      The Humming-Bird (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr)         Victor 27933-B
075093-1      Yesterday’s Gardenias (RE & M vcl)           Victor 27933-A
After completing their work on Orchestra Wives in late May, Glenn Miller and the band trained it from Los Angeles to Chicago and worked around the Midwest until they returned to New York on June 9th. A few New England one-nighters followed and then the orchestra hit the recording studio. RCA was likely thrilled that they had boosted Glenn Miller to their full price label, as he immediately produced massive hits with AMERICAN PATROL and the Orchestra Wives songs on the last session. This June session is something of a forgotten date, as none of the songs made any great impression at the time and none were reissued before the 1980s.

A  REAL "Yesterday's Gardenia!"

A REAL “Yesterday’s Gardenia!”

It would also prove to be the band’s last recording date in New York, Marion Hutton’s last solo disc performance and Ray Eberle’s farewell. Of course, none of the performers were aware of these melancholy milestones at the time.

THAT’S SABOTAGE was the fourth of five songs written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon for Orchestra Wives. It would eventually be cut before the film’s release, but was still in the tunestack at the time of this session, obviously. Strangely, Glenn didn’t record PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME, the movie’s jivey opening tune, which was a dilly of a production number. The soundtrack performance really couldn’t be topped, but it would have been nice to have an additional version to enjoy.

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The Victor THAT’S SABOTAGE is a close copy of the movie track, without the slight rhythmic pause heard between Miss Hutton’s verse and chorus. The dance tempo had to be maintained on record! Marion delivers an equally fine vocal and Al Klink peeks in for a bouncy eight-bar tenor solo.  Mack Gordon supplied a Johnny Mercer-like lyric, full of such snappy phrases as, “Don’t run helter-skelter, there’s a bomb-proof shelter in my arms” and “I can’t sleep, I’ve got to keep my F-B-eye on you.”

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One of the band’s most enjoyable novelty numbers is CONCHITA, MARQUITA, LOLITA, PEPITA, ROSITA, JUANITA LOPEZ, a cheeky tale about what we would today call a “mixed marriage,” in this case, Irish-Mexican. Marion, Tex, the Mods and Ernie Caceres get their vocal moments in and Al Klink provides a powerful sax outburst. The song is the work of youngsters Jule Styne and Herb Magidson, both of whom would have stellar careers.

Written for the Paramount wartime B-musical, Priorities on Parade, which starred Ann Miller, it was sung there by dialect comedian Jerry Colonna with balladeer Johnny Johnston. Colonna made a fine vocal stew of all the Latin and Irish names in the song! Other contemporary recordings by Dinah Shore and the King Sisters treat it as either an old-fashioned waltz or an unwieldy jive number. Only Miller got it to work as a hot novelty.

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THE HUMMING-BIRD was an attempt to repeat the massive success of THE WOODPECKER SONG, by the same Italian composer, Eldo DiLazzaro, with English lyrics again provided by Harold Adamson. Lightning did not strike twice, as the follow-up flopped. The song is decent enough, but Glenn tosses it off in a fairly short rendition. The proceedings briefly get interesting, when Billy May slides in for a hot muted solo after the first vocal, but he only gets eight bars before the singers come back to wrap it up. A real missed opportunity for some good jazz.

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After three swingers, it’s time for a ballad. Popular 1930s crooner Dick Robertson, along with Sammy Mysels and Nelson Cogane, wrote YESTERDAY’S GARDENIAS. Robertson would soon write G0ODNIGHT, WHEREVER YOU ARE, which the Miller AAF Band often featured. GARDENIAS is a seemingly old-style song, recalling the pressed flowers in a “book of loneliness” that remind the singer of a lost love.   The attractive melody and poetic lyrics work nicely together and though Ray Eberle has a few unsure moments, he and the Mods really deliver. The lovely, rich harmonies of the arrangement (likely by Bill Finegan) and the good acoustics of RCA’s studio help to produce a great record.

Charlie Spivak also recorded the song, memorably, but it soon was forgotten. Surprisingly, 1950s jazzmen and singers Russ Freeman, Serge Chaloff, Jeri Southern and Dave Lambert, revived it, giving it something of a “hip” cachet.

Ray, Glenn and the Mods

Ray, Glenn and the Mods

After this session, Glenn gave the musicians more than a week off (aside from the Chesterfield radio series), before building up to a heavy summer performing and recording schedule in Chicago. We’ll delve into the reasons for this next time!

 

 

Serenade in Blue

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, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, George Williams (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 20, 1942, 9:00 AM-3:35 PM

072283-1      I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (TB, MH & M vcl, arr JG)        Victor 27934

072284-1      Serenade in Blue (RE & M vcl, BM & BF arr)         Victor 27935

072285-1      At Last (RE vcl, JG & BF arr)             Victor 27934

072286-1      Lullaby of the Rain (RE & M vcl)     Victor 27894

072287-1      Knit One, Purl Two (MH & M vcl, JG arr)    Victor 27894

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As their work on the film Orchestra Wives was ending, the Glenn Miller band visited RCA Victor’s Hollywood studio to record three of the songs from the movie, all of which became huge hits. They remain among the most reissued of Miller recordings. The two other songs that were recorded that day were forgotten and never reissued until the 1980s, though they are pleasant ballads.

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In three minutes and fifteen seconds, the Victor recording of KALAMAZOO manages to encapsulate all the best ingredients of the longer film rendition. Starting with Billy May’s impudent trumpet intro, the band sounds really loose and the singers readily jive their way through Jerry Gray’s arrangement.

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When Bill Finegan had trouble coming up with the free-flowing introduction to SERENADE IN BLUE that Glenn wanted, Billy May stepped in and crafted it in record time. Taking a full 45 seconds of the three-minute record, it sets an ethereal tone, which is then maintained by the saxes stating the romantic melody, garnished by Bobby Hackett’s lovely cornet. Ray Eberle delivers a fine vocal, closely surrounded by the Modernaires. It helps to have such fine Mack Gordon lyrics to work with!

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It’s a shame that this studio take of AT LAST had to omit the arresting trumpet introduction that begins the extended performance in the movie. Fortunately, room was found here for the attractive muted trombone choir that precedes the vocal. For once on these 1942 sessions, Ray gets to sing the vocal solo, without the Mods (or Lynn Bari/Pat Friday) and he softly croons a definitive rendition (at least, until Etta James came along). The high-quality acoustics of RCA’s Hollywood facilities allow us to hear such subtle touches as Chummy MacGregor’s background piano fills.

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From the heights of these Harry Warren-Mack Gordon compositions, we descend to the lyrical banalities of LULLABY OF THE RAIN. Of course, Glenn wraps the song in a sparkling package, with an arresting musical simulation of raindrops in the introduction and Bobby Hackett’s single-string guitar notes repeating the rain motif at the end.

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Songwriter Lou Ricca was best known for one of Perry Como’s early hits, GOODBYE SUE and not much else. Glenn must have had some sort of stake in the tune, as Claude Thornhill, one of Miller’s satellite bands, also recorded it, not once, but multiple times.

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There is quite a story attached to the next number, KNIT ONE, PURL TWO and not just the fact that is a rare ballad given to Marion Hutton. Collectors might have found the composer credits on the 78 to be puzzling. They read, “”Flossy Frills and Ben Lorre. Edited by Glenn Miller.” Flossy Frills just happened to be a cartoon character featured in the Sunday edition of the American Standard, a Hearst newspaper.

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Flossy had first appeared in the 1920s and was purportedly designed to resemble William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend, movie actress Marion Davies. The character was revived and modernized by writer Carolyn Wells and illustrator Russell Patterson for The New Adventures of Flossy Frills in 1939. Flossy was kind of a fashion-plate ditz, who liked to kick up her heels at fancy parties. By 1942, like so many other folks, Flossy was buckling down to do her part for the war effort. Flossy Frills Helps Out was a strip story running from March to July 1942. In it, Flossy starts a knitting club with her friends. Deciding that she needs a song to motivate them, she visits Glenn Miller (who appeared in the strip) and asks for his help in writing and promoting a knitting-centric tune for American women. “Ladies, let’s knit for Victory!”

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This promotion served a number of purposes. It continued Hearst’s attempts to get involved in music publishing, bolstered his wobbly patriotic credentials and supported the campaign to get women knitting, to help provide sweaters and scarves for servicemen and family members (most clothing companies were overwhelmed with orders for military wear.) All kinds of plans were announced to promote Flossy Frills women’s clubs around the country, promoting recycling of toothpaste tubes, rubber, tin cans and so on. Club meetings would feature performances by name bands and Sammy Kaye, Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, Shep Fields and Vincent Lopez would make recordings of the song. As far as I can determine, none of these grandiose plans ever happened. Glenn’s was the only recording made and Flossy petered out after a 1943 strip titled, Flossy Frills Does Her Bit.

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Getting back to KNIT ONE PURL TWO, which was actually composed solely by Ben Lorre (who later wrote several numbers for Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five), it’s a rather slight melody and lyric sweetly performed by Miller. It doesn’t have the oomph one would expect to galvanize women to pick up their knitting needles! Marion with the Modernaires achieves a beautiful blend and it’s too bad that no other arrangements with this ballad vocal combination were attempted.

The war was by now infiltrating into all aspects of home front life and soon Glenn Miller would be preparing to “do his bit.”

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Orchestra Wives – Part 2

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, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires, Pat Friday, The Nicholas Brothers (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, George Williams (arr).

Orchestra Wives soundtrack, 20th Century-Fox Studios, Hollywood, CA – March-April, 1942

Moonlight Serenade (film version)             TCF-150

Moonlight Serenade (alternate version with harp)    20th Century Fox 100-2

People Like You and Me (MH, RE, TB & M vcl, GW and/or JG arr) TCF-127

Boom Shot (GW arr)             20th Century Fox 100-2

At Last (PF, RE vcl, JG & BF arr)       TCF-129

American Patrol (JG arr)      RCA LPT3065

Bugle Call Rag (GM arr)       RCA LPT3065

Serenade in Blue (PF, RE & M vcl, BM & BF arr)   TCF- 131/132

I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (TB, MH, M & NB vcl, JG arr) TCF-136/137/138

I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (Finale) (JG arr)        TCF- 150

That’s Sabotage (MH vcl)     TCF- 128

Moonlight Sonata (BF arr)   LPT3065

You Say the Sweetest Things, Baby            20th Century Fox 100-2

The TCF catalog numbers are for the contemporaneous 78 and 33-1/3 pressings made by Fox for publicity/souvenir purposes. First commercial issues are RCA LPT-3065 (10” LP issued 1954) and 20th Century-Fox 100-2 (2-LP set issued 1959). All further releases stem from these albums. RCA’s transfers are clean, but Fox adds a bit of reverberation to the tracks (and more echo on later issues). RCA did not release the three numbers that premiered on the Fox LP set, as noted above. RCA also omitted this recording of AT LAST, since they issued the 1941 recording on their “Sun Valley Serenade” album. The Fox LPs only include the 1942 version, with an instrumental portion snipped out. Fox also cut the Nicholas Brothers segment of KALAMAZOO on their LPs.

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Merchants will likely put their best merchandise on display up front in a store window to attract customers. The movie studios often did the same with their big band musicals – start the proceedings with a solid swing number. Ship Ahoy (Tommy Dorsey), I Dood It (Jimmy Dorsey), Private Buckaroo (Harry James), Sweet and Lowdown (Benny Goodman) and many other films began with their prime products on screen, sometimes even before the credits rolled.

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Orchestra Wives followed that pattern. The film’s credits run over a lush Glenn Miller rendition of their theme song, MOONLIGHT SERENADE and the viewer is immediately presented with the band in a recording studio environment. After a brief reminder of CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, the ensemble launches into PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME, a wonderful vocal showcase for all the band’s singers, while smooth tracking shots show off all the musicians. Marion Hutton and Ray Eberle look and sound great and the Modernaires groove along, slick and sleek behind them.

Sweet Marion & suave Ray

Sweet Marion & suave Ray

The guys are dressed in a variety of natty outfits, none more so that Tex Beneke, wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt with splashy designs. Star George Montgomery mimes to Johnny Best’s hot trumpet, while Best himself sits on the other end of the section. At least Johnny got to appear in the film. Ringers Jackie Gleason and Cesar Romero mimed their parts convincingly., while Chummy Mac Gregor and Doc Goldberg sat on the sidelines.  Musicians viewing the film apparently thought Montgomery fumbled his trumpet fingering and laughed out loud in theaters when the trumpet solos occurred. To this viewer, he seems competent and shows off a flashy trumpet spin at the end of his solos, which becomes his “trademark” throughout the proceedings.

"Hi there, Tex!"

“Hi there, Tex!”

A short dialogue scene following this exuberant number leads into the soda shop setting that introduces our heroine, Ann Rutherford, and her friend, Harry Morgan. She plays the fateful record of BOOM SHOT on the jukebox, precipitating a discussion of the dance where “Gene Morrison” is playing. This fades into the most striking part of the movie, likely the most haunting big band sequence in movie history. In six minutes, it captures the romance and appeal of the Swing Era to young folks everywhere.

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BOOM SHOT is a very catchy Billy May original, arranged by George Williams, with solos by Johnny Best and May on open and muted trumpets, Ernie Caceres on alto and Glenn, briefly. Named after the camera crane technique that is used twice during the number, this soundtrack performance is the only one in the Miller discography and was issued on record in 1959 by 20th Century Fox. The first RCA issue of the film track in 1954 omitted it.

The restless camera swoops over, around and through the dancers who are seen happily jitterbugging, finally pulling back to catch their protests when the song ends and the band starts to take a break. Glenn/Gene signals “one more” to the crowd, which surges around the bandstand as AT LAST begins.

Though recorded and cut from SUN VALLEY SERENADE, the song was saved and, happily, found its home here. One of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s most notable compositions, the slowed-down Jerry Gray-Bill Finegan arrangement is much superior to the snappier-tempoed 1941 chart. It’s romantic to a fault, with brilliant passages featuring Johnny Best’s trumpet (played on screen by our hero, George Montgomery as Bill Abbott), an arresting trombone choir and plush vocals from Pat Friday (for Lynn Bari) and our own Ray Eberle. For some reason, the trombone choir moment was clipped from the 20th Fox LP and CD issues of the soundtrack.

Ann Rutherford is hooked, Harry Morgan is skeptical.

Ann Rutherford is hooked, Harry Morgan is skeptical.

The camera roams around the band and dreamily swaying audience, poking into foliage and drawing close to the trombones (a continuous shot that must have been difficult to achieve). Without any dialogue, the plot develops, as Connie/Rutherford makes starry-eyed looks at her trumpete, which are noticed and identified by Janie/Lynn Bari, who will become her romantic rival. At the end of the song, there is a masterful shot beginning in the bell of Montgomery’s trumpet, pulling back quickly to encompass the whole scene.

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After this first quarter-hour, encompassing three terrific musical numbers, the story starts rolling and we are thrust into the behind-the scenes machinations of the orchestra wives and their hapless husbands. Before that happens, the band gets another feature spot, with a partial performance of AMERICAN PATROL and a full rendition of BUGLE CALL RAG. It appears that THAT’S SABOTAGE, featuring Marion Hutton, was originally included between those two instrumentals, but was cut shortly before the film’s release. It has been part of all the film soundtrack releases on LP and CD. A brief clip from it was used in a TV documentary back in the 1970s, but the whole number has never surfaced.

A moment from THAT'S SABOTAGE.

A moment from THAT’S SABOTAGE.

That’s too bad, as it is a great song, smartly linking love troubles with wartime spy tactics. Marion is in fine voice and Al Klink plays a typically rhythmic solo. BUGLE CALL RAG preserves a visual record of one of the Miller band’s longest-lasting hot instrumentals, with short breaks by Miller, Beneke and Caceres and stylish choreography by the trumpets and trombones. Drummer Moe Purtill is well featured, in the spotlight for a climactic drum solo. The comic bit where he collapses into his drum kit at the end is a bit much, but it’s a good-natured moment.

Moe Purtill and BUGLE CALL RAG.

Moe Purtill and BUGLE CALL RAG.

A half-hour goes by before the next Miller number, an unfortunately truncated performance of the film’s second superb ballad, SERENADE IN BLUE. The original prerecording runs nearly six minutes. In the film, the lengthy, impressionistic introduction, arranged by Billy May and Bill Finegan, along with Bobby Hackett’s first-chorus solo, were jettisoned and only Pat Friday’s vocal, backed by Eberle and the Modernaires is seen.

KALAMAZOO!

KALAMAZOO!

Breakups and makeups, loud arguments and apologies ensue for another half-hour. With all grievances settled, everyone gets kissy-kissy and Glenn takes center stage for a walloping finale, I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO. Patterned after CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, the song proved to be an equally big hit, with it’s  simple, catchy lyric, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I got a gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo zoo…..” Marion, Tex and the Mods really shine, with all kinds of jokey posturing and kidding around, very loose and natural. Just like the CHOO CHOO, after the band portion comes the Nicholas Brothers, raising the proceedings to another level, with their sensational acrobatic steps.

The Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers

In a nice touch, even that is not the ending, for Moe Purtill kicks off an uptempo instrumental reprise of KALAMAZOO that allows us to get a last glimpse of the two lovebirds, Glenn and the full band. So, with the love problems settled, the musicians and their families will just go on to their next adventure on the road.

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That’s also not the end of the ORCHESTRA WIVES soundtrack. Three other numbers not yet mentioned were also recorded at the time and not used. An alternate short version of MOONLIGHT SERENADE, with a harp introduction, was later issued by 20th Fox. It is slower than the performance that opens the film. MOONLIGHT SONATA, recorded back in November 1941 for Bluebird, was also redone for the film, apparently intended for Cesar Romero to mime to. Considering how badly his visual pianistics match the soundtrack already discussed, it was probably a good thing the number was cut.

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Finally, YOU SAY THE SWEETEST THINGS, BABY is a real anomaly. The song, a Gordon-Warren number sung by Alice Faye in Tin Pan Alley back in 1940, is played by a small group that seems to consist of muted trumpet, two tenor saxes (one of them Beneke), piano and drums, in the first chorus. It is performed in an exaggerated, sweet style, until Billy May’s hot open trumpet blasts into the second chorus, joined by Ernie Caceres’ jazz clarinet. The two styles then battle it out to the conclusion, with May leading the way.   My friend Paul Holroyd informs me that this number was intended for a cut scene where Connie & Bill take a night off to go dancing. They stop at a tea shop which has a sour little band playing and Bill can’t resist the opportunity to liven them up with his trumpet.

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Since the Miller band was featured more prominently in their second film, shooting took longer then before, requiring two full months of Glenn’s time.  There was a lot of catching up to do, both professionally and personally. First thing to take care of after leaving Fox was a Victor recording date, designed to wax some of the film songs for commercial release. That’s for next time.

"Zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo!"

“Zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo!”