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.

 

 

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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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!

 

 

When The Roses Bloom Again

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Bill Graham, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Skip Martin, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 8, 1942, 12:00-4:20 PM

068789-1      Skylark (RE vcl, BF arr)        Bluebird 11462-B

068789-2      Skylark (RE vcl, BF arr)        first issued on LP

068835-1      Dear Mom (RE & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11443-A

068790-1      When the Roses Bloom Again (RE vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

068790-2      When the Roses Bloom Again (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11438-A

068791-1      Always in My Heart (RE vcl, BM arr)          Bluebird 11438-B

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

In the three days between January record dates, Glenn Miller and the band finished their engagement at the Hotel Pennsylvania’s Cafe Rouge on the 7th, followed by Charlie Spivak on the 8th.

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

The Miller men reassembled at RCA Victor that day, with more hit-worthy results on an all-ballad, all-Ray Eberle program. SKYLARK was the standout of the session, a top-quality song by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer that quickly became a standard.  Recognizing its worth, it was rapidly waxed by Harry James & Helen Forrest, Gene Krupa & Anita O’Day, Woody Herman, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Earl Hines & Billy Eckstine and Bunny Berigan, on his last recording session.

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The song has an interesting history.  In 1939, Hoagy was asked to work on a projected Broadway musical about jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, based on Dorothy Baker’s popular Bix-inspired novel, Young Man with a Horn.  Hoagy came up with a Bixian melody which he titled BIX LIX.  The show fell through and Hoagy eventually gave the tune to Johnny Mercer to see if he could come up with a lyric. Mercer worked for over  a year trying to craft a suitable tale to fit the haunting, intricate melody.  Considering Johnny’s penchant for “birdplay,” as evidenced in BOB WHITE and MISTER MEADOWLARK, the resulting lofty lyric of SKYLARK is sheer perfection.

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Bill Finegan serves up a perfect, relaxed setting, with singing reeds and muted brass ushering in Ray Eberle, who takes advantage of the easy tempo to deliver the words with full impact.  Two takes have been released of this performance, with the LP take sounding slightly more focused.

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Next is one of the first examples of the WWII “soldier’s letter back home” song genre, with DEAR MOM.  We know we are in the realm of fantasy when the soldier in question tells Mother that the Army “food is OK.”  Aside from that, Maury Coleman Harris (who seems to have written just this one number) did a decent job with his simple, sincere lyric and sweet melody. As usual, Miller arranger Jerry Gray does his best to showcase the tune, with Tex’s tenor and Al Klink’s bass clarinet in the introduction and a somber Tex solo later on.  The Modernaires quietly echo Ray’s vocal, keeping the proceedings from growing too saccharine.

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Only slightly less morose is WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN, given a dramatic setting by arranger Gray. Mickey McMickle, tightly muted as usual, states the melody, before the reeds come soaring in.  Eberle goes a bit overboard early on, but calms down at the end, with a yearning touch of Beneke’s sax leading into the coda.

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The song was composed by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, who had given us THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER only a few months before.  Similar in mood, the earlier song was a massive hit, and while ROSES was not, it did well enough.

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Still in the mode of wartime longing is ALWAYS IN MY HEART, the title number of a lesser Warner Brothers drama that starred Kay Francis and Walter Huston.  It’s another composition by Cuban musician Ernesto Lecuona, with Kim Gannon adding the English lyric.  Gannon had recently crossed Glenn’s path with his MOONLIGHT COCKTAIL.  The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to WHITE CHRISTMAS.

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In a rare ballad arrangement, Billy May proved to be totally adept with slow tempos. A powerfully masculine introduction and first chorus bring on Ray, once again dealing with a “we’ll meet again someday” scenario.  When first issued on LP in the 1953 Glenn Miller Limited Edition, Volume One set, the disc was transferred from a very off-center 78 master, resulting in a terribly off-speed, wobbly ending.  That’s how many Miller fans (this one included) first came to know this recording. Fortunately, later LP and CD releases corrected the flaw.

As in 1940 and 1941, once Glenn and the band wound up their Hotel Pennsylvania gig, they took to the road before settling into a successful run at the Paramount Theater. They repeated that scenario in 1942 and five weeks would pass before they paid another visit to RCA.

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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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Take the “A” Train

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, H.G. Chapman (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 20, 1941, 12:00-3:00 PM

061253-1      Don’t Cry, Cherie (RE vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 11183-A

061254-1      Cradle Song (RE, M & Band vcl, HGC arr)   Bluebird 11203-B

061255-1      Sweeter Than the Sweetest (PK & M vcl, BM arr)    Bluebird 11183-B

 

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood – May 28, 1941, 11:30-3:30 PM

061265-1      I Guess I’ll Have to Dream the Rest (RE & M vcl) Bluebird 11187-A

061266-1      Take the “A” Train (BM arr)            Bluebird 11187-B

061267-1      Peekaboo To You (PK & M vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11203-A

061268-1      The Angels Came Thru (RE vcl)      Bluebird 11215-B

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After several sessions of quality songs, we start the May 20th date with a real woofer. Written by veterans Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, DON’T CRY, CHERIE begins well with a dramatic Bill Finegan-arranged intro, and then Ray Eberle sings the verse, an uncommon occurrence in a Miller record. The chorus, however, is pretty insipid, with verbal clichés of French folk Pierre and Cherie crying over their garden, which is not blooming anymore (wonder why?). We get the ominous sound of marching drums and even a musical quote from LA MARSEILLAISE. Too bad the beautiful sonic ambience of RCA’s Hollywood recording studio is wasted here.

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Brahms’ CRADLE SONG is up next, in a performance that manages to keep the inherent sappiness at bay. Ray sings in a hushed and restrained manner, backed by the band chorus and a bit of the Modernaires, who are not credited on the label. Being in the public domain, the melody was ripe for radio play, though it might have been more memorable handled instrumentally.

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Not a moment too soon, we turn back to swing with SWEETER THAN THE SWEETEST, one of the band’s best up-tempo novelties. It was an unlikely pop effort by jazz pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith and lyricist Neil Lawrence (who had written song lyrics for Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong). Arranger Billy May is thoroughly inspired here, with great passages for the brass and reeds, culminating in a groovy Al Klink solo. The byplay between the band and the Mods toward the end is captivating. Paula Kelly shines here, as do Ernie Caceres on baritone sax and bassist Trigger Alpert. A great example of Billy May’s influence on creating a looser swing approach for Glenn’s band.

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A week later, still in Hollywood, the boys return to the bread-and-butter ballads with I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO DREAM THE REST. A BMI winner, also recorded by Harry James/Dick Haymes and Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra, it was another song contribution by disc jockey Martin Block with Mickey Stoner and Harold Green. The trio had earlier written FAITHFUL TO YOU and MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME, but this new endeavor was even more successful.

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Ray and the Mods make beautiful music, singing throughout, with just a brief break for a Tex solo. It’s an attractive melody, with an especially lovely bridge.

1941 was a transitional year, as singers began to come to the fore. Previously, most big band ballads featured the band in the first and last choruses, with the vocal sandwiched in the middle. Now, as heard here on DREAM, the vocal choruses began and ended the records, with a band interlude midway. Tempos were slowing, too, replacing the jitterbug rhythms with romantic clinches on the dance floor. Maybe it was a reaction to the grim war news. Who knows?

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Billy May scores again with an unlikely ballad treatment of Duke Ellington’s new BMI radio theme song, TAKE THE “A” TRAIN. A vivid contrast to the rural CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, it’s a jumper written by Billy Strayhorn that replaced SEPIA PANORAMA when the ASCAP fight started. An immediate sensation, “A” TRAIN was kept as the Duke’s signature tune forever after, to the point that most fans thought he had written it.

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Billy’s witty chart features lazy clarinets blowing the train whistle and his own muted trumpet signaling the way to Harlem. Beneke maintains the relaxed mood on tenor and the reeds take it out. Very hip!

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Next is an unjustly forgotten Miller disc, PEEKABOO TO YOU. This one never had a reissue on LP or CD until the issuance of The Complete Glenn Miller sets, which is a shame. Paula and the Mods, with Trigger Alpert and the rhythm section stomping along, cheerily sing the witty Johnny Mercer lyric. Arranger Jerry Gray shifts the sections after the vocal with trombones, trumpet “boo-wahs,” Caceres’ alto backed by walking bass and Johnny Best’s trumpet booted along by drums.

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Lyricist Mercer teamed here with lesser-known writers Carl Sigman and Sol Meyer, both of whom had lengthy song hit credits. This is likely the only popular song that mentions a “fowling piece,” which is fancy talk for a shotgun!

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We haven’t had a Miller song of Latin derivation for a while, so the final song of the May 28th date is a lovely Ernesto Lecuona composition, THE ANGELS CAME THRU. No arranger is credited in the discographies, but it bears the Bill Finegan touch, with attractive organ-like chords from the band. Old friend Al Dubin wrote a serviceable English lyric, which sits very nicely on the melody. Mr. Eberle is just a wee bit sluggish on the vocal, but the record still registers as a neglected good one.

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Ending their Hollywood Palladium engagement on May 22nd, Glenn and the band began touring up and down the West Coast for the first time, greeting ecstatic fans wherever they played. The group’s personnel had been stable for more than half a year, but now several changes were occurring. Guitarist Jack Lathrop left at the end of the Palladium gig and Modernaire Bill Conway took over until a permanent replacement could be hired. Much-loved Trigger Alpert was the first Miller bandsman to be drafted and bassist Myer Rubin would soon be in his chair.

Tickets & autographs from the Miller band's appearance at the Pacific Square Ballroom in San Diego

Tickets & autographs from the Miller band’s appearance at the Pacific Square Ballroom in San Diego

More alterations were in the works once Miller left California on June 5th for Salt Lake City and points east. We’ll catch up with them in Chicago.

 

 

 

The Spirit Is Willing

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Ray Anthony, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Dorothy Claire, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Claire

Dorothy Claire

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

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

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A Nightingale Sang

Mickey McMickle, Charles Frankhauser, Zeke Zarchy, Johnny Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g,vcl); Trigger Alpert (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, The Four Modernaires {Hal Dickinson, Chuck Goldstein, Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster} (vcl); Bill Finegan; Jerry Gray (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 11, 1940, 1:45 PM-4:55 PM

056479-1      Make Believe Ballroom Time (Mods vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 10913

056479-2     Make Believe Ballroom Time (Mods vcl, JG arr)       RCA Victor EPA-5035

056480-1     You’ve Got Me This Way (MH vcl, JG arr)       Bluebird 10906

056481-1      A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (RE vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 10931

056481-2      A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (RE vcl, BF arr)   RCA Victor PR-125

056482-1      I’d Know You Anywhere (RE vcl, BF arr)       HMV 45 EP 7EG-8224

056482-2      I’d Know You Anywhere (RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10906

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Happiness is a season at the Café Rouge! That thought likely went through the minds of the Glenn Miller musicians when they settled in for a three-month residency at The Hotel Pennsylvania, as they had done the preceding winter. Traveling on the road may be exciting, with the accolades of fans ringing in their ears every night, but having a chance to relax, get the laundry done and eat regularly had its charms, too.

The band’s only record session in October 1940 also had its charms. The story behind the first number waxed, MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME, is an interesting one. WNEW Radio in New York City initiated one of the first regular “disc jockey” programs with Martin Block’s Make-Believe Ballroom in 1935. Since so much live music was available on the air, few though that listeners would take to a program of recorded music. Also, the record companies weren’t too keen on having their discs played on the air for free. They preferred customers to buy the record or pay for jukebox plays.

Glenn & Martin Block at the WNEW microphone. In the background are Clyde Hurley, Moe Purtill, Rollie Bundock & Willie Schwartz.

Glenn & Martin Block at the WNEW microphone. In the background are Clyde Hurley, Moe Purtill, Rollie Bundock & Willie Schwartz.

Block’s show was a huge and instant success and his relaxed, laid-back speaking style was a novelty in an age of stentorian announcers. In 1936, Charlie Barnet’s new band recorded MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM, by the popular black songwriting duo of Paul Denniker and Andy Razaf. The vocal was handled by the “Barnet Modern-Aires,” and was designed to be used as an on-air theme. With vocals at the beginning and end, the lengthy instrumental mid-section provided space for Block’s announcements.

Strangely, this recording was not specially made for Martin Block’s personal use, but was issued by RCA-Bluebird as a regular commercial release, so home collectors had the ability to recreate the popular program at home, if they so desired.

By 1940, apparently it was felt that a more up-to-date theme recording was needed, so Glenn (at his own expense!) agreed to produce a replacement. This time, Martin wisely cut himself in for a share of the song royalties, by collaborating on the lyrics with Harold Green and Mickey Stoner (who had written FAITHFUL TO YOU, which Glenn had waxed).   The Four Modernaires, by this time, veterans of the Paul Whiteman band, returned to add a bit of continuity to the new recording. This momentary collaboration with Miller would eventually reap big rewards for the Mods.

The Modernaires' autographs, from January 1940, when they were still with Paul Whiteman.

The Modernaires’ autographs, from January 1940, when they were still with Paul Whiteman.

The new song was as catchy as the first one, and Jerry Gray crafted a bouncy arrangement featuring the singing foursome and solos by Johnny Best and Tex Beneke.  Newly arrived, bassist Trigger Alpert brings an extrovert personality to his instrument, boosting the rhythm section immeasurably. The alternate take, first issued on an EP in the late 50s, likely by mistake, has noticeable differences in the solos and some rare clinkers by the band.

No clinkers are to be heard on A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, an all-time Miller classic and his first recording to allude, though glancingly, to World War II, then entering its second year in Europe. Offering a nostalgic look back to peacetime London, it was written by British songwriters Eric Maschwitz (aka Holt Marvell) and Manning Sherwin. Featured in the West End revue, New Faces, the song became a hit in England before repeating its success in the States.

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Bill Finegan outdid himself with this exquisite arrangement. Willie Schwartz trills the introduction like a songbird and Ray Eberle enters, offering one of his most assured vocals. Tex Beneke is as smooth as butter and Ray and Willie’s clarinet return for a dynamic finish. Perfection from beginning to end! It’s also one of Glenn’s longest 78s, clocking in at three minutes and thirty-five seconds. The alternate take, first released on a compilation LP set in 1961, is almost indistinguishable from the master take.

The other two selections, though not reaching the heights of NIGHTINGALE, were goodies.   YOU’VE GOT ME THIS WAY and I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE originated in the Kay Kyser film, You’ll Find Out, which is best known today for the one-time teaming of horror stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. In 1940, however, the hugely popular Kay Kyser band brought in the movie admission shekels.

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Kyser, reportedly the only band whose financial success made Glenn jealous, was then shifting from a corny style to a smoother, more swing-oriented sound. Kay made nine films with his orchestra, more than any other Swing Era group. He always got the best songwriters to work on his pictures – You’ll Find Out boasted a fine score by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy McHugh.

YOU’VE GOT ME THIS WAY is full of typically Mercerian wordplay. Harry Babbitt sings it smoothly with Kyser, the Pied Pipers try to be overly hip on the Tommy Dorsey rendition and our Marion Hutton chirps it charmingly with Miller. Ernie Caceres can be heard again anchoring the sax section on baritone, a welcome addition to an increasing number of arrangements. At only two minutes and twenty seconds, Jerry Gray’s score could have benefited from an extra chorus with some solos.

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The film’s love ballad, I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE, gets the distinctive Miller mid-tempo ballad treatment. Arranger Bill Finegan wrote a nice brass modulation to Eberle’s vocal, which finds the singer in a cheerfully eager mood. Tommy Dorsey’s record is taken at an even faster tempo, with Frank Sinatra in typically efficient mode. Ray’s more callow approach seems to suit the song a little better, though Ginny Simms also did a great rendition with Kyser.

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Though Glenn and the band were now stationed in the New York area, an entire month would go by before the band’s next record date. They would cut more show and movie songs, plus another swipe at the wide open range!

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A Million Dreams Ago

Mickey McMickle, Charles Frankhauser, Zeke Zarchy, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink (reeds) Chummy MacGregor (p); Jack Lathrop (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d)’ Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan, (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, Chicago, IL – June 13, 1940, 1:00-5:25 PM

053130-1      When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano

(RE vcl, BF arr)          Bluebird 10776

053131-1      A Million Dreams Ago ((RE vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10768

053132-1      Blueberry Hill (RE vcl, BF arr)                      Bluebird 10768

053133-1      A Cabana In Havana (MH vcl, BF arr)         Bluebird 10776

053134-1      Be Happy (MH vcl, BF arr)                             Bluebird 10796

053135-1      Angel Child (RE vcl, BF arr)                           Bluebird 10796

053135-2      Angel Child (RE vcl, BF arr)                          first issued on LP

 

"Glenn Miller Orchestra" Brass

On the road since the April 28th recording date, Glenn and the band now headed further west than they had ever been. After another week in the DC area, they turned the band bus up and down the East Coast on the spring college prom circuit, then south to North Carolina, up north to Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, arriving in Chicago on June 11.  A studio session came two days later.

Glenn hadn’t recorded in Chicago’s Victor facilities since his Ben Pollack sideman days in 1928. One can wonder how he felt returning there as a top bandleader. It is too bad that the song selection for this date wasn’t better – three of the six numbers were not truly worthy of the hottest band in the land.

Personnel-wise, the main change was the loss of hot trumpeter Clyde Hurley, who left in early June. Hurley had not been particularly inspired by the band and soon was playing with Tommy Dorsey. Charlie Frankhauser replaced him and hung around for a while. Johnny Best took on most of the jazz solos.

Oddly, two of the songs on this date were revived successfully in the early rock ‘n roll years of 1956-57 – WHEN THE SWALLOWS COME BACK TO CAPISTRANO by Pat Boone and BLUEBERRY HILL by Fats Domino. Both had connections to Louis Armstrong. The composer of SWALLOWS, Leon Rene, has also written Louis’ theme song, WHEN Its SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH and Satchmo had recorded BLUEBERRY HILL in 1949. His slow, bluesy interpretation likely influenced Fats Domino to similarly revive it.

gm swallowsGetting back to Miller, WHEN THE SWALLOWS COME BACK TO CAPISTRANO is handled in typical Miller fashion. Ray Eberle sounds OK, if a bit less relaxed than on the previous session. A pleasant, though not particularly memorable rendition. The tune’s background is actually more interesting than the song itself, memorializing the yearly springtime return of the swallow flocks to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California.

gm blueberryhBLUEBERRY HILL was a top hit for Glenn, but truth to tell, is nothing special as a record.   Composer Vincent Rose had been a well-known bandleader-songwriter in the 1920s, turning out WHISPERING, AVALON and LINGER AWHILE early in the decade. Fifteen years later, he caught fire again with THE UMBRELLA MAN and now, BLUEBERRY HILL.

gm millilonThough he was reputed to be slower at turning out arrangements than Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan penned all the charts on this date, for the first and only time. A MILLION DREAMS AGO originated in the Dick Jurgens band, as had the earlier hit, CARELESS. It was composed by the same trio – bandleader Jurgens, singer Eddy Howard and lyricist Lew Quadling and proved to be nearly as popular.

gm milliomAfter a lovely reed intro, Beneke plays the first chorus in a most mellow fashion. With above-average lyrics to work with, Ray turns out a fine vocal. Marion Hutton isn’t so lucky with her two songs, however. In interviews, she later complained that Ray got the good numbers and she was stuck with the “crap songs.” Two cases in point – A CABANA IN HAVANA and BE HAPPY.

In a Latin-swing vein, CABANA is an attempt to cash in on earlier hits, SAY SI-SI and especially, Johnny Mercer’s witty WEEK-END OF A PRIVATE SECRETARY (which Marion had sung on radio earlier in the year).  Unusual in that era, the composers, Mabel Wayne and Tot Seymour were women. Wayne specialized in Latin-tinged songs like IT HAPPENED IN MONTEREY, IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN and RAMONA; lyricist Seymour was more eclectic, penning the words to swing tunes CROSS PATCH and NO OTHER ONE.

The words to A CABANA IN HAVANA are just wordy, not witty. Marion has a hard time getting them all out at a fast tempo. The only part of the disc that pleases is the section after the vocal, where Finegan’s writing and Beneke’s sax take some pleasant liberties.

As mentioned earlier, BE HAPPY is another mindless ditty, written by the unlikely trio of songwriter Henry Nemo, bandleader Louis Prima and Harlem arranger Edgar Battle. After the opening vocal, there is a nice passage for the trombones and a fine Beneke solo, but then Marion comes back to chirp another inane chorus. Oh, well – at least the whole record is only a fraction over two minutes in length!

gmangelchildLastly, the “crap song” virus infects Ray Eberle, who is saddled with ANGEL CHILD, a tired-sounding number that might have been fresh in 1922. Not surprisingly, that’s when it was written by vaudevillians Georgie Price, Benny Davis and Abner Silver. Why this vintage non-hit was revived here is anyone’s guess. Maybe Glenn, who was getting into music publishing, had a hand in its reappearance?

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After the session ended, once again the band went back on tour through the Midwest. A two-week July engagement at the Panther Room of Chicago’s Hotel Sherman was the only respite from a constant schedule of one-nighters. Recording sessions took a back seat, until the second week of August.

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