Songs in Search of a Home

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


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

judy monotonyjudymrmonotony

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

Betty Garrett listens as Frankie croons BOYS AND GIRLS.

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

ac hollywood songac hwood song

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

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

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

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

Another view of "The PIke"

Another view of “The Pike”

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

last-night-when-we-were-young-bluetibbett metr

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

judy summertime

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

judy last night

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

judy better luck

A Handful of Stars

Same personnel as June 13th.

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

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

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

05503-1         Crosstown (JL vcl)                                        Bluebird 10832

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Over the Rainbow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gm ding dong

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

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


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

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

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