“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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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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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!”

Orchestra “Wife” – Part 1

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For their second 20th Century Fox film, Glenn Miller and the band were featured front and center throughout. They were not supporting a star like Sonja Henie. This time the orchestra was the star.  Fox tried to boost the feminine appeal of the movie by titling it ORCHESTRA WIFE, then decided, just before release, to multiply the “oomph” quotient by renaming it ORCHESTRA WIVES.  It is mostly the story of  “orchestra wife” Ann Rutherford, the nominal top-billed name, but she was supporting the ensemble instead of the other way around. Ann was a very well known starlet, best remembered as Polly Benedict, Andy Hardy’s on-again, off-again girlfriend in the Mickey Rooney-led series at MGM.

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Aside from her Andy Hardy chores, Ann appeared in small roles in many other MGM pictures, most notably A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind, as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s long-suffering sisters. With the Andy Hardy series winding down in the early 40s, Ann began freelancing at other studios before leaving MGM in 1943. ORCHESTRA WIVES would be one of Rutherford’s first starring roles and Fox featured her nicely in the film.

Her character of Connie Ward is nicely developed, from star-struck music fan to slightly disillusioned spouse of a (possibly) philandering trumpet player. The trumpeter was George Montgomery, a former B-western star at Fox, whom the studio was grooming for bigger things. After a nice co-starring role in Roxie Hart with Ginger Rogers, he was assigned to the Miller film.

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‘Big bad trumpet player” George Montgomery with Ann Rutherford

Though not as versatile an actor as Sun Valley Serenade‘s John Payne, Montgomery’s good looks and easygoing character made him a perfect match with Rutherford as the uneasy newlyweds. Montgomery would soon marry Dinah Shore, whose own Miller connection will be discussed in a later entry.

Poor Lynn Bari, always typecast as "the other woman."

Poor Lynn Bari, always typecast as “the other woman.”

Old friend Lynn Bari, band vocalist Vivian Dawn in SUN VALLEY SERENADE, returned as band vocalist Janie Stevens in the new film, just as ornery and scheming as before. The Nicholas Brothers were signed again for another show-stopping dance specialty.

The movie's rhythm section: Bobby Hackett, Moe Purtill, Jackie Gleason & Cesar Romero.

The movie’s rhythm section: Bobby Hackett, Moe Purtill, Jackie Gleason & Cesar Romero.

Two new actors played band members. Fox stalwart Cesar Romero appeared as the oddly-named pianist, Sinjin Smith, once again knocking Chummy MacGregor out of the film and Jackie Gleason performed as the bass player, supplanting Doc Goldberg. Gleason was so new to films that he doesn’t even rate billing in the on-screen credits. Jackie began a lifelong friendship with Bobby Hackett on the set and later featured him on the popular Capitol series of jazzy mood music LPs issued under Gleason’s name.

Orchestra wives Virginia Gilmore, Carole Landis and Mary Beth Hughes with Cesar Romero.

Orchestra wives Virginia Gilmore, Carole Landis and Mary Beth Hughes with Cesar Romero.

Then there were the titular orchestra wives – Carole Landis as Tex Beneke’s spouse, Mary Beth Hughes as Mrs. Moe Purtill, Virginia Gilmore, whose husband is never identified and Tamara Geva (stage actress and wife of choreographer George Balanchine, wasted here in a nothing role) as Jackie Gleason’s missus. The film’s writers were so eager to pair people off that they wrote in Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton as a married couple!  Landis is the real catty gal, aiding and abetting Lynn Bari in her plot to break up Ann Rutherford’s marriage. In real life, Landis was a volatile personality who married five times and committed suicide in 1948 at age 29 when actor Rx Harrison wouldn’t leave his wife for her.

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In smaller roles, future MASH TV star Harry Morgan plays Cully, the soda jerk who takes Rutherford to the dance which precipitates the whole story and Dale Evans (later Mrs. Roy Rogers) is the girl at the soda shop who tells Connie she’s “going to wear the record out” on the jukebox.

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Glenn has a much bigger acting role this time around and plays “himself” nicely (renamed Gene Morrison, so the band’s “GM” bandstands could be used). There is a slightly sarcastic edge to some of his dialogue, delivered with a distinctively flat Midwestern twang. He looks sharp and snappy in his custom suits, as do the other band members. Along with ringers Jackie Gleason and Cesar Romero, musicians Moe Purtill and Tex Beneke get some lines to deliver, as do vocalists Marion Hutton and Ray Eberle. Even “Bullets” Durgom, Glenn’s band boy turned road manager pipes up in several scenes.

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Behind the camera, Fox gave Glenn nothing but the best – director Archie Mayo had a career stretching back to silent days and had helmed musicals starring Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Mae West, Alice Faye and the Marx Brothers, plus dramas with Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.

Best shot in the film - Ann falls in love instantly, framed by George Montgomery's arms and trumpet.

Best shot in the film – Ann falls in love instantly, framed by George Montgomery’s arms and trumpet.

Top cinematographer Lucien Ballard was assigned to the film and his smooth camerawork and lighting design add to the film’s sheen.   Songwriters Harry Warren and Mack Gordon returned to the Miller fold to duplicate their success with the score of SUN VALLEY SERENADE. They managed to surpass their earlier efforts, with five fine songs, three of which became top hits and Miller standards – AT LAST, SERENADE IN BLUE and I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO.

The screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Darrell Ware, based on an original story by James Prindle, managed to provide a fairly credible dramatic script with humor and some grit, along with enough solid characterization to give the actors something to dig into.   The result is an interesting story that could have worked well on its own without the musical sequences, wonderful as they are.

Apparently a lot of footage was filmed, and then cut, as many studio stills exist of scenes that aren’t even hinted at in the final product. At least three musical numbers were also cut; since the film as we know it runs almost and hour and 40 minutes (more than 10 minutes longer than SUN VALLEY SERENADE), it appears that Fox could have ended up with a 2-hour-plus movie if they hadn’t gotten to work in the editing room!

We’ll discuss the cut numbers and all the other marvelous ORCHESTRA WIVES music in our next post.

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American Patrol

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, CA – April 2, 1942, 8:00 AM-12:30 PM

072230-1      American Patrol (JG arr)      Victor 27873-A

072231-1      Soldier, Let Me Read Your Letter (RE & M vcl, BM arr)    Victor 27873-B

072232-1      Sleep Song (RE & M vcl, GW arr)     Victor 27879-B

072233-1      Sweet Eloise (RE & M vcl, JG arr)    Victor 27879-A

Glenn Miller and his Orchestra arrived in Los Angeles on March 17th, after a fairly rapid trip across the country. After a few days getting acclimated, they reported to the 20th Century Fox studios to begin work on their second feature film, originally titled ORCHESTRA WIFE.

Before getting too heavily involved in the filmmaking process, Victor pulled them into a Hollywood recording studio for an early-morning session. As before, most of the tunes had a wartime connection, starting with AMERICAN PATROL.

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Written in 1885 by F. W Meacham, the composition was one of his many patriotic marches that became a popular sensation. The original music worked in other martial airs, including COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE OCEAN, YANKEE DOODLE and THREE CHEERS FOR THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE and Jerry Gray’s brilliant arrangement included these as well, at least initially. The earliest Miller broadcast version from March 27th ran nearly five minutes and included several sequences that were cut to trim the chart to 78 length, as was done with the original longer rendition of IN THE MOOD. Too bad RCA didn’t spring for a 12-inch release that would have preserved the whole thing!

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Listening to a turn-of-the century performance by Sousa’s Band, it’s surprising to hear just how much of the original piece was adapted by Jerry Gray, down to the gradual fade out toward the end which is shattered by a powerful fortissimo coda.

Original to Glenn’s version are the superbly timed drum breaks by Moe Purtill and Billy May’s wild trumpet.

Billy May, Moe Purtill & Glenn

Billy May, Moe Purtill & Glenn

It’s fortunate that this great instrumental was taken down at Victor’s Hollywood studio, which afforded Glenn the finest technical recording quality that RCA ever gave him. The entire band sparkles and we can hear clearly such details as the sax riffs behind Billy’s solo and the kicking rhythm section.

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The remainder of the date produced three Eberle-Modernaires ballads and here too, we can appreciate the depth and richness of sound that the band could produce. Case in point is the dynamic introduction to Billy May’s arrangement of SOLDIER, LET ME READ YOUR LETTER, with even Bobby Hackett’s quiet guitar strumming audible.   It was written by two actual soldiers, Private Pat Fallon and Private Tim Pasma, with help from pro songwriter Sid Lippman (of I’M THRILLED and DEAR ARABELLA fame). Glenn’s Mutual Music firm published the song.

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Presumably the soldier-songwriters were familiar with the depressing situation described in their number, as a lonely G.I. begs to read his comrade’s correspondence. He “hasn’t got a sweetheart” and has “left no one behind.” Female listeners were likely persuaded to feel guilty about the isolated guys overseas. Girls, start writing those V-Mail letters! They’re doing the fighting, so you do the writing!

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Another Mutual Music product, SLEEP SONG is a clever twist on the morning bugle call, REVEILLE. It’s a more serious variation of Irving Berlin’s OH, HOW I HATE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING and was composed by middling scribes Don Reid (whose biggest hit was REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR) and Henry Tobias (who would much later create Bette Davis’ creepy I’VE WRITTEN A LETTER TO DADDY for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?).

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George Williams, a new addition to the arranging team, penned the fine chart. Glenn hired Williams from the Sonny Dunham band to help with the additional writing chores that the new film would require. Nicknamed “the Fox,” George would go on to a successful career with Gene Krupa, Ray Anthony and Jackie Gleason.

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The final selection, SWEET ELOISE, is an attractive melody by fellow trombonist-bandleader Russ Morgan, who started as a fine jazz musician and arranger and made a fortune playing corny, muted wah-wah solos with his equally saccharine band. Russ did manage to write (or co-write) the occasional quality song, like SOMEBODY ELSE IS TAKING MY PLACE. Popular lyricist Mack David handled the words.

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Bobby Hackett finally gets another chance to shine, with a lovely cornet obbligato in the first chorus. Ray Eberle and the Modernaires lightly toss the lyrics back and forth, then Hackett returns to lead the saxes through a sinuous instrumental passage, which is the record’s highlight. Where have you been hiding, Bobby?

Aside from their radio broadcasts, this record date would be the last fans would hear from the Miller band until they completed their movie in late May. Happily, the movie would turn out to be one of the best big band films of the era. Details to come!

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Glenn’s photo on sheet music was a guarantee of big sales.

 

Keep ‘Em Flying!

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Zeke Zarchy, 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); Bill Conway(g); 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 – December 8, 1941, 12:00-5:30 PM

068456-1      Moonlight Cocktail (RE & M vcl, JG arr)     Bluebird 11401-A

068457-1      Happy in Love (MH vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 11401-B

068458-1      Fooled (RE vcl, JG arr)          Bluebird 11416-A

068459-1      Keep ‘Em Flying (JG arr)      Bluebird 11443-B

068460-1      Chip Off the Old Block          Bluebird 11450-B

068461-1      The Story of a Starry Night (RE vcl, BF arr)           Bluebird 11462-A

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When the Glenn Miller band assembled in RCA Victor’s New York studios at 12:00 Noon on Monday, December 8, 1941, momentous events were happening in Washington DC.  At 12:30 PM, President Roosevelt began his Day of Infamy speech, calling on the joint houses of Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. By 1:10 both houses had approved it and at 4:10 PM, while Glenn was still recording, the declaration was signed.

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At RCA, it was business as usual – and the world events did not affect the Miller orchestra’s efficiency. Six selections were completed in five-and-a-half hours, no longer than expected.

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MOONLIGHT COCKTAIL was first on the schedule, racking up yet another Number One hit for the band and one of the top-selling records of 1942.  Jerry Gray provides a plush setting, with velvety vocalizing by Ray and the Mods and Tex’s butter-smooth tenor sax.  This sophisticated ballad was, surprisingly, written by stride pianist Luckey Roberts. whose other compositions were mostly traditional blues and ragtime numbers.  Actually, Luckey wrote it in 1912 as a  virtuoso ragtime piece titled RIPPLES OF THE NILE.  Lyricist Kim Gannon  is more familiar to these pages, having composed FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE. Slowing Luckey’s finger-buster down, Gannon struck gold.

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The B-side of COCKTAIL was HAPPY IN LOVE, a sprightly tune from the Olsen & Johnson Broadway revue, Sons O’ Fun. A follow-up to the comedy duo’s 1938 blockbuster smash Hellzapoppin, the new show co-starred Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda, Scotch jazz singer Ella Logan and future Three Stooge Joe Besser.  The show was a hit with wartime audiences, running 742 performances.

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Considering the hoopla which greeted Marion Hutton when she returned to the band in August, it’s surprising that Glenn kept her under wraps on record.  She had not been heard on the past few sessions at all and HAPPY IN LOVE was her first of only three recorded solo vocals between her return and the band’s breakup. Of course, Marion was featured on the band’s radio shows and public performances with Tex and the Mods, but it’s a shame she was heard by herself so infrequently on disc, considering how much she had improved as a singer by late 1941.

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Composed by Sammy Fain and Jack Yellen, HAPPY IN LOVE would normally be an ebullient love song and Jerry Gray’s arrangement is joyous enough. But the tragic mood of the day apparently hit Marion hard and she sings in an arrestingly somber manner that transforms the recording into an unintentional testament to wartime shock and sorrow. Only at the very end, after Tex’s perky solo, does she shake off the melancholy. Her voice emerges into the sunlight to punch out the rhythmic coda.

Ray Eberle is back for FOOLED, a dud of a song that is unworthy of the Miller band at this peak artistic period.  Once again, Jerry Gray crafts a lovely frame for a mediocre painting, with twining reed patterns and a sweet Beneke solo.  Composers Frank Lavere and Ros Metzger wrote little else of note and though lyricist Bob Russell collaborated on some distinguished songs with Duke Ellington, his contribution here is underpar. Ray goes off-key at the beginning of the unwieldy lyric, but Glenn didn’t bother with a retake.

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Things improve with two fine instrumentals, which have been neglected by Miller fans and on reissues. A swing original could be titled almost anything and Jerry Gray’s KEEP ‘EM FLYING was originally named THAT’S WHERE I CAME IN. Miller first broadcast it back in July and the title was changed during the fall.  The familiar phrase was devised in May 1941 as an inspirational recruiting slogan for the Army Air Corps. It would soon be plastered on posters, stamps, flyers and even was used as the title for an Abbott & Costello service comedy that opened in late November.

Repeating the “engine revving up” motif that started his record of THE AIR-MINDED EXECUTIVE, KEEP ‘EM FLYING is a screaming flagwaver from the first note. Glenn played a lot of super-fast tempoed numbers on radio, but recorded relatively few of them.  The band is at the height of swing precision here, with Beneke, Billy May, Chummy, Ernie Caceres and Moe Purtill getting their hot licks in. The fans loved this kind of number and would yell their heads off when it was played.

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CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK is a bit of a mystery – composer “Al Young” is a name unfamiliar to me, unless it is a pseudonym and there is no arranger credit in the discographies. It’s in the groovy vein of TUXEDO JUNCTION, with a little more “oomph.” Basically a succession of riffs, the high spot is an eight-bar Al Klink solo. Fewer riffs and more Klink would have made the piece more memorable, but it’s a pleasant addition to the Miller repertoire.

As with the past few sessions, the date ends with an Eberle ballad, this one with a classical pedigree. THE STORY OF A STARRY NIGHT was adapted from Tchaikovsky ‘s 6th Symphony, the “Pathetique.”  Earlier in the year, Freddie Martin had a huge hit with TONIGHT WE LOVE, adapted from Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. Glenn had an instrumental arrangement of that same theme in his book and played it often on radio.  Actually, so many classical adaptations were riding the airwaves and record charts in 1941, partially due to the ASCAP radio ban, that Les Brown recorded an opus titled EVERYBODY’S MAKING MONEY BUT TCHAIKOVSKY.

STARRY NIGHT made some money for Glenn, as his Mutual Music company published the sheet music, then re-published it in 1948 with a tie-in to Song of My Heart, a low-budget film biography of the composer.  Mann Curtis, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman are credited with the musical adaptation and lyrics.

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Once again, Bill Finegan crafted an exquisite arrangement, highlighting the trademark Miller reed sound. Earlier complaints about Glenn’s overly fast ballads were long gone by now and Ray was able to luxuriate in a slow-tempoed rendition of the attractive lyrics.

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This was the band’s last recording session for 1941.  They finished out the year at the Hotel Pennsylvania and would conclude this third and final winter engagement at the venue in early January.  One bright spot during this period was the brief return of Trigger Alpert, who was given a Christmas furlough (initiated by Glenn) and played with the band at the Cafe Rouge and on radio.  War news was growing increasingly more ominous now that America was in the conflict and Miller’s recorded output would begin to reflect the changing times with their next session.

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It Happened in Hawaii

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Zeke Zarchy, 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 – November 24, 1941, 12:00-6:00 PM

068418-1      Moonlight Sonata (BF arr)   Bluebird 11386-A

068419-1      Slumber Song (BF arr)         Bluebird 11386-B

068420-1      The White Cliffs of Dover (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11397-A

068421-1      We’re the Couple in the Castle (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 11397-B

068422-1      It Happened in Hawaii (RE & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11416-B

It was an all-ballad studio session for the Glenn Miller band on November 24, 1941. By this time, the experimental placement of Tex Beneke on alto sax lead had ended and he returned to his usual place in the reed section on tenor. New tenor addition Babe Russin left and Skip Martin joined as the new alto lead. Bobby Hackett kept his guitar position, with occasional cornet solos and Zeke Zarchy was added to the trumpets. With only slight changes, this personnel would remain in place for awhile.

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The first selection waxed was a rare feature for pianist Chummy MacGregor, on Bill Finegan’s arrangement of MOONLIGHT SONATA. This lovely setting of the main theme of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2 is mostly a fantasia for reeds and piano. Beneke, the only soloist heard on this session, gets a brief spot. It’s also one of Glenn’s longest Bluebird sides, squeezing 3 minutes and 35 seconds onto the disc.

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As an appropriate B-side, Miller finally set down his BMI radio theme song, SLUMBER SONG, which he had been using since October 1940, as an alternate to MOONLIGHT SERENADE. Though by now the ASCAP radio war was settled, Glenn continued to use SLUMBER SONG as his closing theme. It’s a suitably wistful melody, again arranged by Finegan, credited to Chummy MacGregor and lyricist Saul Tepper. Tepper was an advertising illustrator, who moonlighted as a songwriter, this being his best-known number. The Modernaires are tossed in for a soothing humming passage. Chummy gets label credit on both sides of Bluebird 11386!

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Comes next another big Miller hit, (THERE’LL BE BLUE BIRDS OVER) THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER. The title was inspired by Alice Duer Miller’s Anglocentric 1940 novel, The White Cliffs. By the time the book was filmed in 1944 (with Irene Dunne and Van Johnson), the song had been such an overwhelming success that the movie title was revised to The White Cliffs of Dover. The film was hugely successful as well.

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Intended to boost Anglo-American relations, this paean to British topography was totally an American product, by Nat Burton and Walter Kent (writers of WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN and I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS).

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UK songstress Vera Lynn boosted it into one of the most anthemic of World War II songs. Glenn’s record, with a sympathetic Jerry Gray arrangement and a sensitive Eberle vocal, was pretty iconic on this side of the Atlantic. However, Burton and Kent should have checked an avian atlas, as Bluebirds are not to be found in Europe (except on RCA Victor records!).

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Back in 1939, Glenn recorded two fine songs from the Paramount-Max Fleischer cartoon feature Gulliver’s Travels, by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. Now, the Fleischers’ second full-length animated effort, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, was about to be released. Top songwriters Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser wrote the score this time, with the plug song being WE’RE THE COUPLE IN THE CASTLE.

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Unfortunately, both the film and the song flopped big time. What with the war coming, were customers not in the mood for animated features like this and Dumbo? Did the subject of urban bugs turn people off? Was it simply a bad film?

Mr. Bug is no Dumbo, but it is a charmer in its own way. A later re-release, under the non-insect title Hoppity Goes to Town, was also unsuccessful and that failure pushed the Fleischers along the road to bankruptcy. Hoppity got an early sale to television and became a kiddie small-screen staple.

Hoppity, the star of MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN.

Hoppity, the star of MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN.

WE’RE THE COUPLE IN THE CASTLE is a pleasant enough song on its own and Bill Finegan does a fine job Millerizing it, with Ray effortlessly handling the lyrics.

IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII (here pronounced Hawaii-uh) now carries an ominous quality that wasn’t apparent in November 1941. By the time the record was released, the events of December 7th would, one would think, cause the song to be avoided. That apparently wasn’t the case, as both the Miller and Jimmy Dorsey-Bob Eberly-Helen O’Connell records were popular enough to receive 78 reissues in 1947. Go figure!

1947 reissue label of IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII.

1947 reissue label of IT HAPPENED IN HAWAII.

The song, by Mabel Wayne, who had a hit with the similarly titled IT HAPPENED IN MONTEREY, is, as expected, flavored with island exotica and a moody lyric by veteran Al Dubin. Ray and the Modernaires languorously float by on the waves of melody.

By the time the Glenn Miller Orchestra returned to the studio on December 8th, their world would be completely and shockingly upended.

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A String of Pearls

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, Billy May (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank D’Annolfo (tb); Wilbur Schwartz, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink, Babe Russin (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 – November 3, 1941, 12:00-5:30 PM

068066-1      Humpty Dumpty Heart (RE vcl, JG arr)      Bluebird 11369-A

068066-2      Humpty Dumpty Heart (RE vcl, JG arr)      first issued on LP

068067-1      Ev’rything I Love (RE & Choir vcl, JG arr)  Bluebird 11365-A

068068-1      A String of Pearls (JG arr)     Bluebird 11382-B

068069-1      Baby Mine (RE & Choir vcl, BF arr)             Bluebird 11365-B

068070-1      Long Tall Mama (BM arr)     Victor 27943-B

068071-1      Day Dreaming (RE & M vcl, BF arr)            Bluebird 11382-A

Glenn with newlyweds David Rose & Judy Garland - Hollywood Palladium, 1941

Glenn with newlyweds David Rose & Judy Garland – Hollywood Palladium, 1941

The stars aligned on November 3, 1941 as the Glenn Miller Band participated in one of their finest recording sessions – quality pop songs and memorable instrumentals, including one of their best-remembered hits.

Since the previous RCA session on October 20th, several events impinging on the Miller crew had occurred. First, the ASCAP radio ban ended on October 30th. Now Glenn could promote many of his recent recordings on the radio.  ELMER’S TUNE, CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and the other Sun Valley Serenade songs started racking up airplays and began climbing the popularity charts.

The other interesting event took place within the band.  Glenn decided to restructure the reed section, moving Tex Beneke to lead alto and adding Babe Russin to split the hot tenor solos with Al Klink.  Glenn had known Russin since they both worked with Red Nichols in 1930.  Since then, Babe had become one of the most respected jazz tenor men, featured with Larry Clinton, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.  It was a coup for Glenn to snag him and Russin gets several prominent solos on this date.

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The first number was the featured ballad in Playmates, the latest film featuring Kay Kyser and his Band. As mentioned in a previous entry, Kyser and his troupe were the top moneymakers in the dance band field. This latest movie co-starred a tottering John Barrymore (in his last screen appearance) and “Mexican Spitfire” Lupe Velez, along with popular Kyser vocalists Ginny Simms and Harry Babbitt.

Kay Kyser's singers - Ginny Simms, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt and Merwyn "Ish Kabibble" Bogue.

Kay Kyser’s singers – Ginny Simms, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt and Merwyn “Ish Kabibble” Bogue.

These two vocal lovebirds introduced HUMPTY DUMPTY HEART, written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. All the Kyser films featured good songs and this was one of the best.

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Despite the “novelty” title, HUMPTY DUMPTY HEART is a charming ballad. Jerry Gray’s exquisite arrangement slows the song into romance mode from the bouncy Kyser tempo. Ray Eberle delivers a tender vocal, one of his very best.  gm humpty

There is little difference between the 78 take and the alternate take 2, issued (likely by mistake) on a 1963 Camden LP.

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Eberle continues in the same hushed manner on EV’RYTHING I LOVE, the best-remembered song from Cole Porter’s hit Broadway musical, Let’s Face It.  Danny Kaye made his starring stage debut (after a featured role in Lady in the Dark) as a nervous draftee who gets involved with several hot-to-trot Army wives, played by Eve Arden and Vivian Vance.  This was the first of many wartime farces featuring namby-pamby soldiers being brutalized by drill sergeants and hungry women.  Abbott & Costello led the way on screen through a similar series of service comedies.

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Kaye jittered and twitched all over the stage, singing several of his patented tongue-twisting patter numbers and parlaying himself to top stardom. At one point, he slowed down long enough to duet EV’RYTHING I LOVE with Mary Jane Walsh, one of Cole Porter’s rare, totally sincere ballads.

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The full band (termed “Choir” on the label) backs Eberle, humming along on another finely crafted Jerry Gray arrangement.  Between vocal choruses, the unusual sound of Beneke leading the saxes is followed by his alto sax solo and Ray comfortably rising to the closing high note.

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The band strikes up a perfect dance tempo for Jerry Gray’s A STRING OF PEARLS, a Number One hit for Glenn and the band.  The simple riff leads to a series of exciting sax exchanges, first between Caceres and Beneke on altos and then Russin and Klink on tenors.  A brief lull ushers in Bobby Hackett’s exquisite gem of a cornet solo, which started as a rehearsal warm-up that Glenn persuaded Bobby to incorporate into the arrangement without alteration.

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Once more, a sympathetic microphone pickup allows the guitar (likely Bill Conway) to be heard within the rhythm section. Purtill is also in especially good form, catching every inflection with his rim shots.

Other bands picked up A STRING OF PEARLS, including Benny Goodman, who recorded an uptempo version, smoothly arranged by Mel Powell.  Jerry Gray said that he liked the Goodman rendition better than his own and would drop in to hear it at the Hotel New Yorker that winter of 1941, only a few blocks from the Miller band’s Hotel Pennsylvania.

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After three Jerry Gray charts, Bill Finegan turns his hand to BABY MINE, a gorgeous Ned Washington-Frank Churchill lullaby from Walt Disney’s DUMBO, which was about to open in theaters nationwide. This wonderfully endearing film was somewhat overlooked at the time, as the dark days of December 1941 were not the time to premiere a charming family picture.

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Fortunately, time has shown Walt’s flying elephant story to be one of his greatest achievements and it hasn’t dated one bit. Even today, the most stone-faced viewer will find himself tearing up when Dumbo’s mother, chained up as a punishment, cradles the crying tyke in her trunk while the song plays on the soundtrack.

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The disc opens with an impressionistic Finegan intro, with Chummy MacGregor’s piano tinkling in the background throughout. Ray Eberle continues his winning streak, sweetly interpreting the tune with the band choir once again offering an effective vocal cushion.

Changing modes once again, the band next tackles Billy May’s LONG TALL MAMA, a neglected swinger in the band’s library that apparently was only performed this one time, never on broadcasts. Additionally, the disc languished in the RCA vaults until the summer of 1942, when it was released on the full-priced Victor label, which the Miller band had been promoted to in April.

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Despite its obscurity, LONG TALL MAMA is a winner, fully showing off the band’s swing credentials.  Nearly all the hot soloists get a look-in – first Beneke’s cutting alto, then Ernie Caceres on clarinet (twice), a great Billy May solo, strictly in his Cootie Williams mode and lastly, Al Klink with his booting tenor.  There’s that patented Miller fade-out before a stentorian windup.  Too bad Billy May didn’t write a dozen more swinging originals for Glenn like this!

Lyricist Gus Kahn had been writing hit songs since 1914, with dozens in his portfolio. One thing Kahn hadn’t done was collaborate with Jerome Kern, the greatest composer of the era. He finally got his chance with DAY DREAMING, published as an independent song.  Ironically, it turned out to be Kahn’s last, as he died on October 8, less than a month before this recording.  DAY DREAMING is neither man’s best work, but it is a pleasant number, with the Modernaires showing up to accompany Ray, their only appearance on the session. Bill Finegan supplies a sympathetic framework.

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What a fine session! Fortunately, Glenn would be back in the studios just two weeks later, in what would be the band’s last peacetime record date.