A Contract with RCA-Bluebird!

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 6, 1939, 1:30-4:45 PM

Charlie Hill, Bob Price, Legh Knowles (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz (cl,as); Stan Aronson (ts,cl); Tex Beneke, Al Klink (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Allen Reuss (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Cody Sandifer (d). Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl); Bill Finegan (arr).

 

033607-1      (Gotta Get Some) Shut-Eye (MH vcl)          Bluebird 10139

033608-1      How I’d Like to Be With You in Bermuda (RE vcl) Bluebird 10139

033609-1      Cuckoo in the Clock (MH vcl, BF arr)          Bluebird 10145

033610-1      Romance Runs in the Family (MH vcl, BF arr)       Bluebird 10145

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Five more middling months in the saga of the Glenn Miller band unfolded, brightened mainly by a month-long engagement in NY at the Paradise Restaurant. The city was building up to the opening of the New York World’s Fair in April and tourist business was starting to flock to the Big Apple. There is a newsreel clip of a big Trylon & Perisphere (the Fair symbols) being popped open in front of the Paradise on New Year’s Eve, with a pretty girl bursting out.

As mentioned before, the club’s manager, Nils T. Granlund (known as N.T.G.), was really into busty showgirls and he was planning his biggest coup for the World’s Fair’s Amusement Area, the “CONGRESS OF BEAUTY” and “SUN-WORSHIPPERS COLONY.” Image

Basically it was a “nude ranch” of leggy women feeding cows and chickens while wearing see-through tops. Customers were encouraged to ogle, for a hefty admission fee, of course. This all fit right in with the Fair’s edifying theme, “Building the World of Tomorrow.”

But, I digress – February brought good news for Glenn, who signed a one-year no-royalty contract with RCA-Bluebird. Recording director Eli Oberstein was apparently pleased with the band, though their first pair of records didn’t break any sales records. For the second date, as Jerry Colonna would say, “Ahhhh… something new has been added!”

Having discarded a batch of girl vocalists through the summer of 1938, Glenn signed blond and bubbly Marion Hutton. Marion was the sister of Betty Hutton, who even then was making a name for herself as “America’s No. 1 Jitterbug” with Vincent Lopez’s orchestra. After checking out both Hutton sisters, Glenn decided Marion would be “easier to handle” and he was 100% right in his assessment. Marion soon became an indispensable and much beloved part of the Miller organization and a bouncy and ebullient asset to their live performances. On record, she was less effective, though the band always seemed to swing a little harder on her arrangements.

Speaking of arrangements, this date also marked the debut of Bill Finegan, whose first two charts were here recorded. Finegan had been one of a number of arrangers working for Tommy Dorsey and Glenn offered him a job after hearing his work. Bill would contribute some of the most gorgeous ballad arrangements to the Miller library until the end of the band’s existence, but he often found it tough to deal with Glenn’s heavy editing pencil. Glenn had written most of the band’s charts since its inception, and was reluctant to accept musical ideas that didn’t mesh with his own conception.

Finegan would also have trouble featuring the new tenor sax guy in the band, Al Klink. Klink joined just before this session and was recommended to Glenn by Legh Knowles. Al, like Bill Finegan, would remain with the band until it broke up. Unlike Bill, his work was rarely featured. A terrific jazz soloist, Klink just didn’t hit it off with Glenn, who preferred Tex Beneke’s solos and personality.   Finegan and the other arrangers tried to work solos for Klink into their charts, but Glenn would usually cut them or assign them to Tex.   When Klink got the chance, mostly on live performances, he really swung handsomely.

The songs recorded on this date were all current pops with vocals, well performed but not terribly memorable.

HOW I’D LIKE TO BE WITH YOU IN BERMUDA has none of the exotic, languorous atmosphere you’d expect from the title. In musical terms, the song might just as well be about Peoria.  Composers Bickley Reichner and Clay Boland wrote it for one of the renowned University Of Pennsylvania Mask And Wig Club musical revues, which Boland wrote and directed.

The composers and their publishers must have had some kind of conduit to the record labels, as many of their songs were recorded by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw on Victor alone.

Two of the songs had lyrics by Johnny Mercer – CUCKOO IN THE CLOCK and SHUT-EYE. Both had been recorded by Benny Goodman the week before. This was not surprising, as Mercer was then a regular on BG’s “Camel Caravan” radio series.

Glenn had no radio sponsorship and with this session completed, the rest of February would unspool with more routine New England gigs and little else to look forward to.  But March would be another story!

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Paradise for Glenn Miller & Goodbye to Brunswick

Brunswick Studios, New York – May 23, 1938

Johnny “Zulu” Austin, Bob Price, Gasparre Rebito (tp); Glenn Miller, Brad Jenney, Al Mastren (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Sol Kane (cl,as), Stanley “Moose” Aronson (ts,cl), Gordon “Tex” Beneke (ts); Chummy MacGregor (p); Rollie Bundock (b); Bob Spangler (d). Gail Reese, Ray Eberle (vcl)

22972-1         Don’t Wake Up My Heart (RE vcl) Brunswick 8152

22972-2         Don’t Wake Up My Heart (RE vcl)  first issued on CD

22973-1         Why’d Ya Make Me Fall in Love? (GR vcl) Brunswick 8152

22973-2         Why’d Ya Make Me Fall in Love? (GR vcl)  first issued on CD

22974-1         Sold American (GM arr)       Brunswick 8173

22974-2         Sold American (GM arr)       first issued on CD

22975-1         Dippermouth Blues (GM arr)          Brunswick 8173

22975-2         Dippermouth Blues (GM arr)          first issued on CD

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Breakup, then reformation. The first Glenn Miller band disbanded just after New Year’s 1938. For the next few months, Glenn freelanced with Ozzie Nelson and Tommy Dorsey, and also wrote several arrangements for Bob Crosby. By March, he was hard at work assembling a new group.   From the previous band, Bob Price, Hal McIntyre, Chummy MacGregor and Rollie Bundock were invited back. The new men included several who would contribute important voices, both instrumental and vocal, to the organization.

Willie Schwartz’s warmly rich clarinet technique would become the integral element of the Miller Sound, which Glenn decided to emphasize as the new band’s signature.   Saxophonist Tex Beneke was quickly built into a star, on tenor sax and with his pleasant down-home vocals.   Young Ray Eberle, brother of Jimmy Dorsey’s popular vocalist, Bob Eberly, had never sung professionally, but Glenn was determined to create another luminary from that family.

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By the time of this next and last Brunswick recording session, Glenn and the band were about to begin their first New York City gig, a two-week run at the Paradise Restaurant, on the corner of Broadway and 49th Streets. Next door to the Brill Building, the Paradise was the brainchild of Nils T. Granlund, a Broadway and nightclub impresario who favored half-naked showgirls and raucous comics in his shows. The bands featured at the Paradise were usually an afterthought, but big names like Paul Whiteman and Bunny Berigan had played there, receiving much welcome radio airtime.

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The Paradise décor was created by prestigious interior designer Joseph Urban, who in the 1920s, helped to popularize the Art Deco style. The nightclub named after Urban in Chicago’s Congress Hotel was one of the springboards to success for Benny Goodman in 1936. The postcard reproduced here shows the Paradise’s stylish look. So even if the entertainment was on the sleazy side, the setting most certainly wasn’t!

This record date is the only occasion in the Miller discography where alternate takes of the entire session have been issued.   Typically with Glenn’s carefully-rehearsed recordings, there is not much variation on the second takes.

The Miller Sound is unfurled in full bloom right from the opening notes of DON’T WAKE UP MY HEART, in what would be soon recognized as classic Miller ballad style. Ray Eberle doesn’t pop his “P” on the line, “Long ago I p-p-p-p-romised not to kiss again” on the alternate, but this take was likely rejected due to a reed flub during Willie Schwartz’s clarinet passage.

Beneke’s alternate solo on WHY’D YA MAKE ME FALL IN LOVE is noticeably different. He tended not to stick to set solos, as evidenced by many airchecks. Gail Reese makes her only appearance on wax with Miller; fortunately, there are a number of live performances from the Paradise to document her brief tenure with the band. These two pop tunes are mainly known through their Miller recordings, though Benny Goodman also happened to record them both.

Glenn’s original, SOLD AMERICAN, was developed from the catchy intro riff he used in his 1933-34 arrangements for the Boswell Sisters’ I HATE MYSELF and the Dorsey Brothers’ YOU’RE OKAY.  He apparently liked it enough to redo a year later on Bluebird. Glenn plays a crisply swinging solo, Tex is backed by some pretty corny drumming from Spangler and Johnny Austin tears into the kind of typically raucous trumpet solo that earned him the nickname, “Zulu.” The remake benefits from a much better rhythm section, but neither recording caught the attention of Lucky Strike Cigarettes, whose then-familiar musical ad chant was adapted here. Once Glenn came under the sponsorship of Chesterfield Cigarettes, the arrangement was surely dropped from the band’s book!

Glenn had written this arrangement of DIPPERMOUTH BLUES for the Dorsey Brothers band in 1934 and apparently was fond of it, as it remained in his band’s book until the end of 1940. It sticks close to the King Oliver original, with Schwartz handling Johnny Dodds’ original clarinet part and Miller recreating Oliver’s trumpet choruses. Trumpeter George Thow played the solo on the Dorsey Brothers record; it’s surprising that Glenn, always reluctant to feature his jazz trombone, would do so with his own band, but that’s how he performed it on every extant version.

Aside from the poky rhythm section, this record date is the first one that fully sounds like the Glenn Miller band of popular memory.   But four more months would pass before his next session and several more seasons would unfurl before Glenn tasted the first fruit of success.