Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree

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

RCA Victor Studios, New York – February 18, 1942, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

071860-1      Shhh, It’s a Military Secret (MH, TB & M vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 11493-B

071861-1      Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (MH, TB & M vcl)            Bluebird 11474-B

071862-1      She’ll Always Remember (RE & M vcl)       Bluebird 11493-A

071863-1      The Lamplighter’s Serenade (RE & M vcl)          Bluebird 11474-A

071864-1      When Johnny Comes Marching Home (TB, MH & M vcl, BF arr)     Bluebird 11480-B

After a record-breaking run through the Midwest, in  January 1942, the Glenn Miller band hit the Paramount Theater in New York for three monumental weeks of packed houses and high grosses. They finished the engagement on February 17th and showed up at RCA Victor the following morning for a solidly commercial and artistically successful recording session.  This would be Glenn’s last appearance on 35-cent Bluebird discs. For their next date in April, the band would be raised to the full-price, 50-cent RCA Victor parent label. It made good sense, both promotion-wise and money-wise.

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When Miller signed with Victor in 1939, he was placed on Bluebird for several reasons. First, with the Depression still lingering, the lower Bluebird price would likely be more attractive to buyers. Also, as a relatively new band, they didn’t yet have the fan base to warrant a premium price.  Finally, RCA Victor wouldn’t dare place a rival trombonist up against hit-maker Tommy Dorsey on the more prestigious label.  Clarinetist Artie Shaw found himself in much the same position on Bluebird, so as not to compete with rival Benny Goodman on Victor. Benny moved over to Columbia in August 1939 and so Artie, by now a big disc seller, was bumped up to Victor early in 1940.

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Tommy Dorsey wasn’t going anywhere, so RCA waited several more years before promoting Glenn to Victor status. By 1942, the budget labels were less necessary, since record purchasers were making more money as the economy picked up steam.  Columbia had experimentally switched Benny to their 35-cent Okeh label in September 1941, in part to compete with Glenn’s similarly-priced platters.  Once Glenn transferred to Victor, Benny was immediately restored to 50-cent Columbia status.  It was also becoming ridiculous to see Miller alumnus Hal McIntyre’s new band debuting on Victor, while his former leader was still on Bluebird, even recording some of the same songs!

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For this February session, once again, the war played heavily into the music selection, as four of the five songs dealt with wartime themes.  SHHH, IT’S A MILITARY SECRET was written by black composer Walter Bishop, better known for such jive songs as THE STUFF IS HERE AND IT’S MELLOW and SWING, BROTHER, SWING.  Presumably, Earl Allvine wrote the lyrics, as the other name on the song is disc jockey Alan Courtney, who had earlier wangled his name onto Les Brown’s hit number, JOLTIN’ JOE DiMAGGIO.

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Like ON THE OLD ASSEMBLY LINE, the song is purely a propaganda poster set to rhythm, with an awkward attempt to leaven the hard-sell (“These are critical times, be careful of espionage”) with romance (“It’s no military secret that I love you”).  Yet the band and singers deliver the goods in such a jaunty manner that the results are more delightful than didactic.

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Marion, Tex and the Modernaires reappear on DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE, another massive Miller hit, free of the cumbersome sloganeering of the previous number. This time, it’s all romance, with an overseas soldier cautioning his girl back home to remain faithful. Unlike the scheming miss of DEAR ARABELLA, this Army sweetheart promises to be true to her worried G.I.  Marion gets a full solo chorus to declare her love, showing how much her vocal style had improved by this time.  The bouncy arrangement, likely by Jerry Gray, helped to make this disc one of Glenn’s 1942 best.

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It was also a hit for the Andrews Sisters, who sang it with Harry James in their popular film, Private Buckaroo. The song was written by veteran hitmakers Lew Brown, Charlie Tobias and Sam Stept.  All three began composing in the 1920s and got a new lease on popularity with such timely WWII songs as WE DID IT BEFORE AND WE CAN DO IT AGAIN and THIS IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

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Next comes SHE’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER, a hefty slice of sentiment mixed with mother love.  Like DEAR MOM, this one goes almost over the edge into bathos, with lyrics like, “Now a soldier man you may be, but you are still her baby.”  The utterly sincere vocal performance saves it, though.  Writers Eddie Pola and Johnny Marks (Mr. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER) had a minor hit with this song, mostly due to the Miller and Kate Smith recordings. Kate also introduced it on radio, a fact proudly trumpeted on the sheet music cover.

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A lovely, dynamic band intro (beautifully recorded, as this whole session happens to be) leads into a sweet Mickey McMickle muted trumpet lead, with the Modernaires humming in the background. Beneke surfaces briefly on tenor and then Ray and the Mods take over for the rest of the disc.

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Ray and the Mods also deliver THE LAMPLIGHTER’S SERENADE, another gorgeous Hoagy Carmichael melody, with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.  A memorable touch here are the vocal “doo-wah, doo-wah” phrases by the Modernaires echoing the band’s trumpet “boo-wahs.”  Issued as the “A” side of DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE, the disc was a double-headed hit.  The sweetly nostalgic lyric describes an “old-fashioned gent” who lights street lamps (were there still gas lamps anywhere in 1942?) and casts a love spell on couples passing by.  Wonder if he’s a relative of PAPA NICCOLINI?

Glenn’s record was the most successful, though it was also recorded by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who thought enough of the tune to include it on his first-ever solo session, coincidentally on Glenn’s Bluebird label.

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A number of World War I-era songs like OVER THERE and OH, HOW I HATE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING were successfully dusted off and recycled for the new war.  Only Glenn thought to reach even further back to the Civil War for WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME. It’s surprising that no other bands picked up on the tune.

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This authentic piece of 1863 nostalgia by bandleader Patrick Gilmore was still familiar to 1942 audiences.  Modernaires Hal Dickinson and Bill Conway slightly revised the lyric and Bill Finegan shaped and arranged the vintage march into a totally contemporary swing opus. This new version was published by Miller’s Mutual Music firm, making everyone happy.

Canadian pressing

Canadian pressing

Finegan really outdid himself, with a witty, extroverted chart full of joyful abandon. The deceptively pianissimo intro and first chorus lead into a stentorian brass passage and then the swinging vocal.  Another martial trumpet fanfare culminates in a booting tenor spot for Al Klink and the inevitable jivey rideout.  It’s another underrated Miller disc and a great ending to a very enjoyable studio session.

Postwar German pressing

Postwar German pressing

Glenn gave the band a few days off before beginning another road trip down the East Coast, finally heading west to Chicago and then on to Los Angeles. Arriving there on March 17th, they had only a few days to get used to the climate before reporting to 20th Century Fox once again for their second feature film.  One more record date would be wedged in before it was time to smile for the cameras.

Tex, Marion & Glenn got the paper doll treatment in 1942, but where's poor Ray?

Tex, Marion & Glenn got the paper doll treatment in 1942, but where’s poor Ray?

When The Roses Bloom Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

Marion Hutton welcomes 1942!

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

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

Mr. Miller & Mr. Eberle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Spirit Is Willing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1940 edition of PERFIDIA with ASCAP lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

1941 edition of PERFIDIA with BMI lyric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Claire

Dorothy Claire

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

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

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PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000

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

RCA Victor Studios, New York – April 28, 1940, 1:00-5:45 PM

048963-1      Pennsylvania 6-5000 (JG arr)         Bluebird 10754

048964-1      Bugle Call Rag (GM arr)       Bluebird 10740

048965-1      The Nearness of You (RE vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 10745

048966          W.P.A. (TB & Band vcl, BF arr)             rejected & unissued

048967-1      Mister Meadowlark (JL vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10745

048967-2      Mister Meadowlark (JL vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

048968-1      My Blue Heaven (BF arr)     Bluebird 10994

 

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Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC – that was the Glenn Miller band’s road itinerary since it concluded its engagement at the Café Rouge on April 4th. Since they were broadcasting their thrice-weekly Chesterfield shows from DC, they couldn’t venture too far from the nation’s capitol during April.

Returning briefly to New York and RCA Victor at the very end of the month, Glenn scored with one of his best-ever record dates. Every record was a winner, though the one unissued number will always remain a cipher.

Who (even today) doesn’t know that PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000 is the phone number of New York’s Pennsylvania Hotel? This most famous of phone numbers commemorates Glenn’s engagements at the hotel’s Café Rouge and will still connect you, though it is now written as 736-5000.

gmPa65000Earlier in 1940, Jerry Gray had written an arrangement of THE DIPSY DOODLE for one of Glenn’s radio medleys. Glenn liked catchy riff tunes and thought the countermelody that Jerry had inserted might make a good number on its own. That was the genesis of PE6-5000, which became one of the band’s catchiest riff tunes. The title, chanted by the band and signaled by the sound of a ringing telephone helped make the record memorable. Having been with the band for just a few months, Jerry Gray was already proving his worth.

On the jazz side, trumpeter Johnny Best contributes a lengthy, well-constructed solo, Beneke is his usual dependable self on tenor and Moe Purtill provides rhythmic support. As if the title riff isn’t enough to carry the piece, the increasing volume of the repeated rising and falling riffs at the end were guaranteed to send fans into swing nirvana.

BUGLE CALL RAG was an oldie in the band book, dating back at least to 1938, in the frenzied up-tempo mode that Glenn was starting to pull away from, as evidenced by the dancier pulse of PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000. Miller’s chart is very different from the dainty, refined one he penned in 1935 for Ray Noble’s band.

gm glenn-miller-bugle-call-rag-rca-victor-78 Still, the fans did dig the killer-dillers and this one’s a doozy, giving Moe Purtill a trademark workout. Aside from brief explosions from Glenn, Tex and Ernie Caceres, it’s all Moe and band riffs. Often, the Miller band’s jazz numbers came off as constrained in the studio, with live versions being looser and more effective. In this case, the record is a fine representation of the band’s hot style, with an imaginative Purtill solo.

gm-bugle_call_ragIntroduced by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1922, BUGLE CALL RAG was composed by band members Jack Pettis and Elmer Schoebel, with lyrics by Billy Meyers. The NORK was one of the most influential early white New Orleans jazz bands. Members also contributed FAREWELL BLUES, ECCENTRIC, PANAMA and TIN ROOF BLUES to the Dixieland repertoire, though many swing bands like Tommy Dorsey, Bob Crosby and Benny Goodman performed them as well.

Big change of pace – THE NEARNESS OF YOU, a classic song given a classic treatment. Composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Ned Washington, it’s a great vehicle for an inspired Bill Finegan ballad arrangement. The Miller Sound leads off, with Tex leading into one of Ray Eberle’s best-ever vocals. He is totally assured, even reaching smoothly for the high notes; the lush accompaniment makes for a memorable interpretation.

gm nearnessWe shall never know how the next record sounded, since the masters were rejected and destroyed. The song, W.P.A., written by Jesse Stone, referenced the Roosevelt New Deal program that provided jobs for the jobless. The term was an acronym for the Works Progress Administration, which employed three million men and women at its peak, including many minority workers, handling public works, road construction and infrastructure projects. Needless to say, the program came under enormous criticism by the Republicans, as did nearly all of FDR’s New Deal legislation.

gm wpaThe song, too, came under heavy criticism from left-wing groups (and record producer John Hammond) for its lyrics lightly kidding the cushy jobs in the program, which portrayed minority workers as working as little as possible. That image was far from the truth. Ironically, composer Jesse Stone was himself black, with a resume that included arranging and writing for many Harlem bands, including his own.

In any case, the American Federation of Musicians condemned the song and no recordings were issued on RCA or Columbia. Apparently, Decca didn’t get the memo, as they released 78s by Jan Savitt and Louis Armstrong with the Mills Brothers with little protest.

Moving on to MISTER MEADOWLARK, a delightful Walter Donaldson melody with hip lyrics by old friend Johnny Mercer. Johnny always enjoyed writing about birds – BOB WHITE and SKYLARK, for example. Johnny made a charming disc of MISTER with Bing Crosby and while never a huge hit, it was also covered by Glenn, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman.

gm meadowlarkThe Miller version also marks the vocal debut of Jack Lathrop, the band’s new guitarist. In the 30s, Lathrop was a member of the Tune Twisters vocal group, who sang with Glenn and Ray Noble under the nom-de-disque of the Freshmen. Miller also employed the Twisters on his 1937 Decca date, so when the time came to replace Richard Fisher, whom he had never hit it off with, Glenn brought in Lathrop on April 26th. Figuring he had acquired a singer as well as a guitarist, Miller put him right to work. Jack’s voice had an impish quality, perfect for light tunes like this one and he acquits himself well. Jerry Gray wrote the cheery arrangement.

Last up was another oldie in the band book, Bill Finegan’s chart of MY BLUE HEAVEN, which had been played on the air as early as March 1939. Walter Donaldson (again) and George Whiting wrote it in 1927 and it provided a huge hit for crooner Gene Austin. In 1935, Jimmie Lunceford recorded the grooviest version ever, with a super-hep vocal by the Lunceford Trio.

Glenn swings for the rafters here and he plays a very assured full-chorus solo, followed by a hectic one from Tex. Moe brings it home, concluding one of the band’s best hot swing records.

Finishing up this lengthy date at 5:45 PM, the band took a dinner break, then headed right up to Harlem for an 8 PM to 2 AM performance at the Savoy Ballroom (with a break from 10 PM to midnight), which brought in 4,000 screaming fans.   Heading right back onto the road the next day, we wouldn’t catch the band in a recording studio again until mid-June and at a new venue!

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Fools Rush In

RCA Victor studios, New York – March 30, 1940, 1:00-5:00 PM

048482-1      Boog-It (MH vcl, JG arr)        Bluebird 10689

048483-1      Yours Is My Heart Alone (BF arr)   Bluebird 10728

048484-1      I’m Stepping Out With a Memory Tonight (RE vcl) Bluebird 10717

048485-1      Alice Blue Gown         Bluebird 10701

048486-1      Wonderful One (JG arr)       Bluebird 10701

048487-1      Devil May Care (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10717

 

RCA Victor studios, New York – March 31, 1940, 2:00-6:30 PM

048488-1      April Played the Fiddle (RE vcl, BF arr)      Bluebird 10694

048489-1      Fools Rush In (RE vcl)          Bluebird 10728

048490-1      I Haven’t Time To Be a Millionaire (TB vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10604

048490-2      I Haven’t Time To Be a Millionaire (TB vcl, JG arr) first issued on LP

048491-1      Slow Freight (BF arr)            Bluebird 10740

After the February 24th RCA session, five weeks would pass before the Glenn Miller band returned to the studio.  They weren’t traveling; New York was their home base, as they were in the midst of a three-month residency at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Non-stop work kept them too busy for much else.  Two nightly evening sessions at the Cafe Rouge, three Chesterfield shows a week plus rehearsals and an additional two-week killer gig at the Paramount Theater (36 stage shows!) had the band panting for relief.

The strain finally got to Glenn, who collapsed from exhaustion and the flu on February 27th, the day before the Paramount opening.  He was hospitalized for over a week, returning to the bandstand on March 6th.  During his absence, friends Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Charlie Barnet and Dick Stabile led the band at the Paramount.  Charile Spivak and Claude Thornhill brought their bands to fill in for Glenn at the Pennsylvania while the band was doing their Chesterfield radio programs.

The Andrews Sisters join Glenn on the Chesterfield show, early 1940.

The Andrews Sisters join Glenn on the Chesterfield show, early 1940.

The Andrews Sisters, costars of the Chesterfield show, also appeared with the band at the Paramount. Cab drivers likely made a bundle, constantly ferrying the orchestra all over the city.  Once he returned to lead his band, Glenn thanked all the friends who helped him out in a special appearance on the Paramount stage.

Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Dick Stabile and Charlie Barnet join Glenn on the Paramount stage.

Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Dick Stabile and Charlie Barnet join Glenn on the Paramount stage.

The Sisters finished their 13-week contract for the radio program on March 21 and weren’t renewed. The sponsors decided that Miller could carry the show by himself; also, Glenn was scheduled to take the band on the road in April and the gals were going on their own road trip to Hollywood.  Coordinating the two schedules to include three live joint programs a week was an impossibility.

The wildly successful (and profitable) Paramount engagement concluded on March 12 and the Cafe Rouge-Hotel Pennsylvania residency would end on April 4. Health restored, Glenn was ready to take the band back into the studio for two sessions to get some new tunes on wax for the fans.  Ten numbers on two consecutive days were completed – six good popular songs and four instrumentals.

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Once again, Glenn used Marion Hutton sparingly, assigning her just a single vocal.  BOOG-IT originated in the Cab Calloway band, written by Buck Ram, who had also composed UTT DA ZAY and CHOP CHOP CHARLIE CHAN for Calloway. Though Ram was Jewish, he specialized in “hep” novelties for black artists like the Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald and later, the Platters. Lyricist Jack Palmer also regularly wrote for the Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford bands, penning THE JUMPIN’ JIVE and HI-HO TRAILUS BOOT WHIP.  The new dance described in the lyrics consisted of gesturing with your hands “like shinin’ a window, but you ain’t got no window, so you just picture a window and BOOG-IT!”  Miss Hutton likely danced her tuchus off while performing the number in person!  On record, the band adds vocal punctuations and handclaps, along with swinging solos by Hal McIntyre on alto and fat-toned trumpeter Clyde Hurley.

Marion steps away from the microphone for a gorgeous Bill Finegan instrumental arrangement of YOURS IS MY HEART ALONE, the most popular melody from Land of Smiles, a Viennese operetta by Franz Lehar, composer of The Merry Widow.  Published in 1929, it was introduced by tenor Richard Tauber who made the first recording in German.  Several British singers and bands went on to popularize the song in a rather stiff English translation by veteran lyricist Harry B. Smith.  In a revised form, it was republished and recorded in 1940 by Glen Gray & Kenny Sargent, Tommy Dorsey & Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman & Helen Forrest and Glenn, who did it strictly instrumental.  Taken at a brisk tempo, the reeds sing out in the first chorus, muted brass in the second, capped by a liquid tenor sax passage by Tex Beneke.  The mutes come off for the last chorus, as filigrees by Finegan wrap around the melody.  A lovely, underrated recording!

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Ray Eberle shows up for I’M STEPPING OUT WITH A MEMORY TONIGHT, by Herb Magidson and Allie Wrubel, an uncelebrated team who nevertheless wrote a pile of hits – GONE WITH THE WIND, MUSIC MAESTRO PLEASE, I’LL BUY THAT DREAM, THE MASQUERADE IS OVER and others.  The Miller Men give it a pleasant performance all around, with an efficient Eberle vocal and a distinctive Beneke solo.

Back to instrumental territory, for two lovely waltzes, ALICE BLUE GOWN and WONDERFUL ONE.   A musty favorite from the 1919 Broadway score of Irene, ALICE BLUE GOWN was built around a topical reference to the color Alice Blue, an azure fabric tint favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of former President Teddy Roosevelt.  Long favored as a fashion trendsetter, Ms. Longworth popularized the hue for female attire.  The Harry Tierney musical about a poor Irish shopgirl who breaks into high society was a massive hit, as was the song.

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RKO remade the story in 1940, with British stage star Anna Neagle as Irene, including a lavish Technicolor sequence that showed off the famous gown in all its glory.  Though a number of hot renditions had been done by Red Nichols (including Glenn in the personnel) and Ben Pollack, the Miller 78 plugged the new film and the song’s original waltz tempo.  Bill Finegan’s richly detailed arrangement shifts the melody from section to section and then to Beneke’s plush saxophone.

WONDERFUL ONE originated in the 1922 Paul Whiteman band, then creating its first sensation of the nascent Jazz Age.  Crafted by Whiteman and arranger Ferde Grofe, the beautiful melody was as far from jazz as you could get, but still became an instant hit.  Jerry Gray treats the number simply and effectively, with softly muted brass and reeds. The coda is especially lovely.

We return to the present for the last tune of the day, DEVIL MAY CARE, written by familiar Miller contributors Johnny Burke and Harry Warren. It’s a quality pop song, which sounds like it might have been arranged by Glenn. Ray Eberle sings in a comfortable range for a change and the tempo in slow enough to allow him to give some meaning to the words. There is a very pleasant trombone choir in the final chorus before the full band finishes it off.

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Glenn and the boys were back in the studio the very next day with more new songs, including two from Bing Crosby’s latest film, If I Had My Way. Though some of the movie’s music looked back to the Gay 90’s, these tunes by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Monaco were right up to date.  APRIL PLAYED THE FIDDLE is a very endearing number, sung in rather lackluster fashion by Bing, but handled much more cheerfully by Glenn and Ray.

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Bing sounds half-asleep singing I HAVEN’T TIME TO BE A MILLIONAIRE in the film; Tex Beneke doesn’t bring much more connection to his rendition, sounding as if he’s reading the lyrics for the first time, which could very well have been the case!  Despite this, the band and altoist Ernie Caceres deliver the tune in a jaunty fashion.

Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom next deliver a classic standard, FOOLS RUSH IN, a major hit from day one.  Glenn’s recording is iconic, with Eberle and the band combining for a straightforward, yet totally memorable rendition.  The Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra version was nearly as big a hit as Glenn’s. Incidentally, Tommy was still dogging Glenn’s heels.  Of the ten tunes on these March Miller sessions, Dorsey had competing records out of six of them.

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Our BOOG-IT friend Buck Ram also composed SLOW FREIGHT, first recorded by Benny Carter’s orchestra in January 1940. Glenn quickly picked up on it, hoping for another hit in the TUXEDO JUNCTION vein. Even the title was reminiscent of the earlier number.  Though the record went nowhere, it’s a more interesting and varied composition than JUNCTION.  To maximize the similarity, Glenn again had Mickey McMickle playing it straight on muted trumpet, in conversation with the groovier Clyde Hurley, who uses a different-sounding mute for his horn.

No rest for the weary – with the New York gigs completed, the road beckoned for the Glenn Miller band. Another month of travel would pass before RCA Victor welcomed them back – and they wouldn’t be traveling by SLOW FREIGHT!

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A Paramount October

Tommy Mack (tb) replaces Toby Tyler; Benny Carter (arr) added

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 3, 1939, 11:30 AM-2:30 PM

042780-1     Blue Rain (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10486, Victor 20-1536

042781-1     Can I Help It ? (RE vcl)           Bluebird 10448

042782-1     I Just Got a Letter (MH vcl)   Bluebird 10448

RCA Victor Studios, New York – October 9, 1939, 11:30 AM-4 PM

042923-1     Bless You (RE vcl)     Bluebird 10455

042924-1     Bluebirds in the Moonlight (MH vcl, BC arr)   Bluebird 10465

042925-1     Faithful Forever (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10465

042926-1     Speaking of Heaven (RE vcl)             Bluebird 10455

ParamountTheaterTimesSquare1940s8x10Glenn Miller and his band got massive on-air exposure during their spring and summer gigs at the Meadowbrook and Glen Island, but didn’t make much money. Now that they were hitting the road, the money was pouring in. Their September-October three-week engagement at the New York Paramount alone would wind up grossing them $150,000, an amazing quantity of money for 1939!

How they managed to squeeze in two record dates while playing all day at the theater is a wonder.   The October 3rd date begins with two Ray Eberle vocals, both songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with different wordsmiths, Johnny Mercer and bandleader-songwriter Eddie DeLange. Van Heusen would contribute close to a dozen songs to the Miller discography and later teamed with Sammy Cahn to become Frank Sinatra’s “house” composer.

gm blue rainBLUE RAIN is not one of Mercer’s more inspired lyrics, but the Miller arrangement is so charming that it carries the performance along. It was enough of a hit that it was reissued in 1943, as the backing for one of the band’s final recordings, CARIBBEAN CLIPPER.

gmcan i help itCAN I HELP IT? is totally forgotten, both as a song and as a Miller recording, never reissued until the 1980s. A standard-issue pop tune of the era, it does capture the band and Eberle at their most relaxed.

I JUST GOT A LETTER is a welcome swinger after a surfeit of ballads. Dave Franklin’s song (he was the composer of THE MERRY-GO-ROUND BROKE DOWN and WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME) isn’t much, but the Miller crew mixes it into quite a tasty salad, with a nice Marion vocal, touches of Hal McIntyre’s sax and Moe’s drums. Some loose riffing winds it up. Somehow, the great Ethel Waters, who rarely handled this type of novelty, also waxed it for Bluebird!

Only three tunes were captured at the October 3rd session, but nearly a week later, the band set down its usual allotment of four songs, with Ray, once again, getting the majority of them.

BLESS YOU sounds very unpromising, as either a benediction or the response to a sudden sneeze. It’s one of the few songs written by Don Baker, then the featured organist at the Paramount Theater. Glenn likely got the tune from him during this engagement. Eddie Lane’s lyrics are pretty unimaginative, but the song is quite melodic and the chart shows off the reed sound at its lushest. Ray sings a lower ending here, but on an aircheck issued by RCA, he makes an octave jump and goes way high for the final notes.

By accident or design, Glenn managed to record a number of songs from kid-friendly films – THE WIZARD OF OZ, PINOCCHIO, DUMBO, MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN and here, two songs from Max Fleischer’s cartoon feature, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.

gm gulliverParamount Pictures’s dependable house composers, Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, wrote both. FAITHFUL FOREVER was the movie’s hit ballad and features tightly muted brass and one of Eberle’s sweetest vocals. Great for romantic fox-trotting and holding your best gal close.

gmfaithfulGT sheet musicWe get a welcome dose of Marion on BLUEBIRDS IN THE MOONLIGHT, which is also distinguished by a Benny Carter arrangement. A bit of Chummy’s boogie-woogie piano starts it off, with some imaginative reed backgrounds, as one would expect from Carter. After Marion’s twinkly vocal, with her sounding more self-assured than usual, Clyde Hurley, who has been barely in evidence for the last few sessions, gets an excellent half-chorus solo. A real winner all around.

Composer Jimmy Van Heusen returns with SPEAKING OF HEAVEN, another celestial ballad. Lyricist Mack Gordon would later play a very important part in the Miller pantheon, as the wordsmith for both of Glenn’s feature film scores. Tex Beneke is featured on the unusual intro and Ray takes a very smooth vocal.

And that’s it, recording-wise, for October 1939. However, between these two sessions, Glenn made a prestigious appearance at another important venue, which luckily was recorded – we’ll cover it next time!

September on the Road

Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren, Toby Tyler (tb); Hal McIntyre, Wilbur Schwartz, Jimmy Abato, Tex Beneke,  Al Klink (reeds); Chummy MacGregor (p); Dick Fisher (g); Rollie Bundock (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton (vcl).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 11, 1939, 8:30-11:00 PM

042662-1      Melancholy Lullaby (RE vcl)            Bluebird 10423

042663-1      (Why Couldn’t It Last) Last Night ? (RE vcl)          Bluebird 10423

 

RCA Victor Studios, New York – September 25, 1939, 11:30 PM-3:30 AM

042729-1      Out of Space (RE vcl)             Bluebird 10438

042730-1      So Many Times (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10438

Once sprung from the Glen Island Casino gig, the Glenn Miller band went traveling on a series of record-breaking engagements from Maine to Washington, DC, before beginning a three-week stand at New York’s famed Paramount Theater on September 20.  At this time, Glenn also added a trumpet and trombone, bringing the brass up to eight strong. The money was starting to pour in!

Being on the road did not afford much time to rehearse new music. After the flurry of recording sessions while the band was ensconced at the Glen Island Casino, just two brief dates were completed in September.  The second date ran until 3:30 AM, lasted four hours and only produced two finished masters. The band must have been exhausted!

The dashing Mr. Eberle

The dashing Mr. Eberle

Ray Eberle croons on all four tunes, which make for pleasant, if not spectacular, listening.  Best is MELANCHOLY LULLABY, the theme song of Benny Carter’s new big band.  It’s a lovely Carter melody, with a worthy lyric by Edward Heyman, who had written BODY AND SOUL, I COVER THE WATERFRONT, OUT OF NOWHERE and other memorable songs.

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Since Carter was contributing arrangements to Glenn’s book at this time, it’s possible that this chart is his.

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LAST NIGHT was composed by brothers Charles and Nick Kenny. Nick was a syndicated entertainment columnist for The New York Daily Mirror and a poet and songwriter on the side. Bandleaders and singers often performed his songs in hopes of getting a column mention. Many of his songs were mediocre, but he did turn out a few hits, including LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND and DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM.  Glenn apparently didn’t succumb to the temptation to favor Kenny, as he only recorded two of his songs, LAST NIGHT and ORANGE BLOSSOM LANE (plus CATHEDRAL IN THE PINES on the radio in 1938).

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Actually, LAST NIGHT is a good song, ardently sung by Ray at the top of his register.  The arrangement takes its time, with a fine last chorus featuring the reeds and an unexpected stop-time coda.

Glenn had already taken us to the moon several times, with MOONLIGHT SERENADE, OH, YOU CRAZY MOON and BLUE MOONLIGHT. Now he went even further, going OUT OF SPACE.

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Composer-arrangers Gene Gifford and Joe Bishop, of the Casa Loma and Isham Jones bands respectively, had collaborated on the melody in 1934 and both bands recorded it as an instrumental.  Winky Tharp, who lyricized other songs by both arrangers, also did so here. The words are serviceable, but OUT OF SPACE works better as a mood piece without lyrics.

SO MANY TIMES was co-composed by a bandleader, and a famous one at that – Jimmy Dorsey.  Though many other bandleaders tagged their names onto songs they recorded to grab a share of publishing royalties, Jimmy didn’t seem to be that type and he likely did have a hand in creating the few songs he is credited with, mainly IT’S THE DREAMER IN ME and I’M GLAD THERE IS YOU.  The other name on this song is one Don DeVito, a total unknown.

It’s a mournful little song, handled nicely by Mr. Eberle.  Brother Bob Eberly delivered the vocal on the Jimmy Dorsey Decca rendition, just one of many songs that were sung by both siblings with their respective orchestras.

After spending the spring and summer of 1939 totally in the New York-New Jersey area, Glenn was now getting out to the people to show them what they had been hearing on the radio. And they were certainly liking what they saw!

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