Legh Knowles, Clyde Hurley, Mickey McMickle, John Best (tp); Glenn Miller, Paul Tanner, Al Mastren, Frank D’Annolfo (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); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray (arr).
RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 6, 1940, 2:00-5:30 PM
046082-1 The Gaucho Serenade (RE vcl, JG arr) Bluebird 10570
046083-1 The Sky Fell Down (RE vcl, BF arr) Bluebird 10580
046084-1 When You Wish Upon a Star (RE vcl) Bluebird 10570
RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 15, 1940, 1:00-4:30 PM
046431-1 Give a Little Whistle (MH vcl) Bluebird 10580
046432-1 Missouri Waltz Bluebird 10587
046433-1 Beautiful Ohio (JG arr) Bluebird 10587
046434-1 What’s the Matter With Me? (MH vcl) Bluebird 10657
1940 arrived with a bang for Glenn and the band. Their new radio program for Chesterfield was getting under way and a lengthy engagement at New York’s prestigious Café Rouge (in midtown’s Pennsylvania Hotel) began on January 4th.
Now the band could stay put in one city for several months, rehearsing, performing, recording and broadcasting. The first recording session of the year came less than a week after New Year’s Day.
For some reason, Glenn’s very citified orchestra was assigned to record a hefty slice of Western and cowboy music, beginning with THE GAUCHO SERENADE. He would eventually record enough to fill an album, though RCA never saw fit to compile one. It’s also Jerry Gray’s first recorded arrangement for the band, though airchecks exist of several earlier ones from late 1939.
THE GAUCHO SERENADE was the title song of singing cowboy Gene Autry’s latest film, stuffed as usual with tunes by various composers. James Cavanaugh, John Redmond and Nat Simon wrote it; they each had a long series of hits behind them, including POINCIANA, I LIKE MOUNTAIN MUSIC, MISSISSIPPI MUD and I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART. It’s a merry little ditty, with Ray Eberle serving as an unlikely South American cowboy.
Bill Finegan surfaces as the arranger for THE SKY FELL DOWN, sung with great assurance by Ray. It’s a simple, effective chart with a sweet solo for Glenn in the last chorus. The distinguished team of Louis Alter (MANHATTAN SERENADE, YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME and DOLORES) and Edward Heyman (BODY AND SOUL, OUT OF NOWHERE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT) counted this as one of their big hits.
This song also had the distinction of being the first disc recorded by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey on the higher-priced Victor label. There would be many more songs recorded by both Eberle and Sinatra over the next three years. Eberle was the more popular vocalist in 1940, but that would soon change.
Glenn had previously recorded the 1939 Best Song Oscar winner, OVER THE RAINBOW and was lucky enough to be assigned the eventual 1940 award winner, WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR, from Pinocchio. Composers Ned Washington and Leigh Harline were regular contributors to Disney films; eventually this song became the Disney “theme,” heard on TV and in the theme parks up to the present day.
Though the arrangement is nothing special, Ray’s pleasant vocal and the song’s inherent quality carries the day. In 1947, the disc was reissued as part of a Victor 78 album of Glenn’s “star” songs, titled Starlight Serenades.
Nine days later, as the first tune on the next record date, another Pinocchio melody was given a spritely treatment. Jiminy Cricket’s GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE is warbled by Marion, a bit off-key, but sweetly sincere. Chummy MacGregor gets a rare boogie-woogie solo, and Tex is his usual dependably swinging self. Oddly, Bluebird didn’t release the two PINOCCHIO songs back-to-back, but on separate discs.
For a big change of pace, Glenn next recorded two waltzes. Every swing band had a few waltzes in their book to please older or more traditional dancers, but rarely got the chance to record them. That was the territory of the sweet bands. Wanting to be recognized as a well-rounded orchestra, Glenn apparently pushed Victor to let him record a few numbers in ¾ time; certainly music publishers weren’t promoting these oldies!
MISSOURI WALTZ, composed in 1914 by John Cameron Eppel, eventually became Missouri’s state song. The arrangement, likely by Glenn, is simple and effective, with several tenor sax incursions by Beneke.
On the flip side, BEAUTIFUL OHIO, not surprisingly, was the state song of Ohio. Ballard MacDonald and Robert King wrote it in 1918 as a standard love song. A later lyric revision made the song more Ohio-specific. Jerry Gray penned Glenn’s wistful chart, featuring muted brass and brief solos by Tex and Chummy.
Back to swing for the last item on the session – WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME?, written by Sam M. Lewis, with lyrics by Terry Shand. Lewis’ name is completely unknown today, but his songs aren’t – IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN, I’M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (both previously recorded by Glenn), FOR ALL WE KNOW and STREET OF DREAMS, to name just four. Terry Shand was a singer who recorded prolifically in the 1930s as a band vocalist and under his own name. He also wrote the lyrics for such hits as I DOUBLE DARE YOU and DANCE WITH A DOLLY.
After a bouncy opening, Marion chirps the lyrics in a slightly subdued manner. The record really sparks to life with Clyde Hurley’s torrid solo, happily echoed by Tex, leading to a rousing windup.
Having been out of the studio for nearly all of December, Glenn was finally back at RCA on a regular recording schedule and more big hits were about to arrive!