Way Back in 1939 A.D.

RCA Victor Studios, New York – December 6, 1939, 1:30-5:00 PM

043973-1      I Beg Your Pardon (RE vcl) Bluebird 10561

043974-1      Faithful To You (RE vcl)       Bluebird 10536

043975-1      It’s a Blue World (RE vcl)     Bluebird 10536

043976-1      Ooh! What You Said (MH vcl) Bluebird 10561

On the afternoon of the band’s last day at the Meadowbrook Ballroom, Glenn held his final recording session of 1939. All four songs had good lineage, but none became a major hit.

Chubby Mack Gordon asks George Raft for a pardon.

Chubby Mack Gordon asks George Raft for a pardon.

I BEG YOUR PARDON reportedly came about from an idea of lyricist Mack Gordon. A jolly, rotund figure, Gordon often used the titular phrase when squeezing in and out of elevators, so he decided to repurpose it as the title of a love song. J. Fred Coots, composer of SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN and YOU GO TO MY HEAD, wrote the music. Ray sings the song nicely, but no fireworks result.

More Ray is heard on FAITHFUL TO YOU, a collaboration between popular NY disc jockey Martin Block and co-writers Harry Green and Mickey Stoner. The trio would work together on several other songs recorded by Glenn in the coming years. Presumably, Block promoted Miller recordings on his Make Believe Ballroom show in gratitude for recording these tunes.

WNEW disc jockey Martin Block

WNEW disc jockey Martin Block

It’s another standard Miller ballad, with a brief, luscious clarinet solo by Jimmy Abato. Glenn took an instant dislike to the young musician and he didn’t last long in the band.

gmmusicinmyheartThere are more mournful reed sounds on IT’S A BLUE WORLD, which was introduced by future AAF Band vocalist Tony Martin in the film Music In My Heart, which co-starred young Rita Hayworth. Songwriters Robert Wright and Chet Forrest were then working as Hollywood songsmiths, but would eventually hit it big on Broadway with Song of Norway and Kismet.   Ray does his usual vocal stuff and the arrangement has some pleasantly original dynamic touches and a lovely coda.

Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael didn’t collaborate as often as they should have, but crafted some memorable songs when they did. In late 1939, they turned their sights toward Broadway, with the score for Three After Three, which was retitled Walk With Music. The show, based on the same play that would eventually be filmed as How to Marry a Millionaire, went through a rocky gestation and finally opened in June 1940. It closed in a little over a month. Hoagy never tried Broadway again, though Johnny returned with several semi-hits in the following decades.

Hoagy & Johnny

Hoagy & Johnny

Glenn recorded two songs from the show, OOH! WHAT YOU SAID and THE RUMBA JUMPS. In one of those interesting coincidences, OOH! was performed in the show by a vocal group named the Modernaires, who we’ll be hearing from later on!  It’s a welcome swinger after so many ballads. Marion Hutton sings the catchy lyrics and Tex surfaces for a good solo.

That’s it for 1939, as far as Glenn Miller’s recording sessions go. It had been quite an amazing year – from near-obscurity in January to the top of the big band pantheon in December.

The year wasn’t over yet – more road dates in December took the band for the first time as far west as Ohio. Arranger Jerry Gray joined, after the sudden breakup of Artie Shaw’s stellar orchestra. Jerry would bring some new sounds and many hits to the Miller band in the next three years. On Christmas Eve, Glenn and the boys broke all previous attendance records at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The same night, Glenn received a surprise gift of a 1940 Buick, which the bandsmen had pooled their money to buy.

Biggest news of all – the Miller band began a nationwide CBS radio series for Chesterfield Cigarettes on December 27th.  Replacing Paul Whiteman, whose music was considered old hat by now, the band was initially paired with the top-selling Andrews Sisters, since sponsor Liggett & Myers were unsure about the band’s ability to carry the show.

Once 1940 began, the band would be heard every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening on a 15-minute Chesterfield program. Continuing until the band broke up, this schedule, with some tweaks, would affect all aspects of Glenn’s itinerary, as the band had to be close to a big broadcasting center every week. Any such difficulties were far outweighed by the prestige of such a popular program, which any band would kill for. Also, the free availability of endless supplies of Chesterfields would be another plus for the hard-smoking Glenn and his personnel.  We’ll pick up the tobacco saga in our next installment.