“They All Sing Elmer’s Tune…”

Mickey McMickle, Johnny Best, Alec Fila, 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); Bobby Hackett (g & cornet); Doc Goldberg (b); Maurice Purtill (d); Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – August 11, 1941, 1:00 7:00 PM

067625-1      It Happened in Sun Valley (PK, RE, TB, M & Band vcl, BF arr)    Bluebird 11263-A

067626-1      I’m Thrilled (RE vcl, BF arr)             Bluebird 11287-B

067627-1      The Kiss Polka (PK, EC & M vcl, JG arr)      Bluebird 11263-B

067628-1      Delilah (TB & M vcl, BM arr)            Bluebird 11274-B

067629-1      From One Love to Another (RE vcl, BF arr)            Bluebird 11287-A

067630-1      Elmer’s Tune (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11274-A

Enjoying a hard-earned vacation from live appearances in July and August 1941, the Glenn Miller Band  held one session for RCA during their time off. It turned out to be a six-hour marathon that produced six selections, each one special in its own way.

Two novelty songs from Sun Valley Serenade, which was about to open in movie theaters, topped off the playlist.

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All the Miller vocalists turn out for IT HAPPENED IN SUN VALLEY, one of only three times that this occurred (the other two were MUTINY IN THE NURSERY and PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME). It’s odd to hear Ray Eberle on a rhythm song – he just sings it as if it were one of his usual ballads! Bill Finegan’s arrangement is the same as in the movie, only longer, with the full band joining in to sing. A welcome addition is a romping Al Klink solo, followed by an additional vocal chorus that ropes in Tex Beneke.

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THE KISS POLKA is a rollicking treat, especially since the Miller band doesn’t perform it in the film; the Fox studio band plays it. Jerry Gray penned a cheery chart, which Paula and the Mods deliver with relish. For the first time, reedman Ernie Caceres is heard vocally, lending an incongruous touch of Latino spice to the song. With the South American “Good Neighbor Policy” all the rage in 1941, adding Ernie’s Spanish vocals was a clever way for Glenn to ingratiate his troupe with Latin American fans.

I’M THRILLED is a typical Eberle ballad, an early effort by young BMI-ers Sid Lippman and Sylvia Dee, who later hit big with Nat King Cole’s UNFORGETTABLE. Once again Bill Finegan took a so-so song and dressed it up with gorgeous colors, especially in the introduction and first instrumental chorus. Ray is in good form on this session.

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Jimmy Shirl, who would have a hand in Johnny Ray’s 1953 hit, I BELIEVE, co-wrote DELILAH with Henry Manners. Another young BMI songwriting team, they had other snappy successes in 1941 with BRAGGIN’ (for Harry James) and GOOD EVENIN’, GOOD LOOKIN’ (for Benny Goodman). Glenn had also performed their KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR HEART on radio earlier in the year.  The powerful sound of the full band is evident from the first note and the microphone setup actually allows us to hear the guitar in the rhythm section, a rare occurrence. Billy May’s laid-back arrangement fits the song like a glove, with Tex and the Modernaires smoothly delivering the catchy lyrics.

1941 publication of DELILAH

1941 publication of DELILAH

1948 publication of DELILAH

1948 publication of DELILAH

The song was a bit of a hit for Glenn and also Horace Heidt on Columbia. In 1948, Glenn’s record was reissued by RCA (with ADIOS on the flip side) in the “Re-Issued by Request” series. The sheet music was reprinted, with a new cover featuring Tex, who by now was leading the postwar Miller band.

We next welcome a stellar addition to the band, cornetist Bobby Hackett. Hackett had been in the public eye for several years by 1941, hailed by critics as the “new Bix Beiderbecke.” Hackett had a melodic approach similar to the late Bix, though he wasn’t thrilled about being pigeonholed into such a stylistic straitjacket. Making his first records with members of the Eddie Condon mob, he soon jumped from 52nd Street small groups to leading his own brilliant-sounding big band (including future Miller sideman Ernie Caceres). Poor management by MCA quickly led to the band’s demise in the summer of 1939.

Young Bobby Hackett

Young Bobby Hackett

Now deep in debt to MCA, Hackett accepted a surprising offer to join Horace Heidt’s sweet band, where he stayed for nearly two years, enlivening a number of their discs with his lyrical solos. He also had dental problems during this period, which is very bad news for a horn man!

Glenn was a big Hackett fan; aware of his problems, Miller offered the musician a job as guitarist (Hackett’s other favored instrument), replacing Jack Lathrop and Bill Conway (who had been sitting in the guitar chair for several months). When he felt he was ready, Glenn assured Bobby that he would move him to the trumpet section. Not really a strong section player, Hackett understood that the leader wanted him around mostly as a soloist.

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Having joined the band on July 10th, Bobby apparently felt ready to take on trumpet duties by the August 11th record date. He makes his debut soaring over the reeds with a delightful opening break and 16-bar solo on FROM ONE LOVE TO ANOTHER. This was another Ernesto Lecuona composition; previously Glenn had waxed his SAY SI-SI and THE ANGELS CAME THRU.

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Originally titled DANZA LUCUMI, Artie Shaw had recorded the number in rumba tempo the preceding year, as a hoped-for follow-up to his massive success with FRENESI. English lyricist Albert Gamse (of AMAPOLA fame) smoothed the tune out into a standard fox-trot. Though it wasn’t a hit for Glenn, FROM ONE LOVE TO ANOTHER is a forgotten gem in the discography.

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If it was hits Glenn wanted, he couldn’t have been happier with ELMER’S TUNE, a thoroughly unlikely smash success. The TUNE originated with the semi-sweet Dick Jurgens band. Elmer Albrecht, a mortician’s assistant (!), liked to noodle at the piano on his lunch hour. Working next door to Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, Albrecht had gotten permission to fool around on their keyboard. Jurgens, whose band was playing there at the time, heard one of Elmer’s tunes and offered to help him polish it into a finished form. They then recorded it as a bouncy instrumental in April and the 78 became something of a hit.   Bob Crosby then cut it, again instrumentally, in June and that rendition went nowhere.

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Sensing the melody had greater potential, Robbins Music took it and assigned lyricist Sammy Gallop to come up with some words. So how do you lyricize something with the title of ELMER’S TUNE? Simply by verbally describing how catchy ELMER’S TUNE is.   Not much of a lyric, but it did the trick. Glenn and Benny Goodman (with Peggy Lee making her recording debut) waxed the fleshed-out number in August and wham! Another Number One hit for Glenn, which the fans happily sang along with whenever it was played. And Glenn played it incessantly on the air and in live performance.

With this session, we said hello to Bobby Hackett and Alec Fila (replacing young Ray Anthony on trumpet) and now goodbye to Paula Kelly. Miss Kelly was not leaving due to any dissatisfaction with her work (and she wouldn’t be going far, married as she was to Modernaire Hal Dickinson).  She was leaving to make way for the return of a Miller favorite, who we’ll welcome back next time!

Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle & the Modernaires

Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle & the Modernaires

Chattanooga Choo Choo

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, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May, Fred Norman (arr).

 

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA – May 7, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

061243-1      Boulder Buff (FN arr)           Bluebird 11163-A

061244-1      The Booglie Wooglie Piggy (TB, PK & M vcl; JG arr) Bluebird 11163-B

061245-1      Chattanooga Choo Choo (TB, PK & M vcl; JG arr) Bluebird 11230-B

061246-1      I Know Why (PK & M vcl; BF & JG arr)      Bluebird 11230-A

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After six weeks taking it easy in Hollywood while making their movie, the Glenn Miller band was released by 20th Century-Fox on May 3rd. Aside from their thrice-weekly Chesterfield radio show, the group had been nearly invisible to the public during that period.

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Wasting no time, they immediately began a three-week engagement at the new Hollywood Palladium, which had replaced the fire-destroyed Palomar Ballroom as Los Angeles’ premier big band venue. Having not made any commercial recordings since February, Glenn set about to rectify that by scheduling three RCA sessions in May.

The first one took place on May 7th, cutting two tunes from their new film and two other radio-friendly BMI numbers, the first an instrumental and the second a pop novelty. We immediately note the livelier acoustics of Victor’s Hollywood studio, which has more resonance and brightness than the sound achieved on the band’s New York sessions.

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A new name appears on BOULDER BUFF – Fred Norman. A top Harlem musician from the early 1930s on, he wrote and arranged for Claude Hopkins, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and many others. The band is loose and relaxed, with welcome solos by seldom-featured Al Klink (two choruses, likely his longest solo on a Miller record) and always–dependable Billy May. The composition, however is a potboiler and not particularly memorable. Glenn thought otherwise and featured it on radio quite often staring in January 1941, months before committing it to wax.

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On the other hand, Glenn (and arranger Jerry Gray) do wonders with a truly dopey novelty tune, THE BOOGLIE WOOGLIE PIGGY. The band and the singers have a fine time, with the rhythm section really clicking. The Mods back Tex’s tenor solo with vocal “doo-wahs,” which was something of an innovation in 1941. Billy May concludes Tex’s chorus with a rip-roaring solo. Composer Roy Jacobs collaborated with a number of black musicians to write such numbers as I’M GONNA MOVE TO THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN, I’M IN A LOWDOWN GROOVE and SOUTHERN FRIED.

At this point in time, what more can be said about CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO? The song is inextricably linked to Glenn forever and was the biggest sales hit he ever had. The concept of a Gold Record award was conceived by RCA to honor Miller when the CHOO CHOO reached sales of 1,250,000. That was an almost unheard-of figure in March 1942, when the award was presented. Yet the song was issued as the B-side of Bluebird 11230!   The soundtrack recording from Sun Valley Serenade is longer and groovier, but the record preserves nearly all the best parts of the film arrangement (except Tex’s whistling).

Glenn's Gold Record for CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO.

Glenn’s Gold Record for CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO.

The A-side of Bluebird 11230 is I KNOW WHY (AND SO DO YOU), obviously expected to be the hit tune from the movie. The film version of the Gordon-Warren song is superb, with the record running a distant second, mostly due to Paula Kelly. Film singer Pat Friday’s succulent sound, hyped by the 20th Century-Fox engineers, is unbeatable. Though a superb lead voice with the Modernaires, Paula sounds rather limp and unsure here as a solo singer (though she does well as a soloist on many Chesterfield broadcasts).

With the ASCAP radio band still operating, Glenn was likely annoyed that he couldn’t plug these two potential hits on radio, but at least they were getting onto store shelves and jukeboxes months ahead of the movie’s release in September.

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The World Is Waiting to Waltz Again

by Mack Gordon & Harry Warren

I see Vienna,

No violins playing,

The music is through,

The Blue Danube’s blue.

I can see Holland,

No windmills are turning,

The tulips know why,

And wither and die.

There’s Venice, but no gondoliers,

And the Seine is a river of tears.

 

The world is waiting to waltz again,

The way we all used to do.

The world is waiting for music and laughter

That always comes after the storm is through.

The feet that marched to the beat of drums

Will dance for joy when that great day comes.

When love returns to the hearts of all men

The world will be waltzing again.

 

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Before leaving Sun Valley Serenade behind, I wanted to write a bit more about a song I described briefly in the last posting. THE WORLD IS WAITING TO WALTZ AGAIN is a ghostly phantom, a Mack Gordon-Harry Warren song written, recorded and filmed for the movie, but then cut and discarded.

There are few things more forlorn than a cut movie song. Unpublished and unheralded, it leaves no memories or good feelings behind. Sometimes a dialogue lead-in or musical underscore remains to show where the song might have appeared, but usually the surgery to remove it is done so well that it is not missed.

The augmented Miller band during the SUN VALLEY SERENADE finale.

The augmented Miller band during the SUN VALLEY SERENADE finale.

A few stills and home movies firmly plant the song’s original placement as part of the “black ice” skating finale, during which the enlarged Miller band with strings is visible in a few cutaway shots.  The soundtrack heard in the released film is by a studio orchestra. Fortunately, the soundtrack performance of WALTZ was included on one of the Fox studio discs pressed at the time of release.  It’s mostly a vocal by John Payne, with swirling strings and lush Miller reeds in the introduction.  Bill Finegan arranged the song for an augmented personnel; it lasts barely two minutes before it ends rather abruptly after the vocal. It’s a lovely melody with a moody lyric that hints at the wartime devastation then overrunning Europe.  Familiar tropes like the blue Danube, Venetian gondoliers and tulips from Holland are evoked in the verse, but in stark terms (for a 1941 pop song that is).  The tulips have withered and died and the Seine “is a river of tears.” The refrain is more optimistic, alluding to the joy and laughter that will re-emerge “when that great day comes.”

John Payne has a feeling that his big song is going to be cut!

John Payne has a feeling that his big song is going to be cut!

There was very little in the war news to be optimistic about in the Spring of 1941. America was doing its best to stay uninvolved, but that was beginning to seem like a pipe dream. Other songs of the era, like MY SISTER AND I, similarly reference the horrors unfolding in Europe, yet as the lyric flatly states, “But we don’t talk about that.” Here’s the Jimmy Dorsey-Bob Eberly version of MY SISTER AND I:

 

Though it was very muted, the war reference in THE WORLD IS WAITING TO WALTZ AGAIN was likely one factor in the song’s being dropped from Sun Valley Serenade. Though it would have fit very naturally with Sonja Henie’s character arc as a Norwegian war refugee, America’s strictly pacifist attitude in 1941 was keenly felt in Hollywood.  The Production Code Administration cautioned filmmakers to play down any references to current events, for fear of complaints that the movie studios were pushing a war agenda.  Oddly, the song was apparently considered for inclusion in John Payne’s next Fox musical, Week-End in Havana, where it’s presence would have been incongruous, to say the least!

In any event, the song hit the cutting room floor permanently, though some newspaper ads mentioned it as one of the film’s “hits.”

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In the 1990s, 20th Century-Fox produced three hour-long cable TV specials that consisted entirely of cut musical numbers and comedy routines from Fox productions.  Titled HIDDEN HOLLYWOOD, they included no new music by Glenn Miller and the band, but who knows? If Fox saved all this other material in their vaults, the lost Miller performances may surface one day. This discussion of missing Miller will continue when we get to the band’s next film, Orchestra Wives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Valley Serenade – Part 2

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, Paula Kelly, The Modernaires, Pat Friday (voice dub for Lynn Bari), John Payne, Dorothy Dandridge, The Nicholas Brothers, Six Hits and a Miss (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

Sun Valley Serenade soundtrack, 20th Century-Fox Studios , Hollywood, CA – March-April, 1941

Moonlight Serenade             TCF-70

I Know Why (PF, JP & Mods vcl, JG & BF arr) TCF-70/71

In The Mood TCF-65

It Happened in Sun Valley (Mods & Six Hits vcl, BF arr) TCF-77

Chattanooga Choo Choo (TB, PK, Mods, DD & NB vcl, JG arr) TCF-74/75

At Last (PF & JP vcl, JG & BF arr)     TCF-72/73

Sun Valley Jump (JG arr)  RCA LPT-3064

The Spirit Is Willing (JG arr)  RCA LPT-3064

Measure for Measure (BM arr)  RCA LPT-3064

The World Is Waiting to Waltz Again (JP vcl, BF arr) TCF-76

The Kiss Polka (studio orchestra and chorus, no Miller) TCF-76

The TCF catalog numbers are for the contemporaneous 78 pressings made by Fox for publicity/souvenir purposes. First commercial issues are RCA LPT-3064 (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).

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The RCA LP is missing MOONLIGHT SERENADE, THE WORLD IS WAITING TO WALTZ AGAIN and THE KISS POLKA.  I KNOW WHY and CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO are complete, including the Dandridge-Nicholas Brothers segment of the latter song, without overdubbed tap sounds. The Fox album includes the same numbers, minus this version of AT LAST.  I KNOW WHY is missing the John Payne vocal portion and CHOO CHOO is cut short at the point where the commercial 78 recording ends.

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Sun Valley Serenade begins with the familiar 20th Century-Fox logo and fanfare. The next image is the Glenn Miller Band in silhouette, playing a swinging version of “The Kiss Polka” as the credits roll. Never before or since has a big band musical began with such an exciting introduction, which must have lifted audiences out of their seats as they got their first glimpse of the Miller Men. Most fans of the time had heard the band on radio and records, but only a relative handful had seen them in person, especially if they lived west of the Mississippi.

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It doesn’t take long before we get more Miller – the band appears two minutes into the film and are playing their first number two minutes later. Glenn looks handsome but quite uncomfortable, smiling as he counts off MOONLIGHT SERENADE, which segues directly into I KNOW WHY (AND SO DO YOU). This gorgeous ballad, arranged by Bill Finegan, features close-ups of all the sections, beautifully lit and photographed. Trigger Alpert and Moe Purtill try not to look too self-conscious during Tex Beneke’s tenor solo and Glenn gets a terrific close-up immediately following. “Vocalist” Lynn Bari (wearing an extremely peculiar hat) and “pianist” John Payne are already making goo-goo eyes at each other, setting the plot into motion and the Modernaires pop up out of nowhere to back Lynn soothingly.

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Veteran director Bruce Humberstone works a comic bit of business with Milton Berle and a cigarette lighter into the number. Humberstone graduated to “A” pictures with this one, after a spending a decade directing low-budget Charlie Chan and Jane Withers films for Fox.   His smooth handling of Sun Valley Serenade led to his assignment to a batch of Technicolor Fox and Goldwyn musicals into the 1950s.

Sonja Henie makes her entrance as a rather overage Norwegian refugee, who is adopted by the band and John Payne as a publicity stunt. Henie is quite enthusiastic in her single-minded pursuit of Payne from the moment she lays eyes on him. With Lynn Bari also having the hots for Payne, this is the extent of the plot needed to keep an 82-minute film percolating.

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At the 20-minute mark, Payne realizing he’s wanted on the bandstand and we’re into IN THE MOOD, the best-ever Miller performance of their signature number. Everybody gets their on-screen moment – Glenn, Tex, Al Klink, Billy May and Trigger Alpert & Moe Purtill, both mugging shamelessly. During the false fade-outs, the saxes and trombones do a choreographed routine, angling and tossing their instruments around, which was a crowd-pleasing stunt in live performance as well.

Henie and Bari bicker a bit over Payne, and then the performers are called back to the bandstand as we hear the introduction to AT LAST, which was unfortunately cut from the film, though home movies exist showing it being filmed. It’s a great arrangement by Jerry Gray and Bill Finegan, done here as a rhythm ballad, vocalized by Lynn Bari and John Payne. Payne sings for himself, rather reedily and Bari is doubled, as usual, by Pat Friday.  RCA Victor issued the soundtrack performance on their Sun Valley Serenade LP in 1954. This wonderful song would be shelved and saved for the next Miller movie, this time in lush ballad mode. Both versions are knockouts.

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With the band booked at the Sun Valley resort in Idaho, the whole entourage entrains to that pre-war luxury vacation setting, to the tune of IT HAPPENED IN SUN VALLEY. Riding sleighs to the hotel, the whole band joins in singing the catchy number, with the Modernaires augmented by the popular vocal group, Six Hits and a Miss, who were heard in many filmusicals of the era. Meanwhile, a visual montage shows all the amenities of Sun Valley – skiing, of course, along with horseback riding, heated swimming pools, outdoor dining and cocktail lounges – reality, but in the realm of fantasy for most Depression-era viewers.

Payne and Henie decided to go skiing, not aware that a rehearsal has been called. With band manager Milton Berle doing his best to placate a steaming Lynn Bari, the ensemble gets down to business with a full-out performance of CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO. With Payne out of the way, Chummy MacGregor makes his only appearance in a Miller film (he would be replaced at the piano bench by Cesar Romero in ORCHESTRA WIVES).

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This is the definitive performance of CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO, performed in a relaxed groove, including many bits of the Jerry Gray arrangement that would be trimmed for the three-minute Bluebird version. The basic chart runs four-and-a-half minutes here, with the band beautifully photographed and charmingly natural vocal (and whistling) appearances by Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly and the Modernaires.

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As the song winds down, we get a surprise – the camera pans past the band to reveal lovely young Dorothy Dandridge, quickly joined by the Nicholas Brothers. They are all in full costume, in front of a little “Choo-Choo” backdrop, taking another “hep” vocal chorus and dance. Dorothy then makes a beeline for the exit and the Brothers continue with more athletic moves as the band picks up the tempo. The overdubbed tap sounds mask a series of hot band solos, by Beneke, Billy May and Ernie Caceres. RCA’s later release of the complete, nearly 8-minute routine, reveals the solos without the taps.

The Nicholas Brothers with the Miller band.

The Nicholas Brothers with the Miller band.

There is only one brief shot of the Brothers dancing in front of the band; otherwise they are seen in isolation, an obvious ploy to keep Southern audiences and theaters from having to see what was termed “race mixing” at the time. Often sequences like this one would be cut, pure and simple, before Southern bookings. Since Dandridge and the Brothers have no part in the plot and simply appear and disappear without dialogue or on-screen explanation of any kind, a cut could have been made without notice.

At the 54-minute mark, that is pretty much the end of the Miller band in the film, though Glenn acts in several later scenes, appearing a little stiff, but good enough.  The rest of the music – THE KISS POLKA, performed at the ski lodge, a lovey-dovey reprise by Henie and Payne of I KNOW WHY and Henie’s two skating routines are performed by the Fox studio orchestra and chorus, though the final ice ballet shows the Miller band (in tuxes) now and then to create the illusion that they are playing on the soundtrack. Interestingly, AT LAST is heard again during the ballet, suggesting that it’s earlier band performance was likely cut at the last minute.  Jumping the gun, Ina Ray Hutton’s band recorded AT LAST for Okeh in July, with the label credit, “from Sun Valley Serenade.”

Joan Davis in the cut number, I'M LENA THE BALLERINA.

Joan Davis in the cut number, I’M LENA THE BALLERINA.

Posed still from I'M LENA THE BALLERINA.

Posed still from I’M LENA THE BALLERINA.

Several other performance numbers were filmed and cut – I’M LENA THE BALLERINA, a comic solo for Joan Davis that was slotted in before THE KISS POLKA at the ski lodge with no Miller involvement; and THE WORLD IS WAITING TO WALTZ AGAIN, a lovely, timely war-tinged ballad sung by John Payne during the ice finale sequence with the Miller band, augmented by strings. A tiny glimpse of LENA appears in the movie’s trailer; several stills and home movies exist showing WALTZ being filmed. Happily, the soundtrack of the latter number still exists and can be heard here.

Without her song, sixth-billed Joan Davis has less than two minutes of comic byplay with Milton Berle remaining in the picture. The film’s wrap-up is also remarkably hurried, with no final kiss or declaration of love between Payne and Henie. She skates, a quick shot of them skiing and “The End.” As the film runs only 82 minutes, there certainly was time for more music and action; reportedly, studio head Darryl Zanuck was tired of Henie’s demands and wouldn’t allow any more time or budget to be lavished on the film. It went on to be Henie’s biggest hit, anyway, with much of the success due to the presence of Glenn and the boys.

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Several other instrumental numbers were recorded at Fox, likely planned for underscoring, but none were heard in the finished film. SUN VALLEY JUMP and THE SPIRIT IS WILLING are the same Jerry Gray arrangements recorded for Bluebird in January and February. The film rendition of JUMP is faster and swingier, but as usual, cuts the Al Klink solo heard on the record. THE SPIRIT IS WILLING is almost indistinguishable from the RCA 78. MEASURE FOR MEASURE is a Billy May riff flagwaver, which Glenn played often on the air but only recorded here. The rhythm section really jumps and solos by Caceres (on alto), Beneke and May add to the excitement. A slow dynamic buildup from a diminuendo passage spotlights Trigger Alpert’s powerful bass playing.

Sonja Henie and Lynn Bari flank John Payne in his ski sweater.

Sun Valley Serenade was also influential in unsuspected ways. It started a craze for embroidered ski sweaters, as worn by John Payne and several of the bandsmen. As one of the very few American films reportedly released in the Soviet Union during and after the war, the Miller music was appreciated and copied by Russian jazz musicians, starved for modern swing sounds. As late as the 1970s, Soviet dance bands were still performing and recording the film’s tunes, sometimes in lavish, string-laden symphonic arrangements!

Soviet recording of SUN VALLEY tunes by Oleg Lundstrem's Orchestra.

Soviet recording of SUN VALLEY tunes by Oleg Lundstrem’s Orchestra.

Promotional flyer for the postwar German release of SUN VALLEY SERENADE.

Promotional flyer for the postwar German release of SUN VALLEY SERENADE.

At the conclusion of filming in early May 1941, the Miller Band could finally emerge from its enforced isolation in Hollywood. During the movie, they had maintained their schedule of Chesterfield broadcasts, but made hardly any personal appearances. Now they could  begin to perform on this first visit to the West Coast.  The hungry fans were ready for them!

Glenn looks movie-star handsome in the film, with a wild tie here!

Glenn looks dapper and movie-star handsome in the film. Catch that wild tie!

Sun Valley Jump

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, The Four Modernaires (vcl); Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Billy May (arr).

RCA Victor Studios, New York – January 17, 1941, 1:00-5:00 PM

058884-1      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)    first issued on LP

058884-2      Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider) (TB vcl, BM arr)   Bluebird 11079-B

058885-1      Song of the Volga Boatmen (BF arr)                  Bluebird 11029-A

058886-1      The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) (RE & M vcl, JG arr)   Bluebird 11110-A

058887-1      You Stepped Out of a Dream (RE & M vcl)      Bluebird 11042-A

058888-1      I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem (JG arr)                Bluebird 11063-A

058889-1      Sun Valley Jump (JG arr)                                   Bluebird 11110-B

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Today’s posting comes on the 70th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s tragic disappearance over the English Channel. His contributions to American music should never be forgotten.

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1941!   A new year and several important personnel changes occurred in the Glenn Miller band as soon as the holiday decorations came down. Newlywed Marion Hutton announced she was newly pregnant and retired temporarily. Apparently this event had been brewing for a while, as Marion was being featured less and less on the Miller sustaining broadcasts, though she had her nightly spot on the Chesterfield program.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Though Marion Hutton left the band temporarily in January 1941, Chesterfield still used her in ads and billboards to promote the brand.

Pert Dorothy Claire was quickly signed away from her solid perch in the Bobby Byrne band, which resulted in bad blood and a lawsuit between the two leaders. She would join on January 8th, but did not appear on record until February. Seeking more vocal variety, Glenn also signed the Four Modernaires as permanent members of the ensemble. We’ve already heard from Bill Conway, Ralph Brewster, Hal Dickenson and Chuck Goldstein as guest singers on MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM TIME. Featured earlier with Ozzie Nelson, Harry Reser, Charlie Barnet, George Hall and Paul Whiteman, the group had become quite popular and slotted in easily with the Miller band. They arrived on January 13th and immediately began rehearsing for the upcoming record date.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

The band with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires in full cry.

Glenn also renewed his contract with RCA Victor, under new, more lucrative terms. He received twice what he had been getting per record (now $750) and increased royalty payments. Now Miller had to earn the money by producing hit records. The January 17th session delivered the goods.

IDA! SWEET AS APPLE CIDER was written in 1903 as a piece of special material by and for blackface minstrel-vaudevillian Eddie Leonard. It eventually became a jazz standard, with memorable recordings by Red Nichols’ Pennies and the Benny Goodman Quartet. Having fallen into the public domain, it was an obvious choice for Glenn to dust off, record and broadcast in 1941, as one of the few familiar song standards that was not an ASCAP tune.

As the first Billy May arrangement to be waxed by Glenn, it heralded the fresher, more relaxed direction the band was now taking. The Lunceford-style two-beat feel suited Tex Beneke perfectly, in both his vocal and sax solo and became one of his most-performed features with Glenn and his later, post-war band.

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Leonard had sung the number in the 1940 Bing Crosby film, If I Had My Way. He died in July 1941 at 71, hopefully having heard the Miller 78 that made his old song a hit all over again.

Raiding the public domain once more, Glenn did a further archeological job on SONG OF THE VOLGA BOATMEN, an old Russian folk song dating back to 1866. Jimmy Dorsey had recorded a 12-inch swing version for Decca in 1938, but no other jazz folk had touched it.

Bill Finegan took a subtler approach in his arrangement, starting with Trigger Alpert’s bass, an eerie vocal “whoo-oo-oo” from the band and creepy, muted wah-wahs by Billy May. A sinuous alto solo by Ernie Caceres follows, leading into a fugue section, with trombones, trumpets and handclaps circling in contrapuntal fashion. It sounds complicated, but it plays as very catchy! The full band roars to a minor-key conclusion and there you have it – a Number #1 hit record.  The arrangement would become increasingly timely as the war in Europe intensified and Glenn began introducing the number as “a tribute to our fighting Russian allies.”  Glenn’s later AAF Band would also perform it often.

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After these two radio-friendly performances, the band turned to two popular ASCAP songs, which means they got no airplay at all. That’s a shame, as they are fine records that also serve to welcome the Modernaires. They blend beautifully with Ray Eberle on THE ONE I LOVE, sounding as if they had been paired for years.

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Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers had cut a lazily swinging Sy Oliver arrangement of the song in 1940. This Miller rendition (arranged by Jerry Gray) goes totally for mood and romance and is taken at what may be the slowest tempo for a Miller ballad yet. The vocal is hushed and very effective – a lovely record!

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Whether by design or just coincidence, lyricist Gus Kahn, who had written THE ONE I LOVE with Isham Jones back in 1924, also wrote the words for YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. A collaboration with MGM songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, this new number was the big ballad from Ziegfeld Girl. Starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart, the film and the song were hugely successful.

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Performed in similar style to the preceding tune, YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM is slightly less effective, marred by a loud, out-of-place trumpet coda, which is not well played and breaks the quiet mood.

This lengthy session was concluded with two excellent Jerry Gray swing originals. Many compositions by Glenn and his arrangers (as well as their arrangements of public domain melodies) were published by Glenn’s own firm, Mutual Music. He signed with BMI to assure radio play for these numbers, as well as the new Miller radio theme, SLUMBER SONG, which replaced MOONLIGHT SERENADE for the duration.

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The title I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM is a cute take-off on I DREAMT THAT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS, the ancient operetta aria from The Bohemian Girl, familiar to fans of Laurel and Hardy from its use in their 1936 film version. There is no musical similarity between the two compositions. Gray’s catchy riff rocks along smoothly, with fine solos by Al Klink, Billy May, Trigger Alpert, Chummy MacGregor and Ernie Caceres. Live versions from the Café Rouge run over five minutes in length and are more effective. Too bad Glenn didn’t go for a 12-inch disc here!

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Often-overlooked Al Klink gets more solo space on SUN VALLEY JUMP, along with May and Caceres again. This great Jerry Gray swinger is tightly patterned and each theme follows one after the other with a feeling of inevitability. Allowing additional solo choruses would have make the piece less effective, unlike the looser I DREAMT I DWELT IN HARLEM, which could go on as long as time allowed.

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Titled in honor of Glenn’s upcoming Sun Valley Serenade film, SUN VALLEY JUMP was rerecorded for the soundtrack, but ironically, not to be heard on screen. More on that later!

The Miller band closed their lengthy engagement at the Café Rouge the day after this session and then traveled a few blocks uptown for another three-week stint at the Paramount Theater in Times Square. It would be just over a month before they had the time to swing by RCA again.