Thursday, September 1, 2011
GLENN MILLER: THE SUCESSFUL YEARS
In September 1938, the Miller band began making recordings for the RCA Victor, Bluebird Records subsidiary. Si Shribman, a prominent East Coast businessman, began financing the band, providing a much needed infusion of cash. In the spring of 1939, the band's fortunes improved with a date at the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and more dramatically at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York. The Glen Island date according to author Gunther Schuller attracted "a record breaking opening night crowd of 1800..." With the Glen Island date, the band began a huge rise in popularity. In 1939, TIME magazine noted: "Of the twelve to 24 discs in each of today's 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller's." There were record-breaking recordings such as "Tuxedo Junction" which sold 115,000 copies in the first week. Miller's huge success in 1939 culminated with his band appearing at Carnegie Hall on October 6, with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Fred Waring also the main attractions.
From 1939 to 1942, Miller's band was featured three times a week during a quarter-hour broadcast for Chesterfield cigarettes on CBS, first with the Andrews Sisters and then on its own. On February 10, 1942, RCA Victor presented Miller with the first gold record for "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was performed by the Miller orchestra with his singers Gordon "Tex" Beneke, Paula Kelly and the vocal group, the Modernaires. Other singers with this orchestra included Marion Hutton, Skip Nelson, Ray Eberle and to a smaller extent, Kay Starr, Ernie Caceres, Dorothy Claire and Jack Lathrop. Pat Friday ghost sang with the Miller band in their two films, Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives with Lynn Bari lip synching.
In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Miller decided to join the war effort. At 38, Miller was too old to be drafted, and first volunteered for the Navy but was told that they did not need his services. Miller then wrote to Army Brigadier General Charles Young. He persuaded the United States Army to accept him so he could, in his own words, "be placed in charge of a modernized Army band." After being accepted into the Army, Glenn’s civilian band played its last concert in Passaic, New Jersey, on September 27, 1942.
At first placed in the United States Army, Glenn Miller was transferred to the Army Air Force. Captain Glenn Miller served initially as assistant special services officer for the Army Air Forces Southeast Training Center at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1942. He played trombone with the Rhythmaires, a 15-piece dance band, in both Montgomery and in service clubs and recreation halls on Maxwell. Miller also appeared on both WAPI (Birmingham, Alabama) and WSFA radio (Montgomery), promoting the activities of civil service women aircraft mechanics employed at Maxwell.
Miller initially formed a large marching band that was to be the core of a network of service orchestras. Miller's attempts at modernizing military music were met with some resistance from tradition-minded career officers. For example, Miller's arrangement of "St. Louis Blues March", combined blues and jazz with the traditional military march. Miller's weekly radio broadcast "I Sustain the Wings", for which he co-wrote the eponymous theme song, moved from New Haven to New York City and was very popular. This led to permission for Miller to form his 50-piece Army Air Force Band and take it to England in the summer of 1944, where he gave 800 performances...
TO BE CONTINUED...