Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glenn Miller - King Of The Big Band, Missing In Action

Glenn Miller is best remembered as the king of big bands.

He went missing on a flight to entertain US troops in France during World War II.

Read all about him. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 – missing December 15, 1944), was an American jazz musician, arranger, composer and bandleader in the swing era.

He was one of the best-selling recording artistes from 1939 to 1942, leading one of the best known big bands.

Miller's signature recordings include In The Mood, American Patrol, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tuxedo Junction, Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

While travelling to entertain US troops in France during World War II, Miller's plane disappeared in bad weather. His body has never been found.

Miller was born on a farm in Clarinda, Iowa, to Mattie Lou Cavender and Lewis Miller.

In 1915, Miller's family moved to Grant City, Missouri.

Around this time, Miller bought his first trombone and played in the town orchestra.

In 1918, the Miller family moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where Miller went to high school.

During his senior year, Miller became very interested in a new style of music called dance band music.

He formed his own band with some classmates.

By the time Miller graduated in 1921, he had decided to become a professional musician.

In 1923, Miller entered the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he joined Sigma Nu Fraternity but spent most of his time away from school attending auditions and playing at gigs with Boyd Senter's band in Denver.

He later studied the Schillinger technique with Joseph Schillinger, under whose tutelage he composed what became his signature theme, Moonlight Serenade.

In 1926, Miller toured with several groups, eventually landing a good spot in Ben Pollack's group in Los Angeles.

During his stint with Pollack, Miller wrote several musical arrangements of his own.

In 1928, when the band arrived in New York City, he married his college sweetheart Helen Burger.

He was a member of Red Nichols' orchestra in 1930 and because of Nichols, Miller played in the bands of two Broadway shows, Strike Up The Band and Girl Crazy (where his bandmates included Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa).

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was a freelance trombonist in several bands.

On November 14, 1929, vocalist Red McKenzie hired Glenn to play on two records that are now considered jazz classics: Hello, Lola and If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight.

Beside Glenn were clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, guitarist Eddie Condon, drummer Gene Krupa and Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxophone.

In the 1930s, Miller also worked as an arranger for the Dorsey Brothers Band.

Miller composed the songs Annie's Cousin Fanny and Dese Dem Dose for the Dorsey Brothers Band in 1934.

In 1935, he assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble, developing the arrangement of lead clarinet over four saxophones that eventually became the sonic keynote of his own big band.

Members of the Noble band included future bandleaders Claude Thornhill, Bud Freeman and Charlie Spivak.

Glenn Miller made his first movie appearance in the 1935 Paramount Pictures release The Big Broadcast Of 1936 as a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra.

The Big Broadcast Of 1936 starred Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Jack Oakie, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and also featured other performances by Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers, who would appear with Miller again in two movies for Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 and 1942.

Glenn Miller compiled several musical arrangements and formed his first band in 1937.

The band failed to distinguish itself from others of the era, and eventually broke up.

Discouraged, Miller returned to New York.

He realised that he needed to develop a unique sound and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonised within a single octave.

George Simon discovered a saxophonist named Wilbur Schwartz for Glenn Miller.

Miller hired Schwartz, but instead had him play the lead clarinet.

With this new sound combination, Glenn Miller found a way to differentiate his band's style from the many bands that existed in the late 30s.

In 1938, the Miller band began making recordings.

Charlie "Cy" Shribman, a prominent East Coast businessman, began financing the band.

In 1939, the band's fortunes improved with a date at the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey and at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York.

With the Glen Island date, the band began a huge rise in popularity.

From 1939 to 1942, Miller's band was featured three times a week during a broadcast for Chesterfield cigarettes, first with the Andrews Sisters and then on its own.

In 1942, record label 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, 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.

Louis Armstrong thought enough of Miller to carry around his recordings when he went on tour.

Frank Sinatra held the orchestra in high regard.

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 modernised Army band.

After being accepted into the Army, Glenn’s civilian band played their 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 Centre at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, in 1942.

He played trombone with the Rhythmaires, a 15-piece dance band, in both Montgomery and in service clubs and recreation halls in Maxwell.

Miller also appeared on radio 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 modernising military music were met with some resistance from tradition-minded career officers.

However, he soon became very popular and was allowed to form a 50-piece Army Air Force Band and take it to Britain in 1944.

It gave 800 performances there.

While in Britain, Major Miller recorded a series of records at Abbey Road Studios.

The Miller Orchestra recorded songs with the American singer Dinah Shore.

These were done at the Abbey Road studios and were the last recorded songs made by the band.

On December 15, 1944, Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris, France, to play for the soldiers who had recently liberated Paris.

His plane (a single-engined UC-64 Norseman, USAAF serial 44-70285) departed from RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, Bedfordshire and disappeared while flying over the English Channel.

Helen Miller accepted the Bronze Star medal for Glenn Miller in February 1945.

The Miller estate authorised an official Glenn Miller "ghost band" in 1946.

This band was led by Tex Beneke, former lead saxophonist and a singer for the civilian band.

The orchestra's official public debut was at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway where it opened for a three-week engagement on January 24, 1946.

Henry Mancini (Pink Panther theme) was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers.

What began as the Glenn Miller Orchestra Under The Direction Of Tex Beneke finally became The Tex Beneke Orchestra.

By 1950, Beneke and the Miller estate parted ways.

After Miller's disappearance, the Miller-led Army Air Force band was decommissioned and sent back to the United States.

According to singer Tony Bennett who sang with it while in the service, the 314 was the immediate successor to the Glenn Miller-led orchestra.

The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band's long-term legacy has carried on with the Airmen Of Note, a band within The United States Air Force Band.

Glenn Miller's wife Helen died in 1966.

Herb Miller, Glenn Miller's brother, led his own band in the United States and Britain until the late 1980s.

Herb's son, John continues the tradition leading a band playing mainly Glenn Miller style music.

In the United States and Britain, there are a few archives that are devoted to Glenn Miller.

The Glenn Miller archive at the University of Colorado at Boulder includes the original manuscript to Miller's theme song Moonlight Serenade.

In 2002, the Glenn Miller Museum opened to the public at the former RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, Bedfordshire.

Miller's surname resides on the Wall Of Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial.

A monument stone was also placed in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut next to the campus of Yale University.

In 1996, the US Postal Service issued a Glenn Miller postage stamp.

The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences (Grammys) honoured Glenn Miller by including three of his recordings in their Hall Of Fame.

In 1983, In The Mood was inducted.

The recording of Moonlight Serenade was also honoured by the Grammys in 1991.

Chattanooga Choo Choo was inducted in 1996.

In 2003, Miller received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The entire output of cigarette-sponsored radio programmes Glenn Miller did between 1939 and 1942 was recorded by the Glenn Miller estate.

In 1943, Glenn Miller wrote Glenn Miller's Method For Orchestral Arranging, published by the Mutual Music Society in New York.

Glenn Miller composed individually or in collaboration with others at least 14 songs that are available on recordings.

Many of the Miller musicians went on to studio and touring careers in Hollywood and New York after World War II:

George Siravo, 1916–2000 was an arranger with Glenn Miller's first band. Siravo went on to become a staff arranger with Columbia Records in 1947, working with Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Mitch Miller.

Billy May, 1916–2004 a trumpeter and an arranger for the band, became a coveted arranger and studio orchestra leader, going on to work with Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney (aunt of George), Anita O'Day and Bing Crosby.

Cornetist Bobby Hackett, 1915–1976 soloed on A String Of Pearls with Miller in 1941. Hackett went on to work with Jackie Gleason and Dizzy Gillespie.

Johnny Desmond, 1919–1985 a lead vocalist from the Army Air Force Band, became a popular singer in the 1950s and appeared on Broadway in the 1960s in Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand.

Kay Starr, b. 1922 became a popular singer in the post-war period.

Artie Malvin, 1922–2006 from Glenn Miller's AAF Band had a vocal group called The Crew Chiefs. Malvin became heavily immersed in the popular music of the 40s and 50s, including children's music and jingles for commercials as well as the emerging rock music. In the 70s he did music for The Carol Burnett Show.

Paul Tanner, b. 1917 trombonist for the civilian band went on to perform on songs such as Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys.

Some of the Army Air Force members went on to notable careers in classical music and modern jazz.

Norman Leyden b. 1917 an arranger from the Army Air Force Band later became a noted arranger in New York, composing arrangements for Sarah Vaughan and the Oregon Symphony, where he became Associate Conductor.

Mel Powell, 1923–1998, was the pianist and one of the arrangers in the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. Pearls On Velvet was one of his compositions. He taught music at the California Institute For The Arts in Los Angeles in 1969.

George T. Simon, 1912–2001 was a drummer for some of the Miller bands. In 1974, Simon won a Grammy for Bing Crosby: A Legendary Performer.