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Artist of the Month-April/Glenn Miller

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"A band ought to have a sound all of its own.  It ought to have a personality." - Glenn Miller


Alton Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa on March 1, 1904. But it was in North Platte, Nebraska, several years later that Glenn actually got his musical start when, one day, his father brought home a mandolin. Glenn promptly traded it for an old battered horn, which he practiced every chance he got. In fact his mother worried, "It got to where Pop and I used to wonder if he'd ever amount to anything."


In 1923, Miller entered the University of Colorado, although he spent more time traveling to auditions and playing where and whenever he could. After flunking three of his five courses one semester, Glenn dropped out to concentrate on his career as a professional musician.


He toured with several orchestras and ended up in Los Angeles where he landed a spot in Ben Pollack's group, a band that included a guy named Benny Goodman. Here, Miller also got the chance to write some arrangements. Arriving in New York City, he soon sent for, and married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger in 1928, and for the next three years, earned his living as a free-lance trombonist and arranger.


Miller played and recorded with the likes of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Eddie Condon and Coleman Hawkins. In addition, during that time, Glenn cut 18 sides for Goodman, and also worked

for radio studio conductors like Victor Young, Carl Fenton and Jacques Renard. In 1934, Miller became the musical director of the Dorsey Band, and later went on to organize The Ray Noble Orchestra, which included such players as Charlie Spivak, Peewee Erwin, Bud Freeman, Johnny Mince, George Van Eps and Delmar Kaplan, among others.


In April 1935, Glenn Miller recorded, for the first time, under his own name. Using six horns, a rhythm section and a string quartet, he recorded "Moonlight on the Ganges" and "A Blues Serenade" for Columbia. But selling only a few hundred records, he continued his position with the Noble Orchestra.


In 1937, Glenn Miller stepped out to form his own band. There were a few recordings -- one for Decca and one for Brunswick -- a couple of week-long stints in New Orleans and Dallas, and many one-nighters, but it was not to be. Though the group would play one more date several days later in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Glenn gave his men their final notice on New Year's Eve at the Valencia Ballroom in York, Pennsylvania. Broke, depressed and having no idea what he was going to do, he returned to New York City.


It is said that Miller could never remember precisely the moment he decided to emphasize his new reed section sound. But it was during this disheartening interim, that he realized the unique sound -- produced by the clarinet holding the melodic line while the tenor sax plays the same note, and supported harmonically by three other saxophones -- just might be the individual and easily recognizable style that would set his band apart from all the rest.


Formed in March 1938, the second Glenn Miller Orchestra -- which would later include the likes of Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Paul Tanner, Johnny Best, Hal McIntyre, and Al Klinck -- soon began breaking attendance records all up and down the East Coast. At the New York State Fair in Syracuse it attracted the largest dancing crowd in the city's history. The next night it topped Guy Lombardo's all-time record at the Hershey Park Ballroom in Pennsylvania. The Orchestra was invited by ASCAP to perform at Carnegie Hall with three of the greatest bands ever -- Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring and Benny Goodman -- and created more of a stir than any of them.


There were record-breaking recordings, as well, such as "Tuxedo Junction", which sold 115,000 copies in the first week. "

", and "
", all appearing on the RCA Victor Bluebird label. In early 1940, Down Beat Magazine announced that Miller had topped all other bands in its Sweet Band Poll, and capping off this seemingly sudden rise to the top, there was, of course, Glenn Miller's "
" radio series for Chesterfield cigarettes which aired three times a week over CBS.  In 1941, it was off to Hollywood where the band worked on its first movie, "Sun Valley Serenade", which introduced the song -- and soon-to-be million selling record --"Chattanooga Choo Choo", and featured the Modernaires and the Nicholas Brothers. Then came "
". But the war was starting to take its toll on many of the big bands as musicians, and the rest of country's young men, began receiving draft notices.


On October 7, 1942, Alton Glenn Miller reported for induction into the Army and was immediately assigned to the Army Specialist Corps. His appointment as a Captain came after many months of convincing the military higher-ups that he could modernize the army band and ultimately improve the morale of the men. His training complete, he was transferred into the Army Air Corps, where he ultimately organized the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. Miller's goal of entertaining the fighting troops took another year to be realized, but in late 1943 he and the band were shipped out to England.


There, in less than one year, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band engaged in over 800 performances. Of these, 500 were broadcasts heard by millions. There were more than 300 personal appearances including concerts and dances, with a gross attendance of over 600,000. But Glenn was not to participate in the final six months of these activities.


In the Fall of 1944, the band was scheduled to be sent on a six-week tour of Europe and would be stationed in Paris during that time. Miller decided to go ahead, in order to make the proper arrangements for the group's arrival. And so, on December 15th, Glenn Miller boarded a transport plane to Paris, never to be seen again.


In his book "Glenn Miller & His Orchestra", George Simon wrote this about the man. "His favorite author was Damon Runyon. His favorite book was the Bible. Spencer Tracy and Olivia de Havilland were his favorite movie actor and actress. His big loves were trout fishing, playing baseball, listening to

good music, sleep and money. His pet hates were bad swing, early-morning telephone calls (he liked to sleep from 4 a.m. to noon), and the phrase 'goodbye now'. His favorite quotation, one he stated, was not from the Bible, nor from Runyon, but from Duke Ellington: 'It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got that Swing!'


The World Famous, Glenn Miller Orchestra, is the most popular and sought after big band in the world today for both concert and swing dance engagements.  With its unique jazz sound, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is considered to be one of the greatest bands of all time.  The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world.  Trombonist Larry O'Brien is the orchestra's present musical director.




Information gatehered from GlennMillerOrchestra.com.

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Now for my part of the review.   ;) :D


I wish I could remember exactly when it was I first started to enjoy Jazz and Swing music.  At 31, I haven't exactly grown up in a Jazz era.  I have worked as a Musical DJ for more than a decade, and have always included jazz and swing in the music I play(example: Jive Bunny's In The Mood remix is always a popular one). 


I thouroughly enjoyed the resurgence of Swing several years back, with groups like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Brian Setzer.  The newer groups centered most of their music on the faster paced style of Swing.  Listening to the older recordings, especially as I put the links into the review post, I was reminded of the subtle romanticism of the music.  Imagine holding your lover in your arms while gently swaying to the sounds of "Moonlight Serenade." 


Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman(Highlighted above due to his repeated tie-ins with Miller) are probably the two more widely known names of the Big Band Era.  Considered modern genius in terms of the musical innovations made, I think they have the ability to inspire and span generations for years to come.


One big reason that I enjoy this style of music so much, is the feeling placed in the music, as well as the dancing that acompanies it.  I would have a great time if I knew how to ballroom dance.  There is far more intimacy in some forms of Ballroom dance than there is in the "Clubhouse Grind" that passes for dancing in most clubs nowadays(Surprising considering the "Proximity" of the dancers... ;) :D ). 


Needless to say, whenever I hear a big band tune...my feet start a moving.  ;)

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Well I was going to say "Glen Miller, who?" ...but then I actually listened to some of the links you provided and found I knew most of the tunes. In fact as a school kid playing the trombone I have actually played some of them.


This is a genre of music that I don't have in my music collection, but something that I'm going to have to rectify methinks  :)

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Yeah, I think it gets played alot in school band's.  It is also pretty common for people to not realize who it is even if they know the songs.  


The college where I work has summers in the cafe, where they bring residents of Retirement homes in to the Cafeteria and they get local groups to play old jazz and swing tunes for a night of music and dance.  


It is truly inspiring to see the affection displayed as they dance together.  



And Clim another good group is the Rippington's.  They are a modern jazz group with a really smooth sound.  

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I've never been a big fan of the jazz/big band music... I mean it's ok don't get me wrong and i don't throw a fit or anything if i have to listen to it, but i'd much rather listen to something with words... lol But that being said It's really not bad, it's just not my thing lol

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I love the Big Band music  ;D it gets the feet tapping and makes me want to dance. I grew up listening to it as my Mum used to play it a lot as did my Grandma. It just speaks to me of another era and it was so feel good and carefree besides being a musical joy to listen to with all the instruments.

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I was not exposed to it until later in life.  I did however fall instantly in love with the music. 


Kat, would it help if there were words, because there is quite a bit to be heard with vocal accompaniments.  ;)


Non Glenn Miller stuff

He Beeped when he should have bopped

And just cause it cracked me up.... 

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Often times the only trouble with Jazz/Big Band music is that it's not readily identifiable as a particular artist's work for the novice listener.  I LOVE Big Band music and Swing, but I can only identify a few artists on demand.  :P  That being said, Glenn Miller is one I can usually recognize and I love his work.  It makes perfect background music to a nice dinner or party, it's fun to dance to it, and it's just plain happy music for the most part!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I love Glenn Miller!! Not only is he my favorite Big Band guy, but he is also my absolute favorite American composer.


I love him for his style. Using the clarinet melody was GENIUS and really turned a lot of composing and arrange rules upside down. Essentially Jazz and Big Band turned all the music rules upside down, then Glenn Miller took all those new rules and inverted them a few decades later.


He also was largely responsible for a shift in military bands. Back when Sousa (may his music die a horrible death... the wish of every Horn player) forced the military bands into playing music that was horribly boring to play, everyone around him decided that was the "proper" way to do things, and like many military traditions, that has never really changed... although Glenn Miller managed to at least bend the military band's role so that it now can include other styles when appropriate.

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The Souza Marches were just that ... Marches. Military Bands to that time were in the main, marching bands and their music reflected that. Glenn Miller never wrote a tune to march to in his life! Sousa also started the move to wider variety played by the military bands... Though Glenn Miller is rightfully placed on his pedestal, his music was very popular, he has never been my favorite among swing era bands. I like Goodman much better, his music had bottom and was not so "shiny", for lack of a better word.

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