January 16th & 17th, 2023
“A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality.” – Glenn Miller
Review of the opening concert by Asta Kraskouskas, FLKCA Associate
“Formed in 1956, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, with its unique jazz and swing sounds, has been touring worldwide ever since. With songs like “Moonlight Serenade”, “Tuxedo Junction” and “Chattanooga Choo-‐Choo”, they are as American as apple pie.
Glen Miller was an American big band founder, composer, arranger, trombone player. At the “dance band music “era, also called “swing era”, big bands needed musical parts for the musicians. At that time, Miller discovered a simple music formula that made his music distinguishable and broadly liked for its sound, simplicity, and rhythm. Miller chose a clarinet and tenor saxophone playing the melody together while the other saxophones provided harmony, with trumpets and trombones muted. In 1938, Miller formed his band that began breaking attendance records on the east coast. His romantic “Miller Sound” became so popular that from 1939 to 1943, Miller had 72 Top Ten records and 23 were #1 (more than Elvis or the Beatles had in their careers).
Today the band has five saxophones, three trombones, three trumpets, a rhythm section of three (a piano, drums, and base), and one female vocalist. The band’s saxophonist/vocalist Eric Stabnau is a band’s music director. Eric took this place year and a half ago right after graduating from Syracuse University with master’s in music. Eric: “I like Glen Miller’s music for its iconic swing sound. Miller is still popular and widely recognized. I always wanted to travel and tour. We have 200 concerts a year all over the US, Canada, and almost every year Japan, for the past decade”.
The band is known for its music and for its charismatic performances. The musicians’ showmanship ads to the concert a historic touch of the past era creating a reciprocal link between the musicians and audience. The band builds up an experience that one can get only being at the concert and seeing the band playing alive.
Lauren and John Dunn are season tickets holders for many years. Lauren is a realtor and John has his own electrical business. At his free time, John likes to play a guitar and piano. Lauren comes to the concerts to support culture and arts that, she thinks, are underappreciated. To John: “Music like this (Miller’s music) you cannot put into the headsets. You must come and experience it with a band playing live right in front of you. This band amazes me that they keep the band going for that long. Glen Miller’s song you know right away. Our relatives and family liked Miller’s music and passed it on to us from their generation”.
Their concert friend is a science teacher at Coral Shore high school. His grandfather played a clarinet in the Army. The Dunn’s friend’s grandfather introduced him to the songs from Glen Miller’s era.
George Reinert, the band’s trombonist, enjoys playing in a big band and plays there since 1994. George thinks that Miller’s music appeals to everyone. He sees this music live and worldly known. George enjoys the opportunity of touring, seeing thigs, having various experiences. He enjoys seeing audience’s reaction and connection with the music. To George, to be in the band is exciting. He thinks that only certain type musicians can last in the band. George points out that everyone is not married in the band. George: “Married musicians stay only seasonally. We have a different way of life”.
To George it is important to be a part of the Glen Miller’s music. George: “The band plays an important popular historical music. Without it, we, as this band’s musicians, would have no purpose”.
Glen Miller is considered to be the father of the modern US military bands. At each concert, the band pays a special tribute to veterans. In the Coral Shores audience, there were about a dozen veterans. The musicians and audience expressed their gratitude to the veterans applauding them. The band tributed The American Patrol song.
The band ended its concert with the Moonlight Serenade, and with an extra addition of the Farewell Blues.”
1937 – Glenn organized his own touring band and signed to Brunswick records.
1938 – The group was unsuccessful, and was disbanded.
1939 – The Orchestra played at the Glen Island Casino, NY, a major swing venue, and was heard on radio. 17 Top 10 hits including ‘Sunrise Serenade’; ‘Moonlight Serenade’; ‘Wishing (Will Make It So)’. Chart-toppers: ‘Stairway to the Stars’, ‘Moon Love’, ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Blue Orchids’, ‘The Man With the Mandolin’. His ‘Moonlight Serenade’ radio series for Chesterfield aired on CBS three times a week.
1940 – ‘Tuxedo Junction’ sold 115,000 copies the first week. ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000? was released. 31 Top 10 hits: ‘Careless’, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, ‘Imagination’, ‘Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)’, and ‘Blueberry Hill’; ‘The Woodpecker Son’. ‘In the Mood’ and ‘Tuxedo Junction’ were inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
1941 – Another 11 Top 10 hits: The band made the movie, Sun Valley Serenade, introducing ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, soon a million seller. #1 hits: ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’, ‘You and I’, ‘Elmer’s Tune’.
1942 – 11 Top 10 hits and 3rd year as the top recording artist with ‘American Patrol’, ‘A String of Pearls’, ‘Moonlight Cocktail’, ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)’ and (I’ve Got a Gal) In Kalamazoo’ which came from Miller’s second film, ‘Orchestra Wives. The end of Miller’s dominance of popular music when he received an officer’s commission in the Army/Air Force. Glenn organized a service band, performed at military camps, and hosted a weekly radio series.
1943 – Two more Top 10 hits including #1 ‘That Old Black Magic’.
1944 – Took his band to Great Britain, performed for the troops and did radio broadcasts. On December 15th, Glenn Miller boarded a transport plane to Paris, never to be seen again.
1945 – ‘Glenn Miller’, an album of 78 rpm records, topped the newly instituted album charts and became the most successful album of the year.
1947 – ‘Glenn Miller Masterpieces, Vol. 2 topped the album charts.
1954 – Miller was the subject of a partly fictionalized film biography, The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart.
2003 – Miller posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
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 (who on several of their records, featured an up-and-coming singer by the name of Bing Crosby), 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. “In the Mood”, and “Pennsylvania 6-5000?, 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 “Moonlight Serenade” 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 “Orchestra Wives”. 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!’
After the war, the Glenn Miller Orchestra was re-formed to honor “America’s Favorite Musical Patriot”, taking his music and its message to audiences all over the globe. The current Music Director of the Glenn Miller Orchestra is Erik Stabnau. From the moment these exceptional musicians begin playing Glenn Miller’s classic arrangement of “Moonlight Serenade”, listeners are immediately transported back in time. The signature style of that memorable era lives on.