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Glenn Miller: Music in the Miller Mood - by George Spink
"Moonlight Serenade" and "I Know Why"
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
with Pat Friday, John Payne, and The Modernaires
from Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
Click here to listen to Glenn Miller broadcasts and tributes while you visit this web page.
Here's a recent video featuring Jan Eberle with The Jack Million Band performing The White Cliffs of Dover, a song made famous in the United States by Jan's father, Ray Eberle, with Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. This video was made in May 2008 at the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten, six miles east of Maastricht.
 

Remembering Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller and his trombone section.

Two friends of mine from Chicago, Chuck Schaeden and Karl Pearson, hosted a terrific tribute to Glenn Miller on Saturday, May 23rd, from 1 to 5 p.m. CDT on Chuck's show, Those Were the Days, on WDCB-FM, at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

With their kind permission, we offer their show here for your listening enjoyment.

(This is a four-hour program, so allow a few seconds for it to load.)

George Spink - Webmaster - Tuxedo Junction

Music in the Miller Mood Yahoo! Group

Glenn Miller

For those of you who are big fans of Glenn Miller and his music, I encourage you to join our new Music in the Miller Mood Yahoo! Group. Just click the "Join This Group" button after you arrive on that web page. It's that easy!

This Group is dedicated to the marvelous music of Glenn Miller as performed by his civilian band between 1939 and 1942 and by his Armed Forces Band between 1943 and 1945; to Glenn Miller's successor bands; and to the other bands who have emulated Miller's wonderful style over the years.

As a member of our Music in the Miller Mood Yahoo! Group, you'll be able to publish your own posts about Glenn Miller and his music and to upload and download photos and song files. I already have uploaded about 20 photos and as many MP3 files of Music in the Miller Mood. And, I have posted a number of links pertaining to Miller music on the Links Page.

Yahoo! Groups limits the number of song files that can be uploaded to it.To keep our Music in the Miller Mood Yahoo! Group fresh, I will delete and add new song files frequently. To keep all of our song files online, I am creating Music in the Miller Mood Juke Box Pages you can enjoy even after the songs are removed from our Yahoo! Group. You will find them on these web pages:

Juke Box Page 1      Juke Box Page 2       Juke Box Page 3      Juke Box Page 4

I'll be adding more in the weeks and months ahead.

This article is based on a series that I wrote for the Show section of The Chicago Sun-Times. The series ran over a four-day period spanning Christmas 1984, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Glenn Miller's tragic disappearance. New paragraphs were added to this web page in December 2000 to inform visitors about music in the Miller mood as we entered the 21st Century. Playlists and videos were added in May 2008.

Christmas 1944
Miller's First Band
The Miller Sound
The Miller Approach
The Army Air Force Band
Overpaid, Oversexed, and Over Here!
Six Decades of The Glenn Miller Orchestra
Over There Today
The Sound of an Era
R.A.F. Bombs May Have Downed Miller Plane
Twinwood
Glenn Miller Videos
 
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Major Glenn Miller and The Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force
Major Glenn Miller and The Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force

Christmas 1944

Major Glenn Miller, director of the U.S. Air Force Band, is missing on a flight from England to Paris. No trace of the plane has been found. -- The New York Times, Dec. 25, 1944.

This message spread across the nation like a shockwave on Christmas 1944. Newspapers ran the wire story just as it appears here, and radio announcers read it in disbelief to their stunned listeners. Tens of thousands of American families already had learned that a loved one was killed or missing in the war. Now the family of Glenn Miller learned their tragic news; now the world knew it as well.

There was little chance that the small plane carrying Miller would be found. It disappeared ten days earlier in heavy fog and rain over the English Channel, on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. Miller was en route to Paris in advance of his large orchestra of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to make final plans for a Christmas Day concert for Allied troops.

The concert was scheduled to be--and was--the first in a series of appearances by Miller's immensely popular "Band of the AEF" on the Continent. Since the orchestra's arrival in England shortly after D-Day, Miller and his men had been playing a grueling schedule of concerts, dances, and radio broadcasts--"bringing a touch of home to our fighting lads," as Miller put it.

The atrocious weather already had delayed Miller for two days. Anxious to make the crossing, he accepted an offer to make the trip on Dec.15 with Col. Norman Baesell, who was going to Paris on that day no matter what. Baesell had to conduct essential war business; namely, he had to refill empty champagne bottles for the holidays.

According to Miller's biographer and friend, George T. Simon, when Miller boarded the small plane, the band leader asked Baesell where the parachutes were.

"What's the matter, Miller?" Baesell asked. "Do you want to live forever?"

Maj. Alton Glenn Miller was only 40 years old when he disappeared. The Iowa-born band leader left behind his wife, Helen, and their two small children--a son, Stevie, adopted in 1942, and a daughter, Jonnie (whom Miller never had a chance to see), adopted in late 1944. Both were adopted from the Cradle Society in Evanston, Illinois. Helen died in 1966; the children, who have no personal recollection of their father, have pursued lives outside of music.

Miller also left behind a legacy in the world of popular music that seldom has been equaled. To put his role in that world into perspective, especially for members of later generations, it is not an overstatement to say that no musical group captured the public's attention as much as Glenn Miller's orchestra until the Beatles came along in 1964.

Yet only a few years before his disappearance, Miller was barely known, except by fellow musicians, who regarded him as a gifted arranger and a competent trombonist.

Miller's First Band

The Swing Era, launched by Benny Goodman in 1935, created a powerful demand among ballroom, nightclub and theater owners for orchestras.  Glenn Miller formed his first orchestra in 1937 and played a number of engagements in various parts of the country throughout the year. But Miller's first band had no distinctive style of its own and simply didn't catch on.

In 1976, Benny Goodman told me how despondent Miller had become by the end of 1937. Their friendship began in the late 1920s, when they played in Ben Pollack's band and shared an apartment in New York City.

"Glenn was never a great trombonist," Goodman said, "and for the life of me I never understood why or how he was going to lead his own band. In late 1937, before his band became popular, we were both playing in Dallas. Glenn was pretty dejected and came to see me. He asked, 'What do you do? How do you make it?' I said, 'I don't know, Glenn. You just stay with it.'"

Miller did "stay with it," forming an entirely new orchestra in 1938. This was the band that eventually would challenge Goodman's in popularity. This was the band that would become synonymous with the Swing Era. This was the band that featured the unique "Miller sound."

The Miller Sound

Glenn Miller and his new orchestra soared to nationwide popularity in the summer of 1939 during their lengthy engagement at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York, the premier ballroom in the nation, thanks to its proximity to New York City, to its popularity among Ivy League college students, and especially to its live, nightly radio broadcasts heard from coast to coast.

Glenn Miller and his Orchestra

During the next three years, Miller and his  band made one hit record after another. "The Miller sound" became the sound of an era. By the time Miller disbanded his civilian orchestra to enlist in the Army Air Force in September 1942, one out of every three nickels dropped into a jukebox went for one of his many hits. These included "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," Little Brown Jug," "Moonlight Serenade (his theme)," " Kalamazoo," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "American Patrol," "At Last," "Serenade in Blue," "Danny Boy," "Moonlight Cocktail," "Adios," "I Know Why," and dozens of others.

Just how popular were Glenn Miller and his Orchestra? They recorded 70 Top Ten hits during their brief, three-and-one-half years on the national music scene:

1939 ∑ 17 Top Ten Hits

1940 ∑ 31 Top Ten Hits

1941 ∑ 11 Top Ten Hits

1942 ∑ 11 Top Ten Hits

Source: ARTIST Direct biography of Glenn Miller, written by William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide.

This was a phenomenal achievement in American popular music.

What made Millerís music so incredibly popular was that it was so listenable, so danceable and so easily identifiable.

The key to the bandís immense success was "the Miller sound," an ingenious voicing of the reeds that Miller came upon while playing and arranging for British-born Ray Nobleís band in the mid-1930s. Miller scored the lead trumpet one octave higher but in unison with the lead tenor saxophone, then provided divided harmonies for the other saxophones. Noble wasnít impressed with the sound, so Miller saved it for himself, later substituting a clarinet for the trumpet lead.

(Beginning in 1949, another British-born musician, pianist George Shearing, used a similar voicing technique for piano and vibes with his quintet.  Shearing told me of his indebtedness to Miller when I interviewed him in 1978 during a Cafe Carlisle engagement in New York City.)

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra performed at Pacific Square in San Diego on July 3,  1941.
Glenn Miller and his Orchestra performed
at Pacific Square in San Diego on July 3, 1941.

Millerís band featured first-class musicians playing sophisticated arrangements made by Miller and his two chief arrangers, Bill Finegan and Jerry Gray. An admirer of fellow band leader Jimmie Lunceford, Miller imitated Luncefordís ensemble precision, using such eye-catching devices as the synchronized waving of derbies and plunger mutes by members of the brass sections as they created rhythmic "ooh-wah, ooh-wah" sounds behind the reed lines.

Because he had been a highly successful musician and arranger in New York City throughout the 1930s, Miller had no trouble getting some of the best sidemen in the business to play in his new band. The sidemen who performed in Miller's band included saxophonists Tex Beneke, Hal McIntyre, Al Klink, Ernie Caceras and Wilbur "Wee Willie" Schwartz (also lead clarinetist); trombonists Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy, Frank DíAnnolfo and Miller himself; trumpeters Ray Anthony, Billy May, Johnny Best and Bobby Hackett; and drummer Maurice "Mo" Purtill, bassist Trigger Alpert, guitarist Jack Lathrop and pianist Chummy MacGregor.

Millerís featured vocalists were not exceptional by themselves, but they blended together beautifully. Beneke usually was teamed with Marion Hutton and the bandís vocal group, the Modernaires (who were exceptional), on many of the bandís biggest hits. Singer Ray Eberle was "the young man in the romance department," as Miller often introduced him, who recorded almost all of the band's hit vocal ballads.

The Miller Approach

Glenn Millerís focus was always on the entire orchestra, not on individual soloistsóan emphasis that permanently estranged Miller from jazz purists and led jazz critics and musicians to debunk his music, then and now. If nothing fails like success, in their eyes Miller was the biggest failure of the Swing Era. But Millerís musicians, particularly in his Army Air Force (AAF) band or, as it later would be called in England, "The Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces," had as much room to improvise as musicians in other big bands of the era. And even jazz purists concede that Miller's AAF band could swing as well as any big band in the Swing Era.

Glenn Miller's "Chesterfield Show" was broadcast from coast to coast several nights a week.
Glenn Miller's "Chesterfield Show" was broadcast from coast to coast several nights a week.

A few of Miller's civilian band arrangements were extended for live performances and radio broadcasts, allowing ample time for solos; but all of the bandís songs and solos were severely limited by the three-to-four minute constraints of 10-inch, 78 records. Nevertheless, one of the best improvisations ever is Bobby Hackettís cornet solo on the civilian band's recording of A String of Pearls. AAF band arrangements generally were longer than those for Millerís civilian band because they were designed for live performances and radio broadcasts, not recordings, allowing soloists more latitude.

Staying on top of the musical world was hectic. Fortunately, most band members were in their early 20s and withstood the rigorous schedule. Miller and his band gave hundreds of performances at ballrooms, theaters, and nightclubs from coast to coast, found time for several weekly radio broadcasts, and made records, records, and more records.

Millerís magnificent ballads brought couples together at ballrooms, jukebox hangouts or living room parties and linked them while they were separated by oceans and war. The bandís theme and most famous ballad, Moonlight Serenade, was dubbed our nation's "second national anthem" by Dave Garroway, who hosted the all-night 1160 Club on WMAQ in Chicago during the 1940s. And, some of the band's up-tempo numbers, such as In the Mood and A String of Pearls, were battle cries for a generation of bobby soxers.

The bandís popularity persuaded 20th Century-Fox to produce two movies centering on Miller and his orchestra. Sun Valley Serenade in 1941 featured Sonja Henie and Milton Berle. A year later Orchestra Wives starred Ann Rutherford, George Montgomery, Lynn Bari, Jackie Gleason, and Cesar Romero. The real stars, of course, were Glenn Miller and his orchestra.

Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, one of the best song-writing teams in Hollywood, wrote many of the songs for these two films, including some of Miller's biggest hits: Kalamazoo, Chattanooga Choo Choo, At Last, Serenade in Blue, I Know Why, and Sun Valley Jump.

The nation's entry into World War II occurred at the height of Glenn Millerís popularity. Miller felt a deep, compelling obligation to bring his music to the servicemen and women fighting for their country. Only months before, they had danced to his band at the Cafe Rouge in the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York (phone: PA 6-5000), the Panther Room in the Sherman House in Chicago, or any of hundreds of nightclubs, ballrooms, and theaters from coast to coast.

And that was Miller's motivation for seeking a commission. The Navy rejected his request, but not the Army Air Force. Almost as soon as Miller learned of his commission as a captain in September 1942, he disbanded his civilian orchestra and reported for duty on Oct. 7.

The civilian bandís final Chesterfield show aired on Sept. 24 from the Central Theater in Passaic, N.J. During the bandís rendition of Jukebox Saturday Night, the Harry James-inspired trumpet solo was actually played by James, whose band would replace Millerís on the broadcasts.

The Army Air Force Band


In the winter months, Miller handpicked the members for his 45-piece AAF orchestra, including string musicians from among the nation's top symphony orchestras.  In the spring of 1943, after completing basic training, they began rehearsals at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., which served as a training center for AAF cadets. Ironically, Miller rejected a 19-year-old pianist named Henry Mancini, whom a decade later would be selected to arrange the music and write the title theme for the The Glenn Miller Story. In later years, Manciniís influence on popular music would parallel and perhaps surpass Miller's.

Major Glenn Miller

Millerís AAF band was first-rate by any standards and included such outstanding sidemen as drummer Ray McKinley, saxophonist Hank Freeman, trumpeters 'Zeke' Zarchy and Bernie Privin, pianist Mel Powell, and vocalist Johnny Desmond, who moved to Chicago in 1948 to sing on Don McNeilís Breakfast Club every weekday morning.

In June 1943, Miller and his AAF band began a weekly radio series, "I Sustain the Wings," broadcast coast to coast on NBC. They also made numerous personal appearances across the nation. One of their last performances before going to England was at a Fifth War Loan Drive rally at the Chicago Theater on June 10, 1944. Miller began the bandís "I Sustain the Wings" broadcast that night by noting that already "12 million servicemen and women had passed through the Servicemenís Center in Chicago as guests of the city of Chicago."

Overpaid, Oversexed, and Over Here!

That's how the British often referred to the three million American GIs stationed in England before the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. But the British fell in love with Miller's band following its arrival a few weeks after D-Day. The band was renamed "the Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces."  The AEF band immediately began a hectic schedule of concerts, dances, and radio broadcasts.

"We didnít come here to set any fashions in music," Miller wrote from England in 1944 to George Simon (who 30 years later would write Millerís biography). "We merely came to bring a much-needed touch of home to some lads who have been here a couple of years." On Aug. 14, 1944, Miller was promoted to major.

On Oct. 30, 1944, Miller and the entire AEF Band went to Studio 1 of HMV's (His Master's Voice) Abbey Road Studios in London (the same studios the Beatles would use some 20 years later) to record the first of six one-half hour radio programs to be beamed toward German troops. All announcements and most lyrics were transliterated into German.  The six-show series began airing on Nov. 8th. The recording equipment in these studios was state of the art for the 1940s. 

These broadcasts were finally released in 1996 as Glenn Miller: The Lost Recordings in a two-CD set by BMG Music and are among the finest recordings available of Miller's music by either his civilian or AAF-AEF orchestras.

Here are some BBC broadcasts between June and December 1944 that illustrate just how good Major Glenn Miller's American Band of The Supreme Allied Command (1944) really was:

A Philco Type 89 Lowboy Radio (1933)
Philco Type 89 Lowboy Radio (1933)
Photo Courtesy of Jim's Antique Radio Museum
(Click photo to view enlargement.)
Major Glenn Miller: On the BBC - 1944

The last broadcast is from Paris on Christmas Day 1945. At the end of the show, an announcement is made saying the Miller had disappeared.

Hollywood movie star and singer Irene Manning (Yankee Doodle Dandy, Hollywood Canteen) was in London with other American performers entertaining members of the armed forces.  She was invited to sing with the Miller orchestra on a couple of the German propaganda broadcasts. Manning told me in 1997 that she arrived early for each session at Abbey Road Studios to discuss the songs she would sing and study the transliterations. But she was surprised to learn there was no time for rehearsal. Manning simply had to wing it.  And she did so beautifully, recording four songs in German: All The Things You Are, Long Ago And Far Away, Mary's A Grand Old Name (from Yankee Doodle Dandy), and Begin The Beguine.

Following Miller's disappearance in December 1944, his AEF band was led by Sergeant Ray McKinley and continued performing for Allied troops in Europe.  During their year overseas, Miller's AEF band made some 500 radio broadcasts and gave more than 300 performances at concerts and dances. One of the largest concerts was presented on July 1, 1945 to 40,000 Allied troops at the Nuremberg Stadium, once the setting for Hitlerís rallies. American Patrol, one of Millerís biggest hits with his civilian band, received thunderous applause from grateful GIs.

The Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces returned to New York City on August 12, 1945. A few months later, the members of Miller's AAF band were discharged. Their leader had been gone since that fateful day in December 1944. Now the band was gone, too.

The Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces returned to New York City on August 12, 1945.  A few months later, the members of Miller's AAF band were discharged. Their leader had been gone since that fateful day in December 1944. Now the band was gone, too.

But not their music.

Six Decades of The Glenn Miller Orchestra


After the war, Tex Beneke was invited by the Glenn Miller Estate to lead the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Beneke had been one of Miller's personal favorites and was widely identified with Miller's civilian band.  The Beneke-led GMO started performing in 1946 and immediately drew a good following.  The band played both civilian and AAF-AEF band arrangements.

In the late 1940s, Beneke introduced a number of new songs and some bebop numbers into the band's book as a way of staying with the times.  Bebop did not set well with the Glenn Miller Estate, however, and they finally severed their association with Beneke. He later appeared in Miller alumni reunions, often teaming with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires and former members of Miller's civilian band. Beneke kept playing into the mid 1990s, always remembering those marvelous times he had with the civilian band, and always performing in the Miller style without the sanction of the Miller estate. He died in 1999.

RCA capitalized on the lasting popularity of Miller's music by encouraging the formation of the Ralph Flanagan Orchestra in 1949, which featured a "Singing Winds" reed voicing very similar to the Miller sound.  Following the Flanagan band's first hit that year, You're Breaking My Heart, the band worked 574 times in the next 594 days!

Encouraged by the sustained success of Beneke and Flanagan, and also by the box-office success of The Glenn Miller Story in 1954, the Miller estate has managed numerous successor bands since 1956. Over the years, the "Official Glenn Miller Orchestra" has been directed by various leaders, including Ray McKinley, Buddy DeFranco, Peanuts Hucko, Buddy Morrow, Jimmy Henderson, and Larry O'Brien.

Larry O'Brien and The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Larry O'Brien is the musical director of The Glenn Miller Orchestra.Trombonist O'Brien has been leading the band since 1981. The band, following in the tradition of Miller's civilian and Air Force bands, continues to play a hectic schedule of one-nighters 48 weeks each year throughout the United States, Canada and Japan. Fortunately, the O'Brien-led Miller band has recorded several superb CD's, including three wonderful Christmas albums. You can order the band's CD's and look at the its tour schedule on the Glenn Miller Orchestra web site to find out when they will be playing in your area.

Click here to the band's tour schedule.The destination marker may read "Tuxedo Junction," "In the Mood," "Little Brown Jug," or any of a number of Miller hits. But this bus is always going to the same destination: the Miller band's next engagement.

This bus is not a home away from home for band members; this bus is their home!

To see when the bus will bring the band to your area, click here to see their schedule.

Over There Today

March 1st, 2008 marked the 104th anniversary of Glenn Miller's birth. Although he has been gone for 64 years, his music remains very popular. We probably receive as many e-mails pertaining to Glenn Miller as we do about all other big band leaders combined.

Fortunately, there are many Miller CDs available and unreleased material still surfaces from time to time. The The World Famous Official Glenn Miller Orchestra U.S. continues to entertain Miller's legions of fans throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan. There also are official versions of the orchestra in the United Kingdom (The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra - U.K.) and Europe (The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra - Europe), which carries the Miller sound to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and the Czech Republic.

Another big band that plays Miller's music on the Continent, and plays it very well, is the Jack Million Band. This band, led by Jack Coenen and based in Belgium, not only plays Miller's music remarkably well but many other big band charts as well.

One reason Glenn Miller's music remains so popular in the United Kingdom is because of the success of the The Syd Lawrence Orchestra during the past 30 years. This is a great band that has dedicated itself to playing music in the Miller mood, and playing it beautifully! It is a terrific orchestra with a loyal following throughout the U.K. and continues performing even though Lawrence died in 1998. Since Lawrence's passing, Chris Dean has been doing a great job leading "the best band in all the land."

Pete King's Big Band Buddies shows a wonderfully dedicated British fan's devotion to the music of Glenn Miller. His monthly magazine is subscribed to by Miller fans around the world.

Beneath the equator, there is the excellent Australian Glenn Miller Tribute Band that was formed in 1995. This band is comprised of veteran musicians who love what they are doing. They are dedicated to Miller's music and even don uniforms imported from the United States with authentic badges and rank insignia.

The emblem of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces as it appeared on the music stands of Major Glenn Miller's Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Bedford, England in late 1944 has been emblazoned on the stands of the Australian Glenn Miller Tribute Band. Image courtesy of band member Denis Hollingsworth.

The emblem of "Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces," as it appeared on the AEF band's music stands in Bedford, England in late 1944, has been emblazoned on their stands. You can see this emblem on Major Glenn Miller's sleeve in this photo.

Try to see these bands whenever you have a chance. You'll be glad that you did! And you can order CDs from each of the above web sites if you wish.

The Sound of an Era

The enduring quality of Millerís music is that it was the sound of an era. Countless movies and made-for-television films set in the 1940s have featured the Miller reed voicing to evoke nostalgia. One of my favorites was the NBC miniseries in the late 1970s based on Anton Myrerís best-selling novel, The Last Convertible. The miniseries' musical director, Pete Rugulo, used the Miller sound throughout. Myrer named each section of his novel after a song from the 1940s: Racing With The Moon, I Don't Want To Walk Without You, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, It's Been A Long, Long Time, and Serenade In Blue.

When I hear that serenade in blue,

I'm somewhere in another world alone with you,

Sharing all the joys we used to know,

Many moons agoÖ.

"Serenade in Blue" (Gordon-Warren), recorded May 20, 1942.

As of May 2008, more than 1,400 CD's of Glenn Miller's music are readily available on Amazon. One only has to browse through Glenn Miller albums at major record stores or music web sites on the internet to realize that the Miller sound is going to be around for many, many more years. These CD's feature music by both Miller's civilian and AAF bands, as well as by the successor bands mentioned below. In recent years, a couple of dozen albums featuring radio broadcasts of Miller's civilian and AAF bands have appeared, usually of excellent fidelity, making Miller collectors throughout the world happy indeed.

Collectors also can find many LPs, 45 and 78 rpm recordings of Miller's music available at used record stores from coast-to-coast and abroad (my favorite is Music Man Murray in Los Angeles). These stores often have those magnificent limited-edition albums from the 1950s, which have been collectors' items for half a century, as well as the reissue albums from the 1970s featuring every record Miller ever made for RCA's Victor and Bluebird labels. You also can find vintage Glenn Miller albums on the Collector's Corner web page of The World Famous Official Glenn Miller Orchestra U.S. web site.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Callahan
 

For The Very First Time is a three-LP limited edition album of Miller's civilian band air checks that RCA Victor issued in 1959. It remains one of my favorites. Some of its songs have appeared on CDs in recent years. If you have this album, cherish it, take good care of it, and treat it as you would any precious family heirloom. You can hear the entire album right now by clicking the "Play" button in the audio player below the photo of the album cover.

Millerís music continues to be played by big band radio stations and on the internet across the country and around the world. The revival of swing music in recent years has created a renewed interest in big band music, and once again music in the Miller mood is very popular.

If there is one reason for the lasting popularity of Glenn Millerís music, it is that his approach, his songs, his arrangements, and his musicians and singers provided just the right combination for their time. Just ask anyone who lived during the Swing Era.

Or, discover the magic of music in the Miller mood for yourself.  All you have to is listen....

George Spink
Los Angeles
Email Me

R.A.F. Bombs May Have Downed Glenn Miller Plane
By Jo Thomas
Special to The New York Times
NEW YORK, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 1985
An illustration of the Norseman carrying Major Glenn MIller as it flew through bombs being dropped by RAF planes over the Channel on their return to Great Britain on Dec. 15, 1944.
Mark Postlethwaite's illustration of the Norseman carrying Major Glenn Miller as it allegedly flew through bombs being dropped by RAF planes over the Channel on its return to Great Britain on Dec. 15, 1944.
 

A PERSONAL VIEW
by George Spink

Since The New York Times article below appeared at the end of 1985, a number of people, mostly from the United Kingdom and South Africa and some from the United States, have come forth to offer their own alleged first-hand accounts of Glenn Miller's disappearance. Some have told their versions several times in recent years, often changing their stories.

Why these people waited more than 40 and sometimes more than 50 years to come forth is more of a mystery to me than Glenn Miller's disappearance itself.

Until recently, I hadn't heard any reason not to accept the official version of Major Alton G. Miller's disappearance that was announced by the BBC to a war-weary world on Christmas Eve 1944, namely, that on Dec. 15th the famous bandleader disappeared in a small plane en route from England to Paris somewhere over the English Channel. Miller was on his way to make arrangements for his Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force to give a Christmas Day concert in Paris for Allied troops.

Miller was flying in a Norseman on a day when that small plane should never have been allowed to take off. According to Miller's friend and biographer, the late George T. Simon, the atrocious weather had already delayed Miller for two days. Anxious to make the crossing, Miller accepted an offer to make the trip with Col. Norman Baesell, who was going to Paris on that day no matter what. Baesell had to conduct essential war business -- to refill empty champagne bottles for the holidays!

Simon writes that when Miller boarded the small plane, the band leader asked Baesell where the parachutes were.

"What's the matter, Miller?" Baesell asked. "Do you want to live forever?"

The article below suggests that the Norseman carry Miller, Baesell, and the pilot might have been hit and destroyed by bombs being jettisoned by RAF planes returning from an aborted bombing mission over Germany. It suggests that, but suggesting doesn't prove anything. A recent report claims that the Norseman carry Miller over the Channel on Dec. 15, 1944 flew other missions. It was decommisioned in 1947.

This matter is still being debated six decades after Glenn Miller disappeared. A book by Hunton Downs, The Glenn Miller Conspiracy, was published in April 2009. Downs claims that Miller was sent on a secret mission to Germany in December 1944 to persuade anti-Hitler generals to alert the Allies of troop movements. These generals would prevent their own troops from participating in these movements and be spared by the Allies. But Hitler found about Miller's visit. The Nazis tortured Miller, leading to his death.

Others have claimed that Miller died in a Paris brothel in December 1944.

You can read what others think by joining our new Music in the Miller Mood Yahoo! Group located on this web page:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/millermood/

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George Spink
Tuxedo Junction
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LONDON, Dec. 30, 1985óTwo members of a Royal Air Force bomber crew in World War II believe they can explain one of the unsolved mysteries of the war: the disappearance of the band leader Glenn Miller. The two say they fear the band leader's plane was downed over the English Channel by bombs jettisoned from their own plane as they returned from an aborted mission.

The twoóthe navigator and the pilotósaid their four-engine Lancaster bomber was one of some 150 returning from an aborted mission on Dec. 15, 1944óthe same day Mr. Miller took off in bad weather from an airfield near Bedford, England, on a flight to Paris, where he was to give a show. The two R.A.F. crewmen said that after the jettisoned bombs exploded, they saw a Norseman aircraft fall into the sea below them, apparently knocked out of the sky by shock waves. The plane carrying Mr. Miller, who was then a Major in the Army and leader of the Army Air Force band, was a Norseman D-64.

The official version of the band leader's disappearance is that his aircraft vanished in the channel fog, perhaps disabled by ice on its wings. Other theories were more bizarre: That he faked his own death, that he was a secret agent, that he died in a Paris brothel with the crash story as a cover-up, or that he was the victim of black marketers.

The R.A.F. crew's story was originally raised in public last year by the navigator, Fred Shaw, who now lives in South Africa. His theory, which appeared in South African newspapers, was discounted, however, by members of the Glenn Miller Appreciation Society, a London group with an abiding interest in Mr. Miller's life and music, on the grounds that no R.A.F. planes were assumed to be in the air that day because of the poor weather.

But one member of the society, Alan Ross, of Liverpool, England, investigated Mr. Shaw's claims. Mr. Ross wrote to the Defense Ministry and placed an advertisement in the R.A.F. Association Journal, Air Mail, seeking other members of the Lancaster's crew.

Mr. Ross said that members of the Appreciation Society believed the Defense Ministry had been asked about the matter years ago and that the ministry had replied that "not even the pigeons were flying that day." Defense Ministry officials, however, could not recall such a query.

Records found at the Ministry of Defense by E. A. Munday, of the Air Historical Branch, confirmed that a squadron of Lancasters had, in fact, taken off at noon on Dec. 15, 1944, and had flown on a course over northern France, near the Belgian border, on a mission to attack the railway yards at Stegen, Germany.

"Before entering German-controlled airspace, the force was recalled," Mr. Munday said. "According to standing orders, the bombs were jettisoned in designated areas before landing."

In a letter last May, Mr. Munday wrote Mr. Shaw:

"Until your story appeared in the South African press in 1984, the R.A.F. had always regarded Miller's death as a strictly U.S.A.A.F. matter, as the result of some sort of flying accident, probably as a result of poor weather conditions. We have received letters at various times asking about it, some of which put forth theories, some feasible, and some not so feasible.

"Up until 1984, the only R.A.F. connection was that Miller's plane had taken off from the R.A.F. airfield at Twinwood Farms, Bedfordshire in weather conditions which could be described as marginal, or at least marginal for that type of aircraft.

"Your story, to a greater extent, changed this, and we carried out an investigation earlier this year into the aborted bomber operation of 15 Dec.1944. Because the operation was aborted, there is no raid report on B(omber) C(ommand) records, as would have been customary with a completed operation. We did find reference to the intended course."

The Miller flight took off from Twinwood Farms, near Bedford, 50 miles northwest of London, at 1:55 P.M. Greenwich War Time. The pilot filed no flight plan and his course is unknown. Mr. Munday said today that, although the band leader was flying to France at the time the R.A.F. squadron was returning from its aborted mission, they could have been miles apart.

Victor Gregory, the pilot of the R.A.F. plane, now living in Westonsuper-Mare, England, answered Mr. Ross's advertisement, thinking it had something to do with a reunion. He confirmed Mr. Shaw's story.

The bombardier, Ivor Pritchard, who would have had the best view, asked the navigator whether he could see the bombs exploding, Mr. Gregory recalled. The pilot said Mr. Shaw "got up and looked out of the little dome and spotted this aircraft, a Norseman."

"The rear gunner, who was looking around all the time, saw it tip up and go into the sea," Mr. Gregory said. "When these bombs go off, they cause a lot of explosion." The gunner, Harry Fellowes, then asked on the intercom, "Did you see that kite go in?" A kite, Mr. Gregory explained, was slang for a plane.

Mr. Pritchard died in 1983, according to Mr. Ross, but Mr. Fellowes may still be alive, and his former crew members are anxious to talk to him and to the other crew members: Robert O'Hanlan, the radio operator; Derek Thurman, the engineer; Derek Arnold, the mid-upper gunner; and Frank Appleby, the mid-under gunner. They also want to locate the crews of other bombers in the area.

When asked why it had taken so long for him to come forward, Mr. Gregory said he had forgotten the incident until contacted by Mr. Ross.

"When we got back from that raid," he explained, "it was an aborted raid, so we didn't go in for our normal debriefing. Don't think me unsympathetic or callous, but when I heard of the plane going down, I would have said that he shouldn't have been there--forget him. My own concern was getting my own airplane home safely. We were fighting a war, and we lost thousands of planes. We had some pretty grim raids after that, and they didn't announce Miller's death until later. It had gone completely from my mind." Mr. Miller was first reported missing on Dec. 24, 1944.

Mr. Shaw said that he had become interested after he saw the film, The Glenn Miller Story, in 1954, checked his log book, and realized the downed plane might have been carrying the band leader. He was rebuffed when he approached newspaper reporters at the time and forgot about it until he saw the movie again, years later, in South Africa.

Glenn Miller Videos
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" - Sun Valley Serenade - Glenn Miller (1941)
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton,
The Modernaires and The Nicholas Brothers
Source: You Tube
"Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives - Glenn Miller (1942)
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton,
The Modernaires and The Nicholas Brothers
Source: You Tube
"In the Mood" - Tex Beneke and His Orchestra
Source: You Tube
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© George Spink, Los Angeles, California, United States of America (2011-2012)