Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Glenn Miller!

In honor of Glenn Miller's birthday today (b. 1904) and mine (b. 1975, LOL) I thought I'd share with you my favorite Glenn Miller tunes. If you've never heard some of them before, they're well worth the download- follow the links to the iTunes file.

Glenn Miller was, by all accounts, a decent but unspectacular trombonist (I can sympathize). After playing for years as a sideman alongside some of jazz's greatest talents he formed his own orchestra in 1937 but was unsuccessful until 1938-39 when he developed his famous "Miller sound" by adding a lead clarinet to the more traditional saxophone section of his big band. By the early 1940s, Miller's band was the hottest in the country with a string of hits including "Tuxedo Junction", "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade". He and his band were featured in the films Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942).

When WWII broke out, Miller longed to be of service to his country. But at the time the armed forces employed only more formal concert bands; there was no place for modern swing music. From late 1942 until 1944, he led a relatively undistinguished group of musicians in the traditional marching band style. Finally, he was able to persuade the Army Air Force brass to permit him to form a swing band and a full string orchestra to boost morale of the soldiers abroad and the homefront. He made hundreds of recordings in England, many of which were also recorded in German and broadcast across the continent to listeners behind enemy lines.

In late 1944, after the Allies had stormed into France, Miller wanted to take his band directly to the troops in Paris. In preparation for the move, he boarded a single engine transport to fly across the English Channel. On December 15th, 1944, in the fog over the Channel, his plane disappeared and no trace of the aircraft or its passengers has ever been found. Major Glenn Miller is still officially listed as "missing in action".

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Glenn Miller's music was probably my jumping off point into vintage culture. I've been listening to it since I was 13, and boy, that makes me feel real old today when I say that has been 23 years! Most of these are on the "hot" side, and totally disprove the notion that Glenn Miller was strictly a "sweet" band.

1) "Peggy the Pin-up Girl" (also in honor of yesterday's passing of Jane Russell)
2) "American Patrol"
3) "Caribbean Clipper"
4) "Mission to Moscow"
5) "Song of the Volga Boatmen"
6) "Johnson Rag"
7) "Serenade in Blue"
8) "Jeep Jockey Jump"
9) "Moonlight Cocktail"
10) "Stealin' Apples"

I could probably keep going forever. What are your favorites?


  1. Love all the info! I do love listening to Glenn Miller, especially on vinyl, but didn't really know that much about him. I especially didn't know of his demise, and how he is still listed as MIA. We will definitely be playing some of his music as we enjoy our dinner tonight, in his honor- and yours! Happy Birthday!!!

  2. My favorite is *In The Mood*...every time I hear it I see my mom and dad dancing and laughing in our old living room...they were the two best dancers I've ever seen...and they loved the Big Band tunes...I took the Glenn Miller and Marty Robbins albums when my dad passed away...they were just so *him*.

  3. I like Serenade in Blue a lot, and of course In the Mood, but my favorite is Moonlight Serenade. Makes me feel wooshy and want to slow dance with my man :-)

  4. Great post! Glenn Miller was one of my parents' favorites. I think they fell in love dancing to his music. I didn't know how he died, even though I grew up listening to his music. And take heart...to someone who's just about to transpose the numbers in your age to form her own,36 sounds pretty good! Happy birthday!

  5. I grew up on Glenn Miller and other big bands. When my sister and I chose instruments to learn in junior high, dad insisted that they be instruments we could play in a jazz band. She chose sax, I chose clarinet. :)

  6. Yes all the songs are great. Happy Birthday to you and Glen Miller.

  7. Well Happy B-day to you and Mr. Miller! Who knew he was a MIA case? I sure didn't! I really like Pennsylvania 6500 and remember my dad playing it for me when I was a young'un. One day in class my teacher asked us all what was our favorite song. When I told her it was Pennsylvania 6500 by Glen Miller she didn't know who I was talking about! I've loved big band music ever since!