Life with

Glenn Miller's Music

 

My interest in Big Band music began in the late 1940`s, but it wasn't until the early 50`s that I began to collect old 78`s. My brother and I built a den at the bottom of the garden in order to play our records loudly without annoying our parents.
I was very interested in Glenn Miller, my earliest recollections were tunes like 'Deep In The Heart of Texas' and of course 'Moonlight Serenade', the later remains my favourite to this day.

After the Glenn Miller Story was released in 1954, my fanatical interest in the Miller band grew and I began to collect every thing I could. During the mid 50`s HMV issued two 5 record albums, I had just joined the RAF, (Royal Air Force) and during my service I made a point of collecting more Miller records. HMV Records had just released the first two record set, but as I had just been posted I missed the first set but did manage to get this record set later. The second set and in my opinion the best set issued were mostly live recording at places like Meadowbrook, Cafe Rouge and Glenn Island Casino.

I have spent thousands of hours listening to this wonderful music, most of which the majority of the public have never heard or even know about.
Today there is so much material coming from the Glenn Miller archives that it is not quite so much a thrill as it was in those days.

I think it was 1958 that (RCA USA) (HMV.UK) released the box set of 5 LP's of the AAF (Army Air Force Band) This was the first we had really been able to hear of this huge band other than on the Radio during WW11, and rated by the musicians who played in this band, as well as the experts, as the greatest big band ever. However it is the civilian band that I found the most enjoyable.

During those RAF days I would take my Glenn Miller records where ever I went.
For years my RAF buddies had to put up with my constant playing of Glenn Miller records because I was the only one in the billet that had a record player. At first it was the odd boot flying towards the record player not to mention beer bottles and the like, but gradually the missiles became less frequent and eventually if I wasn't playing records someone would call out, "come on Kingy put some Glenn Miller on". I think I managed to convert the whole billet and these were in the days of Bill Haley, Elvis, Fats Domino and many other great names of Rock and Roll. It was also a time when the airwaves were full of those great singers left over from the forties, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and we were still listening to Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Gene Kruper. Yes in those days of the late fifties the radio was packed with good music to suit all tastes and lets face it, we loved it all.

My Miller collection was constantly growing, but now my interest was expanding into the official follow on Miller bands, those of Tex Beneke, Ray McKinley, Buddy Defranco and so on. The Tex Beneke Glenn Miller band was great, but it is I think right to say that none of these official GM Bands recreated the true Miller sound. Occasionally they got very near to it but they all had there own sound in the Miller mood, you could say. Tex`s band was really great it was an exciting swinging band. Tex`s familiar Tenor Sax was always there and his vocal talents was also good to hear as they were in the Miller years. I think the first LP of Tex I bought was a Camden Label called STARDUST and the great numbers on this LP were Stardust of course, Lazy Bones and Rockin' Chair two vocals by Tex, East of the Sun sung by a great singer Garry Stevens who is now in his eighties and still sings today.

My collection of Tex Beneke recordings have grown over the years, but my prized records are some 16 inch Voice of America recording, they are 30 minute live programmes recorded in the late forties, and early fifties with such singers as Edye Gorme, Gregg Lawrence, Mary Mayo and the Maestro himself, from the Hollywood Palladium, California. When this band was launched in 1946 it was based on the AAF type Miller band (strings) and there were a number of ex Miller sidemen within this new band led by Tex. They were Stan Aaronson and Vince Carbone (TS), Manny Thaler (BS), Bobby Nichols, Steve Steck and Whitey Thomas (Tpt) Jimmy Priddy, Paul Tanner, John Halliburton and Bob Pring (Tmb) Rollie Bundock (Bass) Stan Freeman (Piano) Bob Gibbons (Guitar) and Jack Sperling (Drums).
There's a few names there I'm sure you recognise?

After Tex had ended his association with the Glenn Miller Estate in 1950, the Miller Band was offered to Ray McKinley after a gap of almost 6 years, and in June 1956, the New Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Ray McKinley was born.

This was another great band with again the Miller Mood but not in my opinion the true Glenn Miller sound. Again it was great to be able to see and hear Glenn Miller Music being played by a band that was well presented and precision playing just as Miller would have wanted and in fact demanded from his own musician. I had the privilege to see the band on their first visit to this country in 1958 in London, Dominion theatre Tottenham Court Road. As the sound of Moonlight Serenade was heard the curtain opened to reveal Ray and the band, the sound was electrifying and they were greeted with rapturous applause. I got my ticket for this show through the Glenn Miller Appreciation Society (as it was know in those days now the Glenn Miller Society) there were a large number of Society members at the concert.

We had heard that Helen Miller was to visit with this orchestra but during the show Ray McKinley explained to the audience that this was not correct and that Helen leads a quite life back in the States. A bit disappointing for all of us, as this was one lady we would have loved to have seen. (Helen Miller died in 1966)

The Ray McKinley band made several broadcasts on the radio in this country which I still have on tape and of course they began to issue several LP`s over the years. Unfortunately these records were issued just as Stereo was coming in and if you hadn't got a stereo pickup and cartridge then you should not play these records on a mono player. I was too anxious to hear them so played them on my mono rig and soon wore them out. Luckily over the years I have manage to replace most of them.

In the 1960's Ray McKinley and the Glenn Miller Orchestra were seen regularly on American TV and during the mid 1990's three videotapes were released. These are black and white (early TV of course) and each tape has three half hour programmes on them with Ray and co-host Johnny Desmond introducing them, a must for the keen collector. Now in 2008 I (am not sure whether these are still available.