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Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller Billboard.jpg
Miller c. 1942
Alton Glenn Miller

(1904-03-01)March 1, 1904
DisappearedDecember 15, 1944 (aged 40)
over English Channel
Helen Burger
(m. 1928)
Musical career
GenresSwing music, big band
Occupation(s)Bandleader, musician, arranger, composer
Years active1923–1944
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Forces
Years of service1942–1944
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsBronze Star (posthumously; 1945)

Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 – disappeared December 15, 1944)[1][2][3] was an American big band trombonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the Swing era. He was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1942, leading one of the best-known big bands. Miller's recordings include "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade", "Pennsylvania 6-5000", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "A String of Pearls", "At Last", "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo", "American Patrol", "Tuxedo Junction", "Elmer's Tune", "Little Brown Jug", and "Anvil Chorus".[4] In just four years, Miller scored 16 number-one records and 69 top-10 hits—more than Elvis Presley (40 top 10s)[5] and the Beatles (33 top 10s) did in their careers.[6][7][8]

In 1942, Miller volunteered to join the U.S. military to entertain troops during World War II, ending up with the U.S. Army Air Forces. On December 15, 1944, while flying to Paris, Miller's aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal. In terms of his musical legacy, multiple recordings of his are in the Grammy Hall of Fame while his work has been performed by multiple jazz troupes in the U.S. over the past several decades for both veterans and others.

Early life and career

The son of Mattie Lou (née Cavender) and Lewis Elmer Miller, Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa.[9] He attended grade school in North Platte in western Nebraska. In 1915, his family moved to Grant City, Missouri. Around this time, he had made enough money from milking cows to buy his first trombone and played in the town orchestra. He played coronet and mandolin, but he switched to trombone by 1916.[10] In 1918, the Miller family moved again, this time to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he went to Fort Morgan High School. In the fall of 1919, he joined the high-school football team, the Maroons, who won the Northern Colorado American Football Conference in 1920. He was named Best Left End in Colorado.[11] During his senior year, he became interested in "dance-band music". He was so taken that he formed a band with some classmates. By the time he graduated from high school in 1921, he had decided to become a professional musician.[9]

In 1923, Miller entered the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he joined Sigma Nu fraternity.[12] He spent most of his time away from school, attending auditions and playing any gigs he could get, including with Boyd Senter's band in Denver. After failing three out of five classes, he dropped out of school to pursue a career in music.

He studied the Schillinger system with Joseph Schillinger, under whose tutelage he composed what became his signature theme, "Moonlight Serenade".[13] In 1926, Miller toured with several groups, landing a good spot in Ben Pollack's group in Los Angeles. He also played for Victor Young, which allowed him to be mentored by other professional musicians.[14] In the beginning, he was the main trombone soloist of the band, but when Jack Teagarden joined Pollack's band in 1928, Miller found that his solos were cut drastically. He realized that his future was in arranging and composing.[10]

He had a songbook published in Chicago in 1928 entitled Glenn Miller's 125 Jazz Breaks for Trombone by the Melrose Brothers.[15] During his time with Pollack, he wrote several arrangements. He wrote his first composition, "Room 1411", with Benny Goodman, and Brunswick Records released it as a 78 rpm record under the name "Benny Goodman's Boys".[16]

In 1928, when the band arrived in New York City, he sent for and married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger. He was a member of Red Nichols's orchestra in 1930, and because of Nichols, he played in the pit bands of two Broadway shows, Strike Up the Band and Girl Crazy. The band included Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa.[17]

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Miller worked as a freelance trombonist in several bands. On a March 21, 1928, Victor Records session, he played alongside Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Joe Venuti in the All-Star Orchestra directed by Nat Shilkret.[18][19][20] He arranged and played trombone on several significant Dorsey brothers sessions for OKeh Records, including "The Spell of the Blues", "Let's Do It", and "My Kinda Love", all with Bing Crosby on vocals. On November 14, 1929,[21] vocalist Red McKenzie hired Miller to play on two records: "Hello, Lola" and "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight".[22][23] Beside Miller were saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, guitarist Eddie Condon, and drummer Gene Krupa.[24]

In the early to mid-1930s, Miller worked as a trombonist, arranger, and composer for The Dorsey Brothers, first when they were a Brunswick studio group and then when they formed an ill-fated orchestra.[25] Miller composed the songs "Annie's Cousin Fanny",[26][27][28] "Dese Dem Dose",[25][28] "Harlem Chapel Chimes", and "Tomorrow's Another Day" for the Dorsey Brothers Band in 1934 and 1935. In 1935, he assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble,[25] developing the arrangement of lead clarinet over four saxophones that became a characteristic of his big band. Members of the Noble band included Claude Thornhill, Bud Freeman, and Charlie Spivak.

Miller made his first movie appearance in The Big Broadcast of 1936 as a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra performing "Why Stars Come Out at Night". The film included performances by Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers, who would appear with Miller again in two movies for Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 and 1942.

In 1937, Miller compiled several arrangements and formed his first band. After failing to distinguish itself from the many bands of the time, it broke up after its last show at the Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on January 2, 1938.[29]

Benny Goodman said in 1976:

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."[30]

Success from 1938 to 1942

The Glenn Miller Orchestra
The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Discouraged, Miller returned to New York. He realized that he needed to develop a unique sound, and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave. George T. Simon discovered a saxophonist named Wilbur Schwartz for Glenn Miller. Miller hired Schwartz but instead had him play lead clarinet. According to Simon, "Willie's tone and way of playing provided a fullness and richness so distinctive that none of the later Miller imitators could ever accurately reproduce the Miller sound."[31] With this new sound combination, Glenn Miller found a way to differentiate his band's style from that of many bands that existed in the late '30s. Miller talked about his style in the May 1939 issue of Metronome magazine. "You'll notice today some bands use the same trick on every introduction; others repeat the same musical phrase as a modulation into a vocal ... We're fortunate in that our style doesn't limit us to stereotyped intros, modulations, first choruses, endings, or even trick rhythms. The fifth sax, playing the clarinet most of the time, lets you know whose band you're listening to. And that's about all there is to it."[32]

Bluebird Records and Glen Island Casino

1939 Baltimore Hippodrome Ballroom concert poster.
1939 Baltimore Hippodrome Ballroom concert poster.

In September 1938, the Miller band began recording for Bluebird, a subsidiary of RCA Victor.[33] Cy Shribman, a prominent East Coast businessman, financed the band.[34] In the spring of 1939, the band's fortunes improved with a date at the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and more dramatically at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York. According to author Gunther Schuller, the Glen Island performance attracted "a record-breaking opening-night crowd of 1800..."[35] The band's popularity grew.[36] In 1939, Time magazine noted: "Of the 12 to 24 discs in each of today's 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller's."[37] In 1940, the band's version of "Tuxedo Junction" sold 115,000 copies in the first week.[38] Miller's success in 1939 culminated with an appearance at Carnegie Hall on October 6, with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Fred Waring also on the schedule.[39]

From December 1939 to September 1942, Miller's band performed three times a week during a quarter-hour broadcast for Chesterfield cigarettes on CBS radio[40]—for the first 13 weeks with the Andrews Sisters and then on its own.[41] On February 10, 1942, RCA Victor presented Miller with the first gold record for "Chattanooga Choo-Choo".[42][43] The Miller orchestra performed "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with his singers Gordon "Tex" Beneke, Paula Kelly and the Modernaires.[44] Other singers with this orchestra included Marion Hutton,[45] Skip Nelson,[46] Ray Eberle[47] and (to a smaller extent) Kay Starr,[48] Ernie Caceres,[49] Dorothy Claire[50] and Jack Lathrop.[51] Pat Friday ghost-sang with the Miller band in their two films, Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives, with Lynn Bari lip-synching.[52]

First gold record award for "Chattanooga Choo Choo" presented to Glenn Miller by W. Wallace Early of RCA Victor with announcer Paul Douglas on far left, February 10, 1942
First gold record award for "Chattanooga Choo Choo" presented to Glenn Miller by W. Wallace Early of RCA Victor with announcer Paul Douglas on far left, February 10, 1942

Motion pictures

Miller and his band appeared in two Twentieth Century Fox films. In 1941's Sun Valley Serenade they were major members of the cast, which also featured comedian Milton Berle, and Dorothy Dandridge with the Nicholas Brothers in the show-stopping song-and-dance number, "Chattanooga Choo Choo".[53] The Miller band returned to Hollywood to film 1942's Orchestra Wives,[54] featuring Jackie Gleason playing a part as the group's bassist, Ben Beck. Miller had an ailment that made laughter extremely painful. Since Gleason was a comedian, Miller had a difficult time watching him more than once, because Miller would start laughing.[55] Though contracted to do a third movie for Fox, Blind Date, Miller entered the U.S. Army and this film was never made.[56]

Critical reaction

In 2004, Miller orchestra bassist Trigger Alpert explained the band's success: "Miller had America's music pulse... He knew what would please the listeners."[57] Although Miller was popular, many jazz critics had misgivings. They believed that the band's endless rehearsals—and, according to critic Amy Lee in Metronome magazine, "letter-perfect playing"—removed feeling from their performances.[58] They also felt that Miller's brand of swing shifted popular music from the hot jazz of Benny Goodman and Count Basie to commercial novelty instrumentals and vocal numbers.[59] After Miller died, the Miller estate maintained an unfriendly stance toward critics who derided the band during his lifetime.[60]

Miller was often criticized for being too commercial. His answer was, "I don't want a jazz band."[61][62] Many modern jazz critics harbor similar antipathy. In 1997, on a website administered by JazzTimes magazine, Doug Ramsey considers him overrated. "Miller discovered a popular formula from which he allowed little departure. A disproportionate ratio of nostalgia to substance keeps his music alive."[63][64][65]

Miller's management of his band has also been noted to have dampened the spirits of his musicians. His insistence on neat appearance and tight discipline onstage was not well-liked by some band members. He carried this philosophy into his Army Air Force band during World War II.

Jazz critics Gunther Schuller[66] (1991), Gary Giddins[67][68] (2004) and Gene Lees (2007)[69] have defended Miller from criticism. In an article written for The New Yorker magazine in 2004, Giddins said these critics erred in denigrating Miller's music, and that the popular opinion of the time should hold greater sway. "Miller exuded little warmth on or off the bandstand, but once the band struck up its theme, audiences were done for: throats clutched, eyes softened. Can any other record match 'Moonlight Serenade' for its ability to induce a Pavlovian slaver in so many for so long?"[67] Schuller notes, "[The Miller sound] was nevertheless very special and able to penetrate our collective awareness that few other sounds have..."[70] He compares it to "Japanese Gagaku [and] Hindu music" in its purity.[70] Schuller and Giddins do not take completely uncritical approaches to Miller. Schuller says that Ray Eberle's "lumpy, sexless vocalizing dragged down many an otherwise passable performance."[70] But Schuller notes, "How much further [Miller's] musical and financial ambitions might have carried him must forever remain conjectural. That it would have been significant, whatever form(s) it might have taken, is not unlikely."[70]

Reaction from musical peers

Miller from the Billboard Music Yearbook
Miller from the Billboard Music Yearbook

Louis Armstrong thought enough of Miller to carry around his recordings, transferred to seven-inch tape reels when he went on tour. "[Armstrong] liked musicians who prized melody, and his selections ranged from Glenn Miller to Jelly Roll Morton to Tchaikovsky."[71] Jazz pianist George Shearing's quintet of the 1950s and 1960s was influenced by Miller: "with Shearing's locked hands style piano (influenced by the voicing of Miller's saxophone section) in the middle [of the quintet's harmonies]".[72][73] Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé held the orchestra in high regard. Tormé credited Miller with giving him helpful advice when he first started his singing and songwriting career in the 1940s. Tormé met Glenn Miller in 1942, the meeting facilitated by Tormé's father and Ben Pollack. Tormé and Miller discussed "That Old Black Magic", which was just emerging as a new song by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. Miller told Tormé to pick up every song by Mercer and study it and to become a voracious reader of anything he could find, because "all good lyric writers are great readers."[74] In an interview with George T. Simon in 1948, Sinatra lamented the inferior quality of music he was recording in the late '40s, in comparison with "those great Glenn Miller things"[75] from eight years earlier. Frank Sinatra's recording sessions from the late '40s and early '50s use some Miller musicians. Trigger Alpert, a bassist from the civilian band, Zeke Zarchy for the Army Air Forces Band and Willie Schwartz, the lead clarinettist from the civilian band back up Frank Sinatra on many recordings.[76][77] With opposite opinion, fellow bandleader Artie Shaw frequently disparaged the band after Miller's death: "All I can say is that Glenn should have lived, and 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' should have died."[78][79] Clarinetist Buddy DeFranco surprised many people when he led the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the late '60s and early '70s. De Franco was already a veteran of bands like Gene Krupa and Tommy Dorsey in the '40s. He was also a major exponent of modern jazz in the '50s.[80] He never saw Miller as leading a swinging jazz band, but DeFranco is extremely fond of certain aspects of the Glenn Miller style. "I found that when I opened with the sound of 'Moonlight Serenade', I could look around and see men and women weeping as the music carried them back to years gone by."[81][82] De Franco says, "the beauty of Glenn Miller's ballads [...] caused people to dance together."[83]

Army Air Forces Band: 1942–1944

In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Miller decided to join the war effort, forsaking an income of $15,000 to $20,000 per week in civilian life (equivalent to $249,000 to $332,000 per week in 2021), including a home in Tenafly, New Jersey.[84][85] At 38, Miller was too old to be drafted and first volunteered for the Navy, but was told that they did not need his services.[86] Miller then wrote to Army Brigadier General Charles Young. He persuaded the U. S. Army to accept him so he could, in his own words, "be placed in charge of a modernized Army band".[9] After he was accepted into the Army, Miller's civilian band played its last concert in Passaic, New Jersey, on September 27, 1942, with the last song played by the Miller civilian band being "Jukebox Saturday Night"—featuring an appearance by Harry James on trumpet.[9] His patriotic intention of entertaining the Allied Forces with the fusion of virtuosity and dance rhythms in his music earned him the rank of captain and he was soon promoted to major by August 1944.[14]

Miller in uniform
Miller in uniform

Miller reported at Omaha on October 8, 1942, to the Seventh Service Command as a captain in the Army Specialist Corps.[87] Miller was soon transferred to the Army Air Forces.[88] Captain Glenn Miller served initially as assistant special services officer for the Army Air Forces Southeast Training Center at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1942. He played trombone with the Rhythmaires, a 15-piece dance band, in both Montgomery and in service clubs and recreation halls on Maxwell. Miller also appeared on both WAPI (Birmingham, Alabama) and WSFA radio (Montgomery), promoting the activities of civil service women aircraft mechanics employed at Maxwell.[89] At Maxwell, Miller was helped by saxophonist Gerald "Jerry" Yelverton, a veteran of Miller's prewar orchestra. Miller, playing initially with Yelverton's local band, measured the impact of his modernizing concepts on a small scale and quickly and efficiently made adaptations that were used in his famous 418th AAF band in 1943 and 1944.[90]

Miller initially formed a large marching band that was to be the core of a network of service orchestras. His attempts at modernizing military music were met with some resistance from tradition-minded career officers, but Miller's fame and support from other senior leaders allowed him to continue. For example, Miller's arrangement of "St. Louis Blues March", combined blues and jazz with the traditional military march.[91] Miller's weekly radio broadcast I Sustain the Wings, for which he co-wrote the eponymous theme song, moved from New Haven to New York City and was very popular. This led to permission for Miller to form his 50-piece Army Air Force Band and take it to England in the summer of 1944, where he gave 800 performances.[89] While in England, now Major Miller cut a series of records at EMI-owned Abbey Road Studios.[92][93] The recordings the AAF band made in 1944 at Abbey Road were propaganda broadcasts for the Office of War Information. Many songs are sung in German by Johnny Desmond, and Glenn Miller speaks in German about the war effort.[94] Before Miller's disappearance, his music was used by World War II AFN radio broadcasting for entertainment and morale, as well as counter-propaganda to denounce fascist oppression in Europe. His broadcasts included short playlets that dramatized the Four Freedoms promulgated by the Roosevelt administration, summarizing the official goals of the Allies; they equated American music with free expression and American culture. Miller once stated on radio: "America means freedom and there's no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music."[95][96][97]

In addition, the Miller-led AAF Orchestra recorded songs with American singer Dinah Shore. These were done at the Abbey Road studios and were the last recorded songs made by the band while being led by Miller. They were stored with HMV/EMI for 50 years, and not released until their European copyright expired in 1994.[98][99] In summarizing Miller's military career, General Jimmy Doolittle said, "next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations."[100]

For a time, Miller worked with actor David Niven, a lieutenant colonel in the British Army, assigned to work with the radio service created by Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and the BBC to entertain and inform American, British, and Canadian troops.

During Miller's stay in England, his band and he were headquartered in a BBC Radio office at 25 Sloane Court in London. A bomb landed three blocks away, encouraging Miller to relocate to Bedford, England. The day after he departed London, a V-1 flying bomb demolished his former office, killing at least 70 of his former officemates.[101]


U.S. Army Air Force UC-64
U.S. Army Air Force UC-64

Miller was due to fly from Bedford to Paris on December 15, 1944, to make arrangements to move his entire band there in the near future. His single-engined UC-64 Norseman, departed from RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, on the outskirts of Bedford, and disappeared while flying over the English Channel.[102] Two other U.S. military officers were also on board, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Baessell and the pilot, John Morgan.[103] Miller spent the last night before his disappearance at Milton Ernest Hall, near Bedford. His disappearance was not publicized until Christmas Eve 1944, when the Associated Press announced Miller would not be conducting the scheduled BBC-broadcast AEF Christmas Show the following day; the band's deputy leader, Tech. Sgt Jerry Gray (July 3, 1915 – August 10, 1976), stood in for him.[104]

Miller left behind his wife and two adopted children.[105] He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star,[106] presented to his wife, Helen, in a ceremony held on March 24, 1945.[107]

Conspiracy theories and other explanations of Miller's death

Numerous unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and hypotheses have been published about Miller's death. Among them are that he was assassinated after Dwight D. Eisenhower sent him on a secret mission to negotiate a peace deal with Nazi Germany; that he died of a heart attack in a brothel after arriving in Paris; and that his aircraft was hit by bombs being jettisoned by Allied bombers returning from an aborted mission to Germany. The most likely scenario was that Miller's C-64 Norseman flew into cold weather and experienced carburetor icing, causing the aircraft to lose power and crash in the cold water. Any survivors would have died of hypothermia within 20 minutes.[103]

In 1956, after seeing the movie biography The Glenn Miller Story, former RAF navigator Fred Shaw recalled watching a Norseman crash into the channel after being either hit by a bomb or knocked over by a nearby explosive blast as a fleet of RAF Lancasters, of which he was part, released their bombs into the English Channel while returning from an aborted bombing mission. Shaw checked his old logbook and found that was the same day and time as Miller's flight (the one-hour discrepancy in the reports being accounted for by the American use of local time versus the RAF's Greenwich time). Miller's flight would have taken him a few miles from that area, and an inexperienced pilot could have strayed into that zone in the foggy conditions of that day.[108]

In 2017, following a seven-year investigation authorized and encouraged by the Glenn Miller estate, the Potomac Books imprint of the University of Nebraska Press published the comprehensive book Glenn Miller Declassified by historian Dennis M. Spragg, Glenn Miller Archives, University of Colorado Boulder. With unprecedented access to previously unavailable documents from numerous government agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, and gathering thousands of other pieces of evidence, the author and contributors exposed key facts concerning Miller's disappearance.

They established beyond doubt from American and British documents that the Fred Shaw claim was physically impossible. As of December 15, 1944, SHAEF and all its commands observed British Summer Time (GMT+1). American and British records clearly document that RAF Lancasters jettisoned bombs in the English Channel between 1:00 and 1:30 pm. A flight of American Ninth Air Force bombers flying below the 8/10 to 10/10 overcast reported encountering jettisoned bombs at 1:15 pm. The C-64 with Miller aboard could not have physically arrived at the same area until between 2:45 and 3:00 pm.

The team also exposed the problematic maintenance history of the C-64, including the carburetor issues. Most importantly, a formal Eighth Air Force investigation of the accident questioned Miller's state of mind in boarding the aircraft. An inquiry, convened January 20, 1945, found that Miller was not authorized to accept the invitation of Lt. Col. Norman Baessell to board the single-engined Eighth Air Force Service Command airplane. Miller's travel orders specified a regularly scheduled Air Transport Command VIP C-47 passenger flight. When the ATC cancelled scheduled service December 13 (through December 17) due to problematic weather over the Continent, an impatient Miller went ahead with Baessell without informing his chain of command. The sworn testimony of numerous American and British witnesses established that Miller boarded the airplane and the C-64 departed RAF Twinwood around 1:55 pm. The Eighth Air Force established that "without evidence to the contrary" the C-64 went down over the water due to the probability of engine/carburetor ice and/or the possibilities of wing ice and pilot spatial disorientation. The morning of the flight, officials at the home field, RAF Alconbury, denied instrument clearance to Baessell's pilot, Flight Officer Stuart Morgan, who went ahead at Baesell's insistence under contact, or visual flight rules.

Miller was the commanding officer of the Army Air Forces Band (Special), or the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, as identified on its radio broadcasts. He had lobbied for the unit to move from England to France and SHAEF approved his recommendation. Arrangements for radio broadcasting facilities remained unresolved as of December 12, 1944. Miller's commanding officer, Lt. Col. David Niven, ordered him ahead of the band to help resolve matters before the band, its luggage, and equipment were scheduled to embark on three ATC C-47s. The band flew from England to France on December 18. SHAEF did not learn that the C-64 was overdue or that Miller was aboard it until December 18. Major Glenn Miller had no duties other than being an AAF musical and broadcasting officer assigned to SHAEF, nor was he the victim of foul play.[109]

In 2019, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) was reported to be investigating Miller's disappearance.[110][111]

Civilian band legacy

The Miller estate authorized an official Glenn Miller ghost band in 1946. This band was led by Tex Beneke, former tenor saxophonist and a singer for the civilian band. It had a makeup similar to the Army Air Forces Band: It included a large string section, and at least initially, about two-thirds of the musicians were alumni of either the civilian or AAF orchestras.[112] The orchestra's official public début was at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway, where it opened for a three-week engagement on January 24, 1946.[113] Future television and film composer Henry Mancini was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers.[114] This ghost band played to very large audiences all across the United States, including a few dates at the Hollywood Palladium in 1947, where the original Miller band played in 1941.[115] A website concerning the history of the Hollywood Palladium noted "[even] as the big band era faded, the Tex Beneke and Glenn Miller Orchestra concert at the Palladium resulted in a record-breaking crowd of 6,750 dancers."[116] By 1949, economics dictated that the string section be dropped.[117] This band recorded for RCA Victor, just as the original Miller band did.[117] Beneke was struggling with how to expand the Miller sound and also how to achieve success under his own name. What began as the "Glenn Miller Orchestra Under the Direction of Tex Beneke" finally became "The Tex Beneke Orchestra". By 1950, Beneke and the Miller estate parted ways.[118] The break was acrimonious,[119] although Beneke is now listed by the Miller estate as a former leader of the Glenn Miller orchestra,[120] and his role is now acknowledged on the orchestra's website.[121]

When Glenn Miller was alive, many bandleaders such as Bob Chester imitated his style.[122] By the early 1950s, various bands were again copying the Miller style of clarinet-led reeds and muted trumpets, notably Ralph Flanagan,[123] Jerry Gray,[124] and Ray Anthony.[125] This, coupled with the success of The Glenn Miller Story (1953),[126] led the Miller estate to ask Ray McKinley to lead a new ghost band.[117] This 1956 band is the original version of the current ghost band that still tours the United States today.[127] The official Glenn Miller orchestra for the United States is currently under the direction of Nick Hilscher.[128] The officially sanctioned Glenn Miller Orchestra for the United Kingdom has toured and recorded under the leadership of Ray McVay.[129] The official Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe has been led by Wil Salden since 1990.[130] The Official Glenn Miller Orchestra for Scandinavia has been led by Jan Slottenäs since 2010.[131]

Army Air Force band legacy

In the mid-1940s, after Miller's disappearance, the Miller-led Army Air Force band was decommissioned and sent back to the United States. "The chief of the European theater asked Warrant Officer Harold Lindsay "Lin" Arison to put together another band to take its place, and that's when the 314 was formed." According to singer Tony Bennett, who sang with it while in the service, the 314 was the immediate successor to the Glenn Miller-led AAF orchestra.[132] The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band's long-term legacy has carried on with the Airmen of Note, a band within the United States Air Force Band. This band was created in 1950 from smaller groups within the Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC, and continues to play jazz music for the Air Force community and the general public. The legacy also continues through The United States Air Forces in Europe Band, stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.[133] Today, most branches of the American military, in addition to concert and marching bands, have jazz orchestras, combos, and even groups playing rock, country, and bluegrass. All that can be tracked to Miller's original Army Air Force band.

Posthumous events

Annual festivals celebrating Glenn Miller's legacy are held in two of the towns most associated with his youth.

Since 1975, the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society has held its annual Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, Iowa. The festival's highlights include performances by the official Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Nick Hilscher, and numerous other jazz musicians, visits to the restored Miller home and the new Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, historical displays from the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado, lectures and presentations about Miller's life, and a scholarship competition for young classical and jazz musicians.[134]

Glenn Miller SwingFest logo
Glenn Miller SwingFest logo

Every summer since 1996, the city of Fort Morgan, Colorado, has hosted a public event called the Glenn Miller SwingFest. Miller graduated from Fort Morgan High School, where he played football and formed his own band with classmates. Events include musical performances and swing dancing, community picnics, lectures, and fundraising for scholarships to attend the School for the Performing Arts,[135] a nonprofit dance, voice, piano, percussion, guitar, violin, and drama studio program in Fort Morgan. Each year, about 2,000 people attend this summer festival, which serves to introduce younger generations to the music Miller made famous, as well as the style of dance and dress popular in the big-band era.

Glenn Miller's widow, Helen, died in 1966.[136] Herb Miller, Glenn Miller's brother, led his own band in the United States and England until the late 1980s.[137][138] In 1989, Glenn Miller's adopted daughter purchased the house in Clarinda where Miller was born, and the Glenn Miller Foundation was created to oversee its restoration; it is now part of the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum. In 1953, Universal-International pictures released The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart; Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, and Tex Beneke neither appear in nor are referred to in it.[139] In 1957, a new Student Union Building was completed on the Boulder campus and the new ballroom was named the Glenn Miller Ballroom. In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Glenn Miller postage stamp.[140]

In the United States and England, a few archives are devoted to Glenn Miller.[141] The University of Colorado, Boulder, has an extensive Glenn Miller archive that not only houses many of Miller's recordings, gold records and other memorabilia, but also is open to scholarly research and the general public.[142] This archive, formed by Alan Cass, includes the original manuscript to Miller's theme song, "Moonlight Serenade", among other items of interest.[143] In 2002, the Glenn Miller Museum opened to the public at the former RAF Twinwood Farm, in Clapham, Bedfordshire, England.[144] Miller's surname resides on the "Wall of Missing" at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. A burial plot and headstone for Major Glenn Miller is in Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, DC. A monument stone was also placed in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut, next to the campus of Yale University.[145] Miller was awarded a Star for Recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.[146] The headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe Band at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is named Glenn Miller Hall.

Additionally, on June 25, 1999, the Nebraska State Highway Commission unanimously agreed to name Nebraska Highway 97 between North Platte, where Miller attended elementary school, and Tryon, where the Miller family briefly lived, as Glenn Miller Memorial Highway.

Arranging staff and compositions

Miller had a staff of arrangers who wrote originals such as "String of Pearls" (written and arranged by Jerry Gray)[147] or took originals such as "In The Mood" (writing credit given to Joe Garland[148] and arranged by Eddie Durham[149]) and "Tuxedo Junction" (written by bandleader Erskine Hawkins[150] and arranged by Jerry Gray[151]) and arranged them for the Miller band to either record or broadcast. Glenn Miller's staff of arrangers in his civilian band, who handled the bulk of the work, were Jerry Gray (a former arranger for Artie Shaw), Bill Finegan (a former arranger for Tommy Dorsey),[152] Billy May[153] and to a much smaller extent, George Williams,[154] who worked very briefly with the band as well as Andrews Sisters arranger Vic Schoen[155]

According to Norman Leyden, "[s]everal others [besides Leyden] arranged for Miller in the service, including Jerry Gray, Ralph Wilkinson, Mel Powell, and Steve Steck." In 1943, Glenn Miller wrote Glenn Miller's Method for Orchestral Arranging, published by the Mutual Music Society in New York,[156] a 116-page book with illustrations and scores that explains how he wrote his musical arrangements.


Awards, decorations and honors

Military awards and decorations

Bronze Star
American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern
Campaign Medal

with two stars
World War II Victory Medal
Marksmanship Badge
with Carbine and Rifle Bars (bar images not available)

Bronze Star citation

Bust outside the Corn Exchange in Bedford, England, where Miller played in World War II
Bust outside the Corn Exchange in Bedford, England, where Miller played in World War II

"Major Alton Glenn Miller (Army Serial No. 0505273), Air Corps, United States Army, for meritorious service in connection with military operations as Commander of the Army Air Force Band (Special), from 9 July 1944 to 15 December 1944. Major Miller, through excellent judgment and professional skill, conspicuously blended the abilities of the outstanding musicians, comprising the group, into a harmonious orchestra whose noteworthy contribution to the morale of the armed forces has been little less than sensational. Major Miller constantly sought to increase the services rendered by his organization, and it was through him that the band was ordered to Paris to give this excellent entertainment to as many troops as possible. His superior accomplishments are highly commendable and reflect the highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States."

Grammy Hall of Fame

Glenn Miller had three recordings that were posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Glenn Miller: Grammy Hall of Fame Awards[157]
Year recorded Title Genre Label Year inducted Notes
1939 "Moonlight Serenade" Jazz (single) RCA Bluebird 1991
1941 "Chattanooga Choo Choo" Jazz (single) RCA Bluebird 1996
1939 "In the Mood" Jazz (single) RCA Bluebird 1983

See also


  1. ^ "Glenn Miller".
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  3. ^ The website for Arlington National Cemetery refers to Glenn Miller as "missing in action since Dec. 15, 1944""Glenn Miller". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  4. ^ "Song artist 11 – Glenn Miller". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "ACHIEVEMENTS". March 28, 2022. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel. Pop Memories (1900–1940). Record Research.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2015). Pop Hits Singles and Albums, 1940–1954. Record Research. ISBN 978-0-89820-198-7.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 12, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ a b c d "Glenn Miller History". Glenn Miller Birthplace Society. Archived from the original on May 13, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Yanow, Scott (2001). Classic Jazz. San Francisco: Backbeat. ISBN 9780879306595.
  11. ^ "Glenn Miller". Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  12. ^ "Famous Sigma Nu's" Archived September 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on July 29, 2011.
  13. ^ "Who Is Joseph Schillinger?". The Schillinger System. Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Glenn Miller Biography". Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  15. ^ Metronome, 1928, Volume 44, Page 42.
  16. ^ "Benny Goodman's Boys". Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  17. ^ "History". Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  18. ^ Connor, D. Russell; Hicks, Warren W. (1969). BG on the Record: A Bio-discography of Benny Goodman (5 ed.). New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House. ISBN 0-87000-059-4.
  19. ^ Shell, Niel; Shilkret, Barbara, eds. (2004). Nathaniel Shilkret: Sixty Years in the Music Business. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-5128-8.
  20. ^ Stockdale, Robert L. "Tommy Dorsey on the Side". Studies in Jazz. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow. 19.
  21. ^ "Red Mckenzie and his Mound City Blue Blowers". Red Hot Jazz. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  22. ^ Simon, George T. (1980). Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (1st paperback ed.). New York: Da Capo. p. 42. ISBN 0-306-80129-9.
  23. ^ Simon (1980) says in Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, on page 42, when he asked Miller years later what recordings he made were his favorites, he specifically singled out the Mound City Blue Blowers sessions.
  24. ^ Twomey, John. "Who Was Glenn Miller?". Retrieved May 31, 2009.
  25. ^ a b c Simon (1980), pp. 65–66.
  26. ^ Simon (1980), p. 9.
  27. ^ "Annie's Cousin Fanny" was recorded for Decca and Brunswick three times.
  28. ^ a b "Dorsey Brothers Orchestra". Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  29. ^ Simon, George T. (August 22, 1980). Glenn Miller & His Orchestra. Da Capo Press. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-306-80129-7. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  30. ^ Spink, George. "Music in the Miller Mood". Archived from the original on February 11, 2010.
  31. ^ Simon (1980), p. 122.
  32. ^ Simon, George T. (1971). Simon Says: The Sights and Sounds of the Swing Era. New York: Galahad Books. p. 491. ISBN 0-88365-001-0.
  33. ^ Simon (1980), p. 143.
  34. ^ Twomey, Retrieved on July 29, 2011.
  35. ^ Schuller, Gunther (1991). The swing era: the development of jazz, 1930–1945. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 667. ISBN 0-19-507140-9.
  36. ^ Simon (1980), p. 170.
  37. ^ "New King". Time. November 27, 1939. Archived from the original on July 12, 2007.
  38. ^ Retrieved on July 29, 2011.
  39. ^ Simon (1980), p. 91.
  40. ^ The entire output of Chesterfield-sponsored radio programs Glenn Miller did between 1939 and 1942 were recorded by the Glenn Miller organization on acetate discs.
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  42. ^ Miller, Glenn, A Legendary Performer, RCA, 1939/1991.
  43. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 4. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
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  45. ^ "Marion Hutton, 67, Vocalist With Glenn Miller Orchestra". The New York Times. January 12, 1987. p. 1. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
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  47. ^ "Ray Eberle" Archived September 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Solid!.
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  51. ^ Liner notes to RCA Vi LPT 6701, also see "Moonlight Serenade" by John Flower. (PDF). Retrieved on July 29, 2011.
  52. ^ King ?, Pete. "Lynn Bari's Ghost Singer Pat Friday". Big Band Buddies. p. 1.
  53. ^ Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Internet Movie Database.
  54. ^ Orchestra Wives (1942), Internet Movie Database.
  55. ^ Henry, William A. (1993). The Great One: The Life and Times of Jackie Gleason. New York: Pharos. p. 4. ISBN 0-8161-5603-4.
  56. ^ Variety, September 16, 1942.
  57. ^ "Glenn Miller: 'A Memorial, 1944–2004'", Big Band Library. Retrieved on July 29, 2011.
  58. ^ Simon (1980), p. 241.
  59. ^ For an example, see Time magazine from November 23, 1942. "U.S. jive epicures consider the jazz played by such famous name bands as Tommy Dorsey's or Glenn Miller's a low, commercial product", Time, Music: "Jive for Epicures". "Original article". Archived from the original on October 14, 2010.
  60. ^ Zammarchi, Fabrice (2005). A Life in The Golden Age of Jazz: A Biography of Buddy De Franco. Seattle: Parkside. pp. 232–234. ISBN 0-9617266-6-0.
  61. ^ Albertson, Chris, Major Glenn Miller and the Army Air Forces Band, 1943–1944, Bluebird/RCA, 1987. Liner notes.
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  63. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  64. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  65. ^ "Stride and Swing: The Enduring Appeal of Fats Waller and Glenn Miller". The New Yorker. 2004.
  66. ^ "Home". Arts on Campus.
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  68. ^ "Biography – The Official Gary Giddins Website". November 27, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  69. ^ "Jazz Profiles: The Glenn Miller Years Part 7". April 18, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
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  71. ^ Armstrong, Louis. "Reel to Reel". The Paris Review. Spring 2008: 63.
  72. ^ Zwerin, Mike (August 17, 1995). "George Shearing at 76:Still Holding His Own". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  73. ^ Keepnews, Peter (February 14, 2011). "George Shearing, 'Lullaby of Birdland' Jazz Virtuoso, Dies at 91". The New York Times. What [Shearing] was aiming for [...] was 'a full block sound, which, if it was scored for saxophones, would sound like the Glenn Miller sound. And coming at the end of the frenetic bebop era, the timing seemed to be right.'
  74. ^ Torme, Mel (1988). It Wasn't All Velvet. New York: Penguin. pp. 42–44. ISBN 0-86051-571-0.
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  76. ^ "Frank Sinatra – The Columbia Years – 1947–1949". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
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  78. ^ Susman, Gary (2005). "Goodbye: Jazz titan Artie Shaw dies. The clarinet master and top swing-era bandleader was 94". Entertainment Weekly.
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  80. ^ "Buddy's Bio". Buddy DeFranco. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  81. ^ Zammarchi 238
  82. ^ DeFranco's favorite Miller recordings are "Skylark" and "Indian Summer" see Zammarchi 237
  83. ^ Zammarchi 237
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Further reading

External links

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