Saturday, September 5, 2009


 By Steve Crum

It was 1954’s The Glenn Miller Story that really got me into big bands. Although I did not see it until it was on TV when I was into young adulthood, hearing that great Miller sound was an immediate hook. Not that I was totally unexposed before that time. There were a handful of 45 rpm records I had purchased during jr. high years. The one I recall best, which I still have tucked away behind DVDs and CDs, is an RCA extended play 45 of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust performed by four big bands: Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller. Shaw’s version remains my favorite. No doubt I originally got this record to please my parents and grandparents. In those days, most of my age group had long since gyrated into rock ‘n roll land, which I never did.

For the most part, I actually preferred my past generations’ music. By the time I was 12 (in 1959), WWII big band music seemed a leap forward to me. That was because my #1 musical preference was the Elvis of the Stone Age, Al Jolson. All it took was one glance and a listen to The Jolson Story (1946), and I became Jolsonized. But that is another blog entirely. My only transition back to big bands is that I have a recording of Jolie, singing both April Showers and Ma Blushin' Rosie, accompanied by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. That said and hummed...
What was the FIRST GOLD RECORD awarded for any song selling a million records? Hint: It was awarded to Glenn Miller. Choose one:
A. Moonlight Serenade
B. In the Mood
C. Chattanooga Choo Choo
D. Pennsylvania 6-5000
ANSWER: CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO. RCA Victor, Miller’s one and only recording company, gave him the symbolic gold record in 1942 when the 78 rpm disk reached 1,200,000 in sales. For the record, so to speak, Chattanooga Choo Choo was #1 on the Billboard charts for nine weeks. Its matrix code on the RCA Bluebird label is B-11230-B. More importantly, the recording features Miller regulars Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, and The Modernaires. A rarely heard 2-Channel stereo track of the song played on-screen by the Glenn MIller Orchestra is a plus to the laser disk release of 1941’s Sun Valley Serenade. Unfortunately, no DVD version is yet available. Written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, Chattanooga Choo Choo was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996.
GLENN MILLER [March 1, 1904-Dec. 15, 1944] was serving as major, and heading his Army Air Force Band, when his plane evidently crashed over France during WWII. Neither his body nor the plane and its crew and other passengers were ever found.
Dedicated to my truly dear Aunt Ada Holley, who did indeed sing with a big band and is now the youngest 85 year-old ever and #1 Glenn Miller fan, please enjoy Glenn Miller and his Orchestra performing Chattanooga Choo Choo in this scene from Sun Valley Serenade:
AND here is pt. 2 of the same scene, featuring Dorothy Dandridge and The Nicholas Brothers:

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