About this Recording
8.120746 - MILLER, Glenn: Glen Island Special (1938-1942)



Glen Island Special: The Great Instrumentals

Original Recordings 1938-1942


“Glenn Miller’s orchestra is generally considered to have been the most popular organization in the history of dance bands,” wrote George Simon, author and former editor of Metronome magazine.   From the time the band opened at the Glen Island Casino in the Spring of 1939 till the time it was disbanded in September 1942 when Glenn accepted a commission in the Army, there were few bands that could rival its success.


But success did not come immediately to Glenn Miller.  His first band, formed in March 1937, failed and was disbanded in January 1938.  Miller started a new band in March 1938.  It wasn’t until the band’s  lengthy engagement at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New  York, from 17 May 1939 to 23 August 1939, that he became well known.  Numerous coast-to-coast radio broadcasts over the NBC and Mutual networks and the enthusiastic response of the dancers, guaranteed the band’s success. 


The nineteen instrumentals contained in this CD are good examples of the Miller band’s ability to play swing and dance music.   


In The Mood became Glenn Miller’s biggest instrumental hit.  This recording illustrates Miller’s uncanny ability to edit an arrangement.  Composer Joe Garland had originally presented the arrangement to Artie Shaw but Shaw never recorded it because it ran longer than the allowable three minutes and twenty seconds’ maximum time on a 78 rpm record.  Miller was able to condense it down to a tight, swinging instrumental, adding a closing riff with repeated fadeouts until the band explodes into the rousing finale.  The famous tenor sax battle is between  Tex Beneke and Al Klink and this is followed by a trumpet solo by Clyde Hurley. 


Sunrise Serenade is a perfect example of the band’s distinctive clarinet lead reed sound.  It features Tex Beneke on tenor sax.     


By The Waters of Minnetonka is from Miller’s first recording session for RCA Victor on the Bluebird label.  Originally recorded as a two-sided 78 rpm 10˝ disc, it is now heard here as a continuous number.  Arranged by Glenn Miller, it features Beneke on tenor sax and clarinet, Miller on trombone, Johnny Austin on trumpet and Bill Stegmeyer on alto sax.


Little Brown Jug, arranged by Bill Finegan, was the band’s first big hit.  Beneke, Hurley and Miller take the swinging solos.


Pavanne is an interesting arrangement by Finegan.  Solos are by Beneke on sax and  Miller on muted trombone.    


Eddie Durham not only arranged for Count Basie but  also did a number of arrangements for the Miller band including Glen Island Special which was dedicated to the Glen Island Casino.  On this swinging arrangement, Hurley is featured on trumpet, followed by Beneke on tenor sax. The second tenor sax solo is by Al Klink.


My Isle of Golden Dreams features a beautiful Beneke tenor sax solo.  About halfway through this Finegan arrangement there is a tempo change that must have confused many dancers at the time. 


I Want To Be Happy, another swing arrangement by Durham, spots solos by Hurley, Beneke, Miller and Maurice Purtill on drums.


Johnson Rag starts with one of those slow build-ups and after a number of solos culminates in a rousing finish which was a typical Miller swing device.  Beneke takes the first eight bars of tenor followed by Klink.  Miller plays the trombone break and  then Hurley is heard on trumpet.  Arrangement is by Finegan.


By the beginning of 1940 a new arranger had joined the Miller band.  Jerry Gray came to the band after Artie Shaw disbanded in late 1939.  Tuxedo Junction was arranged by Gray.  According to George Simon, it sold 115,000 copies in the first week.  Mickey McMickle plays the opening muted trumpet solo, followed by Hurley soloing on open trumpet and then McMickle is heard again.  Note that this is take 1 and most reissues have been from take 2.


The Miller band opened at the Hotel Pennsylvania in January 1940 and remained there for three months.  Pennsylvania 6-5000, arranged by Gray, was the telephone number at the Hotel Pennsylvania.  It remains the telephone number to this day even though the name of the hotel has changed.  Trumpet solo is by Johnny Best with tenor sax solo by Beneke.   


In 1941 there was a ban on playing ASCAP music on the radio networks.  Miller and other bandleaders turned to recording BMI and public-domain tunes.  Song of the Volga Boatmen is a Russian folk song.  This outstanding arrangement is by Finegan.  Miller comments extensively on the making of this rhythmic arrangement in his book Glenn Miller’s Method For Orchestral Arranging.  He states that the tune begins with three separate themes – first by the rhythm section, followed  by the four trombones and then a muted trumpet solo by Billy May.  Ernie Caceres solos on alto sax.  After the diminishing drum break by Purtill, the four trombones begin a passage followed by four unison trumpets in a short fugato which leads into the backtime rhythm of handclaps.


The original 78 of Anvil Chorus was a two-sided 10˝ disc.  According to Down Beat magazine, it took “three previous attempts which left him dissatisfied” before Miller finally got what he wanted on record.  Arranged by Gray, the issued version shows great execution.  Purtill is featured along with Beneke and May.  Side two started right after Purtill’s drum break.  Ernie Caceres plays the gutsy clarinet solo.  Take 2 (from side two) has been issued here and the major difference between Take 1 and Take 2 is a slight mistake by the trumpet near the end of the tune.  It is interesting to note that Take 2 was only issued on Canadian Bluebird.


Adios, arranged by Gray, features a pretty muted trumpet solo by McMickle, lots of ooh-wahs by the brass, a muted trombone solo by Miller, more muted McMickle with bass notes plucked at the end by Doc Goldberg.


Bobby Hackett joined the band as guitarist in July 1941.  “When Glenn hired me I wasn’t playing cornet.  I’d just had some dental surgery, so I couldn’t blow my horn,” recalled Hackett.  As soon as his gums healed Glenn began featuring Hackett on cornet solos.  A String of Pearls, one of Jerry Gray’s finest compositions and arrangements, is a good example of Hackett’s work.   The recording starts out with an alto sax solo by Caceres and then two-bar alto sax exchanges between Caceres and Beneke (Tex was playing lead alto at this time after McIntyre left the band), followed by another challenge on tenors between Klink and Babe Russin in that order.  Next is Bobby Hackett’s famous cornet solo.  His innovative twelve bar solo added a great deal to the success of the recording. 


American Patrol was arranged by Gray.  He interpolated Columbia the Gem of the Ocean and Yankee Doodle Dandy into the arrangement and changed this march into a swing number which features Purtill and May.  It contains Miller’s favorite trick of fading way down just before the ending and going out with a swinging finish.


The last three numbers on this CD were recorded when the band was playing at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.  Sleepy Town Train is a medium tempo jump tune that  has muted trumpet by May, alto sax by Skippy Martin, May again and tenor sax by Beneke.


George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue was the last tune the civilian Miller band recorded.  Arranged by Finegan, the Miller version is an excerpt from the second half of the rhapsody.  It features a lovely Hackett cornet solo and Beneke blows a very wistful tenor sax.  Metronome magazine thought so highly of this recording that they gave it an A-rating.


Jerry Gray’s composition and arrangement of Here We Go Again closes our set.  It features excellent solos by Klink, May and Purtill. The title of this tune is ironic since a record ban on 1August put an end to all recording for over a year.  The Miller civilian band disbanded on 27September 1942 and never did “Go Again” on records.


John Flower

Author of Moonlight Serenade, A Bio-discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band

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