Composed Eugene Novello; arranged by Fred Norman.
Recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra for RCA/Bluebird on May 7,1941 in Hollywood.
Glenn Miller, trombone, directing: John Best first trumpet; R.D. McMickle, Ray Anthony and Billy May, trumpets; Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy and Frank D’Annolfo, trombones; Hal McIntyre, first alto saxophone; Wilbur Schwartz, alto saxophone; Al Klink and Gordon “Tex” Beneke, tenor saxophones; Ernie Caceres, baritone saxophone; Jack Lathrop, guitar; Herman “Trigger” Alpert, bass; Maurice “Moe” Purtill, drums.
By the time this recording was made, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were one of the most successful bands in America. The year 1939 was the turning point for Miller. As that year began, he was in debt, his band was working, but rarely making enough money each week to offset current expenses. He had a recording contract with RCA-Bluebird, but the few records he had made were not particularly popular.
Slowly through that year, Miller and his management team worked as hard as possible to secure engagements that would somehow provide the band with radio exposure. That radio exposure, which Miller knew would be the key to allowing his band to become known to a wider public, would eventually come as a result of lengthy residencies at venues that contained a remote broadcasting link with some radio network. (Above left: Glenn Miller in 1939 – he was focused on success.)
Invariably, the broadcasting the Miller band did in 1938 and well into 1939 was unpaid, on what were then called sustaining broadcasts of the band in action from various dancing venues. (The bandleader and band were paid by the venue, but received no money for broadcasting from that venue.) The first of these was the Paradise Restaurant (December 23, 1938 – January 26, 1939), a large night club and dance room in Manhattan. The next of these was the Meadowbrook Ballroom, in Cedar Grove New Jersey (March 5 – March 31). The final such venue was Glen Island Casino near New Rochelle, New York May 17 – August 23). Taken together, these venues provided Miller with more than five months worth of radio broadcasts. These broadcasts established the Miller name and his band’s musical identity in the minds of the dancing (largely young people) public.. But unfortunately, none of these engagements paid enough money for Miller to break even each week. So whenever possible, he also took his band out for one-night dance jobs to earn some money to offset his ongoing overhead expenses..
After any band had been “built-up” via ongoing radio exposure, the next step, and one that was critical to establishing any band’s ongoing success, was to present it at large theaters in major cities, either for split-week or full-week engagements. These engagements presented the band anywhere from four to seven times a day, playing one-hour long shows, often on a bill with vaudeville or other acts, and a feature film. Theater engagements were grueling in that musicians in the bands being presented were virtual prisoners in the theaters where they were playing for six, eight or ten (or more) hours a day. They were also confined to playing a set show, so that any deviations from the established pattern of music were few. This added an element of boredom to the confinement. Those were some of the negative aspects of playing theaters. The major positive aspect was that the money a band could earn in a successful one-week theater engagement could be greater than the gross of three weeks of one-nighters, without the travel and attendant costs and aggravations.
After closing at Glen Island Casino, the Miller band played a week (August 25-31) at the Loew’s Capitol Theater in Washington, D.C., followed by a week at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore (September 1-7). These engagements were very successful, generating a lot of much-needed money for Miller. They were followed by some successful one-nighters, and then another successful theater gig, at the State Theater in Hartford, Connecticut (September 15-19). These engagements, successful though they were, were warm-ups for the band’s three-week stand at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan (September 20 – October 10). The weekly grosses at the Paramount Theater during this three week span exceed $50,000 – multiply by 15 to get the approximate value in today’s dollars. By the end of the Paramount Theater engagement, it was clear to everyone in the music business that the Miller band had arrived. (Above right: the marquee and facade of the Paramount Theater in Manhattan in 1942 shortly after the Miller band’s last appearance there January 28 – February 11, 1942.)
During the seven weeks from August 25 to October 10, Miller made enough money to finally offset his ongoing weekly expenses, pay back the debts he had incurred during the lengthy build-up of the band’s name an music (including a substantial loan from Tommy Dorsey), and indeed to begin, for the first time, to rack-up substantial cash surpluses each week.
But Miller was not satisfied just to have a good band that could hold its own in ballrooms and on the stages of major theaters. He wanted his own sponsored, that is paying, radio show. That, he knew, would provide his band with vital ongoing promotional value, plus it would add considerably to his bottom line profit each week. He and his managers began the full-court press on General Amusement Corporation (GAC, later General Artists Corporation), his booking agent, to get the Miller band onto an ongoing, sponsored network radio show. By the end of 1939, such a placement was secured, on a successful CBS network radio show sponsored by Ligett and Myers/Chesterfield cigarettes. For the first thirteen weeks, the Miller band appeared on this show with the Andrews Sisters, a popular trio of singers. After that initial period, the Andrews Sisters left the show, and Miller had it all to himself. For the next two and a half years, he was obsessive about making that show, which became known as Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade (after his band’s theme song), as good as possible from a musical standpoint. He was very successful, despite many challenges, in doing this. The promotional value this show provided for Miller’s band and music was incalculable.
As 1939 ended and 1940 began, Miller paid off his debts as quickly as possible, and then began the process of securing his financial future. During the entire time from 1939 until he broke up his band on September 23, 1942, he worked as hard as it was possible to work, worked through illnesses, and basically reached a point of total exhaustion. But, at age 38, he was an international music star and a wealthy man.
Through 1940 and into 1941, Miller piled success on top of success, with his CBS radio show as the ongoing promotional key, especially for the promotion of new recordings made by his band. The story of Miller’s relationship with Victor Records is a perfect example of how he operated as a businessman. (See below.)
Miller had spent a considerable amount of time as a sidemen in drummer Ben Pollack’s pre-swing era band. In that band, he met many excellent musicians, including Benny Goodman. He also met two men who were journeyman musicians, but who quickly learned the dynamics of the band business from the inside out. These two musicians were saxophonist Gil Rodin, and bassist Harry Goodman, Benny’s older brother. These three men undoubtedly discussed the business part of the music business at least as much as they discussed the music part of the music business. Harry Goodman went on to assist his brother Benny in establishing a spectacularly successful band in the period from 1935 into 1939. Rodin was the actual leader of the slightly less successful, but very profitable Bob Crosby band in the years 1935-1942. Miller went on after Pollack to work as an organizer/deputy leader/strawboss for bandleaders including early 1930s singer Smith Ballew, the mid-1930s Dorsey Brothers band, and Ray Noble’s first American band. Consequently, he knew first-hand, from long experience, what worked in the band business, and what did not.
Early 1927 – The Ben Pollack band. Notable members included L-R: 23 year-old Glenn Miller, 18 year-old Benny Goodman, Gil Rodin; Ben Pollack is smiling behind the Victor (Victrola) Records image; Harry Goodman is third from right.
Miller had a complete understanding of the fact that no successful bandleader, indeed no successful person in the music business, could achieve success on the scale he wanted it without the help of others, preferably professional people who knew more about a subject that he did. The people Miller surrounded himself with on the business side of his operation were without exception top-notch professionals who knew their business thoroughly. He sought their advice, listened intently to what they told him, considered their advice carefully, and then made his decisions.
When Miller was struggling to keep his band together in 1938, he desperately needed a recording contract if for no other reason than to promote his band’s music to an audience beyond the people who came out to listen and dance to his band in ballrooms. As autumn approached in 1938, Miller signed an entry-level contract with RCA Victor-Bluebird. That contract provided that he would receive $150 per side for all recordings he made, with no royalties and no guaranteed number of recordings. Miller did his best to try make a few good records under this contract, and to keep his struggling band performing at as high a musical level as possible. This was difficult for many reasons, but Miller persevered.
During the Paradise Restaurant engagement mentioned above, I strongly suspect that Miller and his manager, the aggressive Mike Nidorf, took various off-the-air recordings from that engagement (which Miller paid to have made) to the people at Bluebird to demonstrate for them that his band could truly make some good recordings for the company if given the opportunity. During the process of negotiating this second contract, Miller asked Victor/Bluebird executive Frank Walker if he could recommend an attorney to help him negotiate this new contract. Walker, who was impressed by Miller’s level-headed approach to business, referred him to one of the top young attorneys who had worked at Victor, but had recently gone into private practice. His name was David Mackay. Miller consulted with Mackay, and he then agreed to a new contract that paid $175 per side, plus a guaranteed number of released recordings during the contract’s one year term. This contract was slightly better than the first one. (Above left: Glenn Miller signs one of his contracts with Victor-Bluebird Records. I think that this photo dates from early 1940. L-R sitting: Victor a and r executive Leonard Joy; Victor executive Frank Walker and Miller. Standing: Miller manager Mike Nidorf and attorney David Mackay.) (1)
One thing Mackay undoubtedly told Miller during their initial meeting was that at that particular time, Glenn didn’t have very much bargaining power in his negotiations with Victor/Bluebird. Therefore, he should bargain as hard as possible with the Paradise recordings, but then take whatever offer Victor made, keep building his band’s music and name, and bide his time. Miller undoubtedly followed Mackay’s advice. By the time Miller’s contract was to be renewed, his bargaining position had changed greatly, and he was able to secure a lucrative contract with Victor/Bluebird.
The story continues – journey to Hollywood – 1941:
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra traveled to Hollywood to make their first feature film, Sun Valley Serenade, arriving there on Monday March 24, 1941. They then spent the next ten weeks in California. Before traveling to California, the band had played a back-breaking series of theater engagements, beginning with a stand at the State Theater in Hartford, Connecticut (January 24-27), then the Paramount Theater in Manhattan, which ran from January 31 to February 18. This was followed by a week at the Palace Theater on Playhouse Square in Cleveland (February 21-27); then a week at the Shubert Theater in Cincinnati (February 28 – March 6); then a week at the RKO Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio (March 7 – 13); then a week (March 14 – 20) at the Fox Theater in St. Louis.
The Miller band, in a state of exhaustion, boarded a train on the Missouri Pacific railroad for the trip to Hollywood on March 21, without Miller (see below.). They were shepherded by the band’s road manager, Johnny O’Leary, and Glenn’s civilian “lieutenant,” Hal McIntyre, who often worked as an intermediary between Miller’s band members and Miller himself. (Above right: Glenn Miller with Al Klink shown below and bassist Rolly Bundock behind – this photo was taken by Charles Peterson at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook on November 29, 1939. Courtesy of Karl Pearson.)
The amount of money Miller made in this two month span had to be huge, as week-long theater engagements could net a bandleader anywhere from $5,000.00 to $20,000.00. (Multiply by 15 to get the value in today’s dollar.) (2)
But, as incredible as it now seems, this was only a part of the work the band did during that span. They also broadcast every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for Chesterfield, and made two recording sessions for Victor-Bluebird Records. Miller had renewed his Chesterfield contract in February, and was receiving $4,850.00 weekly for his work on the Chesterfield radio show. (3) The royalties from Miller’s hit Bluebird records including “Moonlight Serenade,” “In The Mood,” “Indian Summer,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “Star Dust,” “PEnnsylvania 6-5000,” along with strong sales of many other of his records, had created yet another gushing revenue stream. 1941 would be the year when Miller’s successes went from being large to being immense. Few other bandleaders ever earned as much money from the band business as quickly and efficiently (though with a lot of hard work), than Miller did in 1940 and 1941, and would do through the first nine months of 1942. Miller understood as well as anyone that he was in a feast or famine business, and was going to make sure to earn as much money as possible in the feast years he found himself in the middle of.
Here is another sidelight that provides a bit more understanding of Miller as a bandleader, businessman, and person. While his band was traveling to Hollywood, Miller and Larry Bruff, who was the liaison between Liggett and Myers’s advertising agency and Miller for the production of the Chesterfield radio shows, stayed behind in St. Louis on March 21, and toured the Liggett and Myers manufacturing facility there. They then took a train to Chicago, where Bruff boarded the Santa Fe Chief for Los Angeles, and Miller, joined by his wife Helen, took the Santa Fe Super Chief, and traveled to Hollywood in style.
As has been discussed at other posts on this blog (4), the ban on ASCAP composers’ music being played on the radio, which began as 1941 began, had at least one unintended positive result. That was to allow the music of other non-ASCAP composers to be broadcast, and therefore, to promoted by radio. Many swing era classics resulted from this ban, including “Take the ‘A’ Train,” by Billy Strayhorn with Duke Ellington’s band, “Yes Indeed!” by Sy Oliver for Tommy Dorsey’s band, “Benny Rides Again,” and “Clarinet a la King” by Eddie Sauter for Benny Goodman, and “A String of Pearls” by Jerry Gray for Glenn Miller are but a few of the original compositions by swing era arrangers that were recorded by major bands and achieved long-term popularity as a result of the ASCAP ban.
Another is “Boulder Buff,” which was composed by Eugene Novello and arranged by Fred Norman. I have not been able to find out much about Eugene Novello. (See post script below.) However, Fred Norman (1910-1993) was a well-known participant in the swing era. Norman was born in Leesburg, Florida. He began his career in 1932 as a trombonist and singer with the Claude Hopkins Orchestra. He left Hopkins in 1938 and started arranging full-time. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, his arrangements were used by Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Jack Teagarden, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, among others. Goodman recorded his composition/arrangement of “Smoke House Rhythm” in 1938, and Artie Shaw recorded his composition/arrangement of “Solid Sam” in 1941. He worked for Tommy Dorsey during World War II, but as the 1940s progressed, he gradually focused his work on writing for singers, who were becoming more prominent than bands. He collaborated with Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Brook Benton in the 1950s and later. (At left: Fred Norman – mid-1930s, as a member of Claude Hopkins’s band.)
Norman recalled in 1971 how he made the jump from sideman with Claude Hopkins to free-lance arranger. After forming an association with bandleader Teddy Powell, who was getting his band started in late 1938 into 1939, some of the musicians in the Powell band were astonished when Benny Goodman walked into a place they were playing to listen. After he listened for awhile, he asked: “Who wrote that ‘Charleston’? They told him it was Fred Norman, and Benny sent for him. “I was very excited. He was the King of Swing. The first thing I wrote for Benny was ‘Smoke House.’ I did some more for Benny when he went into the Waldorf. The most successful thing to earn money was ‘Boulder Buff’ for Glenn Miller. He had gone to college in Boulder, Colorado and the football team there was called the Buffs. Some others I did for Miller were not recorded.” (5)
Norman’s arrangement on “Boulder Buff” is quite different from what we think of as the “Miller style.” It is a loping 2/4 excursion into swing that Miller played a lot. Dancers liked it. The soloists are Billy May on his Harmon-muted trumpet, and Al Klink on tenor saxophone, who is featured. Klink was a superlative musician who was great as a section player. He played the tenor saxophone leads in the Miller band, along with clarinetist Willie Schwartz – they were the heart and soul of the famous Miller reed sound. But beyond that, he was an excellent jazz player, as he demonstrates here.
Much has been made over the years of some sort of rivalry between Miller’s other tenor saxophone soloist, Tex Beneke, and Klink. No such rivalry existed. Beneke was high-profile because he was a heavily featured singer for Miller (mostly of novelties), and a fine player of ballads as a saxophonist. His up-tempo excursions on tenor sax were far less rewarding, though he had great command of his instrument. Klink did everything Miller asked of him exceptionally well, but was decidedly low-profile, letting his saxophone do his talking (and singing). As one would expect, few people knew who Klink was, and frequently the tenor saxophone solos he took on Miller records were attributed to Beneke. Musicians (including Glenn Miller himself) knew the truth however, and Klink was universally respected in the Miller band. (Above right: Glenn Miller and Al Klink onstage. Miller knew what he was listening to.)
As a sidelight, I think I hear John Best playing first trumpet in this performance. Best did not often play first trumpet in the Miller band (overall, Mickey McMickle played most of it), but did on occasions that called for a relaxed jazz-inflected feeling. Also, I must give plaudits to drummer Moe Purtill for his excellent, colorful support of the band and soloists throughout this performance.
After the breakup of Glenn Miller’s civilian band, Klink had no trouble finding employment with top-notch swing era bands (Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey), before he settled into a highly successful career as a studio musician in New York that stretched from the late 1940s into the 1980s. For many years, Klink was a member of the Tonight Show band on NBC TV while the show emanated from New York.
Post script – the story is completed:
One of the great things about working with a blog is receiving feed-back from the people who visit it. Shortly after this post was published, I received an email from writer, historian and Glenn Miller aficionado Glenn Mittler, who very kindly offered to send me some information about how “Boulder Buff” came to be composed and placed with Glenn Miller. I eagerly awaited the CD Glenn sent to me, which had on it detailed reminiscences of both Eugene Novello and Fred Norman about “Boulder Buff,” which had been recorded by them at Glenn Mittler’s request in the early 1980s. Here is a summary of that information, spiced up with a few quotes from Gene Novello, who seemed to be a most gracious person, and one from Fred Norman, who was also clearly a gentleman.
Gene Novello was a musician/songwriter from New Jersey, who evidently had spent some time as a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In approximately 1940, Novello composed a 12 bar riff, which he said was stuck in his mind, set it aside and forgot about it. Then, he read in Down Beat that Glenn Miller and his wife Helen both attended the University of Colorado. After reading this, “…Immediately, something clicked in my mind, and I knew that I had the title to that little riff. I decided to call it “Boulder Buff.” Novello then realized that he had to get the tune to Glenn Miller. But he did not know Miller, and Miller was by then very busy leading one of the top bands in the country. He puzzled over this problem for awhile and then called a colleague, an arranger he had worked with on occasion since 1937, Fred Norman, and asked him if he knew Glenn Miller. Much to his delight, Norman told him that he did indeed know Glenn Miller. They were both trombonists and arrangers whose paths had crossed a few times previously, always in a pleasant way. That was the good news. The bad news was that Norman had not seen or spoken with Glenn Miller for a long time.
Novello and Norman soon met, and Novello gave Norman a lead sheet for “Boulder Buff,” and explained to Norman again about why there was a Glenn Miller connection in this tune. Norman then wrote a sketch/summary arrangement on “Boulder Buff,” and told Novello that he would figure out a way to meet Glenn Miller so that they could pitch the tune to him. A few days later Norman and Novello took a chance and went backstage at one of Miller’s Chesterfield radio show broadcasts, and waited until the broadcast was finished, hoping they might catch Miller’s attention. Novello remembered: “…Backstage was jam-packed with innumerable people. I wondered how we could possibly get his attention. But when Glenn got backstage, he saw Fred.” Much to Novello’s surprise, Miller immediately came over to Norman, greeted him warmly, and took Norman and Novello into a small office away from the backstage crowding and chaos. After Miller and Norman chatted for a brief time, Norman introduced Novello, and pulled out the sketch arrangement of “Boulder Buff,” and handed it to Miller. Glenn immediately recognized the “hook” in the tune’s title, and asked Novello why he named the tune “Boulder Buff.” Miller seemed to enjoy the fact that Novello had also gone to the University of Colorado, but more importantly, he saw the possibilities in “Boulder Buff” as new material for his band. He asked Norman to do an arrangement for his band (he imposed no restrictions), and then bring it to a rehearsal.
Shortly after this, Norman and Novello brought the completed arrangement to a Miller rehearsal at the Cafe’ Rouge of Hotel Pennsylvania at 2:00 a.m. after the band had finished its gig that night. They were both amazed and a bit fearful when they saw how Miller tried out new (outside) arrangements (meaning arrangements other than those written for Miller’s band by his staff arrangers). Norman recalled “…Glenn would pass out each new arrangement to the band. they would play some of it, and he would stop them. He knew which arrangements would work and which ones wouldn’t.” That night, no new arrangements were working. Finally, Miller passed out “Boulder Buff.” Novello recalled that Miller played the whole arrangement. After the rehearsal was over, Miller came over to Novello and Norman and said that he liked the tune and the arrangement, but would need to “kick it around for awhile” before he decided what he wanted to do with it.
Shortly after that, Novello and Norman were summoned to Miller’s office, where they were offered a publishing contract with Miller’s music publishing firm, Mutual Music. Inc. for “Boulder Buff.” They signed the contract and were elated. Soon, the Miller band was playing “Boulder Buff” on the job at the Cafe’ Rouge, and after the band left New York for California to make the film Sun Valley Serenade, the tune was played by Miller on his Chesterfield radio show (which Novello heard, and was ecstatic about). A few days later, Miller recorded “Boulder Buff’ for RCA/Bluebird.
Novello provided the final sweet recollection: “I got married in 1942 and was making $24.00 a week. Would you believe that the first (royalty) check I received was for nineteen hundred and some odd dollars! My God, it was like I was a multi-millionaire! That was a tremendous amount of money at that time – for me at least.” Indeed, the value of that check today would be around $30,000.00.
My thanks to Glenn Mittler for providing this information to me. It completes the story of “Boulder Buff.”
As a special treat, here is a recording by the Tonight Show band of the 1960s, featuring Al Klink and Tommy Newsom, who both play their tenor saxophones (as a two man saxophone section and then in 16 bar jazz solos), in one of Newsom’s most famous compositions and arrangements, “Titter Pipes.” Newsom solos first and then, with a slightly edgier sound, Klink. And don’t miss Bob Rosengarden’s great drumming. This is joyous, exuberant swing.
This tune was composed and arranged by Tommy Newsom as a duet for Zoot Sims on tenor saxophone, and Phil Woods on alto saxophone, to be performed while they were touring Russia in 1962 with Benny Goodman. The title “Titter Pipes” is what the musicians called saxophones in the Air Force band he was in.
Composed and arranged by Tommy Newsom.
Recorded by Skitch Henderson and The Tonight Show Orchestra for Columbia, 1965.
Skitch Henderson, piano, directing: Carl “Doc” Severensen, first trumpet; Jimmy Maxwell, Eugene “Snooky” Young, Bernie Glow and Clark Terry, trumpets; trombones are uncertain, but probably include Will Bradley, Paul Faulise and Si Berger; Al Klink, Tommy Newsom tenor saxophones: Tony Mottola, guitar; Bob Haggart, bass; Bob Rosengarden, drums.
The recordings presented in this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
(1) The Story of America’s Most Unforgettable Bandleader …Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (1974), by George T. Simon, 155-156. Attorney David Mackay’s services for Miller in early 1939 may have been performed gratis. There is no record of him being paid by Miller until late December 1939. It was at that time that Miller began serious negotiations with Victor-Bluebird that ultimately resulted in a lucrative contract for him with that label. Moonlight Serenade …A Bio-Discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band (1972), by John Flower, 103, hereafter Flower.
(2) Flower, 273-288. All information about Miller’s theater engagements in this post comes from Flower.
(3) Miller “demanded” as a part of his contract with Liggett and Myers, the makers of Chesterfield cigarettes, “that most Chesterfield broadcasts away from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles could originate from theaters or ballrooms where the band was playing.” Glenn Miller .. What Simon Didn’t Say, by Larry Bruff (1998), 49. Hereafter Bruff. This was a major concession that allowed Miller to work at engagements while on-tour, yet still simultaneously to broadcast his thrice a week Chesterfield shows. Audiences at these remote venues loved watching and hearing Miller and his band do their Chesterfield shows. Larry Bruff was the liaison between Liggett and Myers’s advertising agency and Miller for the production of the Chesterfield radio shows. All information in this post about Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade radio show are from Bruff.
(4) Here are links to some other posts that relate to the 1941 ASCAP ban:
Here is a link to another great performance by the Tonight Show Orchestra here at swingandbeyond.com, featuring Clark Terry on trumpet: