Happy New Year! “In the Mood” (1941) Glenn Miller with Tex Beneke, Al Klink and Billy May/”What Is This Thing Called Love?” (1942) Tommy Dorsey with Connie Haines, Ziggy Elman and Buddy Rich

“In the Mood”

Composed by Joe Garland; arranged by Glenn Miller, with input from Eddie Durham and Chummy MacGregor.

Recorded live in performance from a CBS Chesterfield radio show by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra on December 31, 1941 in New York.

Glenn Miller, first trombone, directing: R.D. McMickle, first trumpet; John Best, Billy May, and Bobby Hackett, trumpets; Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy and Frankie D’Annolfo, trombones; Lloyd “Skip” Martin, first alto saxophone; Wilbur “Willie” Schwartz, alto saxophone; Al Klink and Gordon “Tex” Beneke, tenor saxophones; Ernesto “Ernie” Caceres, baritone saxophone; J. Chalmers “Chummy” MacGregor, piano; Bill Conway, guitar; Edward “Doc” Goldberg, bass; Maurice “Moe” Purtill, drums.

The story – Workaholics’ Anonymous:

The details of how “In the Mood” became a permanent part of Glenn Miller’s musical presentation can be found in the post on that subject that can be accessed by clicking on this link: https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/07/07/in-the-mood-1938-edgar-hayes-and-1939-glenn-miller/

“In the Mood” was a permanent part of the Miller repertoire because audiences loved it and requested it, sometimes multiple times on one night. That was great for Miller, who made money when each of his band’s Bluebird recordings of that tune that was sold. Although playing this tune hundreds of times definitely became tedious for Miller and his sidemen, they came to understand that “In the Mood” was the gift that kept on giving for them. Trumpeter John Best once summarized this for me in a few words: “Playing ‘In the Mood’ and all of Miller’s other hits is what enabled us to earn so much money while we worked for Glenn. Many weeks I made over $300.00 while working for him. And this was in the early 1940s, when $300.00 a week was a lot of money.” (1) (Indeed, multiply by 15 to get the value in today’s dollars.) John Best’s comments reflect his wisdom as a musician who had not only great talent as a performer, but was someone who understood the music business and thrived in it in a professional career that lasted over fifty years. (Above right: trumpeter John Best in the 1980s: a great musician and a wise man.)

Much commentary over the years has been directed at Miller’s almost militaristic discipline in running his band. That discipline was necessary not only to ensure good musical performances, but to ensure that the Miller band appeared on-time and ready to play on a work schedule that by today’s standards seems impossible. On many occasions, the Miller band worked three separate jobs in the same day. They would play at Cafe’ Rouge of Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan, often making nationwide radio broadcasts from that venue. Then they would appear at the Paramount Theater on Times Square, and play five one-hour shows daily there, for two or three weeks. Then they would broadcast their sponsored network radio show three times a week for Chesterfield cigarettes. In addition, they kept up an aggressive schedule of making records for RCA-Bluebird. Without Miller’s ironclad discipline, his band simply could not have maintained such a brutal work schedule for very long, and performed at such a high level. Miller maintained that schedule for over three years. (Above left: Miller onstage at a the Palace Theater in Cleveland, February 21-27, 1941. They played five shows a day while there. They also broadcast their Chesterfield radio shows from the stage of the theater, to the delight of audiences.)

In conversations with another Miller alumnus, Billy May, I gained more understanding of how Miller’s discipline affected the musicians in his band. Essentially, Billy told me that he and a number of other young men in the Miller band were rebellious, in the same way that young men today in their early 20s are rebellious. Consequently, they did not take kindly to Miller’s discipline. But very soon, even these rebels came to understand why Miller’s discipline was necessary. And Billy echoed John Best’s comments about the money he was making as a Miller sideman. “With Charlie Barnet, I made something like $110.00 a week, plus a little extra for the arrangements I wrote for him. With Glenn, I made three times as much a week, because I worked three times as hard. We were always so busy that I just didn’t have the time to write many arrangements for Glenn.” (2) (Above right: Billy May and John Best in a recording studio – 1971. Billy gave up playing his trumpet in the mid-1950s to concentrate on arranging and conducting. In this photo he shows Best that he still could play the trumpet.)

The music:

Glenn Miller himself introduces this spirited performance of “In the Mood,” making an oblique reference to his sponsor, Liggett & Myers, maker of Chesterfield cigarettes, which was headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, also the home of Duke University. The January 1, 1942 Rose Bowl game, the first and only such game to be played outside of Pasadena, California, resulted in Oregon State defeating Duke 20–16. The game was played in Durham because of wartime restrictions on the West Coast. The attack on Pearl Harbor had occurred barely three weeks before.

The famous saxophone section riffs in the first chorus have a deeper sonority here, the result of the presence of Ernie Caceres’s brawny baritone saxophone in the section. The tenor saxophone exchange, between Tex Beneke who plays first, and Al Klink, is quite robust, as is Billy May’s trumpet solo. First trumpeter Mickey McMickle, a pillar of strength in this band, shines in the finale.



“What Is This Thing Called Love?”

Composed by Cole Porter; arranged by Sy Oliver.

Recorded live in performance by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra from the NBC New Year’s Dance parade at the Hollywood Palladium, January 1, 1942.

Tommy Dorsey,  first and solo trombone, directing: Ziggy Elman, Chuck Peterson, Jimmy Blake and Al Stearns, trumpets; George Arus, Jimmy Skiles and Dave Jacobs, trombones; Freddie Stulce, first alto saxophone; Heinie Beau, alto saxophone; Mannie Gershman and Don Lodice, tenor saxophones; Bruce Snyder, baritone saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano; Clark Yocum, guitar; George Boehm, bass; Buddy Rich, drums. Connie Haines, vocal.

The story – swing shifts:

By mid-December 1941, Tommy Dorsey and his band were very busy, as usual. From the beginning of December until the 18th, they were working on a feature film at M-G-M in Hollywood, Ship Ahoy! On December 20, they appeared on the Mutual radio network Coca Cola Spotlight Bands broadcast, emanating from the studios of KHJ – Los Angeles. This broadcast included a blooper by announcer Gil Newsome, which was gleefully reported in Variety: INSIDE STUFF – ORCHESTRAS “Announcer on the Coca-Cola ‘Spotlight Bands’ program past Saturday night (20) pulled a faux pas at the beginning of the show that had him In a tailspin for the remainder of the half hour. Introducing the winner of the week (Tommy Dorsey) he went through an impressive spiel about, the band then announced ‘Jimmy Dorsey.’ Tommy grabbed the mike to correct things. Trade got a big howl out of the slip.”(3)

On December 22, the Dorsey band reported to Victor’s Hollywood recording studio and recorded Sy Oliver’s arrangement of “What Is This Thing Called Love?”

Christmas day found them in Moline, Illinois: Unscheduled Christmas Day Dinner – TEE DORSEY GROUNDED “Davenport, Iowa – Tommy Dorsey and gang dropped in to pay the Tri-Cities an unexpected visit Christmas Day. The famous Dorsey crew, enroute from Hollywood to Fremont, Ohio aboard a chartered United Air Lines plane, was forced down by bad weather at Moline, Illinois airport. The Fremont engagement had to be cancelled. After Christmas dinner at the Le Claire Hotel, Tommy and his gang boarded a bus for Cincinnati, their next nights’ session.”(4) December 26, 1941 found the TD band at Netherland-Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio to play a dance date. Here’s the story behind that: (Above left: At the end of 1941, an unhappy TD had to transport his band from Hollywood to the Midwest to play a dance date his booking agency couldn’t get him out of.)

MCA UNABLE TO ARRANGE OUT ON SOCIETY HOP SO T. DORSEY FORCED EAST “When Tommy Dorsey’s, second Saturday broadcast (December 27) on Coca-Cola’s Spotlight Bands program unexpectedly came through from Flint. Michigan, it was disclosed that Music Corp. of America couldn’t get a release from a December 26 private party it had booked him for before he was signed for a Metro film. The (TD) outfit has been in Hollywood since early December, and is due to open Palladium Ballroom in Hollywood, on December 29, but was forced to fly east (on December 24) to play at Netherland-Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, for society hop. Previously MCA had tried frantically to find a replacement band of equal name value, even offering more money than Dorsey was to be paid. Since band had finished its film work and had to come east anyway, MCA booked him at Rainbow Gardens, Fremont, Ohio on Christmas Day, and scheduled the Coca-Cola pickup for Saturday (December 27) from a one-nighter at IMA Auditorium, Flint, Michigan. However, due to its plane being forced down at Moline, Illinois by foul weather on Christmas afternoon, the band never made the Fremont date, leaving some 5,100 admissions high and dry. Perry Shad operates Rainbow Gardens and Sy Conners the IMA date. Vocalist Connie Haines was shaken up and several instruments damaged by in-flight turbulence and the forced landing.”(5) The Dorsey troupe played the Flint, Michigan date on the 27th, and broadcast their Coca Cola Spotlight Bands broadcast from there. They returned to Los Angeles on a chartered air flight from Detroit on Sunday December 28, and opened a stand at the Palladium Ballroom in Los Angeles the next night.

This series of events shows that no matter how successful one was as a bandleader, the vicissitudes of the road could strike at any time, imposing crushing and disruptive travel and logistical burdens. (6)

The music:

“What Is This Thing Called Love?” is a song written by Cole Porter in 1929 for the musical revue Wake Up and Dream. It was first performed by Elsie Carlisle in March 1929 in the London production of Wake Up and Dream. That revue was first produced in London because Porter had another show running on Broadway, (Paris), at the time. Wake Up and Dream ran for 263 shows in London. After the London production closed, a Broadway production opened at the Selwyn Theater on December 30, 1929 and closed on April 26, 1930 after 136 performances. The Broadway production was adversely affected by the late 1929 Wall Street Stock market crash and resulting economic depression.

Nevertheless, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” quickly became favored by jazz musicians and jazz oriented singers. In addition to being a superbly crafted song, it is one of Porter’s most often played compositions. Tommy Dorsey first recorded it as a free-lance sideman on a March 3, 1930 Seger Ellis recording date while Wake Up and Dream was playing on Broadway. The first swing band to record it was Casa Loma on February 2, 1938. One of the greatest swing era recordings of it was by Artie Shaw, on September 27, 1938, in an excellent performance of Jerry Gray’s fine, imaginative arrangement. By the time TD got around to recording it in late 1941, arranger Sy Oliver had settled into his role as a major creator of the style of the music played by Tommy’s band. (Above left: Sy Oliver and TD. They made fine music together.)

We hear a bit of Tommy’s theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” as this NBC radio broadcast begins, along with the cheers of some 5,000 dancers in the Hollywood Palladium. This broadcast began at 12:30 a.m. Pacific coast time.

The introduction Oliver wrote for his arrangement of “What Is This Thing Called Love” is, like most of his work, very colorful. The first six bars are out of tempo, and evoke a wafting, floating feeling, perhaps suggesting the ambiguous but pleasant feelings one has when one begins to explore what love is. The last two bars allows the rhythm section, principally drummer Buddy Rich’s high-hat cymbals, to establish the tempo for the performance.

The saxophones carry the melody through the first sixteen bars of the first chorus, with rhythmic interjections behind them from the open trombones (led by TD), and the open trumpets, led in this sequence by Chuck Peterson. An ensemble burst starts the secondary bridge melody, withTommy finishing it on his open and soaring trombone, with which he then finishes the chorus.

A brief modulation brings vocalist Connie Haines (shown at right) to the microphone. She was a petite girl with a big voice and a glittering stage presence. But she was an absolute pro, who sang on pitch and with swing. She had to be to compete with Tommy’s other two singers: Jo Stafford and Frank Sinatra. Stafford was the antithesis of Haines in many ways. She was at least six inches taller, and her singing style epitomized cool with smoldering emotion just below the surface. Sinatra was, well, Sinatra.

The final chorus spots the powerful TD ensemble, with trumpeter Ziggy Elman swaggering through his solo and then continuing to blast away atop the band playing the lead into the finale. Drummer Buddy Rich adds his unique brand of rocking zest throughout this performance. (At left: Ziggy blasts, Buddy rocks, and TD enjoys it.)

The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links:

(1) Conversation with John Best took place in the early 1980s.

(2) Conversation with Billy May took place in the early 1980s.

(3) Variety, December 24, 1941, 26.

(4) Down Beat, January 15, 1942, 8.

(5) Variety, December 31, 1941, 39.

(6) Additional information used in creating this post came from the excellent Glenn Miller Collections resources to be found at: https://www.colorado.edu/amrc/glenn-miller-archive/gma-catalogs/tommy-dorsey

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  1. It seems to me that both the GM and TD bands were at their commercial and artistic zenith as 1941 was ending. The mood for these extremely popular and busy orchestras could perhaps be best summed up by the title of the memoir by Miller band trombonist Paul Tanner: EVERY NIGHT WAS NEW YEAR’S EVE.

    The monumental impact of the December 7th Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor is felt globally today of course, and one of the wide-ranging effects of this attack can be found in the popular music sphere: The United States’ entry into WWII played a significant role in the demise of the Big Band Era. Major Glenn Miller, formerly the captain of one of the most successful dance orchestras, did not live to see the end of the conflict and to reform his civilian unit. War-imposed restrictions made travel for touring bands extremely difficult, and the military draft had the dual result of putting ace sidemen in uniform and, on the supply and demand principle, causing financial distress for leaders who had to pay top dollar for the services of not necessarily top-notch musicians from a draining pool of availability.

    Yet another factor that led to the end of the Swing Era, the rise of “The Singer,” can be linked to both WWII and, ironically, to the artistic decisions of some of the leaders themselves: By the later months of 1941, vocal records had become the focus for many of the top bands. With war clouds hovering over the States, audiences grew increasingly serious and sentimental and, it appears, wanted to be reassured by the soothing and romantic voices of the various bands’ singers. For the average person, lyrics are more accessible than a virtuosic jazz solo. No bandleader clung to the Swing Era’s formula and structure as tenaciously as Tommy Dorsey did — and yet it can be said that his habitual exaltation of his vocal department (which, in fairness, was the best in the business by ’41 — to these ears, anyway) contributed to the death of the very thing he hoped would last forever!

    Dodo Marmarosa left the Artie Shaw orch during his second stint because, by the leader’s own account, the pianist could no longer stand to play “Frenesi.” We must imagine that the Miller sidemen were of stouter stuff, as the many who were with the band from 8/1/39, when the historic “In The Mood” was waxed, to the old gang’s break-up in September of ’42 were called upon to play the crew’s biggest hit many more times than Dodo was required to tinkle through “Frenesi.” (Then again, Dodo, one of my favourite pianists, had some serious emotional problems, stemming in part from a severe beating he barely endured while a member of the Krupa orch.) In any case, apart from the monetary incentive, we must wonder how Tex Beneke and Al Klink, in particular, and various trumpet soloists, beginning with Clyde Hurley, who was present on the commercial recording, were able to squeeze something fresh out of their horns for the arrangement’s improvisational passages when they had to perform the tune night after night, sometimes multiple times per engagement. The extemporizers and the band as a whole perform on this New Year’s Eve aircheck with what sounds like genuine gusto. Enthusiasm, we know, can be difficult to feign — if it was here, the Miller lads were damned good actors. Tex, masterful on ballads, sounds here (as often) a little wheezy in swing mode, but he nevertheless appears fully engaged in the mock battle with Klink. As usual, Al’s tone and ideas win, as far as I’m concerned. As noted, Ernie Caceres’ bari sax makes a big difference in the section, adding sonic girth. What an asset to the band that guy was!

    Thomas F. Dorsey Jr. consistently displayed excellent taste and great discernment in selecting sidemen and musicians as well as material. We may imagine that he was enchanted by Porter’s trademark use of harmonic instability when first he encountered the standard-to-be, “What Is This Thing Called Love,” in 1930. Later, with his own orchestra, Tommy regularly recorded old tunes — and not necessarily because they were currently being revived by inclusion in a contemporary movie and the folks at Victor Records were clamouring for a modern treatment. We must assume that the trombonist wanted to record “What Is This Thing” simply because he liked the song. (It’s possible, too, of course, that the idea was Sy Oliver’s.)

    My high regard for Tommy’s musical perspicacity indeed led me to view his hiring of Connie Haines with disbelief. Visually, she appears to have fit the criteria of the day, but because I don’t listen to forms and faces but, rather, to the sounds that come out of the mouths on faces, I have little to no interest in the appearance of a vocalist not personally known. I must say, though — just as I’ve grown more tolerant of the Berigan thrushes I once complained about, I find now that I’m more patient with Connie’s choruses. She was no Jo Stafford, not by a long shot — but the petite songstress was, I guess, competent in her rhythm singer role. For her part, Jo, the Pied Pipers’ lead vocalist, seems to have had no illusions about herself; in an interview with radio personality Fred Hall, she said, pointedly: “And, I mean, the other thing in those days with the girl singers is you were cute and pert and jumped around a lot. And I hadn’t been cute and pert since I was like six, so he always had a girl singer and so Connie left the band and he did give me solos. Tommy was a fan of mine and from time to time I did have solos, even though he had a girl singer. And then when Connie left the band I took over for all the girls.” As the Dorsey orch’s rhythm singer, it was Connie’s good fortune to have charts tailored for her by the guy largely in charge of the swing material, the great Sy Oliver, my favourite arranger. The best new song that Ms Haines was awarded was the brilliant Matt Dennis-Tom Adair “Will You Still Be Mine?”, arranged by Axel Stordahl — but, by far, the best chart she ever got was Sy’s socko take on “What Is This Thing Called Love.” We may indulge in a little wistful speculation on how Jo might have approached the job, but still we can be fair and acknowledge that Connie handled the assignment, both on the studio recording and here on location, in splendid fashion.

    Sy’s chart is simply a knockout! Here, with the reeds, he grabs the attention from the first note and holds it to the last, as always. In the opening chorus, Tommy has the opportunity to be both smooth and punchy and makes the most of it. The fact that this live take bears so strong a resemblance to the newly-waxed side is testament to the band’s consistency and discipline. Ziggy’s spot, as we hear, hews very closely to his solo on the Victor record. Buddy is dynamic as ever. We must believe, from the results, that he loved playing all of Sy’s arrangements. … What a way to ring in ’42!

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