APRIL 2009
compiled by Music Librarian

American Petrol
    Hunton Downs researched the mystery of Glenn Miller's disappearance for more than 50 years, and has now concluded that Miller did not die in a plane flight over the English Channel but, rather, was captured and tortured by the Nazis during a failed World War II military manuever.
    In what can only be considered a Miller thriller, the full scenario in Downs' book, The Glenn Miller Conspiracy: The never-before-told story of his life - and death (Beverly Hills, CA: Global Book Publishers, 2009), was, finally, released to the public this month.
    It will, no doubt, pour fuel on the fire for those whom the English Channel story defied common sense and, in the face of dogged questioning by a number of investigators, gradually fell apart.
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    However compelling Downs considers his claims about Miller, it is essential that he explain things with clarity and accuracy, particularly when trying to dislodge what has been in place for more than six decades and draw naysayers to his side.  He has invested a lot of time in this topic, so, in return, we owe him the opportunity to present his findings, considering them with an open mind and a full, cover-to-cover digestion.
    Allow me to first address his 271-page book in general.
    Downs, a longtime journalist, winner of a prestigious Edward R. Murrow citation for "Excellence in Radio Journalism" for his Berlin Cold War coverage, and a 1967 Pulitzer Prize nominee for his reporting from Vietnam, writes with interest, knowledge, and enthusiasm, particularly when describing historical details of World War II military personalities and conflicts.
    Perhaps some readers will complain that in the portions of text most pertaining to Miller, Downs does not write with the typical scholarly tone that one finds in, say, a definitive biography.  I admit that he uses a more casual style than I personally might have hoped for.  Consider this sentence in which he comments on Miller's ability to play the trombone while with The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934-35: "Mouthing on the horn was fairly good, not big time, but the legends liked his stuff and put up with his average 'bone.'"
    There may be a typo or two (for example, unless I'm mistaken the English village is
Bovingdon, not Bovington), and I had to scratch my head every so often, most vigorously when Downs stated what seem to be exaggerated sales figures for various Miller records (how did he determine that, for instance, I Know Why has sold over 12 million copies?), and most disappointedly when Downs seems to have mis-quoted Richard Leive.  I also noticed that Downs repeats parts of his story in spots, so, in my opinion, the book could have used more careful editing.
    Be that as it may, what, more critically, of Downs' evidence about what he says was the real fate of Miller?
    "This book is predicated not in comfortable fiction but in facts," Downs boasts, and at one point he offers a summation of the four types of sources with which he depended upon to draw his beliefs: keen personal observation; official documents; literary sources, critically appraised; and trustworthy oral sources.
     Well, the facts are presented, though not necessarily all at once, so this book requires careful reading.  Some of it will be familiar to those who have examined previous investigations by Wilbur Wright, namely Millergate: The Real Glenn Miller Story (Southhampton, England: Wrightway Publishing Limited, 1990) and The Glenn Miller Burial File (Southhampton, England: Wright Books, 1993), son David Wright's follow-up, Millergate: The Final Solution (Southhampton, England: Wright Books, 1998), or perhaps Downs' own novel, which he said was "based on facts," Murder in the Mood (Southampton, England: Wright Books, 1998).
    While at various times since the 1950s Downs or his colleagues gained access to some previously-withheld data and formerly secret communications - from locales ranging from The Public Record Office of Great Britain, located at the National Archives in Richmond, to The Document Center in Berlin, Germany ("a trove of captured Nazi papers") - there still was no single document located which, flat-out, unveiled "what actually happened to Glenn Miller."  (You weren't expecting one, were you?)
    It's more like throughout his book Downs presents, from a variety of places and based, in part, on his own and the efforts of previous researchers (including Dennis Cottam, Jack Taylor, John Edwards, Clive Ward, Wilbur and David Wright, Dale Titler, Ed Polic, Richard Leive, even Tex Beneke's brother-in-law, Sid Robinson), small pieces of a puzzle which, when analyzed and put together, make a great deal of sense.
    President Ronald Reagan, who was enlisted in 1986 to secure the release of Miller's confidential military personnel record, the so-called "201 File" held within the U.S. National Archives, quipped, "It would seem my presidential security rating is not sufficient to look into this highly classified file."
    "Did we need the 21st Century to wrap up The Glenn Miller Conspiracy?," Downs asks in his Prologue.  "It couldn't have been written until now." 
    I will not summarize everything that's contained in his book, but suffice it to say, for the purposes of this review, that Downs achieves an airtight case that Miller did not take off from Twinwood Farm, a Royal Air Force (RAF) station in England, in a single-engine UC-64 Norseman plane piloted by Flight Officer John Morgan on December 15, 1944.  Twinwood Farm was, in fact, closed that day to all traffic.
    If Morgan did, instead, depart from Wattisham in Suffolk, England, heading toward Villacoublay in France, as Downs writes, and was lost, while piloting whatever kind of aircraft, he was alone and did not stop to pick up Miller.  As for the other passenger supposedly aboard Morgan's plane with Miller, Lt. Col. Norman Baessell, who was alleged to have been into "high jinks" and "black marketing," Downs simply says that Baessell was reportedly seen in the state of Rhodesia, in Africa, after the War and "pulled down a pension into the 1950s."
    The person who evidently created the spurious Miller cover-up, Downs reveals, was Stephen Early, Press Secretary for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Downs detected, in a curious "coincidence," that the Bedfordshire, England News printed an article dated November 15, 1944, exactly one month prior to Miller's supposed flight, which told that Miller had left a local concert early, "taking a small plane, a single-engine Noorduyn Norseman, EC-64 [ sic ], piloted by Flight Officer W.O. John Morgan."
    Of course, Second Lt. Don Haynes, who had been manager of Miller's civilian band and became an administrative officer with the AAF orchestra, concocted a false, self-serving "diary" (at least three versions, actually) claiming that he had personally made preparations for Miller's flight and had seen him off from Twinwood Farm.  It was the only "evidence" offered for years, though Haynes was never mentioned by name in any official document as a witness to Miller's disappearance.  Nonetheless, Haynes' "diary" was used as the basis for part of the script of the fictionalized movie biography "The Glenn Miller Story," released to theaters on January 8, 1954.
    In reality, according to Downs, Miller's last flight from England originated at Northolt Airport, an RAF post in West London (with an unidentified command pilot and several witnesses!), then on to Bovingdon, an RAF station about 20 miles north, in Hertfordshire, which was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force beginning in 1942 and was the place to catch the shuttle to Paris. 
    Trusted Capt. Robert Baker, who was identified as Miller's usual pilot in David Wright's book, is mentioned several times in Downs' text.  However, I was surprised that Downs did not point out, as Wright did, that Baker's "Individual Flight Record" seems to show that he transported the rest of the Miller AAF band from London to Paris on his B-24 on December 15, 1944 (not three days after Miller left, per the longtime story).  Yet another reason to initially suspect the English Channel fantasy - Miller could have waited and gone with them the very next day - there was no need at all for him to take, as purported, a risky flight with Morgan and Baessell on a small plane with no de-icing equipment over the freezing water (blah-blah-blah).
    Neither was any Norseman lost on December 15, 1944, according to files held by the grandson of Robert R.C. Noorduyn, the designer and manufacturer of the plane.  There was a report that Morgan's craft, #44-70285, was found abandoned in a farmer's field in Normandy, France in January 1945, and it remained operational until it crashed on takeoff early in 1947 when an unsecured load shifted.  The Noorduyn company file stated that the plane was assigned "Adjusted Loss Salvage" at the 5th Strategic Air Depot (SAD) near Merville, France on May 6, 1947. 
    If it needs to be said in this review, contrary to what Squadron 149 navigator Fred Shaw claimed in 1984, waiting until 40 years afterwards (!) and quoting from what Downs calls a "self-manufactured" log about an aborted mission to Siegen, Germany which supposedly jettisoned a 4,000-lb. "cookie" bomb from 6,000 feet, in cumulus clouds, over the English Channel, the Squadron's authentic "Results of Operations" briefing report shows that they could not have downed "Miller's" airplane.
    Oh, what a poor deception the English Channel narrative turned out to be!
    During the 1950s, Downs was Program Chief for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Europe.  A friend of his there, Capt. Bill Loveridge, who had formerly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which was the successor to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), said that he had seen the government's "real" file about Miller and warned Downs not to pursue the matter.  As is noted in Downs' book, ". . . if foul play was suspected in an officer's death, even in wartime, criminality of intent alone could involve court martial, up to and including high ranks."
    There never was an "official" investigation of Miller's disappearance, and Downs' own curiosity got the better of him.  Thankfully, over the decades he and the others began, little by little, looking into various aspects of the Miller tall tale.
    Downs confides that neither Miller's wife, Helen, nor his brother, Herb, believed the Channel story, including a comment by Herb which disclosed that, sadly, Helen "had traveled from cemetery to cemetery on the continent for traces of Glenn's body... to no avail." 
    Going deeper into his book, Downs generates much circumstantial evidence that Miller was on a special mission, codenamed "Odin 7/13," on behalf of the Supreme Commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Miller was to go by plane into Germany, as part of "Operation Eclipse," the preparations and scheme for operations in Europe, in the event of a German surrender.  
    As Downs suggests, "Count up the alphabet to 7 and 13.  You'll get G and M, and if that doesn't tell you who the passenger was, don't guess."  He also clarifies that "Odin" meant "God of Flight" in archaic Nordic legend.
    Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the National Socialist German Workers Party, commonly known as the "Nazis," and the abominable ruler of Germany from 1933 to 1945, delayed a planned, large-scale offensive several times, and, as a result, the date of Miller's orders kept getting changed accordingly.  (Shouldn't common sense have questioned why Miller had to make several trips from London to Paris just, as was asserted by Haynes, to "arrange one concert"?  Moreover, Haynes made the travel arrangements and Miller led the band, not the other way around!)
    With intelligence that Hitler had given the go-ahead for his vicious plans, to commence on December 16, 1944, Miller was directed to begin his assignment a couple days prior.  Miller's final instructions, calling for him to depart from England on or about December 14, 1944, by military aircraft, were issued by command of, who else, Gen. Eisenhower.  He would meet Eisenhower for an updated briefing in Paris.
    All the pieces fit to Downs' logic!
    There were several eyewitness accounts which placed Miller alive and in France on the 15th and 16th, at a party at SHAEF's headquarters, the royal Trianon Palace, 1 boulevard de la Reine in Versailles, and elsewhere.  One person, Joan Heath, a SHAEF driver, attested that, following the party, she gave Miller a ride about a mile away from the Trianon, to tiny, snow-covered Buc Field, where he boarded a two-engine plane.
    "He sat alone at a square window and waved a kiss to her as the plane took off in the slush.  And aloft.  Farewell, Major Glenn Miller," Downs remarked.
    "Odin 7/13" (i.e., Miller) was, according to Downs, to head under a lowered flak curtain through the restricted zone of St. Omer, France, and in the direction of enemy lines to sympathetic General Gerd von Rundstedt's base at Fitchenhein near Krefeld, Germany, Group B headquarters, command point of the western German front.
    Downs believes that Anthony Bartley, two-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, was one of the two Cessna Bobcat pilots who flew Miller that night, though Bartley vigorously denies any involvement on his part.  The flight was evidently charted by radar and reported in code in a couple of Nazi telegrams which, in fact, are reproduced in Downs' book.
    Broderick Crawford, who joined Miller's AAF band as an actor and announcer, but was considered, according to Downs, more of a "keeper, bodyguard, chum" of Miller's, and who later became an acclaimed film and TV star, confirmed to Downs in 1979 that Miller was on a journey for Eisenhower.
    In 1945, Eisenhower wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of War Robert Patterson, stating "I am unalterably opposed to making any effort to publicize at any time any story concerning the Ardennes Battle or even of allowing any written explanation to go outside of the War Department."
    But even with Eisenhower's directive, things weren't fool-proof.  "He should have known of the immense radar system blanketing the coasts of Britain which clocked without exception every flight coming and going," Downs stated.  "The Twinwood flight would have been monitored, easily affirmed or denied.  It was not." 
    Downs feels that Miller, whose ancestors were from "Hesse, Germany," could speak passable German, and read his script in "a heavily-accented but excellent Deutsch."  Downs goes on to say, "He [ Miller ] hadn't studied languages . . . He had in his near-autistic memory a collection of German phrases from his grandparents which he wouldn't have considered worthy of a formal study offered in school."
    Miller offered his service to the Office of War Information (OWI), proposing that his band make propaganda broadcasts which would be sent into, say, Germany, along with announcements in German... as psychological warfare.
    Downs first heard one of those transcription recordings, the Musik fuer die Wehrmacht (i.e., music for the German armed forces), what later became known as the so-called "secret" broadcasts, at a 1954 get-together with colleagues from the British Forces Network.  "It had been swiped by the boys from secret BBC files at Bush House, London," Downs acknowledged.  "Here was Glenn's warm, comfortable, unmistakable voice telling Germans in their own language to give up, to disbelieve the Nazi propaganda, to remember their families at home and relatives in America."
    To my ears, listening to parts of the recordings when they were released on compact disc by RCA Victor in 1996, Miller's skill at speaking German was, at best, phonetic.
    Downs continues, "Aside from the esteem and near-idol worship Glenn was held in, there was no doubt that the one person whose voice was so well-known by Wehrmacht soldiers and German people alike that could be picked out of a crowd was Glenn-from his broadcasts in German.  Who else would make a better go-between, general-to-general, or to commanders (all except Himmler's SS forces) or more importantly, to a national audience explaining subtle differences in peace and surrender understandings? . . . It has to be pointed out that in 1944, Glenn Miller's celebrity far out-distanced Eisenhower's."
    Seeing "the handwriting of defeat on the wall" that year, von Rundstedt and a couple of other powerful Nazi generals, namely Erwin Rommel and Carl-Heinrich von Stulpnagel, were ready to depose Hitler.
    For his part, once the imminent German surrender was achieved, Miller was to proceed to the Deutschlandsender, a number of powerful radio stations designed to make contact with the entire country, therefore the best method of mass communication to the German public, and where Miller could continue to be a part of the campaign furthering the Allies' cause.
    But spies within SHAEF alerted Hitler, down to the last detail, including about "Odin 7/13," and Hitler responded with a surprise double-cross, "Autumn Mist," that led to more than 80,000 U.S. casualties during the ensuing German offensive, the Battle of the Ardennes (a forested mountain region along Germany and Belgium), known to the general population as "The Battle of the Bulge."
    Miller was intercepted and kidnapped, perhaps by German Col. Otto Skorzeny and / or Gen. Walter Schellenberg, who were the leaders of an association called Irrefuehrung, which, Downs says, translates to "dirty tricks."
     Miller was imprisoned and tortured at Le Sphinx Pigalle, a whorehouse at 2 rue Coustou, near the top of Montmartre, and which Downs reports had been owned by the Nazi party since 1935.  Besides, Downs maintains that his November 1951 search of The Document Center in Berlin located a copy of Hitler's death directive against enemy Kommandos, and scribbled in the notes, in the greenish-tipped grease pencil handwriting of none other than Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffell (SS), who oversaw all German police and security forces including the Gestapo, were words to the effect of "Miller - causes lower troop confidence in commanders."
    When Miller refused to lead his captors to Gen. Eisenhower (who, by that time, for his own protection, was traveling in a tank between the Trianon Palace and his stone-walled villa at St. Germain en Laye, 32 rue Alexandre), Miller's severely-beaten body was dumped outside the bordello and thrown to the sidewalk.
    Through an intercession in 1956 by Downs' wife, Mary, who was working for the 15th Criminal Investigative Division (CID) in Frankfurt, Germany, Downs learned that "a sergeant who was on MP duty in the Paris Montmartre the night after Ardennes broke" had been radioed "to pick up a dead or dying Major" at Le Sphinx.
    Barely conscious, Miller was said to have been able to utter the words "Fashim yeah-ge... Telek!"  Downs reasons that "Fashim yeah-ge" was "Fallschirmjaeger," the Parachute Brigades of the Luftwaffe, who, dressed as American GIs, intended to land behind U.S. lines to disrupt supplies and communications.  And "Telek" may have been "Tell Ike," which was Eisenhower's nickname.
    British G.I. Arnold Smith of Bucks County, England, was another witness to the incident: "We were only about two miles from the scene.  When we arrived at the site, French police were there as were other MPs.  I stood aside as a stretcher was being brought down with a blanket covering a nude body.  We watched as the body was loaded into a GI ambulance.  The dead man, an army officer said, 'was none other than Maj. Glenn Miller.'"
    Downs thinks that Miller's body may have been, as at least one document seems to imply, "taken to a hospital, then shipped secretly to Wright-Patterson Airfield at Dayton [Ohio]," where today there exists a small Miller collection and display.  It was a 1987 letter from the State of New Jersey Department of Health which told that the death of "Alton G. Miller" (Miller's given name) occured in Ohio in December 1944 (a message that was later "voided" by them, blaming a "clerical error"), but Downs makes no follow-up.
   Besides a list of 17 institutions or private collections which gave Downs access and a bibliography citing 95 books which he consulted about World War II, his book includes an index (which, on the five examples I checked, gave incorrect page citations or was missing citations altogether), a helpful glossary, and notes about and illustrations of documents or images linked from his text by footnotes. 
    In toto, Downs' steady digging proves conclusively that Miller was an American military hero, who met an unexpected fate while serving his country in a time of war.  Even if Miller was posthumously given a Bronze Star for "combat" (Downs says that even that was curious, because all "official" documents declared him as "missing," presumed "lost in flight," as a "passenger, non-combat"), his legacy has been denied the additional recognition which it deserves.
    "To my mind and to dozens of other truth-seekers," Downs comments, "our aim is to credit the band leader for an act of great bravery in combat possibly deserving of a Congressional Medal of Honor.  We only seek to gather evidence to let it speak for itself, wherever it leads.  Blatant threats for us to stop, which we all experienced, only justified our keeping on the trail."
    I urge you to closely read Downs' book and decide for yourself.  It should interest many people, whether Miller aficionados, former servicemen, history or military buffs, or fans of mystery and intrigue.
    Apart from the concerns which I expressed above, Downs appears to have made quite a number of discoveries, suggesting a highly likely scenario about what really happened to Glenn Miller.  Thanks to his fascinating book, he may have just, all these years later, helped to right a wrong once and for all!
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT 
John Tumpak
    It’s obvious that much work has gone into John Tumpak’s new book, When Swing Was the Thing: Personality Profiles of the Big Band Era (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2008).  With 47 chapters and 114 photographs, it’s heavy and substantial, both literally and figuratively, and in his Acknowledgements Tumpak thanks dozens of people who offered help or contributed to his knowledge.
    Tumpak has been studying the big bands since around 1980, first being attracted to them through interviews and other features of Chuck Cecil’s weekly “Swingin’ Years” radio program, from which he occasionally quotes.  Tumpak was inspired to conduct his own chats with big band leaders and alumni, and he has been writing about these performers for the last 15 years.
In fact, the various chapters of his book were originally done as articles which appeared in
L.A. Jazz Scene, Dancing USA, Joslin’s Jazz Journal, or Mississippi Rag.
    His appreciation, respect, and understanding of his subjects is to be applauded.  Tumpak’s writing is consistently interesting, and details like stating John Kirby’s given name or noting Jan Savitt’s passion for amusement parks show that he has done his homework with seriousness and accuracy.
    Tumpak covers a lot of ground in his book, recalling major bandleaders like Benny Goodman and less-discussed, but still worthy, ones such as Kay Kyser.  By reading Tumpak’s pieces, one can, to choose a couple examples, learn what made Horace Heidt successful or trace Ray McKinley’s long and varied career.
    To offer some different perspectives on the big bands, Tumpak has devoted other chapters to its sidemen (including Milt Bernhart, Buddy Childers, Jake Hanna, and Legh Knowles), vocalists (Bob Eberly, Jack Leonard, Dolores O’Neill, Andy Russell), arrangers (Frank Comstock, Johnny Mandel), and those whom Tumpak calls “contributors” (Chuck Cecil, Henry Holloway, Tom Sheils, and George T. Simon).  Rarely have these people given the same amount of coverage as the bandleaders, and Tumpak is to be commended for presenting their stories, too.
    Throughout the book, Tumpak often employs a sneaky way of getting into his topic, such as asking, in one case, what famous businessmen Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and William Hershey have in common with bandleader Glenn Miller.  (Answer: they all failed at first, but didn't give up.)
    The photographs in Tumpak's book are enjoyable to view, including a great one of the softball team from Stan Kenton’s orchestra, Henry Jerome’s band with saxophonists Alan Greenspan and Leonard Garment (both of whom left music for business and politics), former Benny Goodman vocalist Martha Tilton recording at Capitol, and a candid of trumpeter Zeke Zarchy (as well as trumpeter Lee Castle) with Tommy Dorsey.
    At the conclusion of such a splendid effort, I only wish that Tumpak would have listed a complete bibliography or section of notes, to give readers a full appreciation of the interviews he conducted himself and all of the sources which he consulted in his research.  Consider it one way of saying that I didn't want his book to end.
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT

Geoffrey Wheeler
    A member since 1985 of The International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC), Geoffrey Wheeler became the organization's President in 2008.  Over the years, he has submitted many articles to the IAJRC's Journal.
    His latest book, Collector's Guide to Jazz on Bootleg & Reissue 78 R.P.M. Records 1932 to 1952, has just been published by Hillbrook Press of Ft. Wayne, IN.  On 272 spiral-bound pages, Wheeler documents such bootleg and independent labels as Biltmore, a likely Bill Grauer and Jacob Schneider operation, which, for example, sold a dozen Glenn Miller titles belonging to Columbia and Brunswick; Blue Ace, run by Sam Meltzer, who appropriated recordings by, among others, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and Muggsy Spanier; and Temple, probably operated by Boris Rose, with recordings of  Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, and Teddy Wilson, to name a few, taken from Columbia, Okeh, and Brunswick.  In addition, Wheeler covers legitimate major label reissues, such as Columbia's "Hot Jazz Classics," Decca's "Gems of Jazz," and Victor's series "P" (popular) "Musical Smart Sets."  Wheeler examines every aspect of all titles, including label and cover variations, recording dates and sources, promotional efforts, sound quality, and on and on. 
    Big band fans will also want to carefully read other material in his book, including the text of two Decca Records artist contracts; an explanation of the difference between acetates, shellac, and paper-core discs; mention of a special Tommy Dorsey demo record made in October 1938 for Victor; and a listing of various home-cut airchecks, especially many featuring Bob Crosby's music, made by Charlie Vinal from 1940 to 1943.
     Each page of Wheeler's book is packed with facts, and his comments as a longtime collector add insight.  While there are but two ( ! ) illustrations and a name / general index should have been included, I admire that he undertook this sheer volume of research and appreciate that he shared it with the rest of us. 
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT

While We're at the Bookshelf
    I want to be sure to mention Rudy Vallee: A Pictorial Biography (Albany, GA: BearManor Media, 2008).  As stated in publicity,  "This book is a treat for readers who are not acquainted with Rudy.  For those who believe they already know him, there are more than a few surprises in store."  Its author, Doris Bickford-Swarthout, co-owner of a bookstore in Deansboro, NY, wrote a narrative and chose more than 300 images (many not previously-published) to represent Vallee's personal and professional life.
    If her text is somewhat brief, Bickford-Swarthout does provide a lot of supplemental information, including, for example, lists of recordings, broadcasts, and movie appearances, as well as interesting trivia about Vallee.  The many portraits, candids, and other illustrations are worthwhile; I had to laugh at the copy of a two-page script of "remarks to hecklers" which Vallee could use, as presumed ad-libs, in his club dates. 
    Though Bickford-Swarthout reports that she had the cooperation of his widow, Eleanor, she evidently didn't use Vallee's extensive personal materials in the American Radio Archives and Museum established by the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation in California.  Instead, she acquired materials from various other sources such as private collectors.
     Bickford-Swarthout set her objective to, simply, "present Rudy as I discovered him, and, more importantly, to remember a fabulous life and career."  She was more than successful with that goal and I think that her book will be enjoyable to a lot of people.
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT

    Hazen Schumacher is known to many listeners as producer and host of "Jazz Revisited," distributed by National Public Radio (NPR).  He and John Stevens prepared A Golden Age
of Jazz Revisited 1939-1942: Three years of musical excitement when jazz was the world's
popular music (Ann Arbor, MI: NPP Books, 2008).  To support their preferences, Schumacher and Stevens organized their text around 55 recordings (49 of which are heard on two enclosed CDs), including explanatory notes and label reproductions.  They also provide an introductory overview for each year and other brief related topics.  The recordings are limited to studio recordings, available elsewhere, and not all of their choices are big bands.  While I don't doubt the sincerity of the co-authors, given the focused and opinionated nature of their project (not to mention the title's expensive price), this is not essential.  
Big Band Library rating: GOOD

    How about The Complete Quincy Jones: My Journey & Passions (San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions, 2008)?  In part, Jones writes of his experience as a member of Lionel Hampton's orchestra in the early fifties: "Lionel's band was like my dream.  It was designed to have the full range of serious music, entertainment, and show business.  To me, Hamp was the first rock'n'roll band, concerned with having a big funky beat, and really seduced an audience with a passion, just like Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.  And on top of the big beat he would drag in swing music, bebop, or whatever felt good.  It was truly like a traveling music University." However, he quickly dispenses with that period of his life after only a few pages.  Of course, Jones later led his own jazz band and eventually had much success in various musical genres far from those sounds.  While nicely printed (including reproductions of original memorabilia), there is to a swing fan a majority of content with little or no importance.
Big Band Library rating: NOT RATED

More New In-Print and / or Online
Tony Eaton, "What's New?," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 321 /
    1st Edition 2009, p.6 [ since the Syd Lawrence Orchestra discontinued its annual Miller
    tribute concert in the UK, Eaton reports that the Nick Ross Orchestra will present a
    "100% Miller evening . . . introducing the band's new vocal group the 'New' Modernaires" ].
---, "CD Reviews," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 321 / 1st Edition
    2009, pp.7-8 [ about "Tex Beneke: Glenn Miller's A.A.F. Sound (Without Strings)," which
    is the recent compilation by, as Eaton puts it, "local 'tex'pert Michael Highton," and "Glenn
    Miller: Re-Creating the Irish Concerts" ].
Owen Edwards, "Benny Goodman's Clarinet: Late in his career, jazz musician Benny
    Goodman favored a Parisian 'licorice stick' as his instrument of choice," Smithsonian
    Magazine, Apr. 2009 [ Goodman's latter-day clarinet was manufactured by Buffet
    Crampon in 1967 ].
Colin Farmer, "Miller band's Russian tour," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
    Number 321 / 1st Edition 2009, p.1 [ the "European" Miller Orchestra directed by Wil
    Salden ].
"Kent State University Museum Hosts Golden Age Leading Lady Ann Rutherford April 30,"
    einside.kent.edu, Apr. 13, 2009 [ "Tales of Hollywood's Golden Age" will be offered by
    former actress Ann Rutherford, who played "Connie," a lovestruck girl in Glenn Miller's
    1942 movie "Orchestra Wives" (that's her and actor George Montgomery on the cover
    of the 20th Century-Fox 2005 DVD release)," and "Miss Eve Greeley" in Artie Shaw's
    1939 film "Dancing Co-Ed" ].
Jeff Michael, "The Economic Blues... Then and Now," myfoxla.com, Apr. 2, 2009 [ quotes
    98-year-old Roc Hillman (Dorsey Bros. '34-'35; J. Dorsey '35-'40; Kyser '40-'47) - composer about the Great
    Depression vs. today.  "Believe me... those were the days," says Hillman ].
David Miller, "Swingin' News: More Good Reading," bigband-era.com, Apr. 15, 2009
    [ he calls John Tumpak's new book, When Swing Was the Thing, a "worthy tome," an
    "enthralling chronicle of the people who produced the music we love ].
"Miller Expert From South Africa Joins Panel," Glenn Miller Birthplace Society ] Miller Notes,
    Apr. 2009 (No.126), p.7 [ broadcaster Henry Holloway will attend and be a panelist at
    the Glenn Miller Festival, to be held on June 11-14, 2009 in Clarinda, IA; it will be
    Holloway's first time in attendance ].
Dan Morgenstern, "Little Jazz Goes a Long Way: Down Beat Archives + March 19, 1959,"
    Down Beat, Apr. 2009, pp.45-47 [ re-print of an article about trumpeter-bandleader Roy
    Eldridge ]. 
"Talk About Iowa," [ Glenn Miller Birthplace Society ] Miller Notes, Apr. 2009 (No.126),
    p.2 [ specifies from Miller expert Ed Polic the dates of "Chesterfield" and "Sunset
    Serenade" programs on which Miller, for one reason or another, mentioned his home
    state of Iowa ].
Roland Taylor, "Miller's Mighty Service Band: The ensemble in focus," [ Glenn Miller
    Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 321 / 1st Edition 2009, pp.2-5 [ a continuing
    chronological study, now through May 1944 ].
Jeff Wilkin, "Lawrence Welk Lives!," [ Schenectady, NY ] Daily Gazette / dailygazette.com,
    Apr. 13, 2009 [ Wilkins discusses the Welk TV show which continues in reruns on PBS ].

Whiteman Whisper
    According to the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, which includes Scarecrow Press, the much-anticipated Volume 2 of Don Rayno's epic Paul Whiteman research is to be published in January 2010.  Rayno's Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music: Volume 1 1890-1930 has been available since 2003.

Spotlight on Louis
    While he ran the lab and tested radio equipment for the American Lava Corporation in Atlanta, GA, Byron Fincher began working part-time for NBC, running the board on "Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands" radio remotes.
    This month he reminisced to writer Elsie Hodnett in the [ Pell City, AL ] Daily Home newspaper, about the big bands which played on those shows, such as Louis Armstrong's.
    "Fincher said for those programs, the bands would usually rehearse the morning before.  'One day, we kept yelling for Louis (Armstrong) to come out and get the rehearsal done,' he said.  'When he finally came out, the only thing he was wearing was white boxers with big red polka dots.  He was quite a character and a lot of fun.'  Fincher said he was the engineer for the shows, and adjusted the volume for all the microphones and 'fed the program' by telephone line to NBC headquarters in New York, where it was sent out over the network to radio stations across the country."

New Compact Disc Releases
Louis Armstrong, "The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946)," Mosaic
    MD7-243 [ 166 tracks on 7 CDs including rare alternate takes, plus an essay by noted
    jazz historian Dan Morgenstern ].
Tex Beneke, "The Young Ginny and Henry Mancini," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY
    780 [ performances by The Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Tex Beneke from the
    period when Mancini was the band's pianist and Ginny O'Connor (whom Mancini later
    married) was a member of the band's vocal group The Mellolarks ].
Benny Carter, "Central City Sketches," Nimbus ( UK ) 2716 [ = Musicmasters CD 5030 /
    60126 ].
Benny Goodman, "100th Anniversary Boxed Set," Sony Legacy.
---, "The Yale University Music Library, Vol. 2," Nimbus ( UK ) 2714/15 [ 2-CD set =
    Musicmasters CDs 5007 / 60157 and 5017 / 60201 ].
Lionel Hampton, "Mostly Blues," Nimbus ( UK ) 2717 [ = Musicmasters CD 5011 ].

various, "A Song Is Born," MGM [ with Goodman, T. Dorsey, Armstrong, Barnet, Hampton ].

Band Itineraries - Select List
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole, Apr. 15, Paramount Theater, Cedar Rapids,
    IA; Apr. 16, Hampshire High School, Hampshire, IL; Apr. 17, H.S. Performing Arts
    Center, Fond du Lac, WI; Apr. 18, R.L. Knowlton Auditorium, Austin, MN; Apr. 19, New
    Ulm Middle School, New Ulm, MN; Apr. 20, Montevideo Fine Arts Center, Montevideo,
    MN; Apr. 21, Tornstrom Auditorium, Brainerd, MN; Apr. 23, Roseau High School, Roseau,
    MN; Apr. 24, Goodman Auditorium, Virginia, MN; Apr. 26, Dwight D. Miller Auditorium,
    Watertown, SD; Apr. 27, Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City, SD; Apr. 28, Belle
    Fourche Community Center, Belle Fourche, SD; Apr. 29, New Castle, WY; Apr. 30,
    Roberta L. Price Civic Auditorium, Loveland, CO.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke, Apr. 4, Heritage Foundation Ball, San
    Diego, CA; Apr. 11, Lawton, OK.
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien, Apr. 1, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara,
    CA; Apr. 3, Clark Center for the Performing Arts, Arroyo Grande, CA; Apr. 4, Birch North
    Park Theatre, San Diego, CA; Apr. 5, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos,
    CA; Apr. 15, Miller Performing Arts Center, Jefferson City, MO; Apr. 16, Leach Theatre,
    Rolla, MO; Apr. 18, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS; Apr. 23, Rosebud Theatre,
    Effingham, IL; Apr. 25, Ohnward Fine Arts Center, Maquoketa, IA; Apr. 26, Coronado
    Theatre, Rockford, IL; Apr. 27, Canton High School, Canton, IL; Apr. 29, Cedarburg
    Cultural Arts Center, Cedarburg, WI; Apr. 30, Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton, WI.
Artie Shaw Orchestra directed by Rich Chiaraluce, Apr. 25, Merrimack College, North
    Andover, MA
the Principal.  While a Paschal student, he gained experience as a member of the Panther Band, and played with bands which performed at school and other area dances."    
    The tradition of good music continues today with Paschal's award-winning jazz band, which will be one of two groups performing at the dance.
    I wish the Paschal Band Boosters, including Mr. Eason and member Carol Zuber-Mallison, a complete success with their dance and commend them for not forgetting Tex Beneke!
More Live Music in the Miller Mood
    Saxophonist Kerry Hart, who happens to be the President of Morgan Community College in Colorado, has conceived a project to market the city of Fort Morgan as the "boyhood home of Glenn Miller." 
    Miller was born in Clarinda, IA, but while Glenn was growing up his family moved to Tryon, NE; then North Platte, NE; Grand City, MO; and, by 1918, to Fort Morgan.  As a teenager there, Glenn worked as a soda jerk and in a sugar factory.
    On the 25th of this month, the newly-formed Morgan Community Jazz Ensemble will present a free concert, "Home Grown: The Music of Glenn Miller," in the Glenn Miller Auditorium at Fort Morgan High School, where he graduated on May 20, 1921.  Participants will range from professional musicians to vocal and instrumental music students from several area educational institutions.  The concert, along with a private session to take place prior, will be recorded and mixed into a CD, and offered for sale sometime in the fall.
    According to writer John La Porte of The Fort Morgan Times, Hart got the idea "when he realized that other than a summer music festival named for Miller and some highway signs, Fort Morgan does not capitalize on being Miller's boyhood home."

Saluting Mr. B
    A tribute to "The Great Mr. B," Billy Eckstine, will be a part of The Cape May Jazz Festival, which takes place this month in Cape May, NJ.  The program, "Have a Song On Me Celebrating Mr. B," opens the Festival on the evening of the 17th and features The B Swingers Big Band and singer Steve Butler in concert at the Lower Regional High School.  According to publicity, Butler “looks and sounds hauntingly similar to Billy Eckstine…capable and convincing."  For more information, view the website capemayjazz.org.

There Goes That Song Again
    According to the music licensing firm Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL), the most-heard recordings in the United Kingdom during the last 75 years include a couple of big band classics.  
    #34 is Glenn Miller's In the Mood and #53 is Les Brown's Sentimental Journey.
    PPL notes that these were songs heard not just on the radio, "but everywhere that music is consumed in public, whether in the high street, on hospital radio, in pubs, clubs and supermarkets, in stadiums, on jukeboxes – everywhere."

Happy Birthday to You
Boomie Richman, tenor saxophonist ( Paxton '44-'45; T. Dorsey '45-'51 [ off and on ]; Goodman '51 / '52 / '53 / '54 /
   '55 / '58; Reynolds '55 "Songs for Happy Feet" album ), b.Apr. 2, 1921.
Doris Day, vocalist ( Crosby '40; Brown '40-'41 / '44-'46 ), b.Apr. 3, 1924.
Slide Hampton, trombonist ( B. Johnson '55-'57; Hampton '58; Ferguson '58-'59 ) / leader ( Gillespie All Star Big Band
   '04- ), b.Apr. 21, 1932.
Mundell Lowe, guitarist ( McKinley '46-47 ), b.Apr. 21, 1922.
Bea Wain, vocalist ( Shaw '37 If It's the Last Thing I Do; Clinton '37-'39 ), b.Apr. 30, 1917.
Billy Ver Planck, trombonist ( J. Dorsey '52; Thornhill '53; Dorsey Bros. '56 ) / arranger ( Miller-DeFranco '68 ),
  b.Apr. 30, 1930.

Bud Shank, 82, alto saxophonist ( Barnet '47-'48; Kenton '50-'51 / Capitol LPs "The Kenton Touch: Portraits in Strings"
    '58, "Lush Interlude" '61, "Stan Kenton Conducts the Neophonic Orchestra" '65 ), d.Apr. 2, 2009, pulmonary failure.
Charlie Kennedy, 81, saxophonist ( Prima '44; Krupa '45-'48; Ventura '50 ), d.Apr. 3, 2009, "pulmonary
Zeke Zarchy, 93, trumpeter ( Haymes '35-'36; Crosby '36 / '37 / '38-'39; Goodman '36 / '46-'47; Shaw '36-'37; T. Dorsey
    '39-'40; Miller '40 / '41-'42; Miller AAF '43-'45 ), d.Apr.11, 2009, "complications from pneumonia."
Carmen Leggio, 81, tenor saxophonist (Ferguson '58; Rich '59; Herman '63; Krupa '65; Goodman '75),
  d.Apr. 17, 2009, suffered a heart attack in front of his home and died later that day.
Frankie Manning, 94, Savoy Ballroom swing dancer / pioneer of the Lindy Hop,
   d.Apr. 27, 2009, pneumonia.

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Feedback and Follow-up
Geoffrey Wheeler responded to me by e-mail:
    "Thanks Christopher.  You put the conducting of research in a nice and interesting way . . . When I can,
    I try to watch the TV program 'History Detectives' to see how their discoveries unfold and achieve some
    kind of solution.  There is plenty new to learn about music and jazz!"

Trey Eason reported that the Paschal High School Dance in honor of the late Tex Beneke was a big
    "We sold over 520 tickets, setting a new record, presented a video biography of Tex Beneke that
    everyone loved and most importantly raised much needed funds for the Paschal Band program."

Texas Tex
    The Band Boosters of the former Fort Worth, TX Central High School, now known as Paschal High, have planned a special dance in honor of the late Tex Beneke, to be held from 7 to 11pm on the 24th of this month at the local Masonic Temple, 1100 Henderson St.     
    According to Trey Eason, Vice-President of the Band Boosters, "The Paschal Big Band Dance is a genuinely unique event--nowhere else will you find hundreds of kids packing the dance floor alongside their parents, grandparents, teachers, school administrators and officials, Paschal’s tremendous alumni and Big Band and Swing Dance enthusiasts from across the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex."
    The school's band program was founded in 1923.  Beneke, a member of the Class of 1932, appears in some of the first extant photos of the band.
     Eason noted, "His parents lived on W. Cantey Street, two blocks east of University and he went to Fort Worth Junior High and Central High School when R.L. Paschal was