Thanks to some effective editing, the new edition of Downs' book reads more cohesively and is quite salient. There are now seven main chapters (rather than nine), titled, respectively, "Who was Glenn Miller?," "Mission for Ike," "Debunking the Myths," "Operation Eclipse and the A-Bomb," "Autumn Mist and Dirty Tricks," "Secrets, Lies and Loose Ends," and "Glenn's True Fate."
Among the added photographs is a rare one of David Niven, whom Downs writes was Miller's military superior, in combat uniform. (Niven's biography on Wikipedia states that in 1945 he "received the Legion of Merit, an American military order. Presented by Eisenhower himself, it honored Niven's work in setting up the BBC Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme, a radio news and entertainment station for the Allied forces.")
As before, I don't know whether all of Downs' scenario is accurate, but, at the very least, certain parts of it seem as plausible as the "English Channel story" - which, in the opinions of many - continues to defy common sense. Considering the latter theory, the fact is that Miller was not authorized to "hitch a ride" on a Norseman, so why would he clearly violate orders, why would he be in such a rush, why would he accept the risks involved with that type of plane, and in such supposedly bad weather? Meanwhile, the seemingly credible reports of people who said that they saw Miller in Paris after December 15th, as well as other portions of Downs' research, remain.
Even if the work - now in this improved form - does nothing to convince those who cling blindly to conventional beliefs, accepting them without question, Hunton Downs' The Glenn Miller Conspiracy: The Shocking True Story of How He Died and Why likely will gain the attention of present and future Miller fans who have more open, inquisitive minds. I hope that anyone who hasn't yet read Downs' book will choose this hardcover edition (for it's easier to follow) and decide for themselves.
Unless and until Miller's body and / or parts of the plane in which he supposedly was on are recovered (highly unlikely, I would guess) or other information is revealed, nobody can really say for sure what happened to Miller. So whether he's eventually proven right or wrong to any particular degree, if Downs' interest and book help to bring out all the facts about Miller's disappearance - maybe just by prompting a discussion - his efforts should be applauded.
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT
ALSO IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE
Mike Berkowitz. "Notes From the Road: How I Met Gene Krupa," berknotes/blogspot.com,
August 26, 2010. [ The present leader of the Gene Krupa Orchestra recalls how he met
the legendary drummer ].
Jeremy Bernstein. "How My Father Came to Meet Duke Ellington," New York Review of
Books / nybooks.com, August 2, 2010 [ Bernstein recalls his acquaintance with various
Ellington band members and the day he and his father met Ellington himself. ].
Gary Brown. "The Monday After: Glenn Miller Revived in Wheeling," Canton [ OH ]
Repository, August 10, 2010 [ The Glenn Miller Orchestra plays in Wheeling, WV on
August 19 ].
"Entertainment: Best Bets," Fond du Lac [ WI ] Reporter, August 1, 2010 [ Howard
Schneider, leader of The Jan Garber Orchestra, presents his own 12-piece band
playing songs of Guy Lombardo, Tiny Hill, and others at Buttermilk Creek Park on
August 4th ].
Scott Eyman. "Clarinetist Artie Shaw cursed by perfectionism," Palm Beach [ FL ] Post,
August 16, 2010 [ positive review of Tom Nolan's new Shaw biography: "The book
made me want to run out and listen to batches of Shaw's music, and I'd be surprised if
it didn't have the same effect on everybody that reads it." ].
"Free That Tenor Sax," New York Times, August 21, 2010 [ Some 975 aluminum and
vinyl discs recorded by audio engineer William Savory during the late 1930s have been
purchased by the National Jazz Museum of Harlem. The discs contain performances by
Goodman, Basie, Armstrong, Berigan, James, Calloway, Shaw, and others. This
editorial expresses the hope that copyright and other restrictions can be worked out so
that the music can be issued to the public. ].
Rick Koster. "Big-band bonanza," [ New London, CT ] Day, August 12, 2010 [ Koster
talks about "the sense of legacy and tradition" with ghost bands. ].
Roger Levesque. "Bands swing into battle: Two jazz orchestras recreate a 'cutting contest,'"
Edmonton [ Alberta, Canada ] Journal, August 2, 2010 [ The Harry James Orchestra vs.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra; Fred Radke, director of the James band, says "When I sat
there next to Harry and watched him operate I really came to understand how high his
standards were and how it was supposed to go. He demanded only the highest
musical quality. I still practise ( sic ) all the time and you have to keep your chops up to
maintain that standard." ].
Leonard Maltin. "Book Review: Three Chords for Beauty's Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw
by Tom Nolan," Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy / blogs.indiewire.com, August 4, 2010
[ Maltin comments, "Tom Nolan has done a remarkable job of capturing Shaw on
paper . . . This is a rich and rewarding portrait." ]
John McDonough. "Billy Eckstine: More Than A Voice," DownBeat, August 2010 [ Eckstine
has now been inducted into DownBeat's "Hall of Fame," chosen by the magazine's
"Veterans Committee; as McDonough wrote, ". . . leader of perhaps the hippest, most
leading-edge (if least documented) big band of the mid-1940s . . . one singer who was
always welcome in any gathering of the greatest musicians." ].
---. "Chick Webb: The Matrix," DownBeat, August 2010 [ Webb has now been inducted into
DownBeat's "Hall of Fame," chosen by the magazine's "Veterans Committee"; as
McDonough wrote, " . . . the man who distilled and defined the essence of great big band
drumming at the moment it counted most." ].
---. "A Knack For Accomodation: Remembering Hank Jones' Supreme Grace, Civility And
Influence," DownBeat, August 2010, pp.54-57 [ Jones, who died May 16, 2010, played
piano with Kirk '45; Shaw '53-'54; Goodman '56-'58 ].
Deb Nicklay. "Osage teens find ballroom dancing the bee's knees," [ Mason City, IA ]
Globe Gazette, August 8, 2010 [ a growing number of students from Osage High School
are enjoying dancing to big band music ].
"Ojai Art Center Honors Legendary Singer Kay Starr," Santa Barbara [ CA ] Independent,
August 31, 2010 [ A September 18th fundraiser at the Ojai Center for the Arts salutes
former big band vocalist Kay Starr, now age 88. Others will perform her songs and
Starr says, "I'll probably just hop, skip and jump up there" from her Los Angeles home ].
Ben Ratliff. "Music: Jazz Master Outplays Himself," New York Times, August 17, 2010
[ more about the Savory Collection, including a live recording of Body and Soul by
Coleman Hawkins from May 1940 ].
Larry Rohter. "Museum Acquires Storied Trove of Jazz," New York Times, August 16,
2010 [ Music from William Savory's holdings is, slowly, being digitized. See also "Jazz
Lost and Found" on the Times interactive website for excerpts of the collection. ].
---. "The Savory Collection Likely to hold More Surprises for Jazz Fans," New York Times,
August 17, 2010 [ Mosaic Records has shown an interest in releasing music from the
Savory stockpile ].
John Schaefer. "Soundcheck: Military Bands: Great History, Uncertain Future,"
beta.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/blogs, August 26, 2010 [ Despite the mission and
achievements of such groups as the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band in World War II,
some are questioning whether military bands are needed today, "especially when the
soldiers themselves all have iPods". ].
Charles Sengstock. "The Hey-Day of Theater Bands in Chicago," [ Chicago Federation
of Musicians Local 10-208 ] Intermezzo, August 2010 / Vol.70 No.7, pp.14-16.
Edward Sharp. "Three Chords for Beauty's Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw by Tom Nolan,"
In Tune International, August 2010, pp.6-7 [ positive book review ].
Seth Colter Walls. "Q&A: National Jazz Museum Director on the Newly Discovered Trove
of Jazz Greats," Newsweek / newsweek.com, August 25, 2010 [ Director Loren
Schoenberg comments, "We're talking with Mosaic Records about how to possibly
release it, but it's complicated. And you know, I don't think it's fair for a great-grandchild
of a sideman from one of these bands to hold up the whole thing, trying to get a little bit
of money for something his great-grandfather did one night in '37." See also "Audio
Exclusive: Eight Never-Before-Heard Clips From America's Jazz Greats" on the
Newsweek interactive website for more excerpts of the collection ].
S(W)ING ALONG WITH MITCH
Mitch Miller, who died after a short illness July 31, 2010 at the age of 99, may not have been known for big band music, but as a record producer for Mercury and Columbia in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, his life did cross the paths of several orchestra leaders and former band vocalists.
For instance, Miller produced many singles by Frank Sinatra, who angrily blamed his fall in popularity during the early '50s on Miller's choice of songs, such as the novelty Mama Will
"At the time, we had Sinatra and Dinah Shore, and that was it," Miller recalled to author Joe Smith. "The bands were now out. Harry James was playing, and we had Benny Goodman, but the mandate was to go and buy if necessary."
So Miller added to the label Jo Stafford and Rosemary Clooney, for whom Miller chose, against her wishes, Come On-a My House.
Doris Day, another singer for whom Miller served as a.&r. man, recently observed, "Mitch loved those bouncy up-tempo numbers although they weren't always my favorite songs."
In 1951, Miller recorded Ray McKinley's vocal of Bunk House Boogie.
He was also said to be behind the 1959 Johnny Desmond LP, "Once Upon a Time," which recreated vocals Desmond had first done with the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band during World War II.
Off the job, Mitch Miller acknowledged a strong personal enjoyment of jazz and swing, including trumpeter James.
"The first time I saw him with Benny Goodman, the hairs on my neck rose up every time he soloed," Miller reminisced to James' biographer Peter Levinson. "You heard six notes, you knew it was Harry James. He had his own identity ... so he's halfway home. Then, he's a fine musician, which he was, and he had the temperament to lead musicians and surround himself with fine people. Success was guaranteed."
"Oh, I listened to everything," Miller had earlier told writer Will Friedwald. "Oh God, yes! Hell, I was listening to Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Lunceford, Jan Savitt. I was interested in all kinds of music. All these guys had something to say."
Louis Armstrong. "'Hello, Louis!': The Hit Years (1963-1969)," Hip-O [ 2-CD set of Kapp,
Mercury, ABC, and EMI recordings; NOTE: the Kapp recordings were already on CD in
2000 as "Hello, Dolly!," MCA 088 112 433-2 and the ABC sides were already on CD in
1988 as "What a Wonderful World," MCA MCAD-25204, and in 1996 as GRP/Decca
Jazz GRD-656, but this new issue has The Three Of Us, recorded for the Mercury
"Mame" album but only previously released in Europe, plus two sides recorded for Kapp,
Life Of The Party and The Kinda Love Song, both previously unreleased on LP ].
Count Basie. "Blues By Basie," Sony Music Entertainment / Columbia / Legacy
[ 12 songs = Columbia LP CL 901; NOTE: previously released on CD in 2000 as a
portion of Collectables COL-CD-6637 ].
Cab Calloway. "We the Cats Shall Hep You," Fuel 2000 61843 [ 16 performances ].
Benny Goodman. "Ultimate Big Band Collection," Sony Masterworks [ Don't Be That Way,
Sing, Sing, Sing, and eight other selections ].
Sammy Kaye. "One of a Kind," Audiophonic 100719 [ 2-CD set of 29 selections recorded
for Thesaurus; some previously issued on Hindsight ].
Stan Kenton. "Live At Humboldt State College in Arcata, California 1959," Sounds of
YesterYear ( UK ) DSOY825 [ 2-CD set ].
Glenn Miller. "Ultimate Big Band Collection," Sony Masterworks [ Moonlight Serenade,
In the Mood, Chattanooga Choo Choo, and seven other selections ].
Alvino Rey. "Ira Ironstrings: Big Band Polkas On Parade," Tartare 8029 [ 12 polkas
played by "Ira Ironstrings," aka Alvino Rey ].
Artie Shaw. "Performance 1938-1945," Fuel 2000 61844 [ 18 broadcast selections
ranging from such early pieces as April in My Heart, Night Over Shanghai, and They
Say to Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Night and Day, and If I Loved You from the
Various artists. "Heart and Soul - Celebrating the Unforgettable Songs of Frank Loesser,"
Sony Masterworks [ includes I Don't Want to Walk Without You (Harry James); Heart
and Soul (Larry Clinton); Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (Kay Kyser); but
not all selections are by big bands ].
---. "Ultimate Big Band Collection: Great Theme Songs," Sony Masterworks
[ 10 selections - but whose theme song is Begin the Beguine and why was the photo of
Ray McKinley and The Glenn Miller Orchestra on the set of the TV show "Glenn Miller
Time" used for the cover? ].
THE BIG BAND BUSINESS - NOW
Trombonist Larry O'Brien, the present leader of The Glenn Miller Orchestra and now age 77, recently told Sandye Voight of the Dubuque, IA Telegraph Herald the truth about the big band business as it exists.
"Due to the economic situation, we don't do as many dates," O'Brien acknowledged, "but we still work full-time."
Their current itinerary, shown below, illustrates his point.
"Other bands come out for a couple of months, then lay low," O'Brien explained. "We're here all the time. We don't get quite the crowds we used to, but every place we play, we're a success."
It seems that the biggest problem for the band is how to include as many of Glenn Miller's famous songs as possible during a concert or dance.
"We were in Louisville and we played 'Juke Box Saturday Night' and Elmer's Tune,' and somebody said, 'You didn't play 'Kalamazoo,'" O'Brien told Voight. "We couldn't play all his hits in two hours if we tried, but we do make sure we do 'Little Brown Jug' and 'String of Pearls.'"
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks. August 1, Mystic Aquarium,
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole. August 20, Wichita, KS.
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow. August 12, Harkness Memorial
State Park, Waterford, CT.
Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Paul Mercer Ellington. August 21-21, Conner Prairie,
IN; August 27-28, "Joy of Jazz Festival," Johannesburg, Zaire.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke. August 3, Columbus, OH; August 4,
"Battle of the Bands" with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Winspear Centre, Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada; August 5, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians directed by Al Pierson. August 8, Surf Ballroom, Clear
Hal McIntyre Orchestra directed by Don Pentleton. August 15, Stanley Park, Westfield,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien. August 2, Royal Theatre Victoria, British
Columbia, Canada; August 4-5, "Battle of the Bands" with The Harry James Orchestra,
Winspear Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; August 7, Sanders County Fairgrounds,
Plains, MT; August 8, Ellen Theatre, Bozeman, MT; August 11, Grand Opera House,
Dubuque, IA; August 13, Gilly's, Dayton, OH; August 14, Frauenthal Center for the
Performing Arts, Muskegon, MI; August 15, Palmer Shau Platz Park, Frankenmuth, MI;
August 18, Lake Anna Park, Barberton, OH; August 19, Capitol Theatre, Wheeling, WV;
August 21, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee, WI; August 22, Munster High School, Munster, IN;
August 25, Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid, NY; August 26, Clayton Opera
House, Clayton, NY; August 28, American Music Theatre, Lancaster, PA; August 29,
Genetti Hotel and Conference Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA; August 30, Surflight Theatre
Beach, Haven, NJ; August 31, Middle Township Performing Arts Center, Cape May
Court House, NJ.
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan. August 15, "NBEA Convention," COL
Ballroom, Davenport, IA.
Artie Shaw Orchestra directed by Matt Koza. August 24, Campground, Oak Bluffs, MA.
The music of Claude Thornhill, born on August 10, 1908, in the Twelve Points area of Terre Haute, IN, will be remembered this month on the stage of the Indiana Theatre by a local group, The Fabulous 40's Big Band. The event, "The Second Annual Tribute to Claude Thornhill," takes place August 7th and will include his composition and theme song, Snowfall. The Band is led by trombonist Norm Hanson, who is the Band Director at North Central High School in Farmersburg, IN.
Jack Parnell, 87, d.August 8, 2010, cancer. Drummer with Heath '44 / '45-'51?.
Herman Leonard, 87, d.August 14, 2010. Jazz photographer (including Armstrong,
Ellington, Gillespie, Rich, others).
Buddy Hughes, 91, d.August 23, 2010, cancer. Vocalist with J. Dorsey '46; Thornhill '46 /
'49; Krupa '47-'48.
BEST WISHES ON YOUR BIRTHDAY
Buddy Collette, b.August 6, 1921. Saxophonist - clarinetist with Les Hite '42; Hayes '47;
Urbie Green, b.August 8, 1926. Trombonist with Savitt; Carle '45; Krupa '47 / '50 and leader
of T. Dorsey Orch. '66-'67.
Frank Capp, b.August 20, 1931. Drummer with Kenton '51; Hefti '52.
Peter Appleyard, b.August 26, 1928. Vibraphonist with Goodman '71-'77.
Med Flory, b.August 17, 1926. Saxophonist with Thornhill '50; Mooney '52?; Herman '53 /
Jerry Dodgion, b.August 19, 1932. Alto saxophonist with Carter '55; Goodman '59-'60 /
'61 / '62.
Feedback and Followup
I'm pleased to report that several hundred people attended the tribute to Claude Thornhill which was held at the Indiana Theatre on August 7th.
Graham Ball, in an article for the August 8th, 2010 [ London ]
Express, named Hunton Down's Glenn Miller Conspiracy as one of his "Holiday Reads: Our Pick of the Best Books for the Beach." According to Ball, "This book tells a fascinating tale of the man, his bravery and his death. It's a story that's been covered up for decades but is now out in the open."