The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
compiled by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
The Chronology continues
The Ensemble in focus

D A T E L I N E    2 1 S T    S E P T E M B E R    1 9 4 4

Major Glenn Miller's morale-boosting American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) had now been in England for 11 weeks, during which they had undertaken countless broadcasts over the AEF programme.  Initially these emanated "live" from the Corn Exchange in Bedford, followed by Co-Partners Hall also in Bedford, a studio they would use continuously for "live" and recorded programmes for subsequent broadcasts.  The studio - originally a social club for the local Gas Board - had been assembled by the AEF band musicians and was used by the full band as well as the sub-units.  These were "The Swing Shift" fronted by T/Sgt. Ray McKinley; "Strings with Wings" led by S/Sgt. George Ockner; "The Uptown Hall," a swing sextet fronted by S/Sgt. Mel Powell; Sgt. Johnny Desmond accompanied by the full band; and "Keyboard Contrasts" featuring Pfc. Jack Rusin.

There was no accomodation for an audience in the Co-Partners and it is pretty certain that the full band were mighty impressed when they first appeared in the Queensberry All-Services Club on Old Compton Street, Soho, on 31st July 1944 to take part in Cecil Madden's "Variety Bandbox."  The Queensberry was a former theatre with a seating capacity of 2,500 people.  So many service personnel turned up on that day that a short concert was arranged after the recording to accommodate the crowd.  A similar arrangement took place when the full band returned to the Queensberry a month later on 27 August 1944.  In the intervening period, the full band had broadcast (or recorded) in Co-Partners Hall.  From 14th September '44 onwards, the full band's Thursday broadcasts were aired from the Queensberry and this would continue until their final show on 12th December 1944.

Whilst radio listeners in southern England were lucky enough to pick up Miller's phenominal service band on the "American Band of the AEF Programme," recordings of the broadcasts were repeated on the BBC's "General Forces" programme.  By the same token, recordings of the sub-units were often repeated on the Armed Forces Network (AFN).

But the piece de resistance for Captain - later Major - Glenn Miller were his band's "live" appearances at air bases in England and northern Ireland.  The reception his unit received at all the locations was mind-boggling!  After his first concert at Thurleigh Base on 14th July 1944 with 3,500 in attendance, he turned to Colonel Edward Kirby, who was really instrumental in securing the band's tour of duty in England, and said, "Colonel, making all the money in the music business could never have made me this rich."

During the first 11 weeks, the band entertained 136,500 at air bases, Red Cross and officers' clubs, hospitals, and theatres, plus a further 15,000 at the Queensberry All-Services Club.  The magic of the Miller music was irresistable!

21ST SEPTEMBER 1944 (Thu) 8:00-8:30 pm
Queensberry All-Services Club, London, England
CONCERT: warm-up for the broadcast
Major Glenn Miller and the American Band of the AEF: STARDUST / Mus. 1/C Sam Donahue and the United States Navy Band: CONVOY & C-JAM BLUES

21st SEPTEMBER 1944 (Thu) 8:30-9:00 pm
Queensberry All-Services Club, London, England
compere: Major Glenn Miller
guest stars: Mus. 1/C Sam Donahue and the United States Navy Band
MOONLIGHT SERENADE (opening theme) / FLYING HOME / I'LL BE SEEING YOU (voc: Sgt. Johnny Desmond) / SOMEBODY LOVES ME (Navy Band) / medley: JEANNIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR - I COULDN'T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT (voc: Johnny Desmond & Crew Chiefs) - BEGIN THE BEGUINE (borrowed from Artie Shaw) - BLUE RAIN / L.S.T. PARTY (Navy Band) / ONE O'CLOCK JUMP (combined bands) / MOONLIGHT SERENADE (closing theme)
    The Glenn Miller Society, formed in London in 1950 and with members around the world, including myself, ceased operation last Spring and simultaneously ended the publication of its journal, the Moonlight
Serenader, after well over 300 issues.   
    It was the end of an era.
    Roland Taylor, dedicated Chairman of the organization since 1956, recently told me, "I am saddened by the turn of events financial-wise that forced us to close down the Society.  I never realized how important the 'Moonlight Serenader' was to our members judging from the letters I received." 
    As Editor of the Moonlight Serenader, Mr. Taylor had, over the years, written a myriad of articles for it.
    These included a multi-part investigation tracing the day-by-day activities of The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Orchestra, "Miller's Mighty Service Band," beginning in issue Number 309 / 4th Edition 2006. 
    He made it through September 20, 1944 in the last Moonlight Serenader, which was issue Number 333 / 4th Edition 2011.
    Mr. Taylor has now kindly consented to allowing the remaining installments of his series to be presented here starting this month.  
"This Is Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band,"
a 2-record set issued in 1973 as RCA Victor VPM-6080 in the USA and RCA DHY-0004 in the UK.  Not long after it was released, I joined The Glenn Miller Society as a 16-year-old. 
The combination of the AEF Band and the Navy Band proved to be a sensation for those lucky enough to be present, and many said they would never forget the experience; some even voiced the opinion that the Navy Band was a close second to Major Miller's unit.  Melody Maker
music reviewer Jack Marshall was present and wrote the following:
"The splendid co-operation of the US authorities entitled the Queensberry All-Services Club to feature not only the greatest dance band coup ever staged in London, but one of the most exciting aggregations of celebrated musicians ever lined up anywhere at one and the same time.

And these words are absolutely no exaggeration.  It definitely was one of the greatest aggregations ever - nothing less than the full GLENN MILLER ork, plus the ARTIE SHAW Naval Band - led by Sam Donahue - both together, on the vast Queensberry Club stage.  Certainly a big chapter of London's dance band history was made that night, whilst the AEF Programme could claima really stupendous broadcast.

First thing on the programme, the whole thing is explained and the various groups of musicians introduced by Major Glenn Miller, who makes us feel at home, and even essays an occasional wisecrack, without relaxing one iota of that stern, militaristic manner which so many of us now have come to know so well.

The Major introduced the sections and the various corner-men in his own combination, reminding us that Hank Freeman, leader of the saxes, used to be a shinig light with Artie Shaw, that guitarist Carmen Mastren was with Tommy Dorsey before drafting; that Mel Powell was a gifted composer as well as a great pianist; Ray McKinley a famous leader back home, etc.

Coming to the Naval outfit Glenn Miller paid a warm tribute to "his old musical friend" Sam Donahue, prising the Naval Band's extensive travels, in the far Pacific, etc., in their heavy year and a half's itinerary of Services entertainment half-way round the world, "which," said Glenn Miller generously, "completely puts our record to shame."  And in this fine band, we  were reminded, was one of the old Miller corner-men, trumpet ace John Best.

The major raises his baton, and there is great expectancy in the air as this battle of the bands - and the giants - gets into stride.

Yes, in a sense it was a big band battle - but you couldn't say that either contestant won it, the combatants were so very differently equipped.  The Miller outfit's "heavy artillery" - i.e., the massive strng section, French horn, etc. - made it an entirely different setup from the Navy Band, with its more or less conventional dance band instrumentation.

If Glenn Miller intended to place the issue beyond all doubt at the outset by 'slaying' us with that exquisitive arrangement of 'Stardust' he certainly succeeded, so far as this critic is concerned, anyway.  I defy anyone, even perhaps those not musically gifted at all, not to be completely bowled over by that incredibly beautiful bit of wizardly scoring from the band's 'staff' arranger, Sergeant Jerry Gray, and by its interpretation in the hands of this remarkable bunch of players.

Yes, and Miller went on 'slaying' us, too, one number after another, throughout the memorable broadcast.  When he had exhausted all the degrees of style, versatility, exquisitie tone colour, and sheer staggering technique, in which his boys specialize, he went on a different tack and brough Johnny Desmond to the microphone - and Johnny 'slayed' us all, too.

The Naval Band, who played as if they might have been just a little nervous in their first number, 'Convoy,' soon warmed up and were getting in some great work also, the whole of their efforts dominated by their wonderful brass team and by the superb tenor-sax tooting of Sam Donahue himself.

For the final number both outfits combined-together in a rendering of 'One O'Clock Jump,' and that glorious swell of sound made by the combined brass teams is something I shall always remember.

Afterwards, Mr. John Harding brought the Marquis of Queensberry himself to the microphone, and in a short speech the Marquis warmly thanked Glenn Miller and Sam Donahue and their bands for a wonderful evening's entertainment.

Among the several London celebrities who somehow managed to be present on this great occasion were Victor Silvester, Joe Loss, Wally Moody, etc."
The U.S. Navy Band had been formed in America in 1942 with Chief Petty Officer Artie Shaw as leader.  The unit carried out an extensive tour of the American bases in the South Pacific and returned to the States towards the end of 1943.  CPO Shaw and some musicians, including Dave Tough (drums) and Max Kaminsky (trumpet), were invalided out of the Navy and Sam Donahue (tenor sax) took over the leadership and dropped the Artie Shaw music library.  The U.S. Navy Band was posted to England and stationed in Exeter, the area where U.S. Navy bands had been set up for the war's duration.  The Donahue-led band carried out many broadcasts for the "AEF Programme" and went back to the States in 1945.

The personnel for the NAVY BAND OF THE U.S. LIBERATION FORCES on the 21st September 1944 broadcast was as follows:

MUSIC OFFICER: Sam Donahue (tenor sax, trumpet & arranger)
TRUMPETS: Conrad Gozzo, Johnny Best, Frank Beach, Don Jacoby (also vocals)
TROMBONES: Tasso Harris, Dick Le Fave, Tak Takvorian, Gene Leetch (bass trombone)
REEDS: Mack Pierce (alto), Ralph La Polla (alto), Bill Nichol (alto), Joe Aglora (tenor), Charlie Wade (baritone)
RHYTHM: Rocky Coluccio (piano & vocals), Al Horesh (guitar), Barney Spieler (string bass), Buzz Sithens (drums), Harold Wax (accordion & second piano)
VOCALIST: Bill Bassford
ARRANGERS: Dave Rose, Dick Jones

22ND SEPTEMBER 1944 (Fri) 4:00-:30 pm
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
THE SWING SHIFT reserve recording number 3 (aired 7th Oct. '44 9:30-10:00 am AEFP)
T/Sgt. Ray McKinley and the American Dance Band
SONG AND DANCE (voc: Ray McKinley) / I HEAR YOU SCREAMIN' / SONG OF THE VOLGA BOATMEN / SHOO-SHOO BABY (voc: Crew Chiefs) / THE DAY AFTER FOREVER (voc: Johnny Desmond) / CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (trio: Peanuts Hucko, Mel Powell, Ray McKinley) / I'LL WALK ALONE (voc: Johnny Desmond) / BUBBLE BATH / BEAT ME DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR (voc: Ray McKinley) / SONG AND DANCE (voc: Ray McKinley)

22ND SEPTEMBER 1944 (Fri) 6:15-6:30 pm
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
S/Sgt. Mel Powell and the American Swing Sextet
YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY (opening theme) / THESE FOOLISH THINGS (REMIND ME OF YOU) / Hucko original tune TITLE UNKNOWN (quartet: Hucko, Powell, Trigger Alpert, McKinley) / I'LL WALK ALONE (voc: Johnny Desmond) / I'LL REMEMBER APRIL / YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY (closing theme)

That evening from 8:00 to 11:00 pm, a dance was held for enlisted men and their guests at the Midland Road Red Cross in Bedford.  The music was provided by Cpl. Phil Marino (iolin) and a small dance unit.

23RD SEPTEMBER 1944 (Sat) 9:30-10:00 am
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
T/Sgt. Ray McKinley and the American Dance Band
SONG AND DANCE (voc: Ray McKinley) (opening theme) / SUN VALLEY JUMP / IS YOU IS (OR IS YOU AIN'T MA BABY) (voc: Ray McKinley) / THE DAY AFTER ROREVER (voc: Johnny Desmond) / JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT (voc: Crew Chiefs) / GIGGLESWICK GALLOP (boogie woogie trio: Hucko, Powell, McKinley) / TIME ALONE WILL TELL (voc: Johnny Desmond) / SPANISH SHAWL / THE EYES AND EARS OF THE WORLD / SONG AND DANCE (voc: Ray McKinley) (closing theme)

23RD SEPTEMBER 1944 (Sat) 10:45-11:00 am
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford
THE UPTOWN HALL reserve recording number 6 (aired 23rd Nov. '44 9:15-9:30 pm AEFP)
S/Sgt. Mel Powell and the American Swing Sextet
guest artist: Sgt. Bernie Privin
MY GUY'S COME BACK (opening theme) / BLUE SKIES / YOU GO TO MY HEAD (featuring Sgt. Bernie Privin) / LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY (voc: Johnny Desmond) / PERDIDO / MY GUY'S COME BACK (closing theme)

23RD SEPTEMBER 1944 2:45-3:00 pm
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
A SOLDIER AND A SONG recording (aired 24th Sept. '4 AEFP & AFN)
Sgt. Johnny Desmond and the American Band of the AEF
all Sgt. Desmond vocals except *

23RD SEPTEMBER 1944 (Sat) 6:15-6:30 pm
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
S/Sgt. Mel Powell and the American Swing Sextet
MY GUY'S COME BACK (opening theme) / HOW HIGH THE MOON / HAVE A LITTLE DREAM ON ME (quartet: Hucko, Powell, Alpert, McKinley) / SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY (voc: Johnny Desmond) / TEMPTATION / MY GUY'S COME BACK (closing theme)

23RD SEPTEMBER 1944 (Sat) 7:30-7:45 pm
Co-Partners Hall, Bedford, England
STRINGS WITH WINGS recording (aired 25th Sept. '44 7:1-7:30 AEFP)
S/Sgt. George Ockner and the string section

[ to be continued ]

Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke.  Sept. 22, Seattle, WA; Sept. 23,
    Longview, WA. 
Hal McIntyre Orchestra directed by Don Pentleton.  Sept. 1, Norwood Theatre, Norwood,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Nick Hilscher.  Sept. 6-7, The Carlyle Club, Alexandria,
    VA; Sept. 8, Doylestown Country Club, Doylestown, PA; Sept. 10, Resorts Casino,
    Atlantic City, NJ; Sept. 11-13, Penn's Peak, Jim Thorpe, PA; Sept. 14, Riviera Theatre
    & Performing Arts Center, North Tonawanda, NY; Sept. 15, Roberts Weslayan College,
    Westchester, NY; Sept. 17, Stage West, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; Sept. 18,
    Carmens Banquet & Convention Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Sept. 19, The
    Imperial Theatre, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada; Sept. 21, Donna Reed Theatre, Denison, IA;
    Sept. 23, Eastern Wyoming College, Torrington, WY; Sept. 25, Mary V. Somervold
    Hall, Sioux Falls, SD; Sept. 26, Johnson Fine Arts Center, Aberdeen, SD; Sept. 29,
    Paramount Theatre, Denver, CO; Sept. 30, Laramie Plains Civic Center, Laramie, WY.

Stumpy Brown, b.September 1, 1925.  Trombonist - vocalist with Brown '43-'01?.
Trigger Alpert, b.September 3, 1916.  Bassist with Rey '40; Miller '40-'42; Miller AAF '43-'45.
Gerald Wilson, b.September 4, 1918.  Trumpeter with Lunceford '39-'42 and bandleader.
Virginia Maxey, b.September 4, 1923.  Vocalist with Barnet '43 / '48 "Red Skin Rhumba"
    [ sic ] Universal film short; Pastor '44; Elman '47.
Jonnie Miller Hoffman, b.Sept. 14, 1944.  Daughter of Glenn Miller.
Joe Temperley, b.Sept. 20, 1929.  Baritone saxophonist with Herman '67; Ellington Orch
    '75 / '81 "Sophisticated Ladies" RCA.
Herb Jeffries, b.September 24, 1913.  Vocalist with Ellington '39-'42.

Eddie Bert, 90, d.Sept. 28, 2012.  Trombonist with Norvo '41-'42; Barnet '43; Herman
    '43-'44; S. Donahue '46; Kenton '47 / '50; Goodman '48-'49 / '57-'58 / '74 / '77 /
    '85-'86; McKinley '52; Beneke '62.

Tex Beneke.  "American Popular Music," Sounds of YesterYear [ UK ] DSOY901. 
    24 songs from the likes of Arlen, Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, Porter, and Rodgers,
    including Easter Parade, Love Walked In, Begin the Beguine, I've Got the World On a
    String, and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
Warren Covington.  "Big Bands Greatest Hits [ sic ]," Ross Records 6618.  2-CD set with
    32 songs, including Born Free, Moon River, and Hello Dolly.  Originally released on
    LP as "Hits of the 60's" (Recar 2037 and 2038).  NOTE: May have been previously
    released on CD as back liner card shows a copyright date of 1997.
Duke Ellington.  "Big Bands Live: Liederhalle Stuttgart, March 6, 1967," Jazzhaus
    101703.  Total running time 73:41.
Glenn Miller.  "The Old Songs," Sounds of YesterYear [ UK ] DSOY899.  Army Air Force
    Band performances, including My Buddy, Moonlight Sonata, Loch Lomond, and
    Flow Gently, Sweet Afton.

"Van Alexander: The Official Website,"
Roberta Linn and Eric G. Meeks.  Lawrence Welk's First Television Champagne Lady:
    Roberta Linn.  A 174-page, 2012 paperback printing by CreateSpace Independent
    Publishing Platform.
Steve Voce.  "Still Clinging to the Wreckage," Jazz Journal, Volume 65 No.9 / Sept.
    2012, pp.14-15.  Voce remembers Louis Jordan, leader of the Tympany Five.

    In next month's "Big Band News," protecting the intellectual property rights of a world-famous bandleader.

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