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Glenn Miller receives his first gold record, February 10, 1942
from Victor-Bluebird executive W. Wallace Early as announcer Paul Douglas looks on
image courtesy The Glenn Miller Archive of The American Music Research Center at The University of Colorado-Boulder

     Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo, recorded in 1941, was honored with the first “gold record” after it passed the 1,200,000 mark just nine months later, on a Chesterfeld radio broadcast which aired from New York City.  It was a framed, gold-lacquered stamper, which later became symbolic for a million-record sales.  Miller quipped, “Thanks a million, two-hundred-thousand!”  
     Miller’s theme, Moonlight Serenade, sold a reported 2 million by 1944, while American Patrol did a million by that same year.  Most of his other highest-selling discs, including Little Brown JugIn the MoodPennsylvania 6-5000, and Tuxedo Junction, all reached a million in sales by 1945, the year following his death.  Miller’s (I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo, recorded in 1942, provided a million sales by 1951.
     A 10” LP, “The Glenn Miller Story,” issued after the Universal-International motion picture about Miller’s life was released in 1954, was expanded to a 12” LP in 1956.  It was awarded a gold record by the Record Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) in 1961.
    Two other Miller LPs reportedly went gold in the mid-1980s.

     Vaughn Monroe’s Riders in the Sky was, at one point,  the fastest-selling record in the history of RCA Victor, hitting the million mark in just seven weeks in 1949.  By the early ‘50s, Monroe was considered RCA Victor’s top artist in record sales, averaging 5 million a year at that time. 
     Miller's aforementioned Tuxedo Junction sold a reported 115,000 copies in the first week.
     One of the vocalists on Jimmy Dorsey's record of Green Eyes, Bob Eberly, told author George T. Simon that it sold 90,000 copies just in the first few days, at a time when, according to Simon, "twenty-five thousand copies was considered a great seller."
     Another record which showed promise right from the first week it was on the market was Paul Whiteman’s Wang Wang Blues, which had initial sales of 457,000.  
     Artie Shaw’s biggest hit, Begin the Beguine, written by Cole Porter, was a flop when it was included in a 1935 musical, “Jubilee.”  But three years later, Shaw recorded the tune (thinking it would make a nice, quiet contrast to the flip side, a raucous version of Indian Love Call).  
     His record, as well as Chick Webb’s A-Tisket, A-Tasket, also done in 1938, were the first records in nearly 10 years to sell more than 300,000 copies, and both eventually reached the million mark (Beguine in 1944, Tisket by 1950).

     Shaw must have been the only performer to ever receive eight gold record plaques at a single time, at a special luncheon held by RCA Victor in 1962.  The inscription on the back of each read, “This award is presented to Artie Shaw in recognition of his major contribution to popular music and to commemorate his 25th year of association with the company, with sincere appreciation for the many millions of his records sold on the RCA Victor label.”  All eight titles were certified by the RIAA, and it was reported that Shaw’s total sales to date were 43 million.   (A 1971 Shaw profile in -of all places - Penthouse stated that Concerto for Clarinet and Any Old Time were million-sellers, too, but I was unable to confirm that elsewhere.)
     Shaw’s Frenesi was said to be the first song by any Mexican writer (in this case, Alberto Dominguez) to sell a million.

     Some records took a while to reach the million mark, selling more slowly but steadily.    
     In calculating the figures, Murrels found that Clyde McCoy’s Sugar Blues, recorded in 1936, took 10 years to reach gold; Tommy Dorsey’s Boogie Woogie, recorded in 1938, sold a million by 1941 and went back on the charts in 1943; Another 1938 recording, Artie Shaw’s Nightmare, also reached a seven-figure sale in 1943; Woody Herman’s Woodchopper’s Ball, made in 1939, became a million seller by 1948, while Kay Kyser’s Three Little Fishes, recorded in ’39, had sold a million by 1941; Shaw’s Star Dust, recorded in 1940, topped the million mark by 1946; Jimmy Dorsey’s three biggest, AmapolaGreen Eyes, and Maria 
Elena, were each recorded in 1941 and each turned gold by 1946, the same as Freddy Martin’s Piano Concerto in B Flat; Vaughn Monroe’s Racing with the Moon, recorded in 1940, reached a million in sales by 1952, while his There! I’ve Said It Again, recorded in 1944, took only five years to sell a million; and Tommy Dorsey’s Opus No. 1, cut in 1944, reached a million by 1959, three years after his death.  And while Bing Crosby’s White Christmas has long been touted as one of the biggest-selling discs of all time, Freddy Martin’s cover record, done in 1942 for a competing label, sold a million in six years.

    Certain records listed below went beyond a million.  Among them were Paul Whiteman’s Three O’Clock in the Morning (3-1/2 million!), Whiteman’s Whispering and Isham Jones’ Wabash Blues (2 million each), Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade (2 million - by 1944), Ray Noble’s By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1-1/2 million), Vaughn Monroe’s Ballerina  (1,750,000) and There! I’ve Said It Again (1,250,000).

     Sadly for the big bands, albums by them which sold a million were fewer and farther between.  
     RIAA-certified sales of 500,000 are now given a “gold” record, while albums with RIAA-certified sales of 1,000,000 earn a “platinum” award. 

Louis Armstrong
Hello, Dolly! [ single ]  (Kapp), 1963 – vocal by Louis Armstrong   *
“Hello, Dolly!” [ album ] (Kapp), 1964   “gold”

Blue Barron
Cruising Down the River (MGM), 1949 – vocal by the ensemble

Count Basie
“Sinatra At the Sands” [ album ] (Reprise), 1966   “gold”

Les Brown
Sentimental Journey (Col), 1945 – vocal by Doris Day
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Col), 1948 – instrumental
Undecided (Coral), 1951 – vocal by The Ames Brothers   *

Billy Butterfield
Moonlight in Vermont (Cap), 1945 – vocal by Margaret Whiting

Cab Calloway
(Hep-Hep) The Jumpin’ Jive (Voc), 1939 – vocal by Cab Calloway

Carmen Cavallaro
Chopin’s Polonaise (Dec), 1945 – instrumental
I Can’t Begin to Tell You (Dec), 1945 – vocal by Bing Crosby

Jimmy Dorsey
Amapola (Dec), 1841 – vocal by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell
Green Eyes (Dec), 1941 – vocal by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell
Maria Elena (Dec), 1941 – vocal by Bob Eberly   *
Besame Mucho (Dec), 1944 – vocal by Bob Eberly and Kitty Kallen
So Rare (Fraternity), 1956 – vocal by Artie Malvin Singers   *

Tommy Dorsey
Marie (Vic) – vocal by Jack Leonard and band
Boogie Woogie (Vic), 1938 [ reissued 1943 ] – instrumental
I’ll Never Smile Again (Vic), 1940 – vocal by Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers
There Are Such Things (Vic), 1942 – vocal by Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers
Opus No. 1 (Vic), 1944 – instrumental
On the Sunny Side of the Street (Vic), 1944 – vocal by The Sentimentalists   *

Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Warren Covington
Tea for Two Cha Cha (Dec), 1958 – instrumental   *

Billy Eckstine
A Cottage for Sale (National), 1945 – vocal by Billy Eckstine
Prisoner of Love (National), 1946 – vocal by Billy Eckstine
Everything I Have Is Yours (MGM), 1947 – vocal by Billy Eckstine   *
Blue Moon (MGM), 1948 – vocal by Billy Eckstine   *
Caravan (MGM ), 1949 – vocal by Billy Eckstine   *
My Foolish Heart (MGM), 1950 – vocal by Billy Eckstine
I Apologize (MGM), 1951 – vocal by Billy Eckstine

Larry Elgart
“Hooked On Swing” [ album ] (RCA), 1982   “platinum”

Maynard Ferguson
“Conquistador” [ album ] (Columbia), 1977   “gold”

Benny Goodman
Why Don’t You Do Right (Col), 1942 – vocal by Peggy Lee   *
On a Slow Boat to China (Cap), 1948 – vocal by Al Hendrickson   *

Phil Harris
The Thing (RCA Vic), 1950 – vocal by Phil Harris

Coleman Hawkins
Body and Soul (Bb), 1939 – instrumental   *

Horace Heidt
Deep in the Heart of Texas (Col), 1941
It’s in the Book (Cap), 1952 – featuring Johnny Standley

Woody Herman
Woodchoppers’ Ball (Dec), 1939 – instrumental   *
Laura (Col), 1945 – vocal by Woody Herman   *

Eddy Howard
To Each His Own (Majestic), 1946 – vocal by Eddy Howard
Sin (It’s No Sin) (Merc), 1951 – vocal by Eddy Howard

Harry James
One O’Clock Jump (Br) – instrumental   *
Ciribiribin (Col), 1939 – instrumental   *
You Made Me Love You (Col), 1941 – instrumental
Easter Parade (Col), 1942 – instrumental
I Had the Craziest Dream (Col), 1942 – vocal by Helen Forrest
I’ve Heard That Song Before (Col), 1942 – vocal by Helen Forrest
All Or Nothing At All (Col), 1939 [ reissued 1943 ] – vocal by Frank Sinatra

Isham Jones
Wabash Blues (Br), 1921 – instrumental

Spike Jones
Der Fuehrer’s Face (Bb), 1942 – vocal by Carl Grayson and Willie Spicer
Cocktails for Two (Vic), 1945 – vocal by Carl Grayson
The Glow Worm (Vic), 1946 -   *
All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (RCA Vic), 1947 – vocal by George Rock

Loius Jordan
G.I. Jive (Dec), 1944 – vocal by Louis Jordan
Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t Ma Baby? (Dec), 1944 – vocal by Louis Jordan   *
Caldonia Boogie (Dec), 1945 – vocal by Louis Jordan
Beware (Dec), 1946 – vocal by Louis Jordan   *
Choo Choo Ch’Boogie (Dec), 1946 – vocal by Louis Jordan
Saturday Night Fish Fry (Dec), 1949 – vocal by Louis Jordan

Sammy Kaye
It Isn’t Fair (RCA Vic), 1949 – vocal by Don Cornell

Stan Kenton
Artistry in Rhythm (Cap), 1944 – instrumental
Tampico (Cap), 1945 – vocal by June Christy and band
Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy (Cap), 1945 – vocal by June Christy

Kay Kyser
Three Little Fishes (Col), 1939
Who Wouldn’t Love You (Col), 1942 – vocal by Harry Babbitt and Trudy Erwin
Jingle, Jangle, Jingle (Col), 1942 – vocal by Julie Conway and Harry Babbitt
Strip Polka (Col), 1942 – vocal by Jack Martin
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (Col), 1942 – vocal by the Glee Club
Woody Woodpecker Song (Col), 1947 – vocal by Gloria Wood and Campus Kids
On a Slow Boat to China (Col), 1947 – vocal by Harry Babbitt and Gloria Wood

Ted Lewis
Some of These Days (Col), 1927 – vocal by Sophie Tucker

Enoch Light
“Persuasive Percussion” [ album ] (Command), 1960   “gold”

Guy Lombardo
Humoresque (Dec), 1946 – instrumental   *
Christmas Island (Dec), 1946 – vocal by The Andrews Sisters
Easter Parade (Dec), 1947 – vocal by Don Rodney
The Third Man Theme (Dec), 1950 – instrumental

Johnny Long
In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town (Dec), 1940 – vocal by the ensemble   *

Ralph Marterie
Caravan (Merc), 1953 – instrumental
Pretend (Merc), 1953 - instrumental

Freddy Martin
Piano Concerto in B Flat (Bb), 1941 – instrumental
White Christmas (Vic), 1942 -    *
I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (RCA Vic), 1949 – vocal by Merv Griffin and band

Billy May
“Frank Sinatra: Come Fly with Me” [ album ] (Capitol), 1958   “gold”
“Frank Sinatra: Come Dance with Me!” [ album] (Capitol), 1959   “gold”

Clyde McCoy
Sugar Blues (Col and Dec), 1931 and 1935  *

Hal McIntyre
The Glow-Worm (Dec), 1952 – vocal by The Mills Brothers

Glenn Miller
Little Brown Jug (Bb B), 1939 – instrumental   *
Moonlight Serenade (Bb), 1939 – instrumental
In the Mood (Bb B), 1939 – instrumental
Tuxedo Junction (Bb), 1940 – instrumental
Pennsylvania 6-5000 (Bb), 1940 – chant by the band
Chattanooga Choo Choo (Bb), 1941 – vocal by Tex Beneke and The Modernaires with 
     Paula Kelly
A String of Pearls (Bb), 1941 – instrumental
Moonlight Cocktail (Bb), 1941 – vocal by Ray Eberle and The Modernaires
American Patrol (Vic), 1942 - instrumental
(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo (Vic), 1942 – vocal by Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke and 
     The Modernaires
“Glenn Miller Plays Selections From ‘The Glenn Miller Story’,” 1961? or 1968? (originally a
     10” LP, RCA Vic LPT-3054, then expanded to a 12” LP in 1956, LPM-1192; Ray
     McKinley stated on one of the 1961 "Glenn Miller Time" TV shows that the title had
     been given a gold record - but see the 1968 photo below)
"Glenn Miller: A Memorial 1944-1969," 1970  (author William Ruhlmann said that this
   "went gold in 1986")
"Glenn Miller: Pure Gold," 1975 (Ruhlmann said this "went gold in 1984")
gold record award for Glenn Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo
image courtesy The Glenn Miller Archive of The American Music Research Center at The University of Colorado-Boulder

including Gold Records
researched by Music Librarian Christopher Popa

     Without question, recordings by the big bands have, from the 1920s to today, sold millions and millions (perhaps billions!) in total.  But the list of individual records that sold one million or more varies, depending on what source is consulted.  
     Quite a number of titles marked with an asterisk ( * ) were listed by author Joseph Murrels as million-sellers, who calculated global sales, but were not shown as such in a more recent book by author Joel Whitburn.
     For example, Murrels says that Horace Heidt’s Deep in the Heart of Texas was “the only million seller for Heidt.”  But Whitburn does not indicate that and, instead, shows a different song as Heidt’s sole million-seller.
     I can’t help but think that perhaps more titles should be added to the list of million-sellers by the big bands, given the endless reissues that some have had to this very day.
     And I wonder if certain songs were included on an album that sold a million, does that make those songs “million-sellers,” too?

     In 1958, gold discs started to be officially certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) for one-million single sales or a gross of $1,000,000 for album sales (that changed in 1975).
     But before ’58, gold discs were given to artists on an informal basis, so this lack of verified sales statistics, as well as press agent claims and other publicity for artists, has further obscured which were the true million-sellers.  
     I feel compelled to point out that, despite the implication of RCA Victor’s so-called “Gold Standard” series, I don’t think that every one of them sold a million, certainly not Glenn Miller’s dreadful By the Waters of Minnetonka (originally Bb, then reissued on RCA Vic).

      Sometimes, when they were first released, certain records now acknowledged to be million-sellers were not especially successful.  
     For example, Ted Weems’ Heartaches, originally released on Bluebird in 1933, didn’t become a smash until 14 years later, when a Charlotte, North Carolina disc jockey, Kurt Webster, found the record by chance.  Because he liked it, he played each day for a week on his radio show, then record dealers in the South were swamped with orders.  RCA Victor reissued the tune and it proceeded to sell a million copies in just over two years.  (Joel Whitburn says that it eventually sold two million.)  To show his appreciation, Weems flew his whole band to Charlotte to play at a birthday party for Webster.  
     Harry James’ All or Nothing At All, with a vocal by Frank Sinatra, sold about 8,000 when it came out in 1939.  After both James’ and Sinatra’s careers took off, the disc was reissued in 1943 and it shot up to a million.
image courtesy of Billboard magazine, August 10, 1968 issue

Vaughn Monroe
Racing with the Moon (Bb), 1940 – vocal by Vaughn Monroe   *
There! I’ve Said It Again (Vic), 1944 – vocal by Vaughn Monroe and The Norton Sisters
Ballerina (RCA Vic), 1947 – vocal by Vaughn Monroe
Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend) (RCA Vic), 1949 – vocal by Vaughn Monroe

Art Mooney
I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover (MGM), 1947 – vocal by ensemble
Baby Face (MGM 10156), 1947 – vocal by ensemble
Bluebird of Happiness (MGM), 1948 – vocal by Bud Grees and Galli Sisters, with poem
     recitation by Art Mooney
Nuttin’ for Christmas (MGM), 1955 – vocal by Barry Gordon   *
Honey Babe (MGM), 1955 - with vocal refrain   *

Russ Morgan
Cruising Down the River (Dec), 1949 – vocal by The Skylarks

Red Nichols
Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider (Br), 1927

Ray Noble
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (Col), 1941 – vocal by Snooky Lanson  *

Louis Prima
That Old Black Magic (Cap), 1958 – vocal by Louis Prima and Keely Smith   *

Artie Shaw
Begin the Beguine (Bb), 1938 – instrumental
Nightmare (Bb B), 1938 – instrumental   *
Traffic Jam (Bb), 1939 – instrumental   *
Frenesi (Vic), 1940 – instrumental
Star Dust (Vic), 1940 – instrumental   *
Summit Ridge Drive (Vic), 1940 – instrumental
Dancing in the Dark (Vic), 1941 - instrumental

Freddy Slack
Cow-Cow Boogie (Cap), 1942 – vocal by Ella Mae Morse   *

Dick Stabile
That’s Amore (Cap), 1953 – vocal by Dean Martin

Orrin Tucker
Oh, Johnny, Oh (Col), 1939 – vocal by Bonnie Baker   *

Chick Webb
A-Tisket, A-Tasket (Dec), 1938 – vocal by Ella Fitzgerald

Ted Weems
Somebody Stole My Gal (Vic), 1923 – instrumental
Piccolo Pete (Vic) – vocal by Parker Gibbs   *
Heartaches (Bb, then reissued on RCA Vic), 1933 – whistling by Elmo Tanner
Mickey (Merc), 1947 – vocal by Bob Edwards and Elmo Tanner

Lawrence Welk
Calcutta [ single ] (Dot), 1961 -   *
“Calcutta” [ album ] (Dot 3359), 1961   “gold”
“Winchester Cathedral” [ album ] (Dot), 1966   “gold”

Paul Weston
Dream (Cap), 1944 – vocal by The Pied Pipers
I Still Get Jealous (Cap), 1947 – vocal by Gordon MacRae   *
Whispering Hope (Cap), 1950 – vocal by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae   *
Shrimp Boats (Col), 1951 – vocal by Jo Stafford   *
A Guy Is a Guy (Col), 1952  – vocal by Doris Day
You Belong to Me (Col), 1952 – vocal by Jo Stafford
Jambalaya (Col), 1952 – vocal by Jo Stafford   *
Make Love to Me! (Col), 1953 – vocal by Jo Stafford

Paul Whiteman
Whispering (Vic), 1920 – instrumental
Wang Wang Blues (Vic), 1920 – instrumental
Three O’Clock in the Morning (Vic), 1922 – instrumental
Linger Awhile (Vic), 1923 – instrumental
What’ll I Do? (Vic), 1924 – instrumental

various artists
“60 Years of Music America Loves Best” [ album ] (RCA Vic), 1959   “gold” – includes
     Whiteman (Whispering), Shaw (Begin the Beguine), Miller (Sunrise Serenade), 
     Goodman (And the Angels Sing), Ellington (Take the “A” Train), and T Dorsey 
     (There Are Such Things).
“Billboard Christmas Greatest Hits (1935-1954)” [ album ] (Rhino), 1989   “gold” –
     includes Jones (All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)), Lombardo 
     (Christmas Island), and Monroe (Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!).
“Ken Burns Jazz – The Story of America’s Music” [ album ] (Legacy), 2001
     “platinum” - includes Armstrong (Ain’t Misbehavin’Heebie JeebiesHello, Dolly!
     Rockin’ ChairSt. Louis BluesStar DustWest End Blues), Basie (Jumpin’ At the
     WoodsideLester Leaps InSent for You Yesterday and Here You Come Today), 
     C Hawkins (Body and Soul), T Dorsey (Well, Git It!), Ellington (Black BeautyCotton 
     TailEast St. Louis Toodle-OoEchoes of HarlemIn a Sentimental MoodThe 
     MoocheMood IndigoTake the “A” TrainTourist Point of View), Gillespie (Groovin’ 
     HighMantecaSalt Peanuts), Goodman (King Porter StompRose RoomSing, 
     Sing, Sing (with a Swing)), F Henderson (Hotter Than ‘ellSugar Foot Stomp), Krupa 
     (Drum Boogie), Lunceford (For Dancers Only), Miller (In the Mood), Moten (Moten
     Swing), Shaw (Begin the Beguine), Webb (A-Tisket, A-TasketHarlem Congo), and
     Whiteman (There Ain’t No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears).
“Mob Hits” [ album] (Triage), 2001   “gold” – includes Prima (AngelinaBuona Sera
     Oh MarieZooma Zooma).

     According to Murrels, collective disc sales by big bands are: 
Glenn Miller – 60 million
Benny Goodman – 50 million
Lawrence Welk 50 million
Artie Shaw – over 40 million
Louis Armstrong – over 25 million
Harry James – over 25 million
Vaughn Monroe -25 million
Ted Heath – 20 million
Billy Eckstine – 10 million
Kay Kyser – 10 million

Vaughn Monroe [ souvenir program ] (New York City: Program Publishing Company,
Joseph Murrells.  The Book of Golden Discs (London, England: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd., 
“Shaw Takes 8 Gold Disks At Long Last,” Billboard, Nov 10, 1962, p.4
George T. Simon.  The Big Bands (New York City: The Macmillan Company, 1967), p.152.
---.  Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (New York City: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1974),
Joel Whitburn.  Joel Whitburn Presents The Billboard Albums 6th Edition (Menomonee
     Falls, WI: Record Research Inc., 2006). 
Joel Whitburn.  Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories 1890-1954: The History of American Popular
   Music (Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc., 1986).

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