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Alton Glenn Miller or Glenn to everyone that knew him was born on the 1st March 1904 in Clarinda, Iowa to parents Lewis Elmer and Mattie Lou Cavender Miller and was one of four children; he bought his first trombone at the tender age of thirteen whilst his family were living in Grant City, Oklahoma and joined the town band.
Glenn attended High School at Fort Morgan, Colorado and studied at the University of Colorado for two years, however lectures got in the way of his love for music and as such he dropped out in order to pursue his dream. After playing with various small bands he was given the opportunity to play with Ben Pollock's orchestra in 1926, his band included well known musicians such as Benny Goodman, Gill Robin, Fud Livingston and Dick Morgan; Glenn stayed with the band until 1928 when they moved to New York.
Whilst in New York, he persuaded his college sweetheart, Helen Berger, to come to New York and marry him, this she did and they settled in Manhattan. From there Glenn worked in pit orchestras and with the Dorsey brothers as well as working as a freelance musician and arranger.
Unable to have children themselves due to previous complications, Glenn and Helen adopted two children, a girl named Jonnie Dee and a boy named Steven to make their family complete.
It was in 1934 that Glenn helped form Ray Nobles American Orchestra to which Glenn was the front man and arranger, the band had regular slots on the radio and soon proved popular. However in 1937, Glenn decided that it was time to leave this band as he wanted to develop his own style and front his own orchestra and thus the Glenn Miller Orchestra was born.
All was not what it seemed and the band was not the success Glenn had hoped for, despite records being released and touring, he could not keep the band together and had to let all but four of the musicians go.
But this was not the end of this great man and in 1938 with encouragement from Helen and his friends; Glenn put together a new orchestra with the four remaining musicians from his previous band, Hal McIntyre, Rolly Bundock, Chummy MacGregor and Ben Price and a whole new line up of new musicians.
The new Glenn Miller Orchestra was born and was
backed by one of the most important agencies of the General Arts Corporation and was signed to RCA Victor's Budget Bluebird Label and the band went on tour again and despite having the distinctive sound of a double clarinet sax melody that was an octave higher, times were still hard until 1939 when the orchestra received it's breakthrough.
On May 17th Glenn's Orchestra played to a sold out audience at Glen Island Casino, New Rochelle and by the end of the session all box office records had been broken. At the beginning of September they travelled to Baltimore and played at the Hippodrome Theatre again all box office records had been broken from there Glenn's Orchestra moved to New York and played at the State Fair in front of the biggest ever audience.
It was on April 4th of the same year that Glenn Miller composed his signature tune 'Moonlight Serenade' and 'In The Mood' later in the year.
Towards the end of 1939, Glenn Miller's orchestra had gone from strength to strength and Glenn's unique sound had people hooked. The band were now playing on the radio three times a week for the next two and a half years sponsored by the Chesterfield Cigarette Company as well as sharing the hit parade for thirteen weeks with the legendary Andrews Sisters.
It was in 1941 that 20th Century Fox produced 'Sun Valley Serenade' of which Glenn Miller had a role as well as the band playing and recording several pieces of music for the film. Glenn sold more than a million records and received his first 'Golden Record', the following year the band appeared in the film 'Orchestra Wives'.
1942 saw Glenn Miller at the top of his career and he joined the US Air Force, he joined on the 7th October as a Captain to which he would be promoted to Major and from there he created the "American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces" by combining two of the Air Force bands into one gigantic orchestra to entertain the troops. The new orchestra arrived here in the United Kingdom at Gourock, Scotland.
June 9th saw Glenn giving the first of many radio broadcasts for the Allied troops and four days later Glenn's orchestra played their first successful concert at Thurleigh Heavy Bombardment Base after this there was to be only one more concert and this was performed at the former Stoll Theatre in London.
It was an honour for Miller to christen a B-17G bomber named after his famous theme song, "Moonlight Serenade" in Knettishall, England, Aug. 25, 1944. However, the aircraft was shot down Sept. 5, 1944.
Glenn Miller took his manager's place on the December 15th 1944, flight from Twinwood Farm air field to Paris, France, to arrange for the band's appearance. Flight Officer John Morgan piloted the Norseman UC-64 with Miller and Lt. Col. Norman F. Baessell aboard. Morgan took off despite the foggy weather. Unfortunately the plane never reached France and was never found.
The band was scheduled to play a Christmas broadcast under the direction of Jerry Gray and in tribute to Glenn Miller this happened, Helen Miller was informed of her husbands' death on Christmas Eve the day before the show was to be broadcast.
After Glenn's disappearance, the orchestra played its scheduled Christmas broadcast in Olympia under the direction of Jerry Gray. The band continued to entertain the troops until 1945 when the band played its last performance on the 13th November at the National Press Club dinner for President Harry Truman in Washington DC. General Eisenhower and General Hap Arnold, both of whom were present at the occasion, thanked the band for their contribution to the war.
After the war, Tex Beneke, Miller's pet sideman, took over the band and continued Miller's swing legacy. It was called the Glenn Miller Band with Tex Beneke; however, following a head-on collision between Beneke and the Miller estate, Beneke left the band.
In 1954, Hollywood dedicated their own tribute to the band leader in the form of the film, The Glenn Miller Story, directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart as Miller and June Allyson as his wife Helen.
Following the movie, the Glenn Miller Orchestra re-formed and handed down from one leader to another. Drummer Ray McKinley (Miller's long-time friend) was first selected by the estate to re-form and lead the band for the next decade before handing it over in 1966 to jazz clarinettist Buddy deFranco who held this position until January 1974, when he passed on the baton to Peanuts Hucko, who had been a clarinettist when he was in Miller's AAF Band. Later, the position was handed over to trombonist Buddy Morrow; in March 1975 trombonist Jimmy Henderson would take the lead until 1981 when Larry O'Brien, who had been a sideman when the band was led by McKinley, took over for two years and was then replaced by saxophonist Dick Gerhart. Five years later, O'Brien got back the baton and has been with the band ever since.
1st March, 1989 would have been Glenn Miller's 75th birthday, his daughter Jonnie Dee Miller bought the house in Clarinda where her father was born. The Glenn Miller Foundation was subsequently founded to oversee the restoration process. Initially, nobody knew how to go about it as very little was known about the house as it existed in 1902; however, thanks to the publicity the foundation attracted, Bob Watson of Salem, Oregon came forward and offered help. His parents had bought the house from the Millers when they moved in 1907, and Watson not only knew a great deal about the house, but had also several photographs of it. Major restoration of the house began in March 1991, whereby newer additions to the home were removed and the original layout was restored.
In 2003, Glenn Miller was posthumously given the Grammy Awards 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award.
After the disappearance of Glenn, there was any number of theories that were thrown in to the ring about what happened to him, with many more being developed over the years.
There was speculation that he died in compromising circumstances in a Bordello; this was put forth by a German journalist.
Other theories suggest that he was a spy and died as a result of being caught.
Another theory is that Glenn Miller was abducted by aliens who wanted to dissect him and study him.
Should you wish to learn more about Glenn Miller feel free to check out the following websites:
Glen Miller is playing his terrific big band hits again in this stunning musical ... more
biography. The great Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson star in this vibrant tribute to one of America's legendary bandleaders, charting Miller's rise from obscurity and poverty to fame and wealth in the early 1940's.The wonderful score swings with the original Miller music performed by the Glen Miller Orchestra and such musical giants as Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, Frances Langford and The Modernaires. Rounding out the great cast are such favorites as Henry Morgan (M*A*S*H), Charles Drake and George Tobias.