Glenn Miller in Concert

The seventh medley in the concert is entitled Glenn Miller in Concert. It includes five songs from the iconic Glenn Miller and His Jazz Orchestra. The arrangement was written by Paul Murtha (see below) in 2007.

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were an American swing dance band formed by Glenn Miller in 1938. Arranged around a clarinet and tenor saxophone playing melody, and three other saxophones playing harmony, the band became the most popular and commercially successful dance orchestra of the swing era and one of the greatest singles charting acts of the 20th century.

Glenn Miller (1904 – 1944) began professionally recording in New York City as a sideman in the hot jazz era of the late 1920s. With the arrival of virtuoso trombonists Jack Teagarden and Tommy Dorsey, Miller focused more on developing his arranging skills. Writing for contemporaries and future stars such as Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman, Miller gained prowess as an arranger by working in a variety of settings.

In February 1937, Miller started an orchestra that briefly made records for Decca. With this group, Miller used an arrangement he wrote for British bandleader Ray Noble's American band in an attempt to form a clarinet-reed sound. This style developed over time, and eventually became known as the Glenn Miller sound. Frustrated with his agency over playing inconsistent bookings and lacking broad radio exposure, Miller gave the band notice in December 1937. Less than three months later, he was looking for members and forming a new band.

Miller began a partnership with Eli Oberstein, which led directly to a contract with Victor subsidiary Bluebird Records. Gaining notoriety at such engagements as the Paradise Restaurant and Frank Dailey–owned Meadowbrook and their corresponding nationwide broadcasts, Miller struck enormous popularity playing the Glen Island Casino in the summer of 1939. The casino's radio broadcast antenna ensured the Miller band was heard around the country. By late August, the end of their summer season, they had nationwide attention. From late 1939 to mid-1942, Miller’s was the number-one band in the country, with few true rivals. Only Harry James’ band began to equal Miller's in popularity as he wound down his career with the advent of the Second World War. A musicians’ union strike prevented Miller from making any new recordings in the last two months of his band’s existence, and they formally disbanded at the end of September 1942. Though Miller formed the Major Glenn Miller Army Air Forces Orchestra during the war in Europe, his death in a flight over the English Channel in December 1944 prevented the return of the orchestra after the war. Various re-incarnations of the orchestra have formed and are still performing.

Miller's short-term chart successes have seldom been duplicated and his group's unprecedented dominance of early Your Hit Parade and Billboard singles charts resulted in 16 number-one singles and 69 Top Ten hits.

The first song in medley, “In the Mood”, is based on the composition “Tar Paper Stomp” by Wingy Manone. The first recording under the name “In the Mood” was released by Edgar Hayes & His Orchestra in 1938.

In 1983, the Glenn Miller recording from 1939 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, the recording was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry which consists of recordings that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

In 1999, National Public Radio (NPR) included the 1939 Glenn Miller recording in its list of “The 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century”.

Glenn Miller’s single of “In the Mood", with “I Want to Be Happy” on the B-side, became the best-selling swing instrumental of all-time.

“Tuxedo Junction”, the second song in our medley, was recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, becoming a No. 1 hit in 1940. The music was written by Erskine Hawkins, Bill Johnson, and Julian Dash. Erskine explained that the Junction was a whistle stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”, a collection of performance venues found throughout the eastern, southern, and upper midwest which provided commercial and cultural acceptance for African-American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers when they were prohibited from many venues.

The third song in our medley, “A String of Pearls” was recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in November 1941, becoming a #1 hit. It was composed by Jerry Gray with lyrics by Eddie DeLange. It was released as an RCA Bluebird 78 single, as the B side of a record which had “Day Dreaming” on the A side.

“Little Brown Jug”, the fourth song in our medley, was written in 1869 by Joseph Eastburn Winner. It was originally a drinking song. It remained well known as a folk song into the early 20th century. Like many songs which make reference to alcohol, it enjoyed new popularity during the Prohibition era.

In 1939, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra released a hit version of the song as the A side of 78 single in a new arrangement by Bill Finegan, with “Pavanne” on the B side. The recording was an early chart hit. The song was performed in Glenn Miller's Carnegie Hall concert that year and became a staple of the Glenn Miller Orchestra repertoire, and a classic of the Big Band era.

The final song in our medley is named “Pennsylvania 6-5000”. Many big band musicians played in what was at the time the largest hotel in the world, the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, in its Cafe Rouge in New York City. The hotel's telephone number, Pennsylvania 6-5000, inspired the Glenn Miller 1940 Top 5 Billboard hit of the same name, which had a 12-week chart run. The 78 single was released in June, 1940 as the A side of a 78 record, backed with “Rug Cutter's Swing”. The song was also an advertisement for attendance at the band’s live performances, as a call could be put through to Hotel Pennsylvania’s Cafe Rouge for a reservation.

Paul Murtha (b. 1960), the arranger of this medley, is a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania where he studied jazz arranging with John Morris and theory with Richard Napolitan. In 1983, Paul earned a B.S. degree in Music Education (with a minor in Jazz Studies) from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

A versatile composer-arranger, Paul is at ease in both professional and educational circles and is in constant demand in and around Washington, D.C. Paul has written music for acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, Patti LaBelle, and Ken Burns’ “Music of the Civil War.” He has also written extensively for some of the top high school marching bands in the country, including The Norwin High School Band in North Huntingdon, PA.

From 1990 to 1996, Paul served as the Chief Arranger at the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, NY and is currently the Chief Arranger for The United States Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) in Washington, D.C., where he writes for all elements of the United States Army’s Premier Band.

The music for Glenn Miller in Concert was provided for the band

by Howard and Laurie Webb.