(Alton) Glenn Miller


Glenn Miller, famous for the mysterious circumstances of his death, was one of the great dance-band leaders and jazz trombonists of the 20th Century. His music, the very sound of America during the war years, continues to be performed and enjoyed to this day. With its unusual doubling of the melody on clarinet and saxaphone, Miller's arrangement style is instantly recognisable, helping to popularise such hits as String of Pearls, Little Brown Jug, American Patrol, and In the Mood.

Miller was born in Clarinda, Indiana on 1 March 1904 and after a brief spell at the University of Colorado joined Ben Pollack's band in 1924. After moving to New York in 1928, he performed as a freelance trombonist with artists including the Dorsey brothers, all the while working on his arrangements.

In 1937 he formed his own band and, despite a few teething troubles, by 1939 the band was chosen to play the summer season at the Glen Island Casino in New York. Frequent radio broadcasts resulted and, by the summer the same year, the Glenn Miller Orchestra was a hit all over the States, performing numbers such as Moonlight Serenade, the band's signature tune, and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

In October 1942, Miller disbanded the group and joined the US Army Air Force as a captain, but formed a new ensemble in service to give the 'boys overseas' a taste of home. In 1944 he and his band moved its base to England to entertain the invasion troops and were due to make a Christmas 1944 broadcast from the newly liberated Paris. Miller set off in bad weather on December 15 in advance of the rest of the band, but the plane never reached Paris and it has never been found.

Miller was mourned as a war hero, but though missing presumed dead, his music lived on as the sound of the allied victory. It continued to attract admirers in peacetime and even prompted a Hollywood biopic in 1953, The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart and June Allyson. Although he had many hits with sentimental vocal ballads, it's his swinging instrumental numbers, including Chattanooga Choo Choo and Tuxedo Junction, that are best remembered.

Related composers: Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael

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