70 Top Ten Hits in 4 Years
Between 1939 and 1942, Glenn Miller and his orchestra enjoyed amazing popularity
and commercial success. The Glenn Miller Orchestra recorded 17 Top 10 Hits in
1939, 31 in 1940, and 11 each in 1941 and 1942. These songs included classic
swing sensations like "In the Mood," "A String of Pearls," "Little Brown Jug" and "Moonlight Serenade." Miller's success led to other lucrative ventures, such as his radio series. Titled "Moonlight Serenade," this series aired on CBS three times a week. Miller and his band also worked on movies, introducing hits like "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in Sun
Valley Serenade (1941) and "Kalamazoo" in
Orchestra Wives (1942). By the 1940s, Glenn Miller
was earning around $20,000
Secret of His Success
Glenn Miller's Orchestra attained its popularity because of the band's unique style and sound. Miller himself claimed, "A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality." Indeed, Miller's orchestra distinguished itself from other big bands in many ways. While jazz music is characterized by its spontaneity and use of improvisation, The Glenn Miller Orchestra played swing music, an offshoot of jazz that favors orchestration rather than improvisation. Many jazz aficionados disapproved of this musical style, disliking the meticulous preparation and structure evident in the Glenn Miller Orchestra's
The signature sound of the orchestra set it apart even from other swing bands.
By combining the sounds of the clarinet and the saxophone, Miller gave his band
a distinctive resonance. In Miller's music, the clarinet and tenor saxophone contribute to the melody while saxophones play a complementary harmonic line. This aspect of the band's sound made the Glenn Miller Orchestra's
music recognizable, distinguishing it from that of other groups.
With the onset of WWII, Glenn Miller willingly left behind his musical success
to serve his country. In 1942, he enlisted in the US Army Air Force leaving behind
civilian life but not his music. Appointed as a Captain in the Army Specialist
Corps, he devoted himself to raising soldiers' morale by modernizing the army
band. After completing basic training, Miller organized the Glenn Miller Army
Air Force Band, which has been acclaimed by some as his best musical group.
Like Miller's previous endeavors, the Army Air Force Band was a great triumph. Miller and his group kept up a hectic schedule of tours and performances. During its time, the band gave over 800 performances, more than 300 of which were personal appearances. The other 500 were broadcasts heard by millions of listeners. Miller also participated in other broadcasts, serving as the host of "Sustain the Wings," a
weekly radio show.
As his band prepared to embark on a tour of Europe, Miller boarded a flight to
Paris on December 15, 1944 to make preparatory arrangements for the rest of his
group. Sadly, the transport on which Miller was a passenger disappeared over
the English Channel and was never recovered. The disappearance of Miller's aircraft may have been caused by bad weather. However, records also suggest that bombs, jettisoned by Allied bombers returning from an aborted mission, may have inadvertently struck the plane. Even after Glenn Miller's
disappearance, his army band continued to play for troops, performing up until
August 1945, at which time the group returned to New York and its members were
The Legacy of Glenn Miller
Despite his untimely death at the age of 40, Glenn Miller is remembered today
not only for the beloved music he produced, but also for his influence on the
evolution and commercial success of swing, and for his patriotic devotion in
a time of war. Over the years, Glenn Miller's Estate has supported incarnations of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which still captivate civilian and military audiences. In addition, several biographical books and a film, The
Glenn Miller Story (1953), have paid tribute to the life of
this great man and musician. Though the Big Band era has passed and the 100th
anniversary of Glenn Miller's
birth occurred in March 2004, his music still holds the same allure today that
it did during his life. The melodies and sounds of the Glenn Miller Orchestra
charm audiences of all ages.
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