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More on Glenn Miller

8/19/2001 • American History Magazine

After the war, Tex Beneke, under an agreement with the Miller estate, formed a new Glenn Miller Band that enjoyed considerable recording success. During the early 1950s Beneke gave his own name to the band. The success of the 1954 movie The Glenn Miller Story led to the formation of a new, authorized Glenn Miller Orchestra, which has been in continuous existence for nearly forty years and averages about three hundred engagements a year.

Each year the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society hosts a music festival in Clarinda in honor of the town’s famous son. The June 1994 event attracted Miller enthusiasts from thirty-seven states and more than ten countries. Musical aggregations from Japan and the Netherlands joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the U.S. Air Force “Airmen of Note,” and others paying tribute to the Miller sound. Plans are already underway for the 1995 festival to be held June 8-10. A foundation established by the bandleader’s daughter also has purchased his Clarinda birthplace, restored it to its 1904 appearance, and opened it as a museum containing family memorabilia and mementos of the Big-Band era. For information on the home or festival contact the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society, P.O. Box 61, Clarinda, Iowa 51632, 712-542-2461.

Miller’s brief association with the University of Colorado is memorialized by the Glenn Miller Archive at that institution, which, as the authorized repository of Miller memorabilia, preserves and displays the major collection of his papers, records, and photographs, as well as two of his trombones.

Miller had composed the score for “Moonlight Serenade” while attending an arranging class at New York University. The original manuscript bore the simple title “Miller’s Tune.” Glenn subsequently renamed his composition “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep” and wrote some lyrics which, as the title would indicate, were too sad to have been very popular. Finally introduced in 1938 under the name by which it is now remembered, “Moonlight Serenade” became the most memorable and recognizable of the Big-Band theme songs.

“Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” introduced in Sun Valley Serenade, became the first gold record ever awarded when RCA presented a commemorative gold 78-r.p.m. copy to Miller on his Chesterfield Radio Show on February 10, 1942. Sales of the pressing had just gone over the 1,200,000 mark–the highest total for a record since 1928. (Today’s recordings qualify for the gold at 500,000 copies.) Miller’s original gold record is now one of the artifacts displayed in the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado.

Under the leadership of Miller’s assistants, the band continued its operations in Europe. By the time it returned to the U.S. in June 1945, the band had made an estimated three hundred personal appearances on the Continent before more than 600,000 people.

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