About Glenn Miller (1909-1944)
Bandleader - Trombonist who went missing during the 2nd World War.
Born: 1 March 1904;
Birthplace: Clarinda, Iowa;
Death: 15 December 1944 (airplane crash);
Best Known As: Wartime Big Band leader;
Name at birth: Alton Glenn Miller
Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 - December 15, 1944) was an American jazz musician and band leader in the Swing era. One of his most famous pieces was "In the Mood", probably the most well-known recording of the style.
Musician & Bandleader
Miller worked as a trombonist in several Big Bands before forming his first band in 1937, but because there were so many bands at that time and it had no distinguishing qualities, it failed.
Miller returned to New York soon after it broke up. At some point (Miller himself apparently could not recall exactly when) he realised that his band's distinctive reed sound, formed by the clarinet and tenor saxophone playing the melody line with a number of other saxes harmonising, should be emphasised and that "the sound" might be enough to lift him above the crowd of other Big Bands of the era.
He formed another band in 1938, the Glenn Miller Orchestra. This immediately attracted attention and big crowds. A series of recordings followed, beginning in June, 1939
Miller's orchestra dominated the top spot on the various popular music charts for over a year, with "In the Mood" (a pared-down arrangement of the Joe Garland tune) holding the top spot for over fifteen weeks in early 1940. "Tuxedo Junction" took over, keeping Miller at "Number 1" into the summer. On February 11, 1941, Miller was presented with the first ever Gold record for "Chattanooga Choo Choo".
Other popular hits included "String of Pearls", "Moonlight Serenade", and "Pennsylvania 6-5000" (which was, and still is, the real telephone number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan).
Miller joined the United States Army Air Corps in 1942 and was commissioned as a Captain. He commanded the Army Air Force Band, assigned to play for American troops overseas.
He was scheduled to fly from England to Paris on December 14, 1944, to play for the soldiers that had recently liberated the city. A performance he never made.
Miller's plane went missing and still remains somewhat of a mystery. The official explanation is that his plane went down somewhere over the English Channel, although many alternate theories have been suggested. The fact that neither Miller's remains, nor the wreckage of the single engine Norseman plane he was travelling in were ever recovered from the channel have led to many conspiracy theories over the years.
"To add fuel to the mystery, the official records of the airfield that Miller supposedly took off from on his way to Paris, say that no planes took off that day due to bad weather. In addition, many supposed eye witnesses report to have seen Miller after the official date of death. Some former friends of Miller's have claimed to have seen him in France on the 15th. Others have claimed to see him at a party in Washington DC a few days later. Some have suggested that Miller had been killed during a secret mission, which led to his actual cause of death being covered up. Other sources think he died after a heart attack in a brothel in Paris."
One source that may possibly support the official record comes from members of a bomber crew that was returning to England on the day Miller's plane was heading to Paris.
Standard procedure called for the bombers to drop their unused "payload" into a specified location in the English Channel on their way back to England. One of the crew members claims to have seen a Norseman flying underneath the bombers as they dropped their bombs. Miller's Norseman would only have had to travel a few miles off of its course to be positioned directly under the returning bombers.
It is possible, by some twist of events, that the Miller plane was accidentally bombed by an Ally bomber while dropping unused bombs.
Miller's music has surpassed the Big Band era and is well-known today by many because of its' use in movies. Jimmy Stewart starred as Glenn Miller in 1953's movie Glenn Miller Story. "Moonlight Serenade" was used in Tom Hanks' Big. In 1989, "In The Mood" was used as the instrumental theme for Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers "Swing the Mood", that was number one single in Britain, Australia, and several other countries.
In April 1992, at his daughter's request, a stone was placed in Arlington National Cemetery in memory of Glenn Miller.
Arlington National Cemetery's page on Glenn Miller.