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 and Bandleader
During the 1930s, Miller worked as a trombonist in several big bands, before forming his first band in 1937 (see 1937 in music), but it failed to distinguish itself from the many others of the era. Returning to New York after it broke up, at some point (Miller himself apparently could not recall exactly when) soon after 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 lift him above the crowd of other big bands of the era.
He formed a second band, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, in 1938, which immediately attracted attention and big crowds to venues, and a series of recordings followed. Beginning in June, 1939. Miller 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 at the beginning of 1940 and 'Tuxedo Junction' taking over and 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'.
His 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).
In 1942 Miller joined the United States Army Air Corps and was commissioned as a Captain. He was the commander of the Army Air Force Band and was assigned to play for American troops overseas.
On December 14, 1944, he was scheduled to fly from England to Paris to play for the soldiers that had recently liberated the city. Miller's death 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 possible supporting piece of evidence to the official record comes from members of a bomber crew that was returning to England on the day Miller was headed to Paris. The bomber's mission had been abandoned. 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.
Miller's music is familiar to many born long after his death, especially from its use in a number of movies. Jimmy Stewart starred as Glenn Miller in 1953's The 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', a compilation mix that also included many early rock and roll tunes and was a 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.
See also This biography is published under the GNU Licence