Glenn Miller was probably the war years era musician. He was not only famous nationwide, but worldwide as well. Miller was born middle class in a small house in Clarinda, IA. He moved then to Colorado around his high school years and attended school there. He had a passion for football and music simultaneously. His passion for music trumped football however and he formed his first band in the early '20s, the Mick Miller Melody Five. It was not until 1926 when he had his first real taste of the big time when he signed on as an arranger for the Ben Pollack Orchestra in Venice, CA. There he would meet future clarinet star, Benny Goodman. He remained with the band until 1932 when he finally got enough courage to form his own band. It failed miserably due to financial issues, but Glenn did not waver. He started up a new band soon after and they soared into the charts. In 1939, they had their first big hits, "Moonlight Serenade", and "In the Mood". Both songs are testaments to his music and are ever famous today.
In 1942, after numerous benefit shows and campaigns for the war effort, Miller decided it was time to enlist. He signed up into the Army Special Services and went around entertaining troops and performing marching music. On a cold December night in 1944, Captain Glenn Miller took off in his two man airplane to help plan a New Years Eve program over in France from England. He was never heard from again.
Glenn Miller’s influence over the war was one that no other musician of the time could match. He demonstrated true elegance and grace when performing and in support of the troops overseas as far as to lay his life down for his country. Miller’s band was something special; they had a unique sound that he created himself. He always talked about his fascination with what would be ‘his sound’. His big success came out of the war in turn. He struck multiple hits that revolved around the war effort, especially the 1942 hit, “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree”. The song dictates a phenomenon during the war best categorized by the ever famous, ‘dear john’ letters. The premise is that the man goes off to war and he asks his girl to be patient while he is gone and not to run around with other men. This is a common theme with multiple songs of the era relating back to what I discussed with the Louis Armstrong hit, “I Wonder”. Miller was one of the biggest stars of his time and definitely had a significant impact on the war. Troops everywhere listened in for an uplifting song or two from this mountain of a man. “Glenn’s deep- rooted responsibility, his intense tenacity, and overwhelming loyalty brought him within one plane flight of these men”, stated George Simon, author of The Feeling of Jazz and close friend of Miller.
Out of Miller's band success, he and the band were in two films, Orchestra Wives in 1942 and Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. Orchestra Wives follows George Montgomery and his newlywed wife Ann Rutherford as they tour with Miller. Rutherford finds trouble as she struggles to find her place with the other wives of the band. The two films did moderately well and it only helped boost Miller and the band's reputation.
Glenn and company saw their first big hits in 1939, one being "In the Mood". This song has since been a hallmark of the era and remains a testament to the big band craze.