Glenn Miller and his orchestra were one of the best-selling recording acts between 1939 to 1943. Truly, it’s almost impossible to swing a… trombone… without hitting one of Miller’s classic hits — “Moonlight Serenade,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo,” “Little Brown Jug” and perhaps his most well-known and loved (and featured below), “In the Mood.”
At the height of his musical success, in 1942, Miller felt it was his duty to help with the US effort in WWII. Too old to be drafted, at the age of 38, he was accepted into the Army and went on to create, in his words, “a modernized Army band.” He eventually went on to give over 800 performances in England by the summer of 1944, and even went so far as to make recordings in German to be used as propaganda.
Sadly, while not a combatant, Miller would be claimed by his desire to serve his country. On December 15, 1944, Miller departed on a US Army Air Force UC-64 plane, to fly from the UK to Paris to play for soldiers there. The plane disappeared over the English Channel, and no trace of the plane, crew, or Miller was ever found.
Alton Glenn Miller was gone at the peak of his musical genius, at only 40 years of age.
While Miller himself disappeared, his music has done rather the opposite — reaching and speaking to generations well beyond his death, over 70 years later. The video below features a high-quality recording of “In the Mood,” and the picture below shows Jimmy Stewart as Glenn in the 1953 movie The Glenn Miller Story. – AJW