A successful musician and arranger for bands like Tommy Dorsey and Ray Noble, Glenn Miller struggled with his own orchestra’s recordings for several years before hitting on a sound that brought him huge success. Glenn Miller discovered the magic of the reed section and nurtured his discovery until it grew into a full-fledged phenomenon. His unique take on the swing sound and careful use of instrumentation made his orchestra one of the most sought-after big bands of the 20th century.
Riding high with hits like “Tuxedo Junction” that attracted record-breaking crowds, Glenn Miller disbanded his orchestra in 1942 at the height of its popularity to volunteer for the Army. He had a firm belief that the power of his music could raise morale in the dark times of war, so he organized and led the famous Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. It went to Europe to entertain servicemen performing numerous shows live and on radio.
Then tragedy struck. On December 15, 1944, Major Miller took off in a single engine plane from Europe to precede his band to France, disappearing over the English Channel, and was never seen again. The army declared him officially dead a year later.
The 1954 film The Glenn Miller Story stirred up an interest among the public, and the popular demand to continue Glenn’s legacy led the Miller Estate to authorize the formation of the present Glenn Miller Orchestra. On June 6, 1956, and under the direction of drummer Ray McKinley, the reformed Glenn Miller Orchestra performed its first concert and has been on the road ever since. Other leaders have followed Ray including clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, trombonists Buddy Morrow and Jimmy Henderson, and tenor saxophonist Dick Gerhart. Since January 2012, vocalist Nick Hilscher leads the band.
Today, the 18-member ensemble continues to play many of the original Miller arrangements both from the civilian band and the AAFB libraries along with some more modern selections arranged and performed in the Miller style and sound.
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