As we noted Iowa native Glenn Miller's birthdate yesterday, it brought back memories of my first exposure to jazz back when I was a kid. We were all bombarded by those commercials for the "Best of the Big Band Era" compilations on television. You'd get little snippets of the more famous charts of the Swing Era's most popular bands as a list of the album's complete roster scrolled across the screen. To this day, I could probably still recall some of those snippets, but as far as the whole charts go, my memory would be quite hazy. Unless it's the charts of Mr. Miller who, maybe with the exception of Benny Goodman, has proven the most enduring figure of the Swing Era.
That's because, also when I was a kid, I was exposed to that great film about Miller starring Jimmy Stewart, Henry Morgan and June Allyson. "The Glenn Miller Story" also included cameos from Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, Ben Pollack and others. The music just swept me away! Seeing just how passionate Miller was about his music was very intriguing. The mysterious and tragic circumstances of his death also sent a powerful message. I was out the door to one of my local album shops (which are sadly now obsolete) to get a disc of Miller's music. I learned his most famous pieces from front to back, and even taped radio shows on my little cassette recorder as if I was broadcasting his concerts from some far-off ballroom. As a sign of the times, the show was usually sponsored by some cigarette brand I had seen in commercials...usually it was Chesterfield for some reason. Luckily I never picked up the nicotane habit, but I was hooked on jazz from there on out!
I'm sure our resident Miller aficianado, Cary J. Hahn, will be featuring plenty of Miller's music on his Big Band Memories program this Sunday afternoon. A well-deserved salute to one of Iowa's greatest native sons.
Bob Stewart, Program Director firstname.lastname@example.org