The Glenn Miller Orchestra, the world-famous swing band, was originally formed in 1938 by Glenn Miller. At the time, the band consisted of a clarinet and tenor saxophone on melody, and three other saxophones on harmony. The unique arrangement allowed Miller to be more creative with his sound and develop his own style.
The band would go on to become one of the best-known and greatest bands of the swing era.
Before he became an icon, Glenn Miller toured with a number of orchestras and found himself in Los Angeles in the early 1920s. Miller played with Ben Pollack’s group for some time, which included Benny Goodman, and wrote some arrangements for the band.
He moved to New York City in 1928 and spent the next few years as a freelance arranger and trombonist.
Miller recorded with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, and cut 18 sides for Benny Goodman. He worked for radio stations, and eventually became the musical director for the Dorsey Band.
It wasn’t until 1935 that Miller recorded under his own name for the first time. He used six horns, a string quartet and a rhythm section to record “A Blues Serenade” and “Moonlight on the Ganges.”
After a few more failed attempts to make a mark, Miller returned to New York City, broke and depressed.
Miller’s decision to put his reed section on the melody changed his life forever, and gave birth to the new Glenn Miller Orchestra, known for its unique sound.
In 1939, the band recorded the song “Moonlight Serenade,” which is regarded as one of the top swing songs of that era. The single propelled the band into stardom.
The band’s most famous single “In the Mood” was recorded in August 1939, and held onto the number one spot on the Billboard charts for 30 weeks.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra released 31 top ten hits in the 1940s and had eight number-one hits in a single calendar year.
Other famous hits from the original band include “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “At Last.”
The present-day Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed after the disappearance of Miller in 1944. Miller hopped on a transport plane to Paris on December 15, 1944, and was never seen again. The band was reconstituted under Tex Beneke, close friend of Miller and lead tenor saxophonist.
In 1956, Miller’s estate hired Ray McKinley to form a new band. Over the years, the modern band has performed and recorded under a number of leaders.