According to an article in the Sunday Times (1970), Glen Miller, an American bandleader, was one of the makers of the twentieth century. He was the most influential figure of all in the "sweet" band field of modern popular music. Scores of orchestras and ochestrators imitate his style today; a "Glenn Miller Orchestra" officially endorsed by his estate, has played carbon-copy Miller since his death; and his memory is perpetuated by devoted fan-clubs, many of whose members refuse to believe he is dead. (A plane carrying him from England to France vanished without trace on December 16, 1944.) Born in Iowa, he began as a jazz trombonist in his teens, but by 1930 was a top studio man for jazz-based popular music.
A strict disciplinarian, he drilled his band meticulously to produce the idiosyncratic sound he wanted - and when he launched it in 1938 swiftly built a following which outstripped even Benny Goodman's. His distinctive innovation was the smooth sound created by a clarinet playing one octave above four saxophones, balanced by silky trombones and mellow trumpets. With a dash of "commercial" swing added, the formula was irresistible. record after record was a million-seller - Moonlight Serenade, American Patrol, Moonlight Serenade, Kalamazoo
et al. - and Miller became the world's most popular dance band leader, earning almost £1 million a year. In 1942, with two successful movies completed (Sun Valley serenade
and Orchestra Wives
he enlisted, and his A.E.F. orchestra became the rave of the late war years. His disc sales probably exceed 50 million, and in 1954 a move, The Glenn Miller Story
, with James Stewart playing the lead, enshrined the legend further.