On March 1, 1904 Alton Glen Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa to Elmer and Mattie Lou Miller. Three years later, the Miller family moved to Tryon, Nebraska. In 1915, the family moved again, this time to Grant City, Missouri where Glenn went to grade school and played in the town band. Three years later, the Millers moved to Colorado. The family finally settled here, and Glenn began playing football, and was even named "the best left end in Colorado" his senior year by the Colorado High School Sports Association. He was also interested in dance band music, and started his own band. Glenn even skipped his graduation to travel to Laramie, Wyoming to perform with his band.
In college Glenn decided to make music his career. His first professional contract was with a band named Senter's Sentapeeds. After a short stint with the Sentapeeds, he moved to Boulder, Colorado to join the Holly Moyer Orchestra and pursue his college education at the University of Colorado. In 1924, after two years of college, Glenn dropped out to pursue his musical ambitions full time.
For the next thirteen years, Glenn worked in various capacities for a number of bands across the United States. In 1937, he decided to fulfill his lifetime dream of beginning his own band. However, because of financial trouble the group disbanded. Not giving up, Glenn started the Miller Orchestra the following year, and this time around things went differently. The orchestra was chosen to play at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York for the summer season. This led to even more prestigious jobs on the East coast.
The band found great success, but at the peak of their career, Glenn decided to join the military. The United States had just entered into World War II, and Glenn believed he could better serve his country as part of the Armed Forces. However, at 38 he was too old for combat, and he was not immediately accepted. Glenn did not let this stop him. In August of 1942 he wrote a letter to the Army's Brigadier General Charles Young saying he wanted to "put a little more swing into the feet of our marching men and a little more joy into their hearts and to be placed in charge of a modernized army band." Glenn became a part of the Army Specialty Corps and given the rank of Captain. For a year and a half, he directed a 50-member band. The goal was to build morale among the troops, and give them a touch of home.
But this was not enough for Glenn. He arranged for overseas duty for the band, which placed them in an area of London that was under constant attack by the Germans. Glenn feared for the safety of his men, and arranged for them to be relocated to Bedford, England. The day after the men moved, a buzz bomb landed in front of their old quarters, killing 100 people and destroying the building. While in Europe, the band kept busy. In one month, Glenn wrote they had played at 35 different bases and done 40 radio broadcasts in their free time.
On December 15, 1944, Glenn boarded a single engine C-64 headed for Paris to begin preparations for a Christmas broadcast. Tragically, the plane never reached France and was never found. The band performed the Christmas concert without him, and continued to perform until November 1945. Their final concert was at a dinner for President Truman. At the dinner, Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Hap Arnold thanked the band for all of their hard work and a job well done.
Some of Glenn Miller's most popular songs include "Moonlight Serenade", "Tuxedo Junction" and "In the Mood." The Glenn Miller Orchestra is still performing today under the direction of Larry O'Brien. Glenn once said, "A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality." His band certainly had their own sound, and it is a sound that is still popular after over fifty years.
This article was written by Brianne Mueller