Some more music to model by
This article is part of a series:
Another interesting radio recording of Glenn Miller. Pre-War – New Year’s 1940. (Playing at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City – “Pennsylvania-6-5000” was the phone number)
I had the good fortune to meet Artie Shaw back in 1990 and convince him to talk to me (it took some effort, he kept saying “I don’t do that anymore”). But I got him to talk. He was pretty dismissive of both Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, on grounds that “they weren’t creative.” What he meant was, they kept close control of their arrangements; what you heard on a radio or the record you bought was what you heard if they showed up and you heard them live – which isn’t stupid if you want broad mass audience acceptance. “They both had very Republican bands” as he put it. What he meant was, very disciplined, exactly as original, get in line and keep doing the same thing.
Myself, I loved Glenn Miller. When I was 16, my girlfriend and I (who met at a dance class when we were 13) got to dance to The Glenn Miller Band Led By Tex Beneke at Elitch’s Gardens in Denver (where the band had played originally), and the band at that time was still about 50% original members. I got to see Benny Goodman and the Original Octet on their final farewell tour in 1974 (my wife and I were the youngest people in the audience).
But musically, Shaw is superior. He never recorded the same song the same way twice, and no live performance was like any other exactly. He let the music take him where it was going. As a fan of musicians, he’s easy to really like.
There’s a Big Tell in the difference between the two in World War II: Miller went into the Army as a Captain while most of his band members were enlisted men, and Tex Beneke told me when he got out of the crowd and played with the Royal Crown Revue at The Derby here in LA back in 1994 that “Glenn even made us all salute him – and we were all in the same band!”
Shaw, on the other hand, went with the Navy in the Pacific and took the rank of Chief Petty Officer when they said all his band members had to be enlisted. They played in the Solomons in 1942-43. As he said to me “By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, I was so sick of “Begin the Beguine” I was thinking of throwing up when someone requested it. But down there, playing for all those kids, when I played that song and saw in their faces what it meant to them, how it took them home, I fell in love with it all over again.” He was eventually evacuated for coming down with a tropic disease contracted while playing for the guys that took two years to cure.
So, “more music to model by” will from here on present some Artie Shaw. If you never heard him before, he was The Best.