Tex Beneke

Last updated

Tex Beneke
Shep Fields and Tex Beneke, Glen Island Casino, New York, N.Y., May 16, 1947 (William P. Gottlieb).jpg
Shep Fields and Beneke, Glen Island Casino, New Rochelle, N.Y., May 16, 1947.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.
Background information
Birth nameGordon Lee Beneke
Born(1914-02-12)February 12, 1914
Fort Worth, Texas, US
DiedMay 30, 2000(2000-05-30) (aged 86)
Costa Mesa, California, US
Genres Big band, swing, jazz, blues
InstrumentsSaxophone, vocals
Associated acts Glenn Miller Orchestra
The Modernaires
Eydie Gorme
Ronnie Deauville
Henry Mancini
Norman Leyden

Gordon Lee "Tex" Beneke (February 12, 1914 – May 30, 2000 [1] ) was an American saxophonist, singer, and bandleader. His career is a history of associations with bandleader Glenn Miller and former musicians and singers who worked with Miller. His band is also associated with the careers of Eydie Gormé, Henry Mancini and Ronnie Deauville. Beneke also solos on the recording the Glenn Miller Orchestra made of their popular song "In The Mood" and sings on another popular Glenn Miller recording, "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Jazz critic Will Friedwald considers Beneke to be one of the major blues singers who sang with the big bands of the early 1940s. [2] [3]


Early life

Beneke was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He started playing saxophone when he was nine, going from soprano to alto to tenor saxophones and staying with the latter. His first professional work was with bandleader Ben Young in 1935, but it was when he joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra three years later that his career hit its stride. [4] Beneke said: "It seems that Gene Krupa had left the Goodman band and was forming his own first band. He was flying all over the country looking for new talent and he stopped at our ballroom one night [to listen to the Ben Young band]. [...] Gene wound up taking two or three of our boys with him back to New York. [Krupa] wanted to take [Beneke] but his sax section was already filled." Krupa knew that Glenn Miller was forming a band and recommended Beneke to Miller. [5]

Whatever concerns Miller might have had about Beneke's playing were quickly dismissed; Miller immediately made Beneke his primary tenor sax soloist and Beneke played all but a few of the tenor solos on all of the records and personal appearances made by the Miller band until it disbanded in 1942. On the August 1, 1939, recording made of the Joe Garland composition "In The Mood", Beneke trades two-measure tenor solo exchanges with his fellow section-mate Al Klink. [6] [7] Miller's 1941 recording of "A String of Pearls" (composed by the band's arranger, Jerry Gray) also has Beneke and Klink trading two-measure tenor solo phrases. Beneke appears with Miller and his band in the films Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942), both of which helped propel the singer/saxophonist to the top of the Metronome polls. Tex Beneke is listed in the personnel of the 1941 Metronome All-Star Band led by Benny Goodman. [8] [9] In 1942, Glenn Miller's orchestra won the first Gold Record ever awarded for "Chattanooga Choo Choo"; the song was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon as part of the score for the 1941 Twentieth Century Fox movie Sun Valley Serenade which was primarily made for the purpose of putting the Miller band in a motion picture. [10] [11] Tex Beneke was the featured singer in the movie and on the Victor/Bluebird recording that also featured band vocalist Paula Kelly and the Modernaires, a vocal group of four male singers, who were also regular members of the Miller entourage. "Chattanooga Choo Choo", catalogue number Bluebird 11230-B, was recorded by the Miller band at the Victor recording studios in Hollywood, May 7, 1941. [12] Hoping to repeat the success of "Chattanooga" the following year, songwriters Warren and Gordon composed "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" for the "Orchestra Wives" score. That arrangement also featured Beneke, the Modernaires and band vocalist Marion Hutton in a not-too-dissimilar fashion. Not surprisingly, "Kalamazoo" became another hit record for Miller, Beneke and the band though not to the extent that "Chattanooga" had been the year before. By then, the U.S. was involved in World War II and "Kalamazoo's" success was also short-lived partially because Miller disbanded his group only three months after the record was made and four months following the filming of "Orchestra Wives".

When Miller broke up the band in August 1942 to join the Army Air Force, Beneke played very briefly with Horace Heidt before joining the Navy himself, leading a Navy band in Oklahoma. While employed with Miller, Beneke was offered his own band, as Miller had done with colleagues and employees like Hal McIntyre, Claude Thornhill and Charlie Spivak. Beneke wanted to come back to Miller after the war and learn more about leading a band before being given his own band. Beneke led two bands in the navy and kept in touch with Glenn Miller while they were both serving in the military. By 1945, Beneke felt ready to lead his own orchestra. [13]

Working with the Miller estate

Glenn Miller went missing on December 15, 1944, while flying to France from England. After World War II, the United States Army Air Force decommissioned the Glenn Miller-led Army Air Force band. The Miller estate authorized an official Glenn Miller "ghost band" in 1946. This band was led by Tex Beneke who as time went on had more prominence in the band's identity. It had a make up similar to Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Band, having a large string section. [14] The orchestra's official public début was at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway where it opened for a three-week engagement on January 24, 1946. [15] Henry Mancini was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers. [16] Another arranger was Norman Leyden, who also previously arranged for the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. [17] This ghost band played to very large audiences all across the United States, including a few dates at the Hollywood Palladium in 1947, where the original Miller band played in 1941. [18] The movie short Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Band was released by RKO pictures in 1947 with Lillian Lane, Artie Malvin and The Crew Chiefs vocal group performing. [19] In a slightly sarcastic article in Time magazine from June 2, 1947, [20] [21] the magazine notes that the Beneke-led Miller orchestra was playing at the same venue the original Miller band played in 1939, the Glen Island Casino. [21] Beneke's quote about the big band business at the time closes the article, "I don't know whether Glenn figured that times would be as tough". [21] By 1949, economics dictated that the string section be dropped. [22]

This band recorded for RCA Victor, just as the original Miller band did. [22] Beneke believed that Miller had promised him his own band in the early 1940s, and this was his chance to have that promise fulfilled. Beneke wanted a band with Beneke's musical identity. Larry Bruff, an announcer for the earlier Glenn Miller radio shows says, "Beneke would even set wrong tempos so as not to sound too much like Glenn." [23] The Miller estate wanted a band that was primarily associated with Glenn Miller, playing the Glenn Miller songs in the Glenn Miller style. By 1950, Beneke and the Miller estate parted ways. [24] [25]

After Miller

Beneke continued to perform under his own name with no official connection to Miller. He enjoyed less success in the early 1950s, partly because he was limited to smaller recording labels such as Coral Records and partly because of competition from other Miller alumni and imitators such as Jerry Gray, Ray Anthony and Ralph Flanagan. Eydie Gormé sang with the Beneke band in 1950. [26] Beneke appeared on Cavalcade of Bands , a television show in 1950 on the DuMont Television Network. [27]

In the latter part of that decade there was some revived interest in music of the swing era. Beneke joined a number of other leaders such as Larry Clinton and Glen Gray in making new high fidelity recordings of their earlier hits, often featuring many of the original musicians. Beneke and former Miller singers Ray Eberle, Paula Kelly, and The Modernaires first recorded the LP Reunion in Hi-Fi, a 1958 Coral Records album which contained recreations of original Miller material. [28] This was followed by others featuring newer songs, some performed in the Miller style and others done in a more contemporary mode. Among the best-known is Christmas Serenade in the Glenn Miller Style (1965) on Columbia Records, which has been excerpted on a number of holiday compilations.

The singer/saxophonist continued working in the coming decades, appearing periodically at Disneyland. [29] He also made the rounds of various talk shows that had musical connections, including those hosted by Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson. His appearances on The Tonight Show sometimes included duos with fellow Miller veteran Al Klink who was by then a key member of The Tonight Show Band. Ray Eberle recovered from his earlier illness and resumed performing with Beneke and the Modernaires for a period in the early 1970s. In 1972, Beneke agreed to re-record some of his Miller vocals for Time-Life Records' set of big band recreations, The Swing Era, produced and conducted by yet another Miller alumnus, Billy May.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Beneke had a new band playing a style that resembled the classic Miller sound but with as much newer material as older. At one point he also toured with former Jimmy Dorsey vocalists Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly. Beneke suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s and was forced to give up the saxophone but continued to conduct and sing. In 1991, Tex Beneke received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with funds collected by co-leader Gary Tole. He settled in Costa Mesa, California and remained active toward the end of that decade, mostly touring the U.S. West Coast and still playing in something resembling the Miller style. In 1998 he launched yet another tour paying tribute to The Army Air Force Band.


In 2000 Beneke died from respiratory failure at a nursing home in Costa Mesa, California, aged 86 and was buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth, Texas. He was survived by his wife, Sandra, of Santa Ana, California. His saxophone is currently used by the Arizona Opry.

See also

Related Research Articles

Glenn Miller American band leader, arranger and composer (1904–1944)

Alton Glenn Miller was an American big-band trombonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. He was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1942, leading one of the best-known big bands. Miller's recordings include "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade", "Pennsylvania 6-5000", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "A String of Pearls", "At Last", "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo", "American Patrol", "Tuxedo Junction", "Elmer's Tune", "Little Brown Jug" and "Anvil Chorus". In just four years Glenn Miller scored 16 number-one records and 69 top ten hits—more than Elvis Presley and the Beatles did in their careers.

In the Mood Song popularized by Glenn Miller

"In the Mood" is a popular big band-era jazz standard recorded by American bandleader Glenn Miller. "In the Mood" is based on the composition "Tar Paper Stomp" by Wingy Manone. The first recording under the name "In the Mood" was released by Edgar Hayes & His Orchestra in 1938.

Chattanooga Choo Choo Song - 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade”

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is a 1941 song written by Mack Gordon and composed by Harry Warren. It was originally recorded as a big band/swing tune by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra and featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade. It was the first song to receive a gold record, presented by RCA Victor in 1942, for sales of 1.2 million copies.

Glenn Miller Orchestra

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was an American swing dance band formed by Glenn Miller in 1938. Arranged around a clarinet and tenor saxophone playing melody, and three other saxophones playing harmony, the band became the most popular and commercially successful dance orchestra of the swing era and one of the greatest singles charting acts of the 20th century.

It Happened in Sun Valley

"It Happened in Sun Valley" is a 1941 song composed by Harry Warren, with lyrics by Mack Gordon. It was recorded and featured by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in the movie Sun Valley Serenade.

The Modernaires American vocal group (active 1934–1970s)

The Modernaires was an American vocal group, best known for performing in the 1940s alongside Glenn Miller.

<i>Sun Valley Serenade</i> 1941 film by H. Bruce Humberstone

Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 musical film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. It features the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as dancing by the Nicholas Brothers. It also features Dorothy Dandridge, performing "Chattanooga Choo Choo", which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded the first Gold Record for sales of 1.2 million.

<i>Orchestra Wives</i> 1942 film by Archie Mayo

Orchestra Wives is a 1942 American musical film by 20th Century Fox starring Ann Rutherford, George Montgomery, and Glenn Miller. The film was the second film to feature The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and is notable among the many swing era musicals because its plot is more serious and realistic than the insubstantial storylines that were typical of the genre. The movie was re-released in 1954 by 20th Century Fox to tie-in with the biopic The Glenn Miller Story.

Al Klink was an American swing jazz tenor saxophonist.

(Ive Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo

"(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo" is a #1 popular song recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in 1942. It was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren and published in 1942. It was featured in the musical film Orchestra Wives and was recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, featuring Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and The Modernaires, who released it as an A side 78 in 1942, 27934-A. The B side was "At Last".

Glenn Miller discography

Between 1938 and 1944, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra released 266 singles on the monaural ten-inch shellac 78 rpm format. Their studio output comprised a variety of musical styles inside of the Swing genre, including ballads, band chants, dance instrumentals, novelty tracks, songs adapted from motion pictures, and, as the Second World War approached, patriotic music.

Sunrise Serenade 1939 single by Glenn Miller

"Sunrise Serenade" is a jazz song written by Frankie Carle with lyrics by Jack Lawrence. It was first recorded in 1939 by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra with Carle on piano as Decca 2321. It soon became Carle's signature piece. Glenn Miller released a famous recording of it a few months later, arranged by Bill Finnegan, with "Moonlight Serenade" on the backside.

Im Headin for California

"I'm Headin' For California" is a 1944 song composed by Glenn Miller and Arthur Malvin and performed for radio broadcast. The song was released in 1946 as a 78 single by the Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Tex Beneke. The song was Glenn's last composition.

PEnnsylvania 6-5000 (song) 1940 song by Jerry Gray and Carl Sigman

"Pennsylvania 6-5000" is a 1940 swing jazz and pop standard with music by Jerry Gray and lyrics by Carl Sigman. It was recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra as a Bluebird 78 rpm single.

I Know Why (And So Do You)

"I Know Why " is a 1941 song by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. The song appeared in the 20th Century Fox movie Sun Valley Serenade. The song was also released as an RCA Bluebird 78 single.

Elmers Tune 1941 single by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra

"Elmer's Tune" is a 1941 big band and jazz standard written by Elmer Albrecht, Dick Jurgens and Sammy Gallop. Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and Dick Jurgens and his Orchestra both charted with recordings of the composition.

<i>Glenn Miller</i> (album) 1945 compilation album by Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller is a compilation album of phonograph records released posthumously by bandleader Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. Released in 1945 on RCA Victor as a part of the Victor Musical Smart Set series, described on the front cover as "An Album of Outstanding Arrangements on Victor Records", the set was number one for a total of 16 weeks on the newly created Billboard album charts. The album, also known under the title Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, was certified Gold in July 1968 by the RIAA.

<i>Glenn Miller Masterpieces, Volume II</i> 1947 compilation album by Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller Masterpieces, Volume II is an album by bandleader Glenn Miller, released on RCA Victor in 1947, consisting of a collection of four 10" 78 RPM discs, released as RCA Victor P189 as part of the RCA Victor Musical Smart Set series. The album was number one for a total of 6 weeks on the Billboard album charts in 1947. The collection was a follow-up to the 1945 compilation album Glenn Miller.

<i>Pure Gold</i> (Glenn Miller album) 1975 compilation album by Glenn Miller

Pure Gold is a 1975 compilation album of 10 studio recordings by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra recorded between 1939 and 1942 by RCA Victor. The recordings were all originally issued as 78 RPM records on the RCA Bluebird and Victor labels and was certified Gold by the RIAA. The album was originally issued on LP and compact disc in reprocessed (fake) stereo sound; in 1988, RCA remastered the album for its second CD reissue in original monophonic sound.


  1. "Tex Beneke, 86, A Leader of Glenn Miller's Band". The New York Times . May 31, 2000. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  2. Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. New York: Pantheon. p. 613. ISBN   978-0-375-42149-5.
  3. Will Friedwald singles out the cover of "What's Your Story, Morning Glory?" by Mary Lou Williams that Beneke did with the Miller band, as one of Beneke's major artistic achievements. Friedwald, p. 613
  4. Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN   978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC   31611854. Tape 2, side A.
  5. Hall, Fred (1989). Dialogues in Swing . Ventura, California: Pathfinder Publishing. p.  190. ISBN   0-934793-19-0. dialogues in swing.
  6. Flower, John (1972). Moonlight Serenade: a Bio-discography. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House. pp. 79–80. ISBN   0-87000-161-2.
  7. (Lyrics were later added to "In the Mood" by lyricist Andy Razaf.)<citation needed>
  8. Simon, George (1980). Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. New York: DaCapo. pp. 248–251. ISBN   0-306-80129-9.
  9. The songs Beneke and the ensemble played were "Bugle Call Rag" and "One O'Clock Jump". Beneke has a small solo on "Bugle Call Rag". Both songs from recording session at RCA Studio 2, New York City, January 16, 1941. All information taken from annotation to the 1988 Bluebird/RCA compact disc, The Metronome All-Star Bands, 7636-2-RB, liner notes by Peter Keepnews.
  10. Simon. – p.289.
  11. "And The Grammy Goes To...CU Boulder's Glenn Miller". Colorado University. 2003. Archived from the original on June 17, 2006.
  12. Moonlight Serenade. p.303.
  13. Hall. – p.191.
  14. Simon. – pp.437–439.
  15. Butcher, Geoffrey (1994). Next to a Letter From Home. New York: Warner. p. 262. ISBN   978-0-7515-1078-2.
  16. "All About Jazz". All About Jazz . Archived from the original on March 31, 2008.
  17. Friedwald, Will (1997). Sinatra! The Song Is You. New York: DaCapo. p. 179. ISBN   0-306-80742-4.
  18. Simon. – p.258.
  19. "Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Band". Internet Movie Database . Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  20. "Old Miller fans remembered Tex Beneke best as the whiny-voiced singer of 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' and 'My Melancholy Baby' [...]" and "[The band's theatrics are] corny, but Glenn was one for commercial corn. If you don't have it you flop."
  21. 1 2 3 "Music: Sweet Corn at Glen Island". TIME . June 2, 1947. Archived from the original on May 4, 2008.
  22. 1 2 Butcher. p.263.
  23. Simon. – p.438.
  24. Simon. – p.439.
  25. George Simon in Glenn Miller and His Orchestra says it happened in Connecticut in December 1950. Simon. – p.439.
    —Beneke says it happened after an engagement at the Hollywood Palladium. – Hall. – p.191.
  26. Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! The Song Is You. New York: Scribner. p. 462. ISBN   9780751510782.
  27. "Cavalcade of Bands 1950". Internet Movie Database . Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  28. "The Former Glenn Miller Singers - Reunion In Hi-Fi". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  29. Beneke appeared with singers associated with Glenn Miller, Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle and the Modernaires, at Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1963 and 1965. Popa, Chris. "Big Bands At Disneyland".