Tex Beneke

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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
Occupation(s)musician
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] [2] ) 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. [3] [4]

Glenn Miller American big band musician, arranger, composer, and bandleader

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 1943, 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", and "Little Brown Jug". 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. While he was traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, Miller's aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel.

Eydie Gormé American pop singer, chanteuse, comic actress

Eydie Gormé was an American singer who had hits on the pop and Latin pop charts. She sang solo and with her husband, Steve Lawrence, on albums, television, Broadway, and in Las Vegas. Eydie was a first cousin to renowned singer-songwriter-pianist Neil Sedaka

Henry Mancini American composer, conductor and arranger

Henry Nicola Mancini was an American composer, conductor, arranger, pianist and flutist who is best remembered for his many film and television scores. Often cited as one of the greatest composers in the history of film, he won four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and twenty Grammy Awards, plus a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

Contents

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. [5] 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. [6]

Glenn Miller Orchestra US big band led by Glenn Miller (1937-1942)

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.

Gene Krupa drummer, composer, bandleader

Eugene Bertram Krupa was an American jazz drummer, band leader, actor, and composer known for his energetic style and showmanship. His drum solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing" (1937) elevated the role of the drummer from an accompanying line to an important solo voice in the band.

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. [7] [8] 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. [9] [10] 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. [11] " [12] 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. [13] 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".

Joe Garland American musician

Joseph Copeland Garland was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and arranger, best known for writing "In the Mood".

Al Klink was an American swing jazz tenor saxophonist.

Jerry Don Gray is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the secondary coach for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. Gray played college football at the University of Texas at Austin, where he garnered All-American honors. Thereafter, he played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.

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. [14]

United States Army Air Forces aerial warfare branch of the United States army from 1941 to 1947

The United States Army Air Forces, informally known as the Air Force, was the aerial warfare service component of the United States Army during and immediately after World War II (1939/41–1945), successor to the previous United States Army Air Corps and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force of today, one of the five uniformed military services. The AAF was a component of the United States Army, which on 2 March 1942 was divided functionally by executive order into three autonomous forces: the Army Ground Forces, the Services of Supply, and the Army Air Forces. Each of these forces had a commanding general who reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff.

Horace Heidt American musician

Horace Heidt was an American pianist, big band leader, and radio and television personality. His band, Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights, toured vaudeville and performed on radio and television during the 1930s and 1940s.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. With the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

Working with the Miller estate

Glenn Miller went missing on December 15, 1944, while flying to France from England. After World War Two, 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. [15] 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. [16] Henry Mancini was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers. [17] Another arranger was Norman Leyden, who also previously arranged for the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. [18] 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. [19] 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. [20] In a slightly sarcastic article in Time magazine from June 2, 1947, [21] [22] 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. [22] 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". [22] By 1949, economics dictated that the string section be dropped. [23]

Norman Leyden American conductor

Norman Fowler Leyden was an American conductor, composer, arranger, and clarinetist. He worked in film and television and is perhaps best known as the conductor of the Oregon Symphony Pops orchestra. He co-wrote with Glenn Miller the theme "I Sustain the Wings" in 1943, which was used to introduce the World War II radio series.

Hollywood Palladium music and theatre venue in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States

The Hollywood Palladium is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot (1040 m²) dance floor including a mezzanine and a floor level with room for up to 4,000 people. The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

Artie Malvin was a composer and vocalist who was the baritone member of The Crew Chiefs. He also sang with Glenn Miller's band.

This band recorded for RCA Victor, just as the original Miller band did. [23] 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." [24] 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. [25] [26]

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. [27] Beneke appeared on Cavalcade of Bands , a television show in 1950 on the DuMont Television Network. [28]

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. [29] 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. [30] 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.

Death

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, Calif. His saxophone is currently used by the Arizona Opry.

See also

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References

  1. "Tex Beneke, 86, A Leader of Glenn Miller's Band". The New York Times . May 31, 2000. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  2. "Tex Beneke at IMDb". Internet Movie Database.
  3. Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. New York: Pantheon. p. 613. ISBN   0-375-42149-1.
  4. 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 613
  5. 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.
  6. Hall, Fred (1989). Dialogues in Swing. Ventura, California: Pathfinder Publishing. p. 190. ISBN   0-934793-19-0.
  7. Flower, John (1972). Moonlight Serenade: a Bio-discography. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House. pp. 79–80. ISBN   0-87000-161-2.
  8. (Lyrics were later added to "In the Mood" by lyricist Andy Razaf.)<citation needed>
  9. Simon, George (1980). Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. New York: DaCapo. pp. 248–251. ISBN   0-306-80129-9.
  10. 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.
  11. Simon. – p.289.
  12. "And The Grammy Goes To...CU Boulder's Glenn Miller". Colorado University. 2003. Archived from the original on June 17, 2006.
  13. Moonlight Serenade. p.303.
  14. Hall. – p.191.
  15. Simon. – pp.437–439.
  16. Butcher, Geoffrey (1994). Next to a Letter From Home. New York: Warner. p. 262. ISBN   978-0-7515-1078-2.
  17. Henry Mancini at All About Jazz Archived March 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  18. Friedwald, Will (1997). Sinatra! The Song Is You. New York: DaCapo. p. 179. ISBN   0-306-80742-4.
  19. Simon. – p.258.
  20. "Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Band". Internet Movie Database.
  21. "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."
  22. 1 2 3 "Music: Sweet Corn at Glen Island". TIME. June 2, 1947.
  23. 1 2 Butcher. p.263.
  24. Simon. – p.438.
  25. Simon. – p.439.
  26. 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.
  27. Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! The Song Is You. New York: Scribner. p. 462. ISBN   9780751510782.
  28. "Cavalcade of Bands 1950". Internet Movie Database.
  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".