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  - Glenn Miller and the Band of the AEF -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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THE 'WALK OF FAME' on Hollywood Boulevarde comprises over 2000 marble stars set into the pavement commemorating celebrities of film, radio, music, theatre and television.   Each plaque costs the sponsors $7500 to install and approval has to be obtained from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.   Glenn Miller joins the ranks of celebrities which include Charlie Chaplin, Nicole Kidman and Marilyn Monroe.

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Information and also several photographs below obtained with acknowlegement to Wikipedia, David Fowler, Louis Lawrence, Jack Marshall and to Geoffrey Butcher, author of 'Next to a Letter from Home' published by Warner Books in 1994.

GLENN MILLER was born on March 1, 1904, in Clarinda, Iowa.   As a young man in Grant City, Miller milked cows to earn money to buy a trombone.   After graduating from high school, Miller attended classes for two years at the University of Colorado. It was in college, that his interest in music developed.   He left the university, continued to play the trombone, and went to the west coast to try his luck as a musician.

    Miller played for several small groups and later joined Ben Pollack's orchestra in 1927.   The orchestra included people of the calibre of Benny Goodman.   While in New York City he married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger, in 1928.   After leaving the orchestra he earned his living as a free-lance trombonist and arranger.

    Miller played and recorded with well known artists, such as Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey (who on several of their records, featured an up-and-coming singer by the name of Bing Crosby!), Gene Krupa, Eddie Condon and Coleman Hawkins.   In 1934, Miller assisted Ray Noble in starting an orchestra which soon became popular through its radio broadcasts.

    By 1937, Miller's popularity among big band circles enabled him to form an orchestra of his own, which eventually disbanded.   In 1938, Miller then formed a second band.   Miller had to struggle to get it through its first two years.  During those two years he realized that bsunvalleyglennmiller.jpg - 31219 Bytesthe unique sound - produced by the clarinet holding the melodic line with the tenor saxophone playing the same note supported harmonically by three other saxophones - introduced a style that would set his band apart from all the rest.

    In March 1939, the band had its first important engagement to play at the famous Glen Island Casino in New York, followed by another engagement at Meadowbrook, New Jersey.   Within a few months, the orchestra achieved great popularity through their radio broadcasts and began breaking attendance records at venues along the East Coast.   There were popular recordings such as "Tuxedo Junction", which sold 115,000 copies in the first week and 'In the Mood', and 'Pennsylvania 6-5000', all appearing on the RCA Victor Bluebird label.   In early 1940, some of the orchestra's other classics included 'String of Pearls', 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' and 'Moonlight Serenade''.   The band also featured in two films, 'Sun Valley Serenade' (1941 and pictured above left) and 'Orchestra Wives' (1942 ).

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    In October 1942, Miller disbanded his orchestra and joined the US Army Air Force with the rank of captain where he assembled a band to perform for the troops.   When the troops moved to England, Miller's band followed. In England the Army Air Force Band performed over 800 times, 500 being broadcasts heard by millions.   Miller, promoted to Major and based at Milton Ernest close to the Twinwood Farm airfield, was billeted with Lt Don Haynes at the American Red Cross Officers' Club at the corner of Kimbolton and Goldington Roads.

   It was at the Hall in Milton Ernest and in the Corn Exchange in nearby Bedford that Glenn Miller gave public performances with his orchestra.   The latter venue, from which Miller's concerts were often broadcast, also contained a forces' canteen which had been set up by the Mayor of Bedford, Alderman J Canvin, in 1940.   The hall was also used by the BBC for public concerts, broadcasts and recordings.


   The Co-Partners Hall, situated off Ford End Road in Bedford, previously used for a social club of the Gas Works and later by the BBC, became the Miller band's radio station and recording studio.   Live broadcasts were conveyed by landline to London for transmission by the BBC.   The acoustics were initially dreadful but resourceful band members, by employing various materials and devices, eventually managed to get the hall to produce 'some mighty fine sounds'!

    A local shop on the corner of Lawrence Street and Ford End Road, which is still operating as a Tandoori Restaurant, provided many band members with their first taste of fish and chips!   The shop is seen in the picture (left).   The road at the side is Lawrence Street leading to the now demolished Co-Partners Hall.

    Many of the Glenn Miller wartime recordings were made at the Co-Partners, often in association with famous stars such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.   Miller is pictured with British singer, Gloria Brent, during a broadcast from the hall on 7 September 1944. (With acknowledgement to Jack Marshall, and to Geoffrey Butcher whose book 'Next to a Letter from Home' was published by Warner Books in 1994)

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    The Co-Partners Hall in Bedford 1933 (left) from a picture kindly provided by David Fowler.


    The Glenn Miller band plays at the welcoming concert arranged by the people of Bedford and held in the Corn Exchange.   Picture (right) with acknowledgement to the BBC Hulton Picture Library and to Geoffrey Butcher.
    A commemorative bust of Glenn Miller (below) at the Corn Exchange.

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The bust is placed in a small, poorly designed and executed alcove on the front wall of the building.   The bust itself is already (2003) showing some need for cleaning and protection from birds and the elements.   A commemorative plaque (right) is situated below the statue.

(Update 2012: The bust has been cleaned and now resides behind wire netting!)

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    At Twinwood Farm airfield Miller performed a concert for the aircrews using two trailers placed as a stage next to the Control Tower.   It was from the tower (the restored tower is shown on the left - see here for more details of Twinwood Airfield) that Glenn Miller was last seen alive on Friday 15 December 1944.   From Twinwood Farm airfield he flew that day with pilot, John Morgan, and Colonel Norman Baessell in a Norseman single engined aircraft with the object of joining his orchestra in Paris.   The plane disappeared en route over the English Channel.



    Glenn Miller's autograph (below) was obtained by the author at a rehearsal for a 'Carnival of Music' held in the Granada Cinema, Bedford on Sunday 26 November 1944, just over two weeks before Miller went missing.   The photograph (right) showing Miller talking to Major Ben Lyon was taken at that rehearsal.   (Photo with acknowlegement to Louis Lawrence and to Geoffrey Butcher author of 'Next to a Letter from Home' published by Warner Books in 1994)

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