Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Glenn Miller #Trombonist, Composer, Big Band Leader

This week one of the iconic band leaders of all time whose music is still played today by big bands for those who love to dance. The legendary Glenn Miller has been immortalised on film and many of the war-time generation felt great sorrow at his untimely death in an air crash in 1944 at age 40.

This week William Price King pays tribute to this incredible artist.

Glenn Miller was born in Iowa in 1904 to Lewis and Mattie Miller. When he was eleven years old his family moved to Missouri and he made enough money from milking cows to buy his first trombone and began playing for the local orchestra. He also played cornet and Mandolin but dropped them to focus on the trombone. The family moved again in 1918 to Colorado where he went to high school. Despite playing for the school football team during his senior year he developed an interest in ‘dance band music’ and he formed a band with class mates. When he graduated in 1921 he decided to become a professional musician.

He spent a short term at the University of Colorado in 1923 but spent much of his time attending auditions and playing any gigs that he could. He dropped out of school to pursue his music full-time. He did study with Joseph Schillinger a composer, music theorist and teach who originated the Schillinger System of Musical Composition.

By 1926 he was touring with several groups including Ben Pollack and Victor Young which enabled him to take advantage of the mentorship of other professional musicians. He was originally the main trombonist for Ben Pollack but was sidelined with the arrival of Jack Teagarden which led Glenn to focus on arranging and composing

He published a songbook in Chicago in 1928 ‘Glenn Miller’s 125 Jazz Breaks for Trombone’ and he also wrote several arrangements and his first composition ‘Room 1411 with Benny Goodman. He joined Red Nichol’s orchestra in 1930 and played with the band for two of the hit Broadway shows of the day Strike up the Band and Girl Crazy.

Glenn freelanced as a trombonist with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and other big bands of the day as well as continuing to arrange for the Dorsey Brothers on their recordings including ‘My Kinda Love’. He also worked vocalists such as Bing Crosby.

The melody for “Moonlight Serenade” was composed by Glenn Miller in 1935 when he was a trombone player in Ray Noble’s band. The lyricist Eddie Heyman added words, and the song was titled “As I Lay Me Down To Weep.” However, Miller didn’t record nor publish the song with these lyrics, but in 1938 used the instrumental as theme music for his radio broadcasts on the NBC network. In 1939 Robbins Music bought the music and asked Mitchell Parish (Stardust) to write a new set of lyrics, which he did, and called the song “Moonlight Serenade”. This became Glenn Miller’s signature song and a Top Ten hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard charts for fifteen weeks. It has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In 1935, he assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble and developed the arrangement of lead clarinet over four saxophones that became a characteristic of his own big band in 1937. However, it failed to stand out against all the other successful bands of the time and it folded after a show at the Ritz Ballroom in Connecticut in January 1938.

“In the Mood”, written by Wingy Manone, Andy Razaf, and Joe Garland was recorded by Glenn Miller in 1939 on the Bluebird label and topped the charts for 13 weeks in a row. A year later it was featured in the movie “Sun Valley Serenade”. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1983 and in 1999 the National Public Radio added the song to its list of ‘The 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.’ “In the Mood” was also inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2004 which honors songs it considers culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Discouraged, Miller returned to New York. He realized that he needed to develop a unique sound, and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave. George T. Simon discovered a saxophonist named Wilbur Schwartz for Glenn Miller. Miller hired Schwartz, but instead had him play lead clarinet. According to Simon, “Willie’s tone and way of playing provided a fullness and richness so distinctive that none of the later Miller imitators could ever accurately reproduce the Miller sound.”

With this new sound combination, Glenn Miller found a way to differentiate his band’s style from the many bands that existed in the late thirties. Miller talked about his style in the May 1939 issue of Metronome magazine. “You’ll notice today some bands use the same trick on every introduction; others repeat the same musical phrase as a modulation into a vocal … We’re fortunate in that our style doesn’t limit us to stereotyped intros, modulations, first choruses, endings or even trick rhythms. The fifth sax, playing clarinet most of the time, lets you know whose band you’re listening to. And that’s about all there is to it.”

From the end of 1938 the band began recording for Bluebird records a subsidiary of RCA Victor. They began to play popular venues including the Glen Island Casino where they attracted a record breaking audience of 1800. In 1939 Time Magazine noted. “Of the twelve to 24 discs in each of today’s 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller’s. ‘Tuxedo Junction’ sold 115,000 copies its first week and Glenn Miller topped this in October 1939 with an appearance at Carnegie Hall.

During the early years of the war until September 1942 Miller’s band performed three times a week on CBS radio, with The Andrew Sisters and then on then on its own.  In 1941 and 1942 the band appeared in two Hollywood films, Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives with Jackie Gleason. Glenn Miller was contracted to appear in a third film, Blind Date but he entered the U.S. Army.

“ Chattanooga Choo Choo”, featured in the movie “Sun Valley Serenade “, was composed in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren while they were travelling on the Southern Railway’s Birmingham Special train. This song tells the story of their voyage from New York City to Chattanooga. In 1942 this song received the first gold record ever, presented by RCA Victor for sales over 1.2 million copies and remained the #1 song in the US for nine weeks. In this 8 minute video vocalists Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, Dorothy Dandridge are featured as well as the famous Nicholas Brothers in a tap dance routine. In 1996 Glenn’s version of this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

After being turned down by the Navy, Glenn Miller persuaded the US army to accept him to be placed in charge of a modernized Army band. His popular approach to entertaining the troops with his dance band resulted in a promotion to Captain in 1944. His band expanded to a 50 piece Army Air Force Band and he took it to England in the summer of 1944 where they gave 800 performances. Now a major, Glenn also recorded at Abby Road Studios with some songs in German which were used as counter-propaganda to denounce oppression in Europe. Others were used to boost morale of allied troops as they pushed through Europe.

On December 15th Glenn Miller was due to fly to Paris to make arrangements to move the entire AAF band there as soon as possible. He plane disappeared over the English Channel and that is still being investigated today. As recently as January this year, new witness accounts have led the investigators to believe that the wreckage of the plane is 30 miles south of the Portland Bill in Devon. There are hopes to relocate the wreck and raise it later this year.

“ (I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo*” was the best-selling US recording in 1942, according to Billboard, spending 19 weeks on the Billboard charts and 8 weeks as #1. It was nominated for an Oscar Award for ‘Best Music, Original Song’ in 1943 – Harry Warren for the music, and Mack Gordon for the lyrics. This swinging, serious, and powerful song is featured in the 1942 20th Century Fox movie « Orchestra Wives » featuring the Nicholas Brothers.

*Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the US state of Michigan. The name Kalamazoo has become a métonym for exotic places as in the phrase ‘from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo.’

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About William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

Connect with William

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You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory:

As always we would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally and William


A Man and His Music – William Price King meets Mel Tormé – Part Three – The 50s

Mel torme album

It is time to pick up the story of Mel Torme’s career in the 50s and early 60s which in many respects was an unsettled and frustrating period commercially. Mel blamed the increasingly popular rock and roll music for the demise of Jazz as music of choice and even referred to it as “three-chord manure”

After leaving Capitol records in 1952, a year passed in limbo until Mel signed up with the Coral label which was a subsidiary of Decca Records. It had been formed in 1949 and had signed and released music from both swing, Jazz and the new dreaded Rock and Roll with the likes of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Mel recorded a number of singles with Coral and then in December 1954 a live performance was recorded at the very popular Crescendo Club in Los Angeles that would mark the beginning of Mel’s many “Live” albums.

The Crescendo Club via Hollywood Pictures.

 Crescendo club.

It was time for Mel to move on again and this time back to his roots with a small Jazz label, Bethlehem Records, who had released first albums for up and coming singers such as Nina Simone. Mel released a ballad LP, It’s a Blue World with Bethlehem in 1955 and this marked the first of many recordings in association with pianist/arranger Marty Paich. They formed the Marty Paich Dek-tette with a strategy to try and loosen Frank Sinatra’s hold on the charts at the time by recording little known songs that Frank had not covered as yet… This included the perennial favourite “Lulu’s Back in Town” in 1956 written in 1935 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren.

Along with recording, Mel also began to tour more including overseas visiting Australia in 1955. In 1956, a single from the live album Mel recorded with Coral, the Rodgers & Hart song “Mountain Greenery,”was released as a single in the UK reaching the top ten in time for Mel’s first tour in Europe.

On his return to Los Angeles in late 1956 Mel recorded an new LP – Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire with Marty Paich. This should have been a time of consolidation for Mel and a new opportunity to get a foothold in the charts. Unfortunately his record company Bethlehem was having problems and despite recording another Live Album at the Crescendo in 1957 and a further LP, Songs for Any Taste” the label went out of business. Mel returned to England that summer and cut a record for his fans there with Philips Records – Tormé Meets the British. Back in the US he signed a contract with a small label, Tops, and recorded the concept album Prelude to a Kiss in 1958. The album charted the course of a relationship with the songs linked with dialogue. One of the songs on the album is “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler

This was followed by a new label signing back to his Jazz roots with Verve Records where Ella Fitzgerald was recording. Over the next four years he released eight albums under the label Tormé; Olé Tormé: Mel Tormé Goes South of the Border with Billy May; Back in Town (with the Mel-Tones); Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley; Swingin’ on the Moon; Broadway, Right Now! (with Margaret Whiting); I Dig the Duke! I Dig the Count!; and My Kind of Music. All the albums did well with Jazz fans but were not huge sellers and by the early 60’s Mel decided to move on to the Atlantic Record Label.

A great boost to Mel’s career came along in the form of a revival in his acting career including in the television drama The Comedian and in appearances in a number of films including Girls Town and Walk Like a Dragon in 1960 with the added bonus of the title song being written and performed by Mel.

A final performance from the CD, “Olé Tormé: Mel Tormé Goes South of the Border with Billy May.” Mel Tormé is accompanied by the great Billy May and His Orchestra. Originally released on the Verve label, April 2, 1959. Vaya con Dios was composed in 1953 by Larry Russell, Inez James, and Buddy Pepper. Courtesy of davidhertzberg1

On Wednesday another featured iconic song performed by William Price King and next Saturday we follow Mel into the 60s and early 70s.

Here are Part One and Part Two of the series so far. Part One. Part Two

Links to the Nat King Cole series.

Album covers –

William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.

Price King Eric Sempe

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
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A Man and His Music – William Price King meets Mel Tormé – Part Two – 1940s

Welcome to part two of the Mel Tormé story with William Price King. William has enjoyed a long and successful career as a Jazz composer, musician and singer and over the last thirty years he has delighted audiences with his performances of the classic Jazz standards sung by iconic artists of the last century such as Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé.

You can find a link at the bottom of the post to William’s directory and his previous series on the life and music of Nat King Cole, but this week it is time to look at the 1940s and the start of Mel Tormé’s long career in music, television and film.

Mel torme 16 years old ebay

Mel Tormé was born in 1925 in Chicago to hard working Russian Jewish immigrant parents whose surname was actually Torma.

The Blackhawk Restaurant

The Blackhawk restaurant – image by

His singing career took off at a very early age and at four years old he was entertaining the diners at The Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago. The Blackhawk was opened in 1920 and the Big Band headliners at the time were the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. Quite the mouthful especially for a small boy of four who sang ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ for the first time with them in 1929.

This was a hugely popular venue and in later years Mel would perform there from time to time along with the other great musicians. Here is the Coon- Sanders Orchestra in 1928 with “Rhythm King” Courtesy of Phonmono78s

From 1933, between the ages of 8 and 16, Mel acted on radio in two soap operas of the day, The Romance of Helen Trent and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. During this period Mel turned his hand to song writing and by only 16 years old, his first published song, “Lament to Love,” was a hit for the very popular trumpeter Harry James. He also sang, arranged and played drums in a band led by Chico Marx who also headlined at the Blackhawk Restaurant.

Here is Mel’s first song performed by Harry James – Courtesy of MusicProf78

Whilst he sang and wrote music, Mel was also finishing his education at Chicago’s Hyde Park High School. Whilst at night and weekends he was playing and singing at the upmarket eatery, during the day he played drums in his school’s drum and bugle corps. He also debuted in his first film alongside another up and coming actor and singer, Frank Sinatra in “Higher and Higher” in 1943 before graduating from High School in 1944.

album Mel-tones

On graduating from school Mel formed a vocal quintet “Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tones” among the first of the jazz-influenced vocal groups. The group had several hits with Artie Shaw’s band and on their own, including Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Courtesy of The Record Changer.

Although Mel would not go solo until 1947, he did record romantic hits for Decca Records and the Musicraft label with the Arti Shaw Orchestra from 1945-1948. In 1947 he began his solo career at the famous New York nightclub, Copacabana and it is here that he allegedly received his nickname ‘The Velvet Fog’ bestowed by a local DJ as a tribute. Although Mel was not impressed and referred to it as ‘this Velvet Frog voice’. This is at odds with what the critics felt about his voice as illustrated in this quote from Will Friedwald Jazz Singing

“Tormé works with the most beautiful voice a man is allowed to have, and he combines it with a flawless sense of ‘pitch’… As an improviser he shames all but two or three other “scat singers” and quite a few horn players as well.”

Along with Mel’s developing solo career came a part in the Rogers & Hart film Words and Music in which he sang ‘Blue Moon’ and a revival of The Mel Torme Show from his teen years. More movie song writing assignments came along for studios such as Walt Disney and in early 1949 he was signed to Capitol Records.

Blue Moon

The hits kept coming including ‘Careless Hands,’ ‘Again’ and ‘Blue Moon’ through to ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,’ in July1950. The focus was on the music and his film career faded away in comparison to Frank Sinatra who was becoming increasingly popular across both film and music industries. Mel felt that he had been born just a few years too late to benefit from the huge popularity of both the era of the Big Band and Hollywood musicals.

His last chart hit for nearly ten years was with ‘Anywhere I Wander’ in November 1952 which was to be prophetic, as Mel Torme entered the 50s with no real direction and began to compete with the new popular music that was taking over the charts.

Part three next Saturday with the challenges that Mel faced in the 50s and early 60s. Join us on Wednesday for a special performance by William of one of the timeless songs of the era – My Funny Valentine.

Additional sources
Album cover
Photo – Ebay.

Link to Part One.


William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and more details in the Buy Music for Christmas.

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –