Glenn Miller’s recording of Moonlight Serenade was made in the summer of 1939. World War II broke out that summer. For the young of dancing age no sound recollects that time more than the sound of the Glenn Miller orchestra. It was a time for having fun and perhaps falling in love before those boys were swept away into the war.
Maybe it was because there was a sweetness to his sound which made it especially irresistible to teens and 20’s who still wanted to swing but who were painfully aware of the sadness of departures. Maybe Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, or Benny Goodman made more sophisticated music, but Glenn Miller topped the charts. Record stores had listening rooms where you could sample the sound and the beat in quiet while you decided which you were going to buy.
He had America’s music pulse–he knew what would please the listeners. He exuded little warmth on the bandstand, but once the band struck up, audiences were done for. Throats clutched, eyes softened. Can any other record match Moonlight Serenade for its ability to induce a Pavlovian slaver for so long? His recording of the telephone number of the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York; Pennsylvania 65-OH-OH-OH was on everybody’s lips, and American Patrol created the proper patriotic lift.
Miller enlisted and formed a band playing for the troops in Britain and France. He boarded a plane in December, 1944 to fly across the English Channel. The plane never arrived. It was the night the music died.