TEX BENEKE AND THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA
Friday December 15, 1944, America’s most popular and successful bandleader, Major Alton Glenn Miller, disappeared while traveling as a passenger on a military aircraft flying from England to France. The business commitments that he had put in place in anticipation of his return from military service following World War II survived Miller.
To fulfill a lucrative RCA Victor recording agreement and further the strong Glenn Miller franchise, his manager and wartime administrative officer Donald Wayne Haynes, attorney and estate executor David Mackay and Glenn's widow Helen Miller launched a postwar Glenn Miller Orchestra. The band was set up along the lines of the Miller Army Air Forces (AAF) Orchestra. Many Miller AAF veterans joined the new band. Others declined, including bandleader and drummer Ray McKinley, who had led the AAF Orchestra for live appearances following Miller’s disappearance. Haynes and Mackay approached prewar Glenn Miller star Chief Petty Officer Gordon Lee “Tex” Beneke, USNR, who agreed to lead the new band. Plans were put in place to have the new band assembled, rehearsed and ready to appear by January 1946.
Tex Beneke and his Orchestra became arguably the most successful of the postwar big bands during a period where singers and ballads became more popular on records and radio whereas bands and jazz were less economical to organize and operate. At end of 1948 economics required the elimination of the large string section. By 1950 there was a resurgence of bands that imitated the so-called "Glenn Miller clarinet-lead style" of orchestrations that Miller had used circa-1939. This put pressure on the more progressive and creative Beneke to compete. The irony was that Glenn Miller would have continued to evolve and the Beneke band was his legitimate successor. Disagreements between Beneke and Haynes about style and direction led to a breakup and in December 1950, the Miller Estate and Tex Beneke parted ways.
The Glenn Miller Collections Tex Beneke Resource details the 1946-1950 recording, radio and personal appearance schedule, including personnel listings and tunes performed, trade-press articles, etc., and includes an index containing the Tex Beneke Music Library, summary of recording sessions, broadcasts, personal appearances, issued recordings and recordings preserved by the GMC.
Updated - May 3, 2022
Thank you to contributors Adrian Daff, John Hesterman, Michael Highton, J. E. Knox, Stephen Kramer, Karl Pearson, Ed Polic, Christopher Popa, Rob Ronzello and Dave Smith for documentation, exhibits and recordings, and to Sony Legacy and the Library of Congress for their support and assistance.
Thank you to Edward Burke, Richard C. March and Garry Stevens (Tex Beneke's lead vocalist) (all deceased) or their Collections preserved by the GMC, and the late Harry Mackenzie for his research.