The Glenn Miller Archive Hall of Fame honors the special individuals who have provided extraordinary guidance to the archive with their time, knowledge, collections and financial support. All have had in common a fierce loyalty for Glenn Miller, a deep desire to pass the sounds and spirit of the big band era to future generations and commitment to the preservation of a national treasure. Our current honorees include Steven Davis Miller, Dr. Paul Ora Warren "Lightnin'" Tanner, Dr. Norman Fowler Leyden, Dr. Thurston E. "Ted" Manning and WIlliam E. "Bill" Suitts.
STEVEN DAVIS MILLER
Steve Miller was the GMA "rock of Gibraltor." Born February 10, 1943, he was raised by his mother Helen Dorothy Miller with his sister Jonnie Dee Miller Hoffman. His mother was a CU alumna who was widowed when her husband Major Alton Glenn Miller disappeared enroute from Britain to France Friday, December 15, 1944. Steve was very active and devoted to his father’s music as well as to all of the big bands until his far too early passing May 25, 2012. He served as music administrator for his father’s estate. Steve was devoted to GMA Curator Alan Cass, offered daily leadership for the GMA and regularly appeared on the KEZW, Denver, joining his colleagues in discussing big band music and sharing rare recordings with the audience. In addition to the GMA, Steve and Jonnie were instrumental in sponsoring the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society in Clarinda, Iowa. He attended dedication ceremonies for the museum building in Clarinda in 2010. He was also very involved in the historic research and projects of the GMA, in particular his keen desire that the accurate story of his father’s military service was assembled and presented to the public in the forthcoming book by his friend Dennis M. Spragg, "Resolved." Steve's sister Jonnie, wife Lona and son Don continue his devoted stewarship of the Glenn Miller legacy with the GMA. Steve was a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps and we miss him terribly. "Semper Fi!"
DR. PAUL ORA WARREN "LIGHTNIN' TANNER, Ph.D.
Paul Tanner was born October 15, 1917 in Skunk Hollow, Kentucky, the son of Archibald Elmer and Janet Rose Tanner. He was known to Steve and Jonnie Miller when they grew up in Southern California as "Uncle Paul." When Paul was six, his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware. He studied piano and learned trombone by age thirteen. During high school he met Alma"Bunny" Smith, whom he would marry. Their marriage ended with Bunny's death in 1981 and Paul married Jan (Jeanette Steel). Paul passed away February 6, 2013 and Jan followed him shortly thereafter. During 1938 Paul was playing trombone with a band in Atlantic City, New Jersey. By coincidence, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra were appearing in Atlantic City and Miller needed a trombonist. Glenn and Helen Miller came to where Paul was performing to listen to him. Paul was hired and never looked back. The rest is history! Paul Tanner was with Glenn Miller until September 27, 1942 when Glenn disbanded to join the military. It was Glenn Miller who nicknamed Paul "Lightnin'." Paul went with the band of Charlie Spivak along with Miller's entire trombone section and Nelson Riddle. After nine months Paul followed Glenn into the Army but led his own jazz band at New Castle Army Air Base, Delaware. He made a deal with Glenn. In exchange for Miller not transferring Paul into his elite AAF band and allowing Paul to be stationed close to home in Delaware, he promised to work for Glenn when the war was over. Paul honored his promise when Glenn did not come home by joining the postwar Miller band led by his lifelong friend Tex Beneke. For a brief period after his discharge and before the band was formed, Paul worked for Les Brown. Paul left Tex in 1952 to settle in California and attend UCLA and take advantage of the G. I. Bill. While attending UCLA, Paul worked as a staff musician for ABC, where he stayed for 16 years. Paul received his Bachelor's degree in 1958, graduating magna cum laude. He joined the faculty, earned his master's in 1961 and doctorate in 1975, carrying a full teaching load and playing a key role in starting the UCLA jazz education program. Paul's classes were popular and commanded long waiting lists. He taught performance, theory, musicology and music education. He composed many published works and wrote many books. He peformed with many notable musical legends. At ABC, he became interested in the avant-garde "Theremin" msuical instrument and with Bob Whitsell produced the "Electro-Theramin," which Paul played with the popular musical group "The Beach Boys" on the recording of "Good Vibrations." Following his retirement from UCLA, Paul remained very closely invovled with the Miller family, Glenn Miller band alumni, the Glenn Miller Archive and Curator Alan Cass. He became a fixture at the annual Glenn Miller Birthplace Society festival in Clarinda, Iowa and came in contact with thousands of Glenn Miller Fans. Paul and Jan directed Paul's personal memorabilia, records and artifacts be preserved by the GMA, where this truly humble and gentle person who loved everyone and who in turn was truly loved is forever enshrined.
DR. NORMAN FOWLER LEYDEN, Ph.D.
“It isn’t what you write, Leyden, it’s what you don’t write” is how Capt. Glenn Miller summed up his philosophy of editing musical arrangements to M/Sgt. Norman Leyden. July 23, 2014, we lost an American original, friend and mentor when Norm peacefully passed away. Best known in recent years as conductor of the Oregon Symphony Pops Orchestra, Norm Leyden had a rich and storied musical career. He was born October 17, 1917 in Springfield, Massachusetts to James A. and Constance Leyden, graduated from Yale University in 1938, attended the Pierre Monteux Domaine Musicale and earned his master’s and doctorate from Columbia University, where he also taught He married Alice Curry Wells in 1942 while in uniform. Norm played bass clarinet for the New Haven, Connecticut Symphony Orchestra when during 1940 he enlisted in the National Guard and matriculated to the Army Air Forces. He was leader of the 28th AAF Band at AAF Basic Training Center #7, Atlantic City, New Jersey when Capt. Glenn Miller arrived to select personnel for an east coast AAF radio orchestra in January 1943. Although Leyden conducted rehearsals for Miller, he was transferred with his Unit to North Carolina shortly thereafter and felt he might never see Miller again. During August 1943 Miller was asked to help organize the AAF orchestra for the AAF Broadway production “Winged Victory,” produced by playwright Moss Hart. One of Miller’s suggestions was to bring in M/Sgt. Norman Leyden from the 28th AAF Band to conduct the Winged Victory Orchestra. Composer T/Sgt. David Rose was scheduled to conduct the premiere of the production and would receive extensive publicity and credit as the orchestra conductor. Playbills would list him as conductor but in fact Rose left the nightly performances of the production for other duties soon after it debuted. Leyden joined the “Winged Victory” troupe September 17, 1943 and conducted the orchestra almost exclusively for the entire New York theatre run. Leyden remembered, "A stroke of lightning hit me. The job was just laid in my lap and to this day, I am not sure what went on in Miller’s mind between the time he left Atlantic City and the time he called me from New York. But he remembered and had confidence in me." The “Winged Victory” cast included a 42-member choral group from among the company directed by the brilliant Lt. Leonard de Paur, which carried most of the musical weight of the play about a group of recruits struggling through pilot training. During the stage production of Winged Victory, Leyden visited rehearsals and broadcasts of Capt. Miller’s NBC “I Sustain the Wings” broadcasts. Leyden asked Miller if he could write something for Miller’s radio orchestra. Leyden worked on suggestions from Miller and when he finished one chart Miller gave him another but did not tell Leyden what to do and allowed Leyden to create. Miller would make some changes in the charts and then put them on the air. The first was “Now I Know,” followed by “Time Alone Will Tell,” “Long Ago and Far Away” and “Going My Way.” Leyden recalled, “Miller’s greatest asset to the orchestra was as editor of everyone’s work. He reviewed and fiddled around with everyone’s work, consistently making changes for the better, whatever the edits were, and even simple things like changing a phrase or something. I was young and wrote too many notes. I have to agree with what he did to my work.” When the “Winged Victory” Unit went on a national tour and ended up in Hollywood to make the movie for 20th Century Fox of the production, Norm transferred to Miller’s radio orchestra. He was among the personnel of the Unit deployed to the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) in June 1944 with Miller as a arranger, conductor and musician. Norm conducted the full orchestra for performances of the radio program “A Solider A Song” starring Sgt. Johnny Desmond. He remained with the Army Air Forces Band (Special) until it returned from the ETO in August 1945 without their leader. He was among the members of the Miller AAF orchestra to join the postwar Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Tex Beneke. Norm was musical director for Arthur Godfrey’s CBS television program between 1956 and 1959 and also worked as musical director for “The Jackie Gleason Show.” He arranged music for RCA Victor and Walt Disney, including numerous popular Disney films. He conducted and arranged with many famous artists including Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Enzo Pinza, Frank Sinatra, Jeri Southern and Sara Vaughn. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 1968 to lead the Portland Junior Symphony (now Portland Youth Philharmonic). His 29-season association with the Oregon Symphony and 34-season association with the Oregon Symphony Pops began in 1970 as associate conductor. When he “retired” in 2004, Norm was honored with the lifetime title laureate associate. He was also associated with the Seattle Symphony Pops and Indianapolis Symphony Prairie Pops. The Leyden personal musical score library contains 1,200 symphonic arrangements and 300 band scores.
DR. THURSTON E. "TED" MANNING, Ph.D.
Ted Manning was the chairman of our American Music Research Center advisory board, leading GMA donor and beloved advisor. He was born in Denver March 26, 1930, the son of Arthur Edmund and Galdys Mathews Manning. He graduated from Colorado Springs High School and magna cum laude from Colorado College in 1946. He received his doctorate in physics from Yale University in 1949. In 1950 he married Jeanette Harrisberger who he met in high school. They settled in Ohio where Ted was a member of the physics faculty at Oberlin College where he was named the first provost in 1960. Ted and his family moved to Boulder where he joined the staff and faculty at the Unviersity of Colorado. He was Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty of CU from 1964 to 1971. Ted then served as President of the Unviersity of Bridgeport in Connecticut from 1971 to 1974. Returning to Boulder, he became Executive Director of the Commission on Higher Education of the North Central Association from 1975 to 1987. Then he and Jeanette were off to Washington, DC where Ted accepted the position of Presidnet of the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation. The Mannings returned to Boulder in 1992. Ted was a director of several corporations and an active Boulder community leader. Ted passed away July 19, 2014, preceded by Jeanette. His encouragement, wisdom and guidance are truly missed by the GMA.
WILLIAM J. "BILL" SUITTS
Bill Suitts was a member of our American Music Research Center advisory board, prominant Boulder business leader and philanthropiost, important GMA donor and cherished friend of Curator Alan Cass and fellow Hall Of Fame honoree Paul Tanner. He was born June 4, 1923 in Rock Island, Illinois to Clarence and Mary margaret (McEnany) Suitts. During World War II he first served in the Merchant Marine before flying in the Fifteenth Air Force as a B-24 radar-navigator. Stationed in Italy, Bill flew missions over the Alps into Austria and Germany. He attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois before earmning his bacheor's and master's degrees in business administration from the University of Denver. Bill married Elizabeth Charlet June 12, 1948 in Kewanee, Illinois. Bill founded Colorado Mortgage Co. in 1958 and provided financing for residential projects in Boulder County for more than 5,000 single family homes. Bill and Beth supported the Suitts Career Management Center at the University of Denver. He also served on the YMCA Board of Directors and supported local youth baseball. "Suitts Field" at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder named in honor of his longtime support. Bill was an avid lefelong Glenn Miller fan who purchased Fred Shaw’s famous RCAF navigator’s log at auction from Sotheby’s. In the spring of 1999, news that the auction of an interesting artifact possibly related to the disappearance of Major Glenn Miller would take place at Sotheby’s in England. Steve Miller and Alan Cass conferred regarding the potential historic value of the Fred Shaw Log Book which perported to add a new twist to the mystery of what happened to the plane that carried Steve’s father on December 15, 1944. They agreed that Alan, serving as a surrogate for the Miller family, would attempt to bid on the log book. On the day of the auction, April 13, 1999, Alan arranged for an international connection to Sotheby’s and was instructed on how to participate in the biding process. Steve and Alan had agreed previously what their highest bid would be. Within minutes, the profer exceeded what they were willing to offer and Alan dejectedly hung up. A few hours later, Alan received an excited call from his wife Sue. “Have your heard, she said?” The Denver TV stations were announcing the Fred Shaw Log Book had been purchased by a man living in Boulder, Colorado! His first thought was "what have I done?" A quick inspection of the situation revealed that the new owner of the Fred Shaw Log Book was Bill Suitts who, on a sentimental whim, had echoed Alan's precise actions that morning with the exception that his persistence took the prize. Bill and Beth became both close personal friends and generous contributors to and supporters of the University of Colorado and the Glenn Miller Archive. Alan quickly learned that when Bill set a goal for himself, he met that goal with warmth, good humor and a calm, gentlemanly nature that secreted the fiery furnace within. Bill Suitts was one of the guests for a five-hour special broadcast of the KEZW “Breakfast Club” from the CU Heritage Center with host Rick Crandall in November 2009. When Dennis M. Spragg was preparing the book "Resolved" he went to Bill first to advise him of certain findings. Bill listened intently and read the documentation. Without hesitation, he firmly said, "publish this!" And so it shall be done. We lost Bill October 5, 2012 but we will never forget his clarity and leadership.
To be continued ...