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YouTube Gold: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

One of America’s most iconic musical groups near its zenith

Glenn Miller
 circa 1940: The American trombonist and band-leader, Glenn Miller (1904 - 1944), who disappeared when a small aircraft he was a passenger in went missing over the English Channel.
Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

When Glenn Miller was coming up in the music world, the Depression was raging and if you think it’s hard to make a living during a depression, try doing it as an entertainer.

Miller and his orchestra had to play at times several times a day to make ends meet and as a result became an extremely tight group.

He had found a lot of success by 1940 when he was 36 and of course in 1941 war broke out.

Miller signed up - everyone who could did because people understood what an immense threat Hitler represented - and was asked to create a military big band.

This clip was from a relatively brief era when Miller and his orchestra appeared in movies in the early ‘40’s before he went to war. Here they are playing I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo. If you listen, you’ll get an idea of just how tight this group was.

And as a bonus, the spectacularly gifted Nicholas Brothers appear at the end and, as always, two of America’s greatest dancers in any form dazzle. Their splits are insane; their muscle control is otherworldly.

Miller’s influence continues but his success was short-lived: in 1944, the native Iowan’s plane was shot down over the English Channel; his body was never recovered.

And a mere thirteen years later, Buddy Holly’s plane would go down near Clear Lake, Iowa, about 250 miles away from Miller’s home town of Clarinda.