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Glenn Miller Biography

Home > Music > M > Miller, Glenn > Biography

Birth Name: Alton Glenn Miller
Born: 1904/03/01
Birth Place: Glenn Miller Orchestra
Died: 1944/12/15
Years Active: 1923–1944
Genres: Swing Music, Big Band

Alton Glenn Miller was born on a farm in Clarinda, Iowa on March 1, 1904 and was a big band musician, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. Miller hit the height of his success in the late 1930s through to the mid-1940s before he enlisted in the war. Some of Miller's most memorable songs are “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “A String of Pearls,” “(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo” and “Little Brown Jug.” While flying to entertaining U.S. troops in France during World War II, Miller's plane disappeared over the English Channel and has been listed as “missing in action” ever since.

Miller was drawn to music from an early age and brought his first trombone when he was just eleven years old. He got his start in music playing his trombone in the local town orchestra. In 1918, the Miller's family moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where Miller went to high school. During his time in high school, Miller became interested in 'dance band music' and formed his own band with classmates. After Miller graduated from high school in 1921, he set his sights on becoming a professional musician. Miller dropped out of college to study music under the tutelage of Joseph Schillinger. By 1926, Miller was on the road touring with a number of bands before joining Ben Pollack's group in Los Angeles. During his stint with Pollack, Miller began to write his own arrangements, including his first composition, “Room 1411,” written with Benny Goodman. Miller stayed with Goodman's band until 1930 when he joined Red Nichols's orchestra.

In 1928, Miller played a Victor session with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Joe Venuti in the All-Star Orchestra, directed by Nat Shilkret; he went on to spend most of the 1930s working as a freelance trombonist and moved from band to band. Miller began a collaboration with The Dorsey Brothers through the mid-1930s, and by 1935 he had assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble. That same year, Miller made his acting debut alongside Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Jack Oakie, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers, in Paramount Pictures movie, “The Big Broadcast of 1936.” Miller portrayed a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra, performing the song “Why Stars Come Out at Night.” Miller starred in two movies for Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 and 1942. In 1938, Miller and his band had signed with Bluebird Records and experienced a huge rise in popularity while recording for the label. Miller's band was featured three times a week on a CBS radio show, alongside the Andrews Sisters. In 1942, Miller was presented with a gold record for “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” Miller enrolled in the U.S army band in 1943 and was listed as “missing in action” when his plane disappeared over the English channel in 1944.