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Glenn Miller
Purchase Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
by George T. Simon who followed the band closely during their whirl up the charts and their heyday.

Like Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, Miller was another tough taskmaster.

 

(2002 Interview) Chicago disc jockey Denny Farrell has been broadcasting the music of the big bands for over three decades now. He began in the early 70's when big band music was having a difficult time getting any airplay at all. He's worked with and interviewed many famous personalities during his career. In this interview, Denny tells us about his encounters with Sammy Kaye, Artie Shaw, Harry James and what it's like to be stranded on stage by Buddy Rich.

{Craig} How did you get started in this business?

{Denny} Basically, I've always enjoyed the sound of a big band. My Father was a bouncer at the Aragon in Chicago and some of the smaller clubs and so I had kind of a head start and so I grew up around the music. Occasionally I would tag along... get a real education you might say.

{Craig} Can you tell us anything about the Aragon?

{Denny} It's located at Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago. It was probably one of the most beautiful ballrooms back in the 1940's. The place itself as you came into it, as I recall had millions of stars on the ceiling. It just lit up at night. It was really neat. Anybody who was anybody played at the Aragon.

{Craig} And you've been there recently introducing bands.

{Denny} Yeah, they did a little special there and it wasn't a real big thing but it was nice to go back again. The place is haunted I think. Has it been an active ballroom all this time? They shut it down for a long time, then they reopened it and tried rock concerts, they tried boxing and then recently they tried the big band thing again.

{Craig} You knew Sammy Kaye. What can you tell us about him?

{Denny} He's not a blood relative but Sammy's been in the family for years. We became friends over lionel30 years ago. He's my son's Godfather. I had one of the only programs in the country at that time playing big band music. As a matter of fact, the only collect phone call I ever took was from Sammy Kaye. I've got that bill still (laughs). A guy with all that money and I'm just some poor announcer and he calls me collect . Now I know how he got all his money! I used to kid him about it and we had some real good times with the band. I announced with him on different occasions in the 70's. The last time I had Sammy on my show was about 1984, I think he died in 1987.

{Craig} Was he playing right to the end then?

{Denny} Yes. He would do special jobs, weddings even.

{Craig} I'd like to ask you if you think the sweet bands of old Like Sammy kaye and Guy Lombardo don't get as much recognition as the swing bands of the same era?

{Denny} Sammy Kaye was listed as a C- in George T. Simon's book. Sammy was one of the biggest leaders in the country! Sammy told me he didn't care. He laughed all the way to the bank. The sweet bands were just as popular as the swing bands. The only ones who say differently are the people who love swing music. There was a thing called 'Micky Mouse" and that was what they referred to the sweet bands as but they were just as much in demand as the swing bands. The 70's were more sweet bands than swing bands. Swing had just sort of passed out in the 70's, and the people who were getting the bookings then were people like Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kaye, Dick Jurgens, Jan Garber. Jan Garber's band is now run by a fella named Howard Sneider. He has the rights to the band and does a real nice job with it.

{Craig} In a less politically correct time, I once saw an album cover that touted Bunny Berigan as "the greatest white trumpeter in the world." Do you think that may be true?

{Denny} Oh yes. Bunny had to be one of the greatest. The way he could hit a high C, nobody else back then could really come close, not even Ziggy Ellmen or Harry James. Matter of fact, Harry and I got into an argument about it once (laughs). He said well Bunny could never hit a high C. I said, listen to the recording! He said, I don't have to listen to it, I know! Well that was the end of the interview. I wasn't comparing the two, I was just making conversation. He was fine when we talked about his Mother... she was a trapeze artist and he lit up but when you started talking about other trumpet players ... he wasn't too pleased. I announced with Harry a number of times. I don't want to say anything bad about Harr y... it just seemed like he could never get in a good mood. I think he felt like he was taking a step down by playing these small ballrooms in the 70's. He had such stardom in the 40's.

{Craig} You worked with Perry Como.

{Denny} Perry was one of the nicest people. I did one thing with him in Chicago back in 1982, I did the introduction. Just one of the most down-to-earth people you ever met. Perry lived in Florida. Matter of fact, he was Don Cornell's neighbor.

{Craig} I saw Don Cornell perform about 10 years ago. He looked and sounded great!

{Denny} I did a show with him a couple of years ago in Indiana at the Star Plaza. Don sang with the Artie Shaw orchestra under the direction of Dick Johnson.

{Craig} You met Rudy Vallee.

{Denny} He seemed to be very bitter towards the end of his life. Whoever was managing him, or watching over Rudy Vallee...was not doing their job. I felt so sorry for him.

{Craig} And Dean Martin.

{Denny} I contacted Dean Martin's manager who told me to call back. I call back and I've got the manager live on the air. I told my listener's...we're going to contact Dean Martin. I say hi, this is Denny Farrell from the radio station here to talk to Dean Martin. We're live on the air and we'd like to spend a couple minutes. This guy then acts like he doesn't know who he's talking to...like he didn't know me. And he goes "Dean, there's a guy on the telephone ... from some radio station and he wants to talk to you." I hear him coming around the corner. He must have been in the bathroom or something and he says "I don't wanna talk to no g#@*d*#m disc jockey!" I was never so embarrassed. And I had a Dean Martin record up ... ready to play. So I took the Dean Martin record off the turntable ... I'd hung up on the guy by then...and I broke the record on the air... and you'll never hear another Dean Martin record on my show.

{Craig} You worked with Buddy Rich.

{Denny} I was asked to be the MC with his band and Buddy got to the place O.K. I introduced him...stepped aside and he took over. I did my thing in between numbers ... you get the idea. Then Buddy takes a break which was supposed to last 10 minutes...he left me on stage for 45 minutes before he came back and it wasn't too pleasant. It was at a shopping center so I gave away every t-shirt every book I had from the radio station. I gave away a couple dinners I didn't have to give away (laughs).

{Craig} You spoke to Artie Shaw a few times. Any idea why he doesn't play anymore?

{Denny} He gave it up back in the late 40's...early 50's. Artie Shaw is a strange breed. I don't think I ever met anybody quite like Artie Shaw. He's very opinionated ... and that's his right to be opinionated and he was a hell of a musician. There's no doubt about it he was one of the best.

{Craig} Any thoughts on who was a better player... Shaw or Goodman?

{Denny} Artie was telling me that denny farrellhe and Benny were always at a hang-up with each other. Artie said "Benny was always worried about playing the note and I don't play notes, I play a big band. You see Benny never really got it! Benny just thought about playing the clarinet and I thought about putting the whole band together"... and that's a quote from Artie Shaw.

{Craig} I don't know if Benny didn't get it ...

{Denny} I don't agree with him! I'm just telling you what he said. Artie considered himself more of an ensemble player.

{Craig} Why do you think the big bands were so popular?

{Denny} It's great music. Bob Crosby told me that so many people got married to dancing to the big bands. It was romantic music. It was never violent.

{Craig} Any thoughts on what brought about the decline of the bigbands?

{Denny} What injured the big bands was the solo artist. The people that were going out and stepping out on their own in the clubs that were hiring now just the trios and the quartets. It was a more economical thing. It wasn't the music! The popularity of that music was never lost. You look today and it's still popular in a lot of ways. There's a lot of real good swing bands out there now. There's one in Chicago called Swing Shift who do a real nice job.

{Craig} Can these bands today play as well as the original bands that you saw and worked with?

{Denny} The old bands...they didn't have the horns that they have today. They didn't have the technicians. Bunny Berigan and Ziggy Elmen were fantastic, there's no doubt about it but the schooling these kids get today, they'll just knock your socks off! They can blow notes that were never even thought of back then. Today the top name bands play just as well as they did back then. The only thing I disagree with is that some of them have an electric bass. There's a difference in the sound (with an electric bass).

{Craig} Have you got a favorite female singer?

{Denny} Helene Forrest. She could sing and she was also one of the nicest people. She was so down-to-earth and she could really belt out a song. The last time I worked with her was back in 1982 in Chicago.

{Craig} Favorite male singer?

{Denny} Probably Harry Cool. He sang with Dick Jurgens. Just a real good singer.

{Craig} Favorite band?

{Denny} Dick Jurgens because it was sweet but had a nice swing to it. It was just a wonderful sounding band. The baritone was just the bottom of the orchestra and it sounded really nice.

You can hear Denny Farrell's "Original Big Band Showcase" broadcast in RealAudio on this site's homepage and at www.staytunednetworks.com. There's a new show every week.

THE REVIEWS
Andrews Sisters - Latin Quarter 1957
Desi Arnaz - w/Diosa Costello 1948
Count Basie - Lincoln 1943
Tony Bennett - Copacabana 1958
Milton Berle - Latin Quarter 1948
Joey Bishop - w/Andy Williams 1959
Ray Bolger - Wizard of Oz Scarecrow, Empire Room 1956
Cab Calloway - Greenwich Inn 1949
Diahann Carroll - Persian Room 1961
Betty Clooney - Waldorf Astoria 1954
Nat King Cole - Copacabana 1958
Perry Como - Versailles 1944
Copacabana - famous night club restaurant is reviewed 1953
Crosby Brothers - Latin Quarter 1961
Xavier Cugat - Waldorf Astoria 1951
Vic Damone - Riviera 1953
Billy Daniels - Copacabana 1952
Sammy Davis Jr. - Copacabana 1959
Phyllis Diller - w/Bobby Short 1958
Nancy Donovan - Copacabana 1952
Jimmy Durante - Copacabana 1951
Billy Eckstine - Copacabana 1951
Duke Ellington - Basin St. East 1961
Eddie Fisher - Empire Room 1959
Judy Garland -Town & Country 1958
Jackie Gleason - La Vie en Rose 1953
Benny Goodman - Empire Room 1956
Dolores Gray - Waldorf Astoria 1954
Buddy Hackett - Copacabana 1956
Connie Haines - Terrace Room 1951
Dick Haymes - Versailles 1956
Horace Heidt - 30th Anniversary 1954
Florence Henderson w/Bill Hayes 1958
Hildegarde - Pierre 1953
Celeste Holm - Plaza 1958
Eddy Howard - Roosevelt 1955
Burl Ives w/Wally Cox - Persian Room
Lisa Kirk - Persion Room 1958
Frankie Laine - Latin Quarter 1955
Julius La Rosa - Romanian 1958
Peggy Lee - Copacabana 1958
Jerry Lewis - Town & Country 1957
Joe E. Lewis - Copacabana 1945
Ted Lewis - Latin Quarter 1953
Liberace - Persian Room 1947
Guy Lombardo - Roosevelt 1957
Vincent Lopez - Grill Room 1954
Tony Martin - Riviera 1953
Martin and Lewis - Copacabana 1950
Ray McKinley - Glenn Miller Band 1957
Mills Brothers - Latin Quarter 1956
Vaughn Monroe - Astor 1955
Constance Moore - St. Regis 1958
Johnnie Ray - Copacabana 1953
Della Reese - Copacabana 1961
Sugar Ray Robinson - French Casino
Dorothy Shay - St. Regis 1961
Frank Sinatra - Wedgewood 1943
Danny Thomas - Copacabana 1949
Sophie Tucker - Latin Quarter 1950
Mae West - Latin Quarter 1956
Julie Wilson - Persian Room 1954
EDITORIALS
Dean Martin - thoughts on Mr. Sauve
Peter Lawford - retrospective
Rise & Fall of the big bands
INTERVIEWS
K Baggelaar- Copacabana author
Denny Farrell - big band disc jockey
Hal Turner - Performer/Conductor
B Zickafoose - played in WWII Europe
ASSORTED
Bernie Bierman bio
Sammy Kaye - Roosevelt 1957
Dinah Shore - press release and autograph from the 50's
A Letter about a WWII song
Harbers & Dale - Dance Team
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