MY MUSIC returns to the era of legendary orchestras, great singers and song standards in The Big Band Years, drawing upon the most beloved melodies that kept the home fires burning and soldiers’ hearts alive during World War II.
Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of D-Day — the June 6, 1944, Allied Forces invasion of Normandy, France — The Big Band Years, hosted by Peter Marshall, turns back the clock to a time when swing musicians ruled the radio and night clubs, bringing a joyful escape to Americans during one of the most turbulent periods in the nation’s history. The Big Band Years airs Sunday, June 1, at 7:00 p.m.on KUED.
Probably the most famous leader and ensemble of the big band era was Glenn Miller and his orchestra. Miller was responsible for some of the most enduring big band songs, including “In the Mood” and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo." Miller’s beloved saxophonist Tex Beneke sang vocals on the group’s 1942 million-seller “(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo,” along with the Modernaires vocal quartet.
Another brassy big band icon, Harry James, performs the classic “Tuxedo Junction,” and clarinet king Benny Goodman is represented by a pair of his signature tunes, “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You).” Cotton Club alumnus Cab Calloway performs his animated rendition of “Minnie the Moocher."
The big band era is fondly remembered for the “boy” and “girl” singers who performed with the bands. Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly, from the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, enjoyed huge success with “Green Eyes” in 1941. The Pied Pipers, who first sang with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, offer their version of the Johnny Mercer evergreen “Dream,” while a young Frank Sinatra sings “I’ll Never Smile Again.”
The immortal Andrews Sisters — Patty, Maxine and Laverne — harmonize on their swinging smash “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” One of big band era’s biggest stars, Guy Lomardo, is best-remembered for his annual New Year’s Eve appearances on television. Lombardo and his orchestra present a medley of the ensemble’s hits, including “Auld Lang Syne.”